AMD's RX 470 has been on our time table since May, when the pre-Computex press event informed us of a “mid-July” release. Well, it's mid-July – wait.
August 4th. It's August 4th. The RX 470 is available effective today, coinciding with embargo lift on reviews, and we've had time to thoroughly analyze the card's performance. The RX 470 is a partner card and will not be available as a reference model, though some partner cards may as well be reference models; they're using the reference RX 480 cooler, just with new colors, back-plates, or LEDs.
AMD has positioned its RX 470 in the sub-$200 market, listing its MSRP as $180. AIB partners will price their cards according to any custom coolers or pre-overclocks applied, though the floor has been set, more or less. That plants the 470 in a presently unchallenged market position: AMD's biggest current-gen competition in this price-range is its own RX 480 4GB card, the GTX 1060 being nVidia's lowest tier offering.
Before our deep-dive review on the Sapphire RX 470 Platinum, card architecture, thermal & endurance throttles, power, and FPS, let's run through the specs.
AMD says the majority of its buyers prefer GPUs in the $100-$300 price-range, and as such, the company has shifted its launch away from “halo” products and toward that affordable segment. The focus for the RX 470 is on players sticking with 1080p, allowing the RX 480 to focus on the 1440p gamers.
The RX 470 uses the Polaris 10 GPU and has the same architecture as the RX 480, including compute pre-emption and asynchronous shaders, but is cut-down in stream processor count and clock-rate. The RX 470 will host 32 CUs, as opposed to the 36 CUs of the RX 480, and that puts us at 2048 stream processors. Knowing that each CU has 64 stream processors, none of this is actually new information yet – we'd already reported/calculated all this in our RX 480 review.
Sapphire, a Hong Kong technology company, has been making Radeon video cards for the better part of a decade. Leaked details about Sapphire’s RX 470 Platinum Edition and RX 460 have been reported by Videocardz.com, whose track record on reporting similar leaks has been generally reliable.
The leaked Sapphire RX 470 Platinum Edition photos show a cooler that looks almost identical to AMD’s RX 480 reference design. The RX 470 Platinum Edition has a silver-colored reference blower cooler and includes a custom backplate. One last difference is Sapphire’s name branding, which is printed in white on the side of the RX 470 Platinum instead of AMD’s red Radeon logo. You can read our thoughts on the RX 480 reference cooler in our review here.
We've already had hands-on experience testing AMD's new 16.7.1 driver update, following the 16.6.2 release with the RX 480 cards. Our testing instituted an early beta version of the driver for our 4GB vs. 8GB RX 480 benchmark, which showed that initially reported GTA V stuttering issues have since been resolved.
Unknown to us at the time of the 4GB vs. 8GB benchmark, the 16.7.1 update also aims to resolve some of the PCIe bus power draw concerns. AMD's pre-weekend statement indicated an update on July 5, which was released as below:
Multi-SKU launches of GPUs are sort of interesting. The RX 480 ships in 4GB and 8GB models, with some other less-than-obvious differences under the hood. GDDR5 speed, for instance, operates at 7Gbps on the reference 4GB model, as opposed to 8Gbps on the reference 8GB model (which we reviewed in great detail). There's potential for confusion in the marketplace with multiple SKUs, and the value proposition gets muddied between the $200 4GB RX 480 and the $240 8GB RX 480. That's not counting AIB partner cards, either, and those are rolling out.
In this benchmark, we compare the RX 480 4GB vs. RX 480 8GB to determine if the difference is "worth it" in games. We're testing GTA V, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Shadow of Mordor, Ashes, and more.
For a previous look at VRAM differences, check our (now dated) GTX 960 2GB vs. 4GB comparison.
A few of the first AIB partner models of the AMD RX 480 were revealed last week, and should be hitting the market within the next few weeks. Following our recommendation to dodge the reference RX 480 design – except for in specific SFF use cases – the AIB partner cards promise better cooling minimally, or different power setups maximally.
Thus far, we've seen the Sapphire RX 480 Nitro (the company's “gamer” line), the ASUS RX 480 Strix, and the PowerColor PCS RX 480 Devil. Coolers have been revealed in most detail for the Nitro and Strix cards, detailed more below.
AMD has issued a statement regarding purported issues with excessive power draw across the PCIe bus, resultant of a single, limiting 6-pin power header from the PSU. We are researching this issue independently and allocating resources to new power testing equipment. We also just purchased a retail RX 480 Reference card, which we will use to determine if the issue occurs on non-review products. So far, it seems to be the case.
Our RX 480 Hybrid mod, which utilized a liquid cooler rather than reference cooler, found that the RX 480 will draw upwards of 192W GPU power, as validated by software. The additional board components are rated for 40W pre-OC, so our overclocked card was likely drawing towards 250W. In such an instance, the GPU will overdraw power through the motherboard, which is potentially harmful to 24-pin headers (rated at 300-350W), the PCIe slot, and board power components. Our motherboard is capable of handling this extra power because we've taken measures to improve delivery, mainly by tapping into PSU power with an EVGA Boost cable and using an additional 6-pin board header for the PCIe bus.
On setups without these precautions, there may be an issue.
The final part of our AMD Radeon RX 480 Hybrid build is complete. We've conducted testing on the RX 480 with liquid cooling, successfully yielding additional overclocking headroom and reducing temperatures by 59%. We also ended up hitting 1.15V to the core when overvolting and overclocking, something we talk about more below.
The first part of this AMD RX 480 liquid cooling guide tore-down the video card, the second part built it back up with an Arctic Accelero Hybrid III and liquid cooler, and our new video and article explore the results. The short of it: Liquid cooling an AMD RX 480 significantly improves the temperatures, the noise output, and provides marginal extra overclocking room.
This video is a follow-up to our popular GTX 1080 Hybrid series, if you missed that.
Anyone who's already seen our exhaustive RX 480 review & benchmark is likely aware of our new noise testing and fan speed vs. time/frequency plots. The video was embedded in that review, but it's worth discussing in greater depth.
The test is a mix of subjective and objective noise analysis. The decibel testing was conducted prior to getting on camera, with a different setup than is shown, but we moved the bench for demonstration purposes (into the video set). Our noise testing methodology is detailed further below. As for the subjective testing – that's the new part.
Subjective noise analysis of cards is important, as our raw decibel output values do not tell the full story (and we don't presently have a good, data-hardened way to plot frequency spectrum analysis). Two fans that operate at 50dB may have completely different noises. One fan might be high pitch in nature – or maybe it's got a high pitched whine accompanying the normal low-frequency whirring – while another fan is low pitch. Depending on the user, the lower pitch fan (despite being equally loud in dB output) will likely be more bearable than an incessant whine.
Just a quick consumer alert.
As many of you know, AMD's new RX 480 is slated to launch on June 29, with the RX 470 and RX 460 soon following. We've already seen some retailers posting the RX 480 at prices nearing $300. Lest these unscrupulous scalpers cash-in on pre-sale pandemonium, we'll avoid linking said sellers.
Here's the deal: AMD's list pricing for the RX 480 is $200 for 4GB, and $230~$250 (ish) for the RX 480 8GB. Unlike the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 launch, both of which have been hamstrung by limited availability of the actual product, AMD's Polaris chips should be flooding the market from the get-go. Polaris is not a limited-yield, limited availability chip. There will be thousands of RX 480 GPUs available for day-one purchase in North America alone.
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