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AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card Review

Introduction


The old adage that PC gaming is significantly more expensive than consoles stems from the media coverage and fascination regarding flagship graphics cards. This can lead to the misconception that products designed for a niche, enthusiast audience like the GTX 1080 reflect the cost of graphics hardware to achieve a premium gaming experience. Unfortunately, there is an element of truth in this argument as lower-end offerings struggle once the resolution is increased beyond 1920×1080 and requires fairly modest expectations.

For example, the GTX 960 and its basic 2GB configuration is sorely lacking compared to the R9 390 and it’s always recommended to spend more and find a suitable sweet spot. Sadly, many newcomers to the platform or those with a tight budget in certain markets cannot afford the extra and have to settle for a GPU which disappoints. According to AMD’s internal data research, 84% of gamers purchase a graphics card between the $100-$300 price bracket. Furthermore, the Steam Hardware Survey suggests 95% of users utilise a 1080P monitor or below. Therefore, selecting a very expensive graphics card might not be the most prudent decision.

In the majority of cases, AMD has been the choice for users vying for good frame-rates without taking a large financial hit. During the company’s initial unveil of the RX 480, they managed to astound journalists and hardware aficionados with the product’s stunning $199.99 price point. Unbelievably, this even managed to detract attention from NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture and speculation mounted regarding AMD’s ability to unleash a new price to performance king. While aiming for excellent performance, Polaris provides a number of fascinating benefits including lower power consumption, improved shader efficiency, lossless delta colour compression with support for 2/4/8 :1 ratios and much more.

Technically-speaking, the RX 480 is rather exciting and contains 1 Graphics Command Processor, 4 ACEs, 2 HWs, 36 Compute Units, 4 Geometry Processors, 32 Pixels Output/Clock, 144 Texture Units, 576 32b Load/Store Units and 2MB L2 Cache. Additionally, the standard $199 model sports 4GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit memory bus, while a slightly more expensive version offers 8GB of video memory. On another note, the RX 480 hasn’t got any restrictions when it comes to multi-GPU setups and supports the latest DisplayPort 1.4-HDR and HDMI 2.0b standard. Given the attractive price point and impressive array of new features, could this be the best value graphics card to ever grace the market and provide a superb entry point into VR?

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

As this is a press sample provided prior to the retail launch, no accessories were included and the package won’t reflect what consumers will see once vendors like XFX unveil their own box designs.

Polaris 10 Architecture

The Polaris 10 architecture is based on the 14nm FinFET manufacturing process to uphold a “cool and quiet” gaming experience. AMD’s official press slides are fairly self-explanatory and outline the key improvements Polaris brings in terms of technological innovations, efficiency improvements and enhanced hardware-level asynchronous compute:

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John Williamson

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