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Polaris Evolved - AMD's Tease Before Vega Next Month

Polaris Evolved - AMD's Tease Before Vega Next Month

AMD releases four new graphics cards under the Radeon RX 500 series with 'Polaris Evolved'.

@anthony256
Published Tue, Apr 18 2017 8:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:34 PM CDT

Introduction & RX 500 Series Line Up

It was nearly 18 months ago now that AMD first revealed the Polaris GPU architecture, aimed at the mid-range market for 1080p 60FPS gaming, while being much more power efficient than the previous-gen Hawaii GPU architecture.

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Polaris was born from the newly-formed Radeon Technologies Group, which at the time - and even more so now, feels like the dream team for GPU technology and marketing at AMD. AMD has absolutely nailed its marketing for the Radeon Rebellion, winning multiple awards for campaigns.

The energy from RTG is felt throughout Polaris, with it focused on the Radeon RX 400 series last year, while looking into the future with Vega. Vega isn't too far away now, with HBM2 technology powering AMD's next-gen GPU architecture, while the Radeon RX 500 series launches with the flagship RX 580 on the refreshed Polaris GPU architecture.

The Radeon RX 500 Series Line Up

Four cards make up the Radeon RX 500 series, with the flagship RX 580, followed by the slightly lower-end RX 570 and then the mid-range RX 560. AMD fills out the RX 500 series with the lower-end RX 550 which doesn't require a PCIe connector.

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AMD teases that the Radeon RX 580 has up to 1.6x the performance of the Radeon R9 380X, while the RX 570 is up to 2.4x faster than the R7 370. The Radeon RX 560 is up to 2x faster than the R7 360, while the RX 550 is 5x faster than integrated graphics (a potato would be faster than integrated graphics).

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All of the cards are made on the 14nm FinFET process, will run DX12 and Vulkan API games, will work with Radeon FreeSync displays, and feature HEVC H.265 4K encode/decoding abilities. We also have Radeon ReLive for gaming capture, while Radeon Chill will keep your GPU cool and your power bills lower.

Radeon RX 500 Series Tech Specs

RX 580/RX 570 Tech Specs

The difference between the Radeon RX 580 and the RX 570 is that AMD has sliced off four compute units (36 vs. 32), and 256 stream processors (2304 vs. 2048), and with a drop to the GPU base and boost clocks of around 100MHz, respectively - we have 6.17 TFLOPs and 5.1 TFLOPS of performance for the RX 580, and RX 570 respectively.

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There are 16 more texture units on the RX 580 with 144 TMUs total, and 128 TMUs on the RX 570. We have a peak texture fill rate of up to 193 GT/s on the RX 580, while the RX 570 manages up to 159 GT/s. There are 32 ROPs on the RX 580 and RX 570, while peak pixel fill rate is up to 42.9 GP/s on the RX 580, and slightly slower on the RX 570 with 39.8 GP/s.

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There is 8GB of GDDR5 available on the Radeon RX 580, while 4GB is available on the RX 570. 1080p gaming won't really push past 4GB, so the RX 570 is suited for up to 1080p gaming at 60FPS, while the RX 580 has 8GB and can be pushed into the 1440p 60FPS category. The 8GB of GDDR5 on the RX 580 has 256GB/sec of memory bandwidth, while the RX 570 has 224GB/sec, with both cards on a 256-bit memory interface.

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AMD has the Radeon RX 580 set with a 185W TDP, while the RX 570 has a TDP of 150W. These numbers are quite high, considering NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080 is massively faster and has a 180W TDP. It beats the pants off of everything AMD has on the market right now, and while the Radeon RX 580 is a mid-range graphics card, it uses more power than the GTX 1080.

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Radeon Chill will bring those numbers down, so expect a deeper dive into power consumption numbers and temperatures in the coming weeks. I've just purchased a thermal imaging camera, so we can start playing with thermal content in our upcoming graphics card reviews.

4K Ready & The Year Ahead For AMD

The Year Ahead For AMD

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AMD says that 2017 will be "incredible for PC gamers" with 3x more games using the latest APIs in DirectX 12 and Vulkan, and there are 3x more VR headsets with AAA content.

There will also be a doubling in Radeon FreeSync-capable monitors, and don't forget about the exciting new Radeon FreeSync 2 displays, while game streams and viewers continue to double throughout 2017.

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AMD explains its new Radeon RX 500 series as 'Polaris Evolved,' with a marketing line of 'a better reason to upgrade your old GPU,' and I have to agree. We have a new 14nm FinFET GPU, higher GPU clocks alongside enhanced idle and multi-monitor efficiencies, with plenty of custom cards along the way, there are tens of millions who could find a new graphics card upgrade with the RX 500 series.

Radeon FreeSync & 4K Ready

I wouldn't recommend 4K gaming on the Radeon RX 500 series, but if you just had to see it for yourself, the RX 580 and RX 570 are capable, but not in desirable frame rates. But AMD isn't recommending the Radeon RX 500 series for 4K; that's for Radeon RX Vega.

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4K media on Radeon RX 500 series? No problems. AMD has HDMI 2.0b support alongside HEVC and 4K playback abilities, with the Radeon RX 500 series being HDR ready - you're all good for that new HDR-ready 4K TV.

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Radeon FreeSync monitors are now everywhere, at some impressive price points from $119.99 for AOC's G2260VWQ, to $159.99 for the Samsung CF22390.

RX 500 Series: 1080p Up To 1440p @ 60FPS+

Performance Expected With Radeon RX 580

This is where AMD has an impressive refreshed card, with the Radeon RX 580 capable of hitting 1080p 60FPS+ in games like Battlefield 1, DOOM, Overwatch, and Resident Evil 7. This is beyond impressive for a card that is only built for the mid-range, with the price coming in at under $250.

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AMD is promising some more fluid gameplay with RX 580 and Radeon Chill, thanks to fewer frames being queued to your display, you can reduce the response time of the frames being rendered by 64%, down to 6ms from 16.7ms.

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Power consumption will also drop, from 126W to 91W on GPU power consumption. This is a big help for RX 580 owners on 1080p 60Hz monitors, as their card can be driving 150FPS+ and drawing all those additional watts, while Radeon Chill will give your GPU a break after 60FPS, consuming less power.

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VR is something AMD has been pushing heavily throughout all of its Radeon Rebellion marketing, with games like SuperHot, Arizona Sunshine and Serious Sam VR all running at over 100FPS.

AMD compared the Radeon R9 380 against the new Radeon RX 580, which really suffered in Arizona Sunshine with 72FPS average compared to the 109FPS on RX 580. But in Serious Sam VR, the RX 580 is capable of a huge 130FPS compared to the 78FPS of the R9 380.

Performance Expected With Radeon RX 570

This is where I think AMD will be the most disruptive: Radeon RX 570.

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AMD promises "maximum 1080p gaming" on the Radeon RX 570, with over 60FPS at 1080p in DOOM, Battlefield 1, Resident Evil 7, and Sniper Elite 4.

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AMD is pushing the Radeon RX 570 as an upgrade to 1080p 60FPS+ for gamers on a graphics card that is a few years old.

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Radeon RX 570 with adaptive rendering through Radeon Chill can have 43% less power consumption, down from 39W to 23W while the temperatures can drop from 60C, down to a chilly 40C.

Performance Expected With Radeon RX 560

We should expect GPU clocks of up to 1175/1275MHz on the lower-end Radeon RX 560, impressive for a card that is priced at under $150.

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But we're still expecting 1080p 60FPS gameplay with DOOM, Battlefield 1, and Overwatch.

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Radeon RX 560 is going to be a popular card for internet cafes and gamers who can't afford $150+ and now up to $1200 for a graphics card. So the news that we have 99% of frames rendered at less than 16.7ms response is great - with less than 5ms for League of Legends, and under 8ms for CS:GO - two of the biggest PC games.

Radeon Chill makes another appearance with the RX 560, with adaptive rendering at 60FPS+ and some impressive drops in response time, power and temps.

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We have 43% quicker response time from 15ms to 9ms, while power consumption drops from the already low 58W to 42W, while the temps will drop from a definitely hot 78C to 69C. This is a big temperature change between the RX 570 and RX 560, from 60C max on the RX 570 to 78C max on the RX 560.

The Radeon Chill numbers are even crazier, as the RX 560 runs at a hot 69C with Radeon Chill enabled compared to the surely better cooler on the RX 570 and Radeon Chill enabled, which can drop the temps to just 40C, compared to 69C on RX 560.

Performance Expected With Radeon RX 550

The lowest-end Radeon RX 500 series graphics card is the RX 550, with only 8 compute units and just 2GB of GDDR5 on a lower-end 128-bit memory bus.

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AMD nails some big points here with the RX 550, as 45% of gamers are using an older graphics card that costs less than $100, or integrated graphics. AMD wants to tap that market, in a big way.

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We are still expecting 1080p 60FPS+ performance on the biggest PC games on the market in CS:GO, DOTA 2, Overwatch, and League of Legends. AMD is going to see immense numbers sold on RX 550 for this great price/performance on games that 100s of millions play.

Final Thoughts

Polaris Refined, Evolved and Enhanced

I thought I would use this article as a better explanation of the refreshed Polaris GPU architecture and the new Radeon RX 500 series of graphics cards, so that I didn't need to add this into the review of the SAPPHIRE Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ that has just gone live.

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I've only tested the Radeon RX 580 so far, but the RX 570 is the one I'm most excited for. It will drive the price of the custom RX 470 graphics cards, which will represent unbelievable value for money. The refreshed/refined/evolved/enhanced RX 570 only continues that, except these cards use more power than high-end GeForce graphics cards. Hmm.

Looking at the specs of the Radeon RX 570, I can expect good things from the RX 570 - more so than the RX 580. AMD has got the pricing on the Radeon RX 570 nearly perfect, as it really is a force to be reckoned with at that price point. When you consider that Radeon FreeSync monitors are also cheaper than competing NVIDIA G-Sync displays, AMD has a great price/performance bracket that it owns with cheaper graphics cards and FreeSync displays.

I can't wait to see how much market disruption happens with the Radeon RX 560 and RX 550, as they should do many more sales, but we won't hear about that as much. The news headline cycle only cares about high-end products, but the sell through numbers on RX 560/550 are going to be huge in overseas markets like China, where there are tens of millions of gamers that would jump at a new $99 graphics card.

AMD is now beating NVIDIA with mid-range graphics cards, but the efficiency of the Polaris GPU architecture is pushed into a big spotlight, especially when compared to the Pascal GPU architecture and the various GTX 10 series cards. The GeForce GTX 1080 for example, a card twice as fast and twice as expensive as the RX 580, uses less power. WHAT. THE. HELL. AMD needs to get it under control with power consumption, because if Vega is twice the speed of an RX 580 (and it really needs to be)... then, we're looking at 300W of power consumption.

That is, unless the Vega GPU architecture with HBM2 is using witchcraft to push the power consumption numbers down. If Vega launches and requires anything less than 8+8-pin PCIe power connectors and a 250-300W TDP, I'll be surprised. The problem is, I'll question the power consumption of the Polaris GPU architecture even more if Vega is super power efficient in comparison, yet oodles faster than the mid-range cards AMD have just refined.

Should you buy one?

Well, if you're an owner of - or looking to save money on a new FreeSync gaming display... yes, definitely. The refined Radeon RX 580 is a great buy for 1080p and 1440p gamers, and even the hardcore/all-day gamers that spend time in CS:GO, Overwatch, League of Legends, and others - you're pushing 1080p 100FPS+ without a problem on an RX 580.

The mix of a cheaper RX 580 (versus a GTX 1070 for example) and the $100-$150 savings on a FreeSync-capable display over a G-Sync gaming display, is a big deal. AMD has a huge deal of win right there, with $200 savings being a big deal - it affords you that new Ryzen 7 1800X processor, eh?

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Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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