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AMD Radeon RX 480 Video Card Review - Starting a Rebellion From $199

By: Anthony Garreffa,By: Jason Evangelho | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Jun 29, 2016 1:00 pm
TweakTown Rating: 87%Manufacturer: AMD

Final Thoughts... Finally


I kept writing and writing in those last couple of pages, and had to expand them into their own sections because they began to get so pumped full of words... but here we are, at the final thoughts on AMD's next-gen Radeon RX 480. It's finally here, and it's actually pretty damn good. Sure, it's not perfect - and it could be better in various areas, something I'll go into detail about soon - but it's a damn good release because of the price.




The entire reason the RX 480 is making waves is the $199 pricing on the 4GB model at least, while the 8GB model is $239. Now you're sitting there thinking, "but Anthony, you didn't test the 4GB model, you tested the 8GB model" - and you're right. But, AMD provided the press with a vBIOS to flash the RX 480 8GB down to the 4GB model - also reducing the clock speed on the RAM from 8GHz on the 8GB model, to 7GHz on the 4GB model.



I did testing at all resolutions and found just 1-2 FPS difference in nearly everything, except for a few like Hitman in DX12 with ~5FPS more average at 1440p for example. For the most part, there's no huge change in performance between the 4GB model and its 7GHz memory, and the 8GB model and its 8GHz memory. This is both good and bad.


The good, is that you can buy the $199 model and enjoy nearly all of the performance we've seen here today - within a few FPS of the benchmarks I've got here. With some overclocking, you can get those additional frames without a problem, and even at 4K the performance was only a few FPS more. The bad, is why is there no larger performance increase between the 7GHz and 8GHz RAM when there should be a 10% improvement on average? Maybe we'll see some differences with the partner cards and their additional PCIe power that can let the card stretch its legs.


My entire thought process behind this review was to come from the perspective of owning an older card like an R9 280 or even the R9 370 and whether I'd look at this review and want to buy it - and I would. I would recommend the Radeon RX 480 for people who don't want to spend $400 or more on a video card. It performs beautifully at 1080p with 60FPS easily achievable and has more than enough grunt under its 150W TDP. But also remember, NVIDIA's far superior GeForce GTX 1070 also has a TDP of 150W, so where is AMD's efficiency within the Polaris architecture going if NVIDIA can perform far above and beyond the RX 480 in the same power envelope?


As it stands, AMD has now got the mainstream market in its grasp with the Radeon RX 480. At $199, it represents stellar value for money - with 1080p 60FPS gaming and VR goodness in its reach. 1440p gaming is actually great on the RX 480, too - and with some in-game detail adjustments - gaming at 2560x1440 at 60FPS average will not be a problem. 4K gaming isn't something I'd recommend on the Radeon RX 480 - but just wait a day or two for our CrossFire results, and that might change your mind.




Overall AMD has impressed me with the Radeon RX 480. Even with all of its flaws, it's good to see AMD back in the game with a new video card release under its new Radeon Technologies Group division. Remember that this isn't an enthusiast card and that AMD has its next-gen Vega architecture due out in early 2017. I believe NVIDIA will tighten its grip on AMD between now and then, forcing AMD to play its hand with another card.


Whether this card would arrive as a souped up Polaris 10-based offering in the form of a Radeon RX 490 with increased CUs and more power delivery (6+8-pin) or a dual-GPU with two P10 GPUs making it 2 x RX 480. AMD could do this with 6+8-pin and still keep the TDP under 300W and price it at $499 to compete directly against the GeForce GTX 1080 and its $599-$699 pricing. Right now, AMD is capable of this - and I think we're going to see something new in the high-end market (but not as fast as the Vega-based cards) before the end of the year.


AMD is also pumping considerable time, effort, R&D, and production assistance into their semi-custom chips for Microsoft and Sony's next-gen consoles - which is good for the companies bottom line, but it might take away from the company competing against NVIDIA in the enthusiast arena for a little while - I'd say around 6-9 months or so.


This doesn't distract from the fact that the Radeon RX 480 is a great card for $199, with the partner cards arriving in the coming weeks - we have some on the way already, AMD is only beginning to make its comeback. We still have the release of the RX 470 and RX 460 in the near future - both with unknown prices. If can get their R7 300 and R9 380 series cards out of the channel and push the RX 460 for $129 and the RX 470 for $169 - it could do some real big damage to NVIDIA's lower-end sales of the GTX 950 and GTX 960 which get trounced by the RX 480.


In the end, the Radeon RX 480 is a damn good card, and for $199, AMD should be applauded for changing its direction. NVIDIA could lose some discrete GPU market share from AMD's new RX series cards if it can't hit the market with sub-$250 cards in the coming months. Remember that countless games are coming out in the next few months, and we're only 4-5 months from the massive holiday season of gaming where we should begin to see just how much the RX series impacts the market. Until then...


The Rebellion has only just begun.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Performance (overclocking, power)90%
Quality (build, design, cooling)75%
General Features (display outputs, etc)90%
Bundle, Packaging & Software90%
Value for Money90%
Overall TweakTown Rating87%

The Bottom Line: AMD kick starts a rebellion with the Radeon RX 480, starting at $199 for the 4GB version. It provides enough power for 1080p 60FPS gaming and a card powerful enough to handle VR, all for under $200.

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