Looking to swipe some market share away from Nvidia before the arrival of its GeForce GTX 1060, AMD launched the Radeon RX 480 at the end of June. Codenamed Polaris 10, the company’s first fourth-generation GCN GPU appeared to have everyone rooting for it leading up to its release, and although we were largely satisfied with its 1080/1440p performance, the card wasn’t without the odd hitch.
There was the whole power draw controversy that AMD initially denied before backpedaling and coming up with a prompt fix — good on them. Thankfully, those issues seem to be behind us, but even so they appear to have set the RX 480 a bit off course. Although it could be unrelated, more than a month has passed since launch and availability on the new Radeon is still poor with almost no board partner cards.
As expected Nvidia did follow up with its GTX 1060 weeks later and as of writing there are dozens of boards on offer from several manufacturers competing to get your dollars. So for now at least I can’t imagine AMD is recovering much of that lost market share. I for one am desperate to get my hands on a 4GB RX 480 as I believe this will be the cost per frame king.
But hopefully today AMD can get back on track as it’s set to release its second Polaris 10 part, the Radeon RX 470.
The RX 470 should be an exciting product for a few reasons. First, this is an affordable sub-$200 GPU within the reach of most gamers. Coming from the first Polaris 10 board, we expect this to be an extremely capable 1080p gamer while 1440p should also be playable. The RX 470 also only comes in a 4GB version, which I personally feel is the right choice here.
I was a bit letdown with the RX 480 after we were promised a $200 GPU and then ended up with a $240 GPU (for the 8GB model instead of 4GB). Granted $40 isn’t a lot, but at this price point it simply isn’t worth paying 20% more for double the memory when it won’t yeild a single extra frame for gamers targeting 60fps. Don’t try to tell me the 8GB model is more “futureproof” either, though I’ll be happy to revisit the topic in a year’s time.
Anyway, there’s no need to argue over which RX 470 version you should buy, because there is just a single option and I feel it offers the most sensible memory capacity for a GPU of its caliber. With that said, let’s move on to check out the RX 470 in greater detail...
Meet the Asus RX 470 Strix
Although you could say that this Polaris 10 model is a few cards short of a full deck, it’s worth noting that the core configuration hasn’t been cut down that much. We’re only seeing an 11% reduction in SPUs and TMUs when compared to the fully fledged RX 480, while the ROP count remains at 32.
AMD has nerfed the base operating frequency, dropping it by 17% from 1120 MHz to 926 MHz. That said, there’s just a 5% discrepancy in the boost clock frequency which has been reduced from 1266 MHz to 1206 MHz.
Connected to the GPU is 4GB of GDDR5 memory, though we should point out the AMD spec only calls for 1650MHz memory here, which provides a throughput of 6.6Gbps. In contrast the 4GB RX 480 comes with 7Gbps memory, while the 8GB version is armed with 8Gbps memory.
The same 256-bit wide memory bus is in use, though due to the slightly slower clocked GDDR5 memory the bandwidth has been decreased from 224GB/s for the 4GB RX 480 to 211GB/s, a 6% reduction.
When all’s said and done the RX 470 is good for up to 4.9 TFLOPS of compute power when operating at the maximum boost frequency. In contrast the RX 480 is good for 5.8 TFLOPS, while Nvidia’s GTX 1060 chucks out just 4.3 TFLOPS.
AMD has downgraded the Thermal Design Power (TDP) rating to 120 watts for the RX 470, that’s a 20% reduction when compared to the RX 480. It is, however, the same TDP rating as the GTX 1060, so again a single 6-pin PCIe power connector has been used.
On hand for testing we don’t have an AMD reference card, which is somewhat of a relief, instead the Asus RX 470 Strix card has been used. The Strix model does come factory overclocked, but since we have only tested with other reference or stock clocked graphics card we downclocked the Asus RX 470 to meet the AMD reference clock speeds.
For those wondering, the Strix comes factory overclocked to 1250MHz out of the box, but can be set to 1270MHz using the OC mode in the Asus GPU Tweak II software. The GDDR5 memory has been left at the standard 1650MHz (6600MHz data rate) frequency.
The card measures 242mm long and 129mm tall. The dual-slot DirectCU II cooler measures 42mm wide and Asus says it is 30% cooler and three times quieter than the AMD blower style reference cooler. They are targeting 60 degrees, which is considerably better than the 80+ degrees the RX 480 reference card operates at.
Like the RX 480 the 470 supports DirectX 12 along with OpenGL 4.5, OpenCL 2.0 and Vulkan 1.0. The Strix model also comes with two dual-link DVI ports, a single DisplayPort 1.4 output with HDR support and a HDMI 2.0 port supporting 4K @ 60Hz.
Benchmarks: Overwatch, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Test System Specs
The RX 470 breaks the 100fps barrier at 1080p in Overwatch using the ultra quality settings. In fact it is able to maintain inexcess of 100fps. This meant that the RX 470 wasn’t a great deal slower than the GTX 970 and RX 480.
Now at 1440p the RX 470 is almost able to match the GTX 970 and again wasn’t a great deal slower than the RX 480. It was however much faster than the R9 380 and GTX 960.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt fans will enjoy what the RX 470 has to offer. At 1080p we saw an average of 59fps with HairWorks disabled which is again comparable to the GTX 970 while not much slower than the R9 390.
Although a 43fps average isn’t ideal this is still mighty impressive performance at 1440p for a $180 graphics card. This also means that the RX 470 was able to match the GTX 970.
Benchmarks: Total War: Warhammer, DOOM
The RX 470 was just 7fps slower than the RX 480 at 1080p in Total War: Warhammer and was able to deliver highly playable performance at 71fps.
Increasing the resolution to 1440p dropped the RX 470 down to a 47fps average when using DX12 which was just 1fps slower than the GTX 970 and 5fps slower than the RX 480.
Focusing on the Vulkan performance we see that the RX 470 averaged an incredable 123fps at 1080p which put it within 2fps of the GTX 970 and 2fps ahead of the GTX 1060.
Even at 1440p we see a smooth 80fps average with the RX 470 and this again put it on par with the GTX 970 and GTX 1060.
Benchmarks: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry Primal
The RX 480 was just 7fps slower than the RX 480 when playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p. More importaintly it sustained over 60fps in our benchmark with an average of 63fps.
At 1440p performance drops to just 43fps though we are running very high quality settings with SMAA enabled, so it shouldn’t take much to reach or even exceed 60fps with the RX 470 at this resolution.
Running the game using DirectX 12 boosted performance by a small margin allowing for a 66fps average at 1080p. The RX 470 was 8fps slower than the RX 480 though it was also 15fps faster than the GTX 960.
Using DX12 we see similar performance at 1440p, this time the RX 470 averaged 43fps making it 6fps slower than the RX 480.
Far Cry Primal was tested using the ultra-quality settings using the HD texture pack, which aren’t ideal quality settings for a sub-$200 graphics card. Unfortunately, due to timing it wasn’t possible to update the quality settings used for testing so we were forced to test the RX 470 under these conditions. Even so we did see a 49fps average which while not ideal does provide playable performance.
Bumping the resolution up to 1440p sees the RX 480 drop to an average of 34fps with frame dips as low as 29fps. Not ideal, but it was interesting to see the RX 470 outpacing the GTX 970 here.
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Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.