AMD Promises Radeon RX 480 Software Fix For Out-Of-Spec Power Draw As Possible First Casualties Surface

It's been discovered that some Radeon RX 480 graphics cards are pulling more power from the PCI-Express slot than what is allowed by spec, which is 75W. In theory, going over spec could damage lower end motherboards and there have already been some claims of that happening. As a result, AMD is working on an updated driver to fix affected cards.

We don't have the tools to check for PCIe power draw, but we've been putting the Radeon RX 480 through its paces with two different BIOS revisions, both at stock speeds and overclocked. After hours of benchmarking, we've yet to run into any stability issues or wonky behavior. That makes us confident that this is something AMD can indeed fix via software.

AMD Radeon RX 480

Sites that have tested the overall power draw of the Radeon RX 480 report that it's more than the advertised 150W, sometimes in the neighborhood of 170W or more. The bigger concern is where the power is coming from and some are finding that the Radeon RX 480 pulls well over the allowable 75W from the PCIe slot it's plugged into, while also overdrawing from its single 6-pin PCIe connector.

That could be problematic for motherboards, especially ones that use lower quality components, and sure enough there are claims on AMD's community boards of fried PCie slots.

"I ran into a problem after upgrading my rig with an RX 480 today. Everything was working great but then after a 7-hour straight gaming session with Witcher 3 Blood and Wine (which by the way is AMAZING) I got artifacting and then everything went black and the sound cut out," a user explained on AMD's support forum. "I reboot[ed] my PC several times, but nothing would come up. After looking up the error code on the motherboard, I found that it was 'No VGA present' so at first I thought the card was dead and I put back in my 750 Ti, but it too would not work with the same error code. So I put the RX 480 in the second PCIe slot and now everything is working just fine. After everything was A-OK I tried slot 1 again and it failed again, so now I'm in slot 2."

Burnt PCIe Slot
Source: AMD Forum (roquen22) - Click to Enlarge

The poster went on to claim that the left side of the affected PCie slot is burned (see above pic), and it didn't take long for others to chime in with similar complaints. One user claims a Radeon RX 480 killed his 990FX motherboard from MSI.

We're not sure what to make of these complaints. They seem a bit convenient, but at the same time, they're certainly plausible. AMD isn't sweeping the issue under the rug, either. Here's what the company had to say on the matter.

As you know, we continuously tune our GPUs in order to maximize their performance within their given power envelopes and the speed of the memory interface, which in this case is an unprecedented 8Gbps for GDDR5. Recently, we identified select scenarios where the tuning of some RX 480 boards was not optimal. Fortunately, we can adjust the GPU's tuning via software in order to resolve this issue. We are already testing a driver that implements a fix, and we will provide an update to the community on our progress on Tuesday (July 5, 2016).
AMD might have been able to avoid this by going with a second PCIe power connector on the card itself. Either way, it's unfortunate that there's an apparent issue, as the price-to-performance ratio on this card is really good. Let's hope an updated driver is all that's needed.

Stayed tuned, we'll have more on this as it develops.