AMD Radeon RX 460 Review: Polaris On A Budget

Introducing The Radeon RX 460

AMD and NVIDIA have been launching graphics cards at a rapid clip this summer. In the last three months or so, about ten new desktop GPUs have been launched or announced, targeting virtually all market segments. Thanks to new architectures and more advanced manufacturing processes, this latest generation of GPUs offer far better performance and efficiency than the previous-gen, with much smaller die sizes too. So it makes sense that the big two discrete GPU makers wanted their latest wares on store shelves ASAP.

Today, AMD is ready with an entry-level graphics card featuring its Polaris architecture, the Radeon RX 460. Unlike the Radeon RX 480 and RX 470, the RX 460 is built around a new piece of silicon, the Polaris 11 GPU. The RX 480 and RX 470 feature the larger, more powerful Polaris 10.

Radeon RX 460

AMD hasn’t exactly been keeping the Radeon RX 460 a secret. We’ve covered its main features and specifications already and have shown you the reference card on a few occasions. Today though, we can reveal what some of AMD’s board partners have in store for the RX 460 and exactly how the card performs using the ASUS Radeon RX 460 STRIX you see here...

asus rx 460
The ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX 4GB
Radeon RX Series
Specifications & Features

Radeon RX 480 Radeon RX 470 Radeon RX 460
Architecture Polaris 10 XT Polaris 10 Pro Polaris 11 
Stream Processors 2304 2048 896
Compute Units 36 32 14
Base Clock 1120 MHz 926 MHz 1090 MHz
Boost Clock 1266 MHz 1206 MHz 1200 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit GDDR5 256-bit GDDR5 128-bit GDDR5
Memory Bandwidth 224 GB/s 211 GB/s 112 GB/s
TDP 150 watts 120 watts 75 watts
Peak Compute     5.8 TFLOPS 4.9 TFLOPS 2.2 TFLOPS
Process Tech 14nm FinFET 14nm FinFET 14nm FinFET
MSRP $199/$239 (4GB/8GB) $179+ (4GB) $109+ (2GB/4GB)

Unlike the Radeon RX 470 and the higher-end Radeon RX 480, which are both built around the Polaris 10 GPU, the RX 460's powerplant is the smaller, Polaris 11. Polaris 11 has somewhat less than the half the resources of a fully equipped Polaris 10 and it is built using the same 14nm FinFET manufacturing process. There are 896 stream processors active in the RX 460, and it has base and boost clocks of 1090 MHz and 1200 MHz, respectively. The end result brings peak compute performance to approximately 2.2 TFLOPs. The RX 460's memory (2GB and 4GB versions will be available) is clocked the same as an RX 480, but it is linked to the GPU via a narrower 128-bit interface, which results in a peak of 112GB/s of bandwidth. The RX 460 is designed with a sub-75 watt TDP in mind, so there will be versions without a supplemental power connector, but the ASUS STRIX does require a 6-pin feed.
aus strix rx460 1
To test the Radeon RX 460, we were outfitted with an ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX Edition -- like the Radeon RX 470, there will be very few, if any, reference RX 460s. AMD's partners are all coming to market with custom cards. The ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX OC Edition offers a few modes of operation, an OC Mode that boosts the GPU clock up to 1256MHz and a standard gaming mode that boosts to 1236MHz. The 4GB of GDDR5 memory on board is clocked at 1750MHz, which results in an effective data rate of 7Gb/s. Using ASUS' included GPU Tweak utility, users can switch between OC and Gaming modes with a single click. However, out of the box, using the drivers on AMD's website alone, the card will operate in OC Mode by default and it works with AMD's built-in WattMan utility as well -- sort of.
aus strix rx460 2
The PCB used on the ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX is relatively tiny; the overall design is only 7.6 x 4.7 x 1.4 inches. The card is outfitted with a single 6-pin power connector, a 4+1 phase power array with premium caps and chokes, and a custom DirectCU II cooler, with dual fans. The heatsink on the card features heat-pipes that make direct contact with the GPU and dual "wing blade" fans are mounted on top. ASUS claims the cooling assembly is up to 3x quieter and offers 105% more air pressure than reference models, which results in up to 30% lower temperatures. Our equipment isn't sensitive enough to confirm the noise output claims, but we can say that this card is very quiet and GPU temps are a non-issue as well. More on that later, though.

Like its big brother, the RX 460 STRIX has a built-in, GPU controlled 4-pin fan header. Should you want to add additional GPU cooling and have it controlled by GPU temperatures, rather than CPU or case temperatures like most motherboard-mounted fan headers, it can be plugged right into the card and tweaked in ASUS' software.

strix lighting

The ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX features customizable RGB lighting as well. Using the included Aura utility, the color of the ROG logo on the top edge of the card can be set to virtually any color.  It offers different modes of operation too -- the lighting can be tuned to change color in line with GPU temperatures, cycle through different colors, or pulse on an off.
aus strix rx460 4
The display configuration on the ASUS Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX consist of a Dual-Link DVI-D output, one HDMI 2.0 output, and one DisplayPort 1.4 output. All three of the outputs can be used simultaneously and the maximum supported resolution is 5120x2880.
aus strix rx460 5
ASUS includes a few bundled items with the Radeon RX 460 ROG STRIX as well. Along with the card itself, ASUS throws in some ROG-branded cable ties and some orange colored decals, should you want to add some color to the card. There's also a basic lit pack and a driver / utility disc, which includes copies of ASUS' GPU Tweak II and the Aura utility for controlling the RGB lighting on the card.

xfx rx460
powercolor rx460 gb rx460
Many of AMD's other board partners are at the ready with RX 460 card as well. Above we have some pictures Radeon RX 460s from XFX (top), PowerColor (left), and Gigabyte (right). There are some interesting things to note in these images.  First, the PowerColor and Gigabyte cards are only 2GB. Also notice the edge connector on the Gigabyte card -- it only has a PCI Express x8 connection.  That shouldn't affect overall performance with a card like the RX 460, however.

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