AMD Radeon RX 480 Review: Polaris Hitting The Sweet Spot

Test System, Heaven v4.0 And Fire Strike

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5P motherboard powered by an Intel Core i7-5960X Extreme Edition octal-core processor and 16GB of Corsair DDR4 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure optimal memory performance and the solid state drive was then formatted and Windows 10 Professional x64 was installed and fully updated. When the installation was complete, we installed all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered
Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-5960X
(3GHz, Octa-Core)
Gigabyte X99 Gaming 5P
(Intel X99 Chipset)

Radeon R9 Fury X
Radeon R9 390
Radeon R9 380X
Radeon RX 480
GeForce GTX 960
GeForce GTX 970
GeForce GTX 1070

16GB Corsair DDR4-2133
OCZ Vertex 4
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network
Relevant Software: 
Windows 10 Pro x64 (v1511, Build 10586)
AMD Catalyst 16.6.2
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v368.39

Benchmarks Used:
Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
MIddle-Earth: Shadow Of Mordor
Ashes Of The Singularity (DX12)
Hitman 2016 (DX12)
LuxMark (OpenCL)
Steam VR Performance Test

Unigine Heaven v4.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v4.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

Unigine Heaven

heaven 1

heaven 2

The AMD Radeon RX 480 cards come in just behind the GeForce GTX 970 and Radeon R9 390 in the Unigine Heaven benchmark (with the extreme settings we use for testing). The RX 480, however, significantly outperforms the Radeon R9 380X here.

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
Synthetic DirectX Gaming
3DMark Fire Strike has multiple benchmark modes: Normal mode runs at 1920x1080, Extreme mode targets 2560x1440, and Ultra mode runs at a 4K resolution. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Ultra mode is explicitly designed for high-end and CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. And 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations.

3DMark Fire Strike



The tables turn in the 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra test. This time around both the 4GB and 8GB Radeon RX 480 cards outpace the GeForce GTX 970 by a small margin. You'll notice that the GeForce GTX 970 was actually faster in Game Test 1, but the Radeons' advantage in Game Test 2 allow it to take the overall victory.

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