AMD Radeon RX 480 Review: Polaris Hitting The Sweet Spot

Radeon RX 480 Wrap Up

Performance Summary: The AMD Radeon RX 480 offers very strong performance in its price segment. Versus graphics cards like the GeForce GTX 960 and Radeon R9 380X, which are currently in the same price bracket, the Radeon RX 480 is in another league altogether. The Radeon RX 480 smoked those cards across the board. In comparison to the somewhat more expensive GeForce GTX 970, the Radeon RX 480 also fares very well. The 8GB Radeon RX 480 was faster than the GTX 970 in every single test we ran, save for one (Unigine Heaven). The 4GB Radeon RX 480 was also faster than the GTX 970 more often than not, but the two were far more competitive. The Radeon RX 480 also offered roughly 85-95% of the performance of the more expensive Radeon R9 390, and was able to overtake the R9 390 with some basic overclocking.

The Radeon RX 480’s power characteristics were slightly better than the GeForce GTX 970 as well, which is somewhat surprising. In the lead-up to this launch AMD claimed Polaris would offer a monumental leap in efficiency. Versus previous-gen Radeons, the RX 480 is significantly more efficient. But when you consider the almost two-year old GeForce GTX 970’s GPU is manufactured using a 28nm process, versus the 14nm FinFET process of Polaris 10, the Radeon RX 480’s power characteristics are less impressive. The much faster GeForce GTX 1070, which leverages a 16nm FinFET manufacturing process, used only slightly more power than the RX 480.

Radeon RX 480 3
The AMD Radeon RX 480 -- Find It At Amazon

Regardless, at this very moment in time, the AMD Radeon RX 480 is easily the best value in its price segment. The $239 Radeon RX 480 8GB card in particular offers performance just shy of the Radeon R9 390, but in a much lower power envelope, with support for more advanced features, and at a significantly lower cost. Versus the GeForce GTX 970, the comparison also favors AMD currently. The 8GB Radeon RX 480 has performance and price advantages over the GTX 970, with the added benefits of additional memory and better DirectX 12 support. If you’re looking for a graphics card in the $199 - $250 price range right now, the Radeon RX 480 should be quite attractive. The graphics landscape is ever changing, however, and what’s true today may not be in the long term.

In the end, AMD delivered what the company said it would. The Radeon RX 480 is an affordable, relatively powerful GPU that brings bleeding-edge display technologies and premium VR support into a lower price bracket. The $239 price point for the 8GB offering is highly competitive in today’s graphics card market, but the $199 4GB version would be a fine choice for anyone that games at any resolution lower than 1440P. Historically, when evaluating affordably priced graphics cards, we have to throw in the caveat that there’s usually much more performance to be had by investing a few more dollars in your graphics card. With the Radeon RX 480, however, you’d have to jump into Radeon R9 Nano or GeForce GTX 980 / 1070 territory for a truly worthwhile performance upgrade, which would mean spending significantly more. As it stands today, the AMD's new Radeon RX 480 is an excellent value.

  • Good Performance Per Dollar
  • Compact Design
  • Bleeding-Edge Features
  • Competitive Pricing
  • WattMan Overclocking Utility
  • Power In Line With 2-Year Old Maxwell GPUs

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