Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What we tested

Testing the RX 480 in 6 benchmarks As ever, we tested the RX 480 on PCWorld's dedicated graphics card benchmark system, which is loaded with high-end components to avoid potential bottlenecks in other parts of the machine and show unfettered graphics performance. Key highlights of the build: t Intel's Core i7-5960X ($1,016 on Newegg) with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($105 on Newegg). t An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard ($380 on Newegg). t Corsair's Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($65 on Newegg), Obsidian 750D full tower case ($140 on Newegg), and 1,200-watt AX1200i power supply ($308 on Newegg). 480GB Intel 730 series SSD ($250 on Newegg) Windows 10 Pro To see how hard the 8GB Radeon RX 480 punches, we compared it to some obvious rivals. The current crop of $200-ish graphics cards are represented in the form of EVGA's GTX 960 SSC, VisionTek's Radeon R9 380, and Sapphire's Radeon R9 380X. You'll also find results for more potent cards: The Sapphire Nitro R390, EVGA GTX 970 FTW, MSI Radeon 390X Gaming 8GB, and the reference Nvidia GTX 980. We're not including Radeon RX 480 overclocking results for the reasons stated earlier. I would have liked to pit the reference AMD RX 480 against reference versions of each of those cards; but well, I simply didn't have any on hand. Of particular importance for comparison purposes: note that the EVGA GTX 970 FTW is a highly overclocked version of the GTX 970, which puts its overall performance midway between that of the stock GTX 970 and stock GTX 980. Read Anandtech's EVGA GTX 970 FTW review if you want deeper details on how the custom card compares against its stock counterparts. Beyond the hardware, we test each game with the default graphics settings unless otherwise noted. But we disable all vendor-specific special features--such as Nvidia's GameWorks effects, AMD's TressFX, and FreeSync/G-Sync--to keep things on an even playing field.

Why wouldn't you use DX12 if you owned this card? Ashes's DX12 implementation makes heavy use of asynchronous compute features, which are supported by dedicated hardware in Radeon GPUs, but not in the older GTX 900-series Nvidia cards. In fact, the software preemption workaround that Maxwell-based Nvidia cards use to mimic the async compute capabilities tank performance so hard that Oxide's game is coded to ignore async compute when it detects a GeForce GPU. Those cards actually perform worse when running Ashes in DX12. Speaking of poor performance, the $200 2GB graphics cards from last generation really can't handle playing at 1440p (or even 1080p, in DX12) on Ashes' "crazy" preset.

Yes, DX12 could very well wind up being a major boon for Radeon cards. But until DX12 and Vulkan games hit the streets in larger numbers and we're able to observe wider trends, buy the RX 480 because it kicks ass today, not for what it might--or might not-- do in the future. Again: Buy the Radeon RX 480 for what it can do today, and consider all these future-proofing technologies a bonus cherry on top. And I definitely recommend weighing the risks before you pick up two of these over a $380 GeForce GTX 1070. I only had a single card on hand, so I couldn't test CrossFire performance, but Radeon chief Raja Koduri made waves when he ran a demo that showed dual RX 480s beating a GTX 1080 in the Ashes of the Singularity benchmark in DX12. But multi-GPU support has waned over the past couple of years, with numerous big-name games patching in CrossFire/SLI late or not at all. DirectX 12's multi-GPU support is being heralded as the future for extreme system setups, but that puts the onus on time- and money-deprived developers to dedicate money and time to coding in and supporting multi-GPU configurations. Frankly, I'm skeptical about the future of multi-GPU systems (and sad about it). Something to keep in mind. What I'm not skeptical about is whether you should buy the Radeon RX 480. The answer's an absolute, unequivocal yes. This is an unprecedented amount of performance in the $200 price range, and unprecedented power efficiency for AMD's recent GPUs. Even if Nvidia slashes the price of remaining GTX 970 stocks to $200 to match the Radeon RX 480's price, I'd still recommend AMD's card. Really, there are only three graphics cards worth considering right now. If you've got deep pockets, Nvidia's $380 GTX 1070 and $600 GTX 1080 offer mind-blowing performance for high-end gaming rigs. For anything under that, the Radeon RX 480's the only game in town.

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