Summer through fall is the best time to piece together a PC, but as we know, almost anytime is a good time if we’re talking AMD. Case in point is the Radeon 400 series graphics cards which debuted in June in response to Nvidia, who premiered their own lineup with great fanfare and equally great asking prices. So AMD saw an opportunity to give us performance at half the price and ASUS has their version with the Radeon RX 480 Dual OC Graphics Card, an entry-level option that’s cheap and within reach for the common people.
Polaris Moves Things Up
The move from GCN 3 (Graphics Core Next) to the Polaris-coded GCN 4 is one of the biggest changes here. the architecture has been physically refreshed and downsized from 28-nanometer process to a 14nm type, allowing for more transistors on silicon without needing more power or heat. The potential is the ability to pack more power in a denser form, and only requires 150W of power for the RX 480 to draw from.
The RX 480 is a few steps ahead being capable of 5.8TFLOPs (trillion floating-point operations per second), which sounds great on paper versus prior generations of both Nvidia and AMD GPUs. On the memory side, GDDR5 is standard with a common speed of 8bps (gigabits per second), and comes in either 4GB or 8GB. Our tester came equipped with 4GB but the OEM variant sports the larger option, and no, this is not a fluke since third-party manufacturers are free to design specific configurations based on pricing. The only guarantee being that no card shall ship with a throughput less than 7Gbps.
And to round out the newest features, the RX 480 family does asynchronous computing where instructions can be assigned with different levels of priority on the GPU. Meaning that tasks can be optimized and still happen simultaneously, in an effort to reduce bottlenecking and stutter for DirectX 12 games and whatever else is tied to the framework.
ASUS (Mostly) Brings It
As stated before, this RX 480 Dual OC has to make due with half the amount of GDDR5 at 4GB (4096MB), but looks sharp and edgy to compensate elsewhere. Luckily, ASUS tries a little harder and incorporates a dual fan setup and widens the fansink by 2.5 slots, to aid in breathing space. The input selection is also balanced with two HDMI (2.0), two DisplayPort 1.4 (HDR ready), and even the legacy DVI-D port lives to see another day versus the OEM build which leaves it out entirely.
Because it is overclocked, speeds are higher than normal at 1300 MHz (base/gaming mode) and a small boost of 1320 MHz, which is fine for the 4GB it’s having to work with. Oddly though, the Dual OC RX 480 requires an 8-Pin connection to get everything working.
After we lauded the EVGA GeForce GTX 1070 SuperClocked card for being the idyllic higher-grade GPU right now, it was clear the RX 480 is strictly for midrange prospects. This revelation shouldn’t come as a surprise since AMD is holding out their RX 490 top-dog for the winter, so we had to temper our 3DMark benchmarks against the likes of Nvidia’s own GTX 970, GTX 1060, the previous generation Radeon R9 390 at best.
What we did discover is that both 4GB and 8GB configurations appear to be almost equal in score, which was amusing since we expected bigger gaps. Yes, you could probably go either way between the ASUS RX 480 Dual OC or another variant and not be affected in the long run. The Fire Strike test showed consistency getting a rundown in standard (11,193 in FHD), Extreme (5,582 in QHD), and in Ultra (2,886 in UHD). Accordingly, the 97.9% in cooling efficiency and 71°F within the Time Spy was acceptable too.
Gaming with 1440p
The RX 480 is excellent for mainstream gaming, but you’d do well to leave the 4K experience off of your personal bucket list. For all intents and purposes, each of the titles on hand — except one — couldn’t get pass 30 frames per second. so our observations will focus on 1080p (1920×1080) and 1440p (2560×1440), before individually tweaking
Rise of the Tomb Raider felt right at home for 1440p resolution. And while my opinion of the actual game is lukewarm, with 86fps average in 1080p and 62fps, giving us exactly what we wanted when the quick-time events and action came on thick. I said previously that this title is made for 1440p and this further proved my claim.
DOOM (2016) should be played at least once if you really do appreciate the fundamentals of what make first-person shooters great. Admittedly, the GTX 1070 spoiled us quite a bit and we didn’t want to give up the 4K; fortunately the RX 480 held its own and more than playable. The 72fps on 1080p and 59fps on 1440p is roughly on par with the formerly adored GeForce options, quite an achievement for a something that used to cost over $400 back then.
We return to Ultra Street Fighter IV because this game tends to be a saving grace for budget builds. It managed decently on the AMD A10-7870K APU Processor so we decided to see how improved the fluidity would play out better. Fortunately, none of that was a problem since USFIV ran extremely well at 106fps on 1080p and a silky smooth 1440p at 78fps — and as you already guessed — this was only the title to break our 4K/30fps barrier (but not by much) at 34fps.
Conclusion: Our GPU Underdog
When all is said and done, does ASUS do the AMD brand justice with their Radeon RX 480 Dual OC? I’d say yes, if Full HD and occasional 1440p performance is on your immediate radar.
Despite the timing and subsequent release of the GeForce GTX 1060 from a few weeks ago, I believe the RX 480 hits a sweet spot thanks to more memory (either in 4GB or 8GB configurations) and the always enticing price in its favor. Let’s not forget there appears to be an better abundance of FreeSync monitors currently available (BenQ XL2730Z, ViewSonic XG2700-4K) compared to Nvidia, and that is always welcome among budget and first time builders. Ultimately, you probably won’t go wanting, but it also wouldn’t hurt to double the GDDR5 package however you can.