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AMD Radeon RX 480 presented, offers a lot for little

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Andreas Schilling

amd radeon 2013Apart from showing its seventh generation of APUs, AMD granted a first look at its upcoming graphics cards based on the new Polaris architecture at the Computex. AMD officially presented the Radeon RX 480, set to be launched on 29 June. The launch officially confirmed the rumoured name of the card. The price is quite a surprise: the Radeon RX 480 will be available for 199 US dollars, while offering the performance of a 500 US dollars graphics card.

Raja Koduri von AMD mit der Radeon RX 480
Raja Koduri AMD with the Radeon RX 480 (Image: Anandtech)

In terms of performance, AMD claims more than 5 TFLOPS computing power in single precision. As for the architecture, the chip company only wanted to reveal it has 36 CUs. If the card continues to have 64 shader units per CU, this would result in 2,304 shader units total for the Radeon RX 480. AMD also didn't reveal the clock rate. In theory and based on the computing power, 36 x 64 shaders would result in a clock rate of around 1,200 MHz.

The Radeon RX 480 will appear with 4 or 8 GB of GDDR5, connected through a 256 bit wide memory interface. At a clock rate of 2,000 MHz, this would results in a memory bandwidth of 256 GB/s. AMD states a power consumption. Freesync support ought to be mandatory, as well DisplayPort 1.3/ 1.4 outputs. This had already announced a few months ago.

Overview of AMD Radeon RX 480 technical specifictions
Model AMD Radeon R9 380 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 AMD Radeon RX 480
Homepage www.amd.com www.nvidia.com www.amd.com
Technical specifications
Manufacturing process 28 nm 28 nm 14 nm
GPU clock rate (Base Clock) - 1,050 MHz -
GPU clock (Boost Clock) 970 MHz 1,178 MHz -
Memory clock 1,375 / 1,425 MHz 1,750 MHz 2,000 MHz
Memory type GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory size 2/4 GB 4 GB 4/8 GB
Memory interface 256 bit 224 + 32 bit 256 bit
Memory bandwidth 176/ 182,4 GB/s 224 GB/s 256 GB/s
DirectX version 12 12 12
Shader units 1,792 1,664 2,304
Texture units 112 104 -
ROPs 32 64 -
Typical Board Power 190 W 145 W 150 W
SLI / Crossfire Crossfire SLI Crossfire

With a price of 199 US dollars the new card would cost as much as a Radeon R9 380X or GeForce GTX 960, while having a significantly higher level of performance. AMD as of yet gave no details on the card's performance, but did say it ought to be on the same level as current 500 US dollar cards. As such, it would compete with the GeForce GTX 980, and above.

Radeon RX 480 mit deutlicher Leistungssteigerung
The Radeon RX 480 offers significantly increased performance (Image: Anandtech)

It also isn't all too much of a surprise that the new AMD GPUs are manufactured in the 14nm FinFET process. Globalfoundries will presumably manufacture the chips in its new 14 nm fab in upstate New York. The Radeon RX 480 AMD will support Async Compute, multi-GPU systems, i.e. Crossfire and anticipated technologies such as the Vulkan API and HDR video. Even games are expected to benefit from HDR in the future. AMD collaborated with the developer of DOOM, among others. The id Tech 6 engine will support HDR. Support of Vulkan is expected for the next update.

"The Radeon RX series efficiency is driven by major architectural improvements and the industry’s first 14nm FinFET process technology for discrete GPUs, and could mark an important inflection point in the growth of virtual reality,"stated Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Benchmark comparison between 2x Radeon RX 480 and 1x GeForce GTX 1080 Benchmark-Vergleich zwischen 2x Radeon RX 480 und 1x GeForce GTX 1080

Benchmark comparison between 2x Radeon RX 480 und 1x GeForce GTX 1080

AMD finally did give in to the temptation of some sort of comparison, and showed two Radeon RX 480 in a Crossfire configuration go toe to toe against an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080. The Crossfire double team was slightly faster running Ashes of the Singularity under DirectX 12, while the price is far, far lower. Considering the fact that a multi-GPU setup will be more difficult to implement with DirectX 12, this comparison is risky, but also due to other reasons.

For a price of 199 US dollars, AMD has set itself up entirely new, targetting the so-called sweet spot in the mid-range of the market with the first Polaris graphics card. Here, most graphics cards are sold and AMD appears to have done something absolutely economically viable. Customers will also stand to benefit. AMD sees the Radeon RX 480 with its price of 199 dollars as a sort of door opener for entering the realm of PC gaming, and thanks to its performance also for the use of VR headsets like the HTC Vive, or Oculus Rift.

AMD calls this its "Water Drop" strategy. Specific markets are focussed, and a product tailored exactly to the respective needs is launched. The strategy is supposed to win back market shares - a trend AMD has gladly accepted in the last few months.

"VR is the most eagerly anticipated development in immersive computing ever, and is the realization of AMD’s Cinema 2.0 vision that predicted the convergence of cinematic visuals and interactivity back in 2008," said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and chief architect of AMD's Radeon Technologies Group. "As we look to fully connect and immerse humanity through VR, cost remains the daylight between VR being the purview of the wealthy, and universal access for everyone. The Radeon™ RX Series is the disruptive technology that adds rocket fuel to the VR inflection point, turning it into a technology with transformational relevance to consumers."