Radeon RX 580 Graphics Card Review: Polaris Returns

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The Ryzen series has finally launched, and the R5 series of processors are pretty much the best bang for your buck. So with a sweet processor, you need a sweet graphics card to match. Will this new Radeon RX580 be the perfect match? As my momma used to say, you can never get enough bang for your dollar. I hope she was talking about video cards.

 

So right off the bat, you might notice something special about this card. No, we didn’t accidentally shoot the entire video with an RX480. This is in fact the new AMD Radeon RX580 video card. And as you can see, it looks the exact same as the RX480. They both use the exact same cooler, PCB layout, and video outputs.

 

The same applies to their specifications as well – both cards have 2304 stream processors, 144 texture mapping units, 32 render output units, a 256-bit memory bus, 8GB of GDDR5 ram, and a memory clock speed of 8Ghz. On the back, you’ll find 3 DisplayPort outputs and one HDMI port.  

 

However, that’s where the similarities end. The new RX580 has a base clock speed of 1340Mhz, up from the RX480’s 1266MHz. Now, you might be thinking “hey, that’s nothing special. That’s just a tiny overclock.” Well, you’re kind of right. However, the reference model now has an 8pin power connector instead of the 6pin connector found on the RX480.

 

What does this mean? Well, it means you have a higher potential overhead for overclocking. And the new 500 series is a direct replacement for the previous 400 series cards, so you’re getting better performance for the same price. It’s great news if you’re shopping for a graphics card right now, not the biggest deal if you already own an RX480, and absolutely devastating if you were hoping for the next Vega flagship instead.

 

But enough about that. Let’s take a look at how the RX580 performs. Since both the RX480 and 580’s configurations are the same, performance in games was exactly as predicted. The RX580’s clockspeed is 6% faster than the RX480, and all the results hover around that range. Performance in 3dMark, Dirt Rally, Rainbow Six Siege, Doom in Vulkan mode, and Unigine Heaven showed an improvement anywhere from 3-10%.

 

What about overclocking? Well, from our last review of the RX480, and from the results we see on forums, most people can usually hit a maximum clock speed around 1350MHz. Which, funnily enough, is where the RX580 begins. If we overclock our RX480 to the same clock speed of 1340MHz, then we get the exact same performance give or take a 1-2% margin of error due to random variance in between runs.

 

And the RX580? Well, with AMD’s WattMan tool, and a 50% increase in power limit, we were able to hit a maximum clock speed of 1455MHz, a memory clock speed of 2200MHz, and a maximum power usage of 164 watts. That’s an increase of about 15% from the RX480 using the stock cooler. Once aftermarket cards come out, we should be seeing an even bigger difference.

 

Finally, crossfire performance. Again, expect to see crossfire scaling exactly the same as the RX480. We unfortunately couldn’t get any benchmarks in games, since our beta drivers didn’t have any crossfire profiles attached. But based on our 3DMark score with two RX580’s, we went up 61% from 5888 to 9455.

 

And that bring us to our conclusion. The new RX580 isn’t the biggest upgrade in the world, and we can’t help but feel like this is what the RX480 should have been in the first place. AMD made a big deal about how efficient their Polaris architecture was, but users ran into power limitation problems as soon as they started overclocking. With this new beefier power delivery system, and custom cards like the upcoming ASUR ROG Strix or MSI Twin Frozr versions, the RX580 should cement itself as one of the best options in the $200 to $300 range.
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