GRABBED THE RX 480 8GB

The price for the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 8GB has fallen to $99 Canadian so adding the card to the studio seemed like a good move. The card competes with the GTX 1060 but with 8GB of VRAM the RX 480 has the upper hand for demanding games. The MSRP for the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 8GB was $269. The part number is 100406NT+8GOCL.

The affordable cost for the RX 480 and the MSI X470’s capabilities makes the case for buying a pair of cards. Unfortunately that would force the R5 2400G from its socket as it does not have enough lanes. A new Ryzen 3000 series processor would immediately solve that problem but the cost is significantly more. A new CPU would push the X470 out of the chassis as the X570 would be available.

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ RADEON RX 480

While a second Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 8GB can be found easily enough. the RX 580 is able to be used for crossfire. This is not blocked by Radeon drivers. Ideally the cards should be all the same clock speed but the driver will deal with that. Some RX 580 cards have dual PCIe power connectors.

The reference card was criticised for its 6-pin PCIe cable and excessive reliance on the motherboard for power. AMD changed the regulator settings to use more power from the PCIe to be more compliant. AIB makers MSI and Sapphire chose to use 8-pin connectors so that abundant power was available for overclocked versions of the RX 480.

  • 100406NT+8GOCL
  • 299-1E353-510SA
  • AMD Ellesmere (Polaris 10)
  • 1306 MHz base clock
  • 1342 MHz boost clock
  • 36 CU
  • 2304 shaders
  • 232 mm² die
  • 2000 MHz GDDR5 8192MB
  • 224 GB/s
  • Dual 95mm fans
  • 9.45″ length
  • 150W PCIe 8-pin required
  • 225W maximum

The optional Quiet mode actually sticks to the same 1,306 MHz boost clock as the reference RX 480. The default Boost mode comes enabled out of the box, hitting 1,342 MHz on the 8 GB version.

Video encoding is provided by the VCE in the driver. It seems to be much faster than the CUDA encoder in recent nVidia drivers.It appears that the entire GPU is used with VCE while CUDA seems to be limited to one compute unit.

More and more games are using all available VRAM which is what motivated the move to an 8GB video card. The RX 480 as a 256-bit memory bus so it has a more bandwidth than the rival GTX 1060.

The reference RX 480 is about 5.8 TFLOPS using 36 compute units providing a total of 2304 shaders. On paper, this is a bit more than the GTX 1060 3GB. The overclocked Nitro+ is able to compete with the GTX 1060 6GB card.

Realistically the RX 480 will solve the VRAM problem but it will not solve the problem of games at 3840×2160 any better than the GTX 1060. The abundant VRAM means more texture memory etc which should allow for slightly better graphics in select games.

Some games are outright unplayable at 4K which suggests that even the flagship cards are inadequate. Even the expensive RTX 2080 struggles at 3820×2160. The only solution is to reduce the screen resolution to get an acceptable framerate. That or install a second card in the hope that an additional 36 CU can fix the problem.

The Sapphire card has two HDMI 2.0b and two DisplayPort 1.4 along with a DVI-D. The dual fan cooler is well regarded by the gaming community.

Given the demanding nature of games its seem to be prudent to focus on 8GB cards looking forward. The move towards 16GB VRAM is likely to be seen into 2020 or 2021 when GDDR6 supplies are abundant.

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