AMD Radeon RX 470 Review: 60FPS at High Settings on 1080p

AMD’s new Radeon RX 470 promises great framerate at high settings.

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AMD’s Radeon RX 470 has officially launched this morning. Designed for “brilliant HD” gaming, the RX 470 is targeting a consistent 60 frames per second at a 1920×1080 resolution with high settings. We spent the last few days with XFX’s Radeon RX 470 4GB to determine if it could meet AMD’s goals, but we also took our tests one step further. If the RX 470 can handle 1080p, could it handle 2560×1080? The results didn’t let us down.

Features & Specifications

The Radeon RX 470 is built upon AMD’s new 14nm Polaris architecture. The process shrink from 28nm to 14nm allows for substantial performance per watt gains, up to 2.8x with AMD technologies according to their own metrics. In other words, Polaris provides better performance while using less power.

GCN Architecture 4th Generation
Compute Units 32 CUs
Stream Processors 2048
Clock Speeds (Boost / Base) 1206 / 926 MHz
Peak Performance Up to 4.9 TFLOPs
Memory Speed (Effective) 6.6 Gbps
Texture Units 128
Peak Texture Fill-Rate 154.4 GT/s
ROPs 32
Peak Pixel Fill-Rate 38.6 GP/s
Memory Bandwidth 211 GB/s
Memory Interface 256 bit
Memory Type GDDR5
Typical Board Power 120W
AMD FreeSync™ Technology Yes
HDMI™ Version 2.0
DisplayPort Version 1.3 HBR / 1.4 HDR Ready

 

Furthermore, The Radeon RX 470, along with the entire RX line, is built ready for the new graphical APIs and upcoming display technologies. These include:

High Dynamic Range (HDR) via HDMI and DisplayPort provide expanded color ranges and contrast ratios on capable monitors and software.

The increased bandwidth of DisplayPort 1.4 will bring higher refresh rate monitors to market, from 4K at 120Hz to 1440p at 240Hz.

FreeSync reduces tearing and stutter by syncing the monitor’s refresh rate to the output of the graphics card.

AMD’s hardware-based support for the Asynchronous Compute feature of DirectX 12 and Vulkan streamlines how the CPU and GPU talk to one another. Compute and graphics workloads can be handled simultaneously rather than inefficiently queued, significantly increasing performance on AMD graphics hardware.

Streaming capabilities are aided through the use of hardware video accelerators and support for the new H.265 encoding format.

Design

XFX’s Radeon RX 470 features a conventional design but with a few welcome flourishes. The full card measures approximately 9.5” across. It easily fits into our Fractal Design R5 case, leaving several inches of clearance between it and the drive cages. An all-black back plate is a particularly pleasant inclusion. Back plates add rigidity to prevent board warping, spare it from unwanted dust buildup, and theoretically aid with cooling. The plastic shroud surrounding the two fans is likewise black, while the visible side is accented in white font. It’s a clean, respectable look absent the gaudiness of some of its competitors.

From the side we also get a good view of the direct-contact heatsink and copper heatpipes. XFX’s Ghost Thermal 4.0 technology claims to be 40% more efficient at heat removal and dissipation than the reference design. Additionally, found along the side is the six-pin power connector.

The base of the card houses two 90 mm fans. When the RX 470 isn’t being stressed and temperatures are low, those fans will completely turn off. There are no RGB lights across the shroud, but interestingly one of the two fans is interchangeable. You can purchase fans equipped with LEDs or of different colors from the traditional black. That’s a really cool feature, and the fan is easily removable, as well. Sadly, XFX does not include an extra fan in the box.

Finally, at the rear there are three DisplayPort 1.4 ports, one HDMI 2.0 port, and one DVI port.

The Numbers

We tested the XFX Radeon RX 470 in a closed case, the Fractal Define R5, equipped four 140 mm fans. The components inside included a non-overclocked i7-3700k and 16 GB of DDR3 memory. We ran several of the games AMD promoted in the 470’s documentation. And our goal was to see if they could achieve a stable 60 frames per second on high, if not maxed, settings at a resolution of 1920×1080. Curiosity also led us to run 2560×1080 benchmarks, but please be aware that the card’s primarily focus and performance targets are for 1920×1080 gaming.

DOOM (2016) was our first benchmark. It has no built-in benchmarking tool, and FRAPS doesn’t work with the new Vulkan API yet, so those results had to be eyed. OpenGL and Vulkan were run and on the game’s Ultra preset. The new TAA anti-aliasing method was enabled. The results gave an incredibly promising start to our testing.

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On average running Vulkan, DOOM’s framerate kept itself to the mid-90s. Numbers registered during the execution of the demonic horde generally bounced between 95, 97, and up to the low 100s. The lowest framerate was 65, though drops more frequently hit 78, with a lovely high of 119 frames per second. It was an absolutely rock solid performance that demonstrated the strength of Vulkan and AMD’s hardware-based support of the API’s efficiency features.

It was at this point we wondered if the RX 470 could do equally well at 2560×1080. 21:9 aspect ratio monitors are still a niche product amongst gamers, but their adoption rate is growing, the major display manufacturers are now selling UltraWide models, and they’re an absolute joy to game on when developers include proper support for their resolutions. Thankfully, the RX 470 proved itself up to the task. At 2560×1080, DOOM’s Vulkan averages hovered in the range of 70 to 80 frames per second. Its low stayed above the 60 FPS threshold at 61, and it reached a high of 99.

Our next test was with Total War: Warhammer. It has a short but busy in-game benchmark featuring a large Greenskin army clashing with the Empire’s forces. Artillery streaks across the battlefield while infantry and aerial units smash into each other. We ran the game on both the DirectX 11 and the DirectX 12 (beta) clients. The Ultra preset was selected.

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At the targeted resolution, the RX 470 once again hit its marks. The DirectX 11 average was 60.4 FPS with the lowest framerate only going down to 56. Changing to the DirectX 12 beta client showed large gains. The average jumped to 72.7 FPS with a low of 64 and a high of 76. UltraWide performance was fair with averages of 49.1 and 57.6 respectively.

DICE’s Star Wars: Battlefront, for all its controversies, is one beautiful game. Its textures are sharp, the explosions of blaster fire and smoke exciting, and the environments are lush with detail. We played through a full Walker Assault match on the Forest Moon of Endor map, a location full of dense vegetation and collapsing trees. The Ultra preset was selected.

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The Radeon RX 470 performed exceptionally well in Battlefront. It averaged 79.54 frames per second. It only went as low as 56. Framerate drops more commonly went down to 69. The maximum framerate climbed to 104. The 2560×1080 scores were no less impressive. Its minimum at that resolution was 45. The maximum hit 89. And the average held itself at 69.32 FPS.

The next game we tested was The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. We rode on horseback through the Skellige forests before coming to a stop and engaging in a fight using a magical and melee arsenal. The Ultra and High presets were benchmarked with NVIDIA HairWorks disabled.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt didn’t quite stay at 60 FPS at 1920×1080 on our system, but it did get close on the High preset. It averaged 56.551 FPS with a minimum of 47 and a maximum of 62. Ultra saw the average drop to 42.332 FPS. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that there’s very little visual difference between the Ultra and High presets save for distant tree rendering. Surprisingly, the 2560×1080 High preset numbers were fairly close to their 1080p counterparts. The average was 52.207, a difference of just over four frames. The minimum was 44 and maximum 57. Playing the game at 2560×1080 and Ultra settings brought the average down to 36.528, though the minimum rarely if ever went below 30.

Blizzard’s Overwatch is a fantastic, beautiful competitive shooter. It’s also exceptionally optimized. It should come as no surprise that the Radeon RX 470 absolutely dominated it. Sadly, the game’s 21:9 support is a dismal joke, so we stuck to 1080p benchmarks for this one. The Ultra preset was used with 100% and 150% render settings.

At the default 100% render setting (effectively straight 1920×1080), Overwatch ran at a blistering 114.564 average framerate! The minimum was a high 84 and the maximum an even higher 134. Because of those results, we went back and bumped the renderer to 150%. That basically meant the game was operating at a higher resolution and then downscaling the image to our monitor. At its lowest, it still managed to stay above 60 with a minimum of 62 FPS. Meanwhile, the maximum was 84. Overwatch’s development team is without a doubt comprised of technical wizards.

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Grand Theft Auto V was our final benchmark. The PC port of this huge open-world game is brimming with graphical options and sliders. We set every value to Very High. View distance and population densities were maxed. MSAA 2x anti-aliasing was enabled. The benchmark consisted of high speed chases and gun battles through Los Angeles streets before escaping to quiet, winding mountain roads.

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The 1920×1080 results managed to hit their target with an average framerate of 65.485. The game was a little slower at 2560×1080, averaging just over 11 frames less at 56.797 FPS, but the minimums between the two resolutions were neck and neck. Suffice it to say, the RX 470 performs handily with Grand Theft Auto V with nearly every setting at their limit.

Power, Temperature, and Noise

The Radeon RX 470’s typical power draw is rated at 120 watts. In our heaviest gaming sessions, it got close to that estimate with a maximum observed value of 110.6 watts. The average was largely around 88 to 90 watts. At idle, it only drew 11 to 21 watts.

Idle temperatures were warm at 52.8 degrees Celsius but that’s not unusual for a noise isolating case such as our Fractal Define R5. The idle temperature could be brought down by disabling the XFX 470’s zero decibel fan operation and setting it manually. Doing so can see its temperature drop greater than nine degrees.

Load temperatures never went above 66 degrees. In fact, the average was 59 degrees. Those are great readings, but they can come at a cost. The XFX’s fans spun up loudly to keep the GPU’s temperatures in check. They typically reached 79% fan speed and 3068 RPM under heavy load. They easily overtook the rest of our system’s fans and even the games we were playing to the point of being distracting. Of course, our test system was placed on top of a desk so its noises were more audible. But if you want silence, the XFX cooler may not provide that.

 

Conclusion

AMD’s Radeon RX 470 accomplishes exactly what it set out to do. It’s a wonderful card for 1080p, triple-A gaming, running the latest titles consistently at and beyond 60 frames per second. It’s even an admirable performer for those with 2560×1080 UltraWide monitors. That’s a great deal for $149 (4GB model). The 470 is priced well for what it offers, with one exception. The $179 8GB model’s cost is dangerously close to the Radeon RX 480. When it’s a competition between those two, we’re not sure if that particular 470 comes out ahead.

Disclosure: AMD provided us with a unit from XFX for the purpose of this review.