AMD Radeon RX 460 Review: For Gaming On A Budget

AMD’s Radeon RX 460 offers a good bang for your buck.

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A few days ago we took a look at AMD’s Radeon RX 470, a graphics card positioned in the middle of their Polaris architecture lineup. It was designed for 1080p, 60 FPS gaming with the latest, big-budget titles. And it largely accomplished what it set out to do, albeit brushing a little close to its bigger brother in terms of price and performance. Now we’re ready to talk about the RX 470’s little brother, the recently launched Radeon RX 460, to discuss whether it can step out of its siblings’ shadows and truly offer high performance gaming for e-sports titles starting at only $110.

Our own sample comes from XFX. We were sent the 4 GB model. It currently retails for $150 while their 2 GB model is priced at $120.

Features & Specifications

The Radeon RX 460 shares the same 14nm Polaris architecture and unified feature set of its siblings. As we wrote in our RX 470 review, 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.

XFX gave their Radeon RX 460 a small boost to the core clock speed, 1220 MHz from 1200 MHz.

GCN Architecture 4thGeneration
Compute Units 14 CUs
Stream Processors 896
Core Clock Speed 1220 MHz
Peak Performance Up to 2.2 TFLOPs
Memory Speed (Effective) 7.0 Gbps
Texture Units 56
Peak Texture Fill-Rate 57.6 GT/s
ROPs 16
Peak Pixel Fill-Rate 19.2 GP/s
Memory Bandwidth 112 GB/s
Memory Interface

Memory Size

128 bit

4 GB

Memory Type GDDR5
Typical Board Power <75W
AMD FreeSync™ Technology Yes
HDMI™ Version 2.0
DisplayPortVersion 1.3 HBR / 1.4 HDR Ready

The entire Radeon RX series is built ready for the latest 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 fitted a black, dual-slot cooler atop the Radeon RX 460. It’s not at all unlike the design of their RX 470. Interestingly, the cooler itself is much larger than the actual board. The PCB measures just over 6.5” across, so you can expect board partners and mobile providers to customize the RX 460 to fill several different configurations. Meanwhile, XFX’s cooler extends the total length to 9.37” to accommodate its two 90mm red-rimmed fans. Not only can they push a lot of heat, but they can also turn themselves off when not under heavy load. Additionally, though it wasn’t advertised on the box, the fans are interchangeable. You can easily replace them with higher performance fans or those equipped with LED lighting. However, it doesn’t appear that XFX is selling those accessories yet.

The XFX Radeon RX 460 does not feature a backplate, but the cooler extension is metal. That provides a place to grip if you wish to avoid the PCB. Power is provided by a single 6-pin connector. Finally, the rear houses one DVI port, one HDMI 2.0 port, and one DisplayPort 1.4 port.

 

The Numbers

The Radeon RX 460 is designed for “cool and efficient e-sports gaming.” AMD is targeting 90+ FPS at 1080p and high settings for many of the most popular competitive games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, Overwatch, Rocket League, Team Fortress 2, World of Warships, and more. But “high” is a relative term. Several of those games have released much later than the others. Can the RX 460 really hit 90 FPS in all of them without compromising their visuals? That’s the question we wanted to answer. To that end, we largely chose very high values as a starting point and then unticked boxes until we could achieve a consistent 90 FPS or discovered that we couldn’t.

Our test system housed a stock Intel i7-3700k and 16GB of DDR3 memory. The case was a Fractal Define R5 equipped with four 140mm fans (2x front intake, 1x rear exhaust, 1x top exhaust).

The first two games we benchmarked were DOTA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. AMD recommended the Highest Quality and Ultra presets respectively. Every value was maxed. Every option was enabled. We benchmarked replays of high-level gameplay several times, repeating segments and entire matches until we were confident with the results. And both games had absolutely no trouble reaching and surpassing the 90 FPS target. It’s for that reason we’re bundling their results together.

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DOTA 2 had an average of 102.773 FPS. At its lowest it hit 70 frames with a max of 143. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive had even higher obscene numbers. It averaged 176.544 FPS with a low of just 118 and a high of 256!

Next up was something a little more recent, Rocket League, a frantic, vehicular soccer game we’re hopelessly addicted to. AMD’s recommended settings were the High Quality preset and 0xAA. We benchmarked a 4×4 match following several players through multiple goals multiple times.

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We began by using the High Quality preset and max settings, as suggested, as well as the highest anti-aliasing option (MLAA). That did not hit the 90 FPS target, but the Radeon RX 460 still performed incredibly well. Our average was 78.989 FPS, a low of 67, and a high of 98. Lowering the anti-aliasing setting to FXAA High gave us a few additional frames. The average increased to 85.177 FPS, while the minimum and maximum framerates were raised to 71 and 108. Disabling anti-aliasing altogether allowed us to reach the magic number we were looking for. The average climbed all the way to 104.295 FPS with a low of 84 and a high of 138.

Blizzard’s Overwatch is arguably one of the hottest competitive shooters being played today. It’s also a game crafted through sheer technical wizardly. Nothing we’ve thrown at it so far has come away wanting. But can a $110 to $150 graphics card truly run Overwatch without compromise?

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The Radeon RX 460 can absolutely play Overwatch smoothly at the highest settings, but it does require some tweaking to meet the 90 FPS target. On the Ultra preset, Overwatch averaged 71.706 frames per and saw a minimum of 46 and a maximum of 104. Dropping down to the High preset gave significant gains while still presenting a beautiful looking game. The average soared to 107.306 FPS, the minimum to 72, and the maximum to 145.

World of Warships is a free-to-play, competitive multiplayer game featuring naval warfare. Players control World War 2-era carriers, destroyers, battleships, and cruisers in large arenas that demand teamwork and precision to dominate.

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The Radeon RX 460 continued to perform admirably. The average framerates for the Very High and High presets stayed well above 60 FPS, at 75.666 and 81.785. Despite a few large drops, the dives into the low 20s and 40s were few and far between. A 90 FPS average did necessitate adjustments beyond simply changing a preset, however. For the final results, we lowered the Shadows, Reflections, and Sky & Cloud Quality settings from High to Medium, and we enabled the Reduced Fire Effects setting. Those tweaks brought the average up to 104.988 FPS, the minimum to 56, and the maximum to 155.

Heroes of the Storm was our final benchmark, and it was the only game we couldn’t push high enough. It wasn’t exactly bad news – it ran just fine – but we couldn’t get it to hit the 90 FPS without further, substantial reductions in visual quality. Benchmarks were made on a Battlefield of Eternity map replay.

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At both the High and Medium presets, Heroes of the Storm kept close to 60 FPS. High earned an average of 63.015 FPS while Medium scored 63.634 FPS. The Ultra preset wasn’t that far behind, either. In fact, the noticeable differences between presets measured only single digits. We did verify our settings and repeated our tests numerous times. Disabling the few CPU specific settings only garnered an extra five frames. Regardless, it is a sharp game and obtaining 60 frames per second on a $110 to $150 graphics card is nothing to sneeze at.

Temperature & Noise

At idle, XFX’s Radeon RX 460 stayed a cool 34 degrees Celsius in our closed, noise-isolating case during a fairly hot August day. The fans weren’t often spinning at those temperatures and thus stayed silent. Under load, temperatures rose to 53 degrees Celsius on average and 66 degrees max. The fans generally operated at 47% speed during the averages, or 2218 RPM, which remained whisper quiet. They only became noticeably audible at 60% speed, though this was a rare occurrence.

Conclusion

AMD’s Radeon RX 460 is a wonderful card. We couldn’t be more impressed by the performance it offers for the price it’s asking for. Nor did XFX leave us wanting with its cooler. The 90mm fans kept the board frosty and muted. Furthermore, the interchangeable fans are a cool feature we’d love to see other manufacturers adopt. If you’re putting together an affordable, mobile, and/or small form-factor rig, AMD’s RX 460 may very well be a perfect fit for such a build.

Disclosure: AMD provided us with a review unit.