Cooling, Noise, and Power
The last batch of testing isn’t as exciting as the in game testing, but it is all of the other important things to keep in mind when looking at video cards. To start off I tested the overall power usage of the RX 480. Well, to be specific I tested the power usage of our entire X99 based test bench with the RX 480 on it and compared it to a few other cards on the same bench. These are all peak wattage loads when running Valley Benchmark. Even though the GTX 1070 has the same 150-watt TDP as the RX 480, the RX 480 did pull less wattage. Part of this is most likely related to the 1070 card I tested also being overclocked. That said I am loving that AMD is starting to compete on power usage as well. Lower power usage is important in smaller builds where high power PSUs don’t fit and it also saves you money on the electric bill.
Next, I tested the reference RX 480 cooler’s noise performance at both 100% and 50% fan speed. Ideally, I would also test while in game here, but fan speeds while in game aren’t consistent. This gives us a better idea of the in-game performance at 50% and then 100% shows us how loud it can get when things get hot. The RX 480 wasn’t too bad at 50% fan speed but when I turned it up everything else in the office seemed quiet. That blower pumps out a LOT of air when it needs to and when that happens it gets a little noisy. Several decibels louder than even the Nvidia reference coolers.
Last I tested the cooling performance of the RX 480. I did this with two tests. The first test is running Valley Benchmark on loop and seeing where the RX 480 levels off at with the fan settings untouched. The next test I turned the fan up to 100% (put in my earplugs) and then tested again. This shows us how the card will perform while keeping in mind fan noise and how cool it can run if uncapped. At stock settings the RX 480 ran inline with all of the other reference cards. With the fan turned up though it did start to improve gaming one more degree between it and the GTX 1080. That said it is a little concerning if the GTX 1060 ends up with the same Founders Edition cooler while using less wattage than the 1070 and 1080 I have a feeling it is going to outperform the RX 480 given how close it is to the GTX 1080 here.