The dust has hardly settled and cards still aren’t in stock consistently from the RX 480 launch, but it's already time for AMD to introduce their next card, the RX 470. The RX 470 is based on Polaris 10 GPU like the RX 480 but its GPU has a slightly lower number of stream processors. All in all, where the RX 480 was promoted as a premium VR card, the RX 470 is their HD gaming card. There aren’t going to be reference cards in this model, so today I’m actually going to be taking a look at the XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition. This is XFX’s highest overclocked RX 470 so we should get a good look at the highest possible performance from the RX 470 platform to see how it compares to our reference RX 480 and the GTX 1060.
Product Name: XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition
Review Sample Provided by: XFX
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Card Dimension||cm 24 x 12.1 x 4
Inches 9.45 x 4.76 x 1.57
|Memory Bus||256 bit|
|Memory Clock||7.0 GHz|
|Dual link Support||Yes|
|Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL)||4096 x 2160|
|Display Outputs||3x DisplayPort
|Display Port ready||1.4|
|AMD FreeSync technology||Yes|
|DirectX™ 12 Optimized||Yes|
|4th Generation GCN||Yes|
|AMD LiquidVR technology||Yes|
|AMD Virtual Super Resolution (VSR)||Yes|
|AMD CrossFire Technology||Yes|
6-pin to 4-pin power cable
Driver Disk Installation Guide
Before diving into testing, I did want to include a copy of the GPUz from the card. With issues popping up this year with manufacturers sending review samples that are turned up to their optional OC clocks I want to make sure we keep everything transparent. Our XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition runs at the 1256 MHZ that they have listed on their specifications. I tested the card twice, once with the publicly available driver that is on the GPUz and then again with the RX 470 Beta driver that AMD provided for the launch.
With this being our first RX 470 review I wanted to take a little closer look at the RX 470 and see just how it compares to the RX 480 that I reviewed last month. For starters, we know that it is based on the same 4th generation GCN architecture as the Rx 480. They both have Polaris 10 based GPUs as well. The RX 480 has the Polaris 10 XT and the RX 470 is running on what was rumored to be called the Polaris 10 Pro GPU. I can’t for the life of me find out for sure if they are calling it that still. That said the RX 470’s GPU is cut down from the 36 Compute Unites of the RX 480 down to 32 Compute Units. This takes the number of stream processors from 2304 down to 2048 as well. They still share the same 256-bit memory interface but the RX 470 is only available in a 4GB model where the RX 480 was split up between 4 and 8 GB models. Memory speeds on the RX 470 are also a touch slower at 6.6 Gbps vs 7 Gbps. The same goes for the GPU close speed, the RX 470 with the reference design runs at 1206 boost and 926 Base and the RX 480 was at 1266/1120 MHz respectively. Our RX 470 sample doesn’t follow that, though, it is advertised at 1256 MHz and I assume that is the Boost clock.
Price wise the RX 470 does fill in a gap a little lower than the 4GB RX 480 though I think not having a reference model available is going to make that difficult. This is because the only way we will see MSRP based cards is if manufacturers sell a reference like blower card. But once you start getting into overclocked cards things are going to get interesting. Our test card, for example, has an MSRP of $219. So the overclocked RX 470’s will be fighting with the RX 480 4GB cards, and so on. Anyhow I will have to get into testing and see where everything lands.
|RX 480 8GB||$229|
|RX 480 4GB||$199|
|RX 470 4GB||$179|
The packaging for the XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition jumps right into the black and red AMD colors. It has black with red stripes in the background with a large photo of the card up front. There is a red strip with the XFX RS logo as well as the Radeon RX 470 4Gb branding. The back of the box has a list of features and also goes more in depth into three key features of the card. This is their thermal tech, auto load sensing fan, and the interchangeable fans. Each has a paragraph explaining the feature. There are a few editing notes in the first one, clearly a misprint, I will be curious to see if this made it to retail copies or just for the earlier review samples like ours.
Inside there is the main box then when you open that up there is a second box. This box has the driver disc as well as a double Molex to 6-pin adapter. I love that the adapter cable is individually sleeved in black as well. The card comes wrapped up in a static protective bag and sits in a cutout in the cardboard to keep it safe. Up under the card, I also found an installation guide that also had warranty information on the back.
XFX went out of their way to make sure people understand that the fans won’t always be spinning up. They also wrapped the entire card in an extra layer of plastic, so people who enjoy peeling that plastic off will have fun pulling it off the front and then the back of this card. On top of that, they will need to pull the red stick that covers the entire fan off as well.
Card layout and Features
Well as you can see right away, this isn’t a reference card. That’s because the RX 470 launch only has AIB cards like the XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition that I’m taking a look at today. XFX has continued to change up their look completely every single generation and this isn’t any different. The flat black tuxedo look from the 300 series cards is gone and now the Double Dissipation cooler has a little more shape and style. For starters, the card is about a half inch taller than a normal card, but this isn’t to bad compared to the HUGE cards we have been starting to see, like the MSI 1070 that I took a look at. The slightly taller design did allow for a little extra height on the two cooling fans. This is your standard aftermarket cooler, two fans blowing down onto a wide heatsink with heatpipes. The fan shroud uses both flat black and gloss black to add a little definition, but overall the shroud is still actually really clean. The top edge of the card does have a white XFX logo on the one section of the fan shroud that does stick down. Beyond that, there aren’t any extra colors, any lighting, or fins and doodads. Being black it should fit right in just about any build as well.
The cooler design blows cool air down onto the heatsink, this means that XFX has to keep a lot of the sides open for the air to have someplace to go. This is drastically different than the blower style reference cards that push air right to left and out the back of your PC. It also means you need to make sure your case can handle any heat the card is going to generate. The bottom view of the RS Black Edition shows that there are three heatpipes that make contact with the GPU, two go to the right and the third goes to the left. The heatsink doesn’t have much of a gap between itself and the PCB but I did notice that on the bottom and top there is still a lot of space not being used under the fan shroud. In fact, directly under the fans there are open areas, almost an inch on the top! The end of the cooler is the weirdest. While this card is about the same length as a reference design, the PCB stops and the cooler extends on past. This means the heatsink ends up sticking out.
The RS Black Edition also has a full-length backplate on the back side of the card. Backplates help a lot with the overall strength to help prevent sagging and they also add a little for styling. It also protects the PCB a little more when you are handling the card. They do sometimes hurt cooling performance, though. To help with that XFX has drilled holes in part of the backplate. They also have the XFX logo, an arrow, and a few small lines printed onto the backplate in gloss black to add a little style without going over the top.
For power XFX stuck with the single 6-pin power connection that the reference RX 470 uses. This is the same as the RX 480 but with a lower TDP so there shouldn’t be any power issues with this being an overclocked card. They did flip the power connection around to have the clip on the PCB side. The PCB is notched as well for room. This layout helps keep room for the heatsink and that heat pipe while still having room to unclip the connection. Next to the power connection XFX also slipped in a tiny BIOS switch as well.
On the PCI slot side, the RX 470 RS Black Edition has the normal display connection. You get three DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and one DVI. This seems to be the sweet spot that covers the older monitors while having enough DisplayPorts for new FreeSync monitors. For ventilation, XFX includes their logo in the vent. It takes up a little space, but with the cooling being open air it’s not really hurting overall air flow.
XFX has gone with a completely new fan design with their RX 400 series cards and with this being the first look at one I was excited to dig into them. The fans are what they call Hard Swap fans. You can unlatch and remove the fan without using any screws and pop the fan out. This design allows for easier cleaning but it also has benefits in the RMA process. Now if you have a fan making noise XFX can send you a replacement fan without you ever having to ship your card back to them. This shortens the RMA times considerably for a lot of people and should save both XFX and the users money. XFX also mentioned that they will be releasing new LED fan options in the future as well. So while this card didn’t have any lighting on it, they are saying there will be an option later to customize your card to your lighting setup.
While AMD isn’t releasing a reference RX 470, I did want to show off how the RX 470 RS Black Edition looks next to the reference RX 480. The XFX card is a hair longer and has more height on it as well. The XFX PCB is also longer than the reference PCB, this was most likely just to move the power connection down further so their cooler would fit.
Our Test Rig and Procedures
|Our Test Rig|
|CPU||Intel i7-5960X||Live Pricing|
|Memory||Kingston HyperX FURY Black 32GB Quad Channel Kit 2666 MHz||Live Pricing|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte X99-SOC Champion||Live Pricing|
|Cooling||Noctua NH-U12S Cooler||Live Pricing|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master V1000 Power Supply||Live Pricing|
|Storage||Kingston Hyper X Savage 960GB SSD||Live Pricing|
|Case||Dimastech Test Bench||Live Pricing|
|Our Testing Procedures|
|3DMark||The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmark in normal, extreme, and ultra settings|
|Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0||Using the Extreme HD preset to get an average FPS|
|Catzilla 4k||Default tests for 1080p, 1440p, and 4k resolutions using the overall score for each as our result|
|SteamVR||Default SteamVR test using Average Quality score|
|HITMAN 2016||Fullscreen with V-Sync turned off Detail, Texture Quality, Shadow Maps, and Shadow Resolution all set to their highest settings. We test using both DX11 and DX12 at both 1080p and 1440p resolutions.|
|Ashes of the Singularity||Built-in benchmark ran at 1080p and 1440p with graphics settings set to the “Crazy” setting with the exception of turning off V-Sync Mode. The benchmark scenario is set to GPU Focused and we use the Average Framerate for All Batches as the result. Tests are run both in DX11 and DX12|
|The Division||Built-in benchmark ran at 1080p and 1440p with graphics settings set to the default “Ultra” setting with the exception of turning off V-Sync Mode|
|Bioshock Infinite||Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.|
|Tomb Raider||Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post-Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.|
|Hitman: Absolution||Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above, except on the “high” setting.|
|Sleeping Dogs||Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.|
|Total War: ROME II||Ultra-setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in forest benchmark|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Using the built-in benchmark we test with ultra settings at 1440p|
|Sniper Elite 3||Ultra-setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark|
|Thief||Tested using the “Very High” setting at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440|
|Folding at Home 2.2||Using the Folding at Home benchmark 2.2.5 set to OpenCL, WU set to dhfr, and run length set to the default 60 seconds. We test at both double and single precision and use the score at the result|
|CompuBenchCL||Video Composition and Bitcoin tests|
|Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0 heat testing||We run through Unigine Valley using the “Extreme” preset for 30 minutes to test in game cooling performance with the fan speed set to auto then again with the fan set to 100%.|
|Power Usage||Using Unreal Valley Benchmark 1.0, we get our “load” power usage number from the peak power usage during our test. We get our numbers from a Kill-A-Watt connected to the test benches power cord.|
|Noise Testing||Our Noise testing is done using a decibel meter 3 inches away from the video card on the bottom/fan side of the card. We test an idle noise level and then to get an idea of how loud the card will get if it warms all the way up we also turn the fan speed up to 50% and 100% and test both speeds as well. The 100% test isn’t a representation of typical in-game noise levels, but it will show you how loud a card can be if you run it at its highest setting or if it gets very hot.|
To start off my testing of the XFX RX 470 I started with our synthetic benchmark suite. These tests don’t really show you the exact performance you should expect in game, but they are consistent and great for comparing card to card performance differences. We already know that our XFX card is overclocked by a good amount so these numbers aren’t a great reference for a stock clocked RX 470, but who’s going to be buying one of those anyhow. So in 3DMark Fire Strike I used all three settings to see 1080p, 1440p, and 4k performance. In the performance setting (1080p), the RX 470 comes in just a touch below our overclocked GTX 970. This is also just above TWO R7 370’s in crossfire to give you an idea of how far things have come. The RX 480 is still about 1000 points higher than the RX 470, but that’s to be expected right.
Next, I tested in the new DX12 3DMark Time Spy benchmark. Here the overclocked RX 470 actually came really close to the GTX 980 and was about 400 points behind the RX 480.
Next, I tested using the Valley Benchmark, these results are actually in FPS and here the RX 470’s next closest competitor was our 8GB RX 480. I don’t have a 4GB 480 but I would be especially curious to see how close it would get me. This has the 470 well above the older R9 380’s.
In Catzilla, like in 3DMark Fire Strike, I tested in all three resolutions. I know the RX 470 is designed for 1080p performance but it’s always nice to see how it would perform in the other resolutions as well. Here once again the 470 falls in below the RX 480 8GB as expected, but it is a lot closer than I would have expected.
My last synthetic benchmark was a quick look at potential VR performance using SteamVR. Here the XRX RX 470 pulled a respectable 6.1 out of 1. This is just barely in the green meaning you can still expect to be able to play some VR games just like the RX 480, but being so close to the edge there might be some games that have issues. Hopefully, we get more VR testing soon to be able to get a better idea of how these ratings compare to actual in game performance.
As always, synthetic benchmarks are great, but we all buy video cards to game not to benchmark. So I ran the XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition through 25 different in-game tests. This included 11 games at 2 different resolutions and in a few games I also take a look at both DX 11 and DX 12 performance (don’t worry more are coming soon). The problem is, with so many results it can be a little too much to take in. To help with that I have condensed our results into two graphs, one for 1080p and the other for 1440p. All of our games are run at their max settings and we use the average FPS as the end result. The graphs below are broken down into three FPS ranges to represent unplayable (below 30), playable but not ideal (30 to 60), and ideal (over 60 FPS). So what did I find from those results? Well, AMD promotes the RX 470 as a 1080p card and at 1080p I found all but one test to be playable with a majority being well above the playable mark. As always Ashes of the Singularity was the holdout causing the most issue, but every card struggles with that one. Just for fun we also have 1440p results and but big surprise here isn’t the three games that the card won’t push at that resolution. It’s the two games that come in over 60 and the other 8 that are also playable. So at 1440p the RX 470 might not be the ideal card, but if you end up in that situation you can still play most games until you pick up a second card.
Of course, we still have all of the individual results for everyone to look through. A few interesting things I saw from the results. Sleeping dogs game in at below 60 FPS but only by .4 FPS, I would consider that still more than playable. The other surprise is just how close the RX 470 performs in nearly every game. I seriously question if a reference clocked RX 480 4GB would be able to outperform the overclocked RX 470.
While compute performance isn’t particularly important to gaming, I do still like to take a look a few different factors, especially folding and mining performance. To do that I ran the XFX RX 470 through Folding at Home at both single and double precision. In single performance, the Nvidia cards pull ahead but the overclocked RX 470 comes within a few points of the reference RX 480 8GB card. The results of the double precision benchmark are a lot different. Nvidia cards don’t handle the double precision very well so the RX 470 actually outperforms the GTX 980 Ti in this test, and by a large margin. It comes in below the GTX 1070’s but at a much lower price.
Next, I ran the 470 through CompubenchCL, focusing on the Video Composition and BitCoin Mining results. In the Video Composition test the RX 470 falls about where you would expect it to be when you consider most of the 3DMark and In-Game benchmarks previously. The Bitcoin benchmark is similar as well with the GTX 980 and GTX 1060 being the next closest cards. The gap between the 470 and 480 here is a lot more realistic.
Cooling, Noise, and Power
For my last batch of testing, I like to focus on the more card and cooler specific benchmarks. So I take a look at things like power usage, cooling performance, and noise. All issues that very a lot from manufacture to manufacture, even when the cards are the same GPU. I start with the power usage. To test this, I use a Kill-A-Watt to see our test bench’s overall wattage and I run through Valley Benchmark and we use the highest peak wattage pulled in a realistic benchmark (aka not a power hog like furmark). The RX 470 at its core is a 120-watt TDP card just like the GTX 1060, but with this being an overclocked card it’s hard to say where things will land. So the XFX card actually ended up pulling even more than I would have ever expected. The GTX 1060, for example, pulled 188 watts with the same TDP and the reference RX 480 pulled 242. Well the overclocked RX 470 pulled 239, being just three watts behind the stock 8GB RX 480. I don’t normally mind a little extra power draw, but it does make me question the decision to stick with the 6-pin power connection.
Next, I took a look at overall noise output of the XFX Double Dissipation cooler on the Black Edition. Or if you like initialisms I tested the DD cooler on the XFX RX 470 RS BE. I test using a basic decibel meter sitting 4 inches away from the fans. These results, being so close and on an open air test bench, aren’t going to show you what you will experience with the card in a case, but they do help compare from card to card. Anyhow, I test at 100% fan speed and again at 50% fan speed. 50% fan speed is a better representation of what you will experience in normal use. The XFX, in fact, would run at 54% in my thermal testing. So with the fans turned all the way up the XFX was a little on the loud side but at least came in below the triple fan Gigabyte card. The 50% fan speed results were similar but the XFX was a touch louder here as well.
For the last test, I want to see what you will experience for cooling performance and then I test the max cooling performance of the XFX RX 470 as well. To do this I loop in Valley Benchmark until the card levels off to a peak temperature with the fan settings untouched and then again with the fans at 100% fan speed. At stock settings the XFX came in a touch higher than the 1070’s with the HUGE coolers like the Gigabyte and MSI cards but below the reference RX 480 by a large margin. When I turned the speeds up the XFX came in the middle of the pack. The reference RX 480 cooler was only a few degrees away. This tells us that XFX is running a more aggressive cooling profile than the reference design but the overall cooling power of the cooler is only slightly better. Given the fans having gaps with no heatsink under them at all on the cooler, I’m not all that surprised. That said the results are still good, but I will be curious to see how they hold up compared to other manufacturers.
Overall and Final Verdict
We came into this review with no clue how the RX 470 was going to perform other than knowing AMD said it was a 1080p card and yet somehow I’m coming out of the review with more questions than answers. I will get to that at the end, though. The XFX RX 470 RS Black Edition that AMD/XFX sent us ended up being a cool looking card with it's blacked out styling. I love the black on black backplate design as well, really aesthetically my only issue was with the cooler sticking out past the end of the PCB. I’m loving the design decision to go with removable fans because I know that it should improve the RMA process for a lot of people, not only that, it should also help lower costs in the future. XFX has already bumped their warranty up to 3 years from 2 years, I’m sure the fans played a role in that. XFX is also saying they will be introducing replacement fans with LEDS in them as well, the idea of being able to customize your card a little is really cool.
The XFX 470 RS Black Edition kicked but in our performance testing, especially any of the tests at 1080p. It actually performed better than I expected at 1440p even, but at 1080p you can toss just about anything at it without having to turn down the settings and that is what it is all about. If you end up moving to 1440p in the future, you can handle games with some slowdowns until you can afford to pick up a second card for crossfire. I was a little considered with the overall power draw, though. This overclocked card was only a few watts behind our results from the reference RX 480. Because of this, I would have preferred to see XFX go with an 8-pin power connection, if for no other reason than for comfort after all of the power draw drama.
So that just leaves me with where my confusion sets in. You see the overclocked RX 470 actually comes in really close to the reference RX 480 in a lot of our tests. That in itself is actually really awesome. The problem is our card as tested has an MSRP of $219. The base RX 470 has an MSRP of $179 so it is safe, but these overclocked cards are actually selling for more than the 4GB RX 480 reference card. Sadly, I haven’t had the chance to test the 480 at 4GB I actually asked for the firmware a few weeks ago but it’s clear I need to follow up and see how the reference RX 480 4GB will compare to the RX 470 overclocked cards. So, in the end, I think the RX 470 is an exciting launch, but I’m sure a lot of you are confused as to what to get when you get into the 200 to 220 price range. Sadly it's going to take a few days to see where all of the RX 470’s land before we know if it’s a good deal or not. But for now, we know it’s a good performing card. Check them out, but consider all of your options.
Live Pricing: HERE