With product reviewing, we tend to cover a product and then move on, not really revisiting it unless a competing product comes out or the next generation comes out. Most of the time this is fine, things don’t change that much. But in the world of video cards, drivers play a big role and over time performance can improve or get worse. XFX sent over their RX 480 8GB Hard Swap XXX Edition video card mostly to use it with their swappable LED fans that I will be covering soon. But while I had the card I thought it would be a good excuse to revisit the RX 480 and see how it’s doing. Typically AMD drivers don’t have the performance early on, but age well and give improvements later on and I’ve been hearing that it may have overtaken the GTX 1060 in some games. So today let's check out the card and see how it stands now.

Product Name: XFX RX 480 8GB Hard Swap XXX

Review Sample Provided by: XFX

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

Amazon Link: HERE

 

Specifications
Bus Type PCI-E 3.0
GPU Clock 1288MHz
Stream Processors 2304
Memory Bus 256 bit
Memory Clock 8000Mhz
Memory Size 8GB
Memory Type GDDR5
Backplate Full Cover Backplate
Connections

Display Port : 3

DL-DVI-D : 1

HDMI : 1

Display Port 1.4
HDMI Ready 2.0b
Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL) 4096 x 2160(HDMI;DP)
Card Dimension

(cm) : 24 x 12.1 x 4

(inch) : 9.45 x 4.76 x 1.57

Includes

Driver Disk Installation Guide: 1

8-pin to 6pin Power Cable: 1

Warranty Terms Card: 1

Installation DVD: 1

Requirements

External Power - 8-pins : 1

Minimum Power Supply Requirement: 500 watt

XFX Recommended Power Supply : XFX 550W PSU

So just to be sure that your card has the same specifications as XFX has listed I always get a GPUz image. With that, we can see that it is running at the 1288 MHz that they have advertised. This also lets you get a look at the firmware version and driver version tested with as well.

gpuz

 


Packaging

Before getting into the card itself, let's take a quick look at how it will ship. I really dig the black and red theme on the box and XFX did something that I wish everyone else would do. They put a picture of the card right on the front of the box. Beyond that they have the XFX logo up top, the RX 480 model in the wrap around stripe, and along the bottom they list a few of AMDs card features. There is also a VR ready sticker on the front to help anyone trying to figure out if the card will work in VR. The back of the box is just about as simple. There is a short feature list down at the bottom along with three sections that talk about key features from XFX. They mention the swappable fans, the load sensing fans, and their thermal tech.

image 16

image 15

Inside the box, there is an accessory box up on top. Ours didn’t have anything in it but I think normally they come with a warranty card and a driver disk. Below that the card comes wrapped up in a static protective bag and sits in a cardboard cutout. The card also comes with plastic on the backplate and over the fan shroud. They put a red sticker over one of the fans as well to warm people that the fans don’t always spin up, so to not worry if they aren’t on when you first boot your PC.

image 14

image 13

 

 



Card Layout and Photos

Aesthetically, the RX 480 from XFX looks just like the RX 470 that I tested last August. It has a blacked out design that gives it a clean neutral look. This is mostly because of the black plastic fan shroud. Most of the shroud has a textured finish giving it a flat look, but there are a few fake intakes along the top and bottom that have a glossy finish. The cooler has two down blowing fans and like the RX 470 they can be swapped out quickly using the two clips on each fan. The hot-swappable fans will get another upcoming look, but remember this should improve RMA times and costs while also letting XFX provide LED replacement fans for those who don’t want the all black look. The stock fans have the XFX logo on the center stickers but are otherwise all black.  

image 9

image 11

image 12

Up on the top edge, the fan shroud also has XFX logo showing along with a peak at the heatpipes as well. For power, XFX didn’t take any chances and went with an 8-pin power connection. The plug is flipped around with the clip on the PCB side to save room for cooling and the PCB is notched to allow room.

image 8

Like most aftermarket coolers, the XFX RX 480 does use a design that blows its two fans against the PCB. This means they have room for a heatsink the full length of the card, but it also means all of that air blowing down has to go somewhere. The fan shroud is open around the top, bottom, and end of the card. So most of the hot air will be venting into your case. Beyond that though the top and bottom views give us a good look at the heatpipe design. They run three heatpipes and they all go out the top, to pull the heat over to the right and one to the left. These help spread the heat out across the heatsink to improve cooling. The heatsink takes up most of the room under the fans with the exception of up top where they had to make room for the large heatpipes and at the end where it gets thinner out beyond the PCB.

image 27

image 28

image 30

I’m not a fan at all of this extended section, though. Why make the card an inch longer than it has to be, especially when that same space isn’t even adding any cooling. The plastic shroud extends past the end of the PCB and heatsink.

image 7

The black backplate is a nice touch, adding to that clean blacked out look. It is finished in a satin black with a design and XFX logo over it in gloss black. The backplate leaves access to the main mounting bolts for the heatsink, so you can pull it off and replace the thermal paste later in life without having to fight with all of the tiny screws for the backplate. It has vents over on the right side but it also has an air gap as well, so it isn’t part of the cooling.

image 10

For connections, the RX 480 has three DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and a DVI connection as well. This is about par for the course for non-reference cards and is a good mix that covers just about everyone. The backplate does have a little venting with the XFX logo vent and the long vent over the shorter connections.

image 29

 


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 Thermaltake 850w Live Pricing
Storage Kingston Hyper X Savage 960GB SSD Live Pricing
Case Dimastech Test Bench Live Pricing
OS Windows 10 Pro 64-bit 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
VRMark Orange and Blue rooms tested, use Average FPS for the result
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Tests are done using the built-in benchmark at High and Ultra graphic settings at both 1080p and 1440p resolutions.
DOOM Doom is tested on the Ultra quality setting. Tests are run at 1080p and 1440p using both OpenGL and Vulkan. The benchmark is a basic one using just the average FPS in the opening scene.
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, with Vsync turned off
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 HD” 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.

 


Synthetic Benchmarks

Okay before jumping into testing I did want to see where the XFX RX 480 I’m testing today stands for clock speeds compared to the past RX 480’s tested. This way we can get a better idea of how much the newer drivers help as well.

XFX 1288MHz

Gigabyte 1290MHz

Sapphire 1342 MHz

Reference Card 1266 MHz

So the XFX is very close to the Gigabyte card I tested in November and also not too far from the reference card. With that in mind, I jumped into testing, starting with 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmarks across three resolutions and the newer Time Spy benchmark as well. In Fire Strike, I found that the XFX 480 came in well above the reference RX 480 and even above the Gigabyte with its slightly higher clock speed. This was enough to push past the reference GTX 1060 in all but the 4k test. In Time Spy, however, the XFX didn’t overtake the GTX 1060, but the gap was much smaller. So the first indication is that the drivers have improved enough to beat the GTX 1060 in some situations.

graph1

graph2

My next test was Valley Benchmark but this test didn’t really tell us much new. The XFX was once again ahead of the Gigabyte but below the Sapphire. But all of the RX 480’s are well below the 1060 in this test.

graph3

Next, in Catzilla I tested at 1080p, 1440p, and 4k and here we did see a big bump. The XFX with the newer driver came in ahead of the highly overclocked Sapphire card on the older drivers. That said the gap between the GTX 1060 and the RX 480 is really big on this test. About 2500 points to be more specific.

graph4

Next, I wanted to check out the VR performance, especially with AMD promoting the RX 480 as a premium VR experience. The XFX 480 came in with a 7, so just below the Sapphire card and above the Gigabyte once again. I also included VRMark results even though I haven’t tested any other cards for comparison just yet. The orange room is your typical VR experience and the 48 did well. The blue room test, on the other hand, is more a future looking benchmark that shows what VR expectations will be in the future and the 480 came in well below the expected FPS on that test.

graph5

graph6

 


In-Game Benchmarks

Now that we have an idea of how the cards stand compared to each other, it’s finally time to get down to the in-game performance numbers. To do that I ran through our entire in-game benchmark test suite. The suite has 13 different games tested at both 1080p and 1440p at their highest settings. Four of the games are also tested in more than one configuration to see the difference between DX11 and DX12 performance or in the case of the most recent addition, DOOM I test out both OpenGL and Vulkan performance. 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 for starters, we know that the XFX 480 is going to play anything you throw at it. None of the games, including some of the ultra-demanding game, came in below 30 FPS, even at 1440p. At 1080p all but four were in the 60+ range. With the resolution turned up to 1440p only 7 were, so it’s clear that this isn’t the best card for 1440p if you want to crank up the settings on today's latest games, but 1080p is great. How did this compare to the Gigabyte? Well at 1080p is only had 3 in the 30-60 range but it did have a game in under 30 FPS at 1440p, so I would consider that a wash.

graph24

graph25

Of course, I always include all of the individual results for everyone to check out. Diving through them I noticed a few things. In Doom OpenGL, the 480’s performance seems to have dropped considerably, putting it down below the 470 in my tests with the older drivers. It's not a big deal though because the Vulkan performance is still amazing. I was really interested in two things, though. First, has performance increased on average with the new drivers and if so, how does the 480 now compare to the GTX 1060. To figure this all out I have to do a little math. So let's compare the XFX 480, the Gigabyte 480 that has a slightly higher clock speed as the XFX, and the EVGA GTX 1060. I used all of the in game results other than Deus Ex because it hadn’t been tested on the 1060. Here is the breakdown.

EVGA GTX 1060: 73.98

XFX RX 480: 71.95

Gigabyte RX 480: 70.04

So the new drivers do show an overall improvement on average across the games I tested with. A few of the games with DX12 or Vulkan did drop in performance on their OpenGL and DX11 versions, hurting the average a little. So the Overclocked GTX 1060 is still faster, but the gap is closing quickly. I would be willing to bet the even higher overclocked Sapphire 480 would be even closer. At this point though the different between the GTX 1060 and RX 480 is really just a preference in my opinion.

graph7

graph8

graph9

graph10

graph11

graph12

graph13

graph14

graph15

graph16

graph17

graph18

graph19

graph20

graph21

graph22

graph23

 


Compute Benchmarks

Like always, on top of all of our traditional tests I also slip in a few Compute benchmarks. It doesn’t apply to everyone, but there are always a few people who want to see the result. Plus this gives you a good idea of performance in non-gaming applications. To start, I test using Folding at Home in both its single and double precision benchmarks. In the single precision benchmark, I was very impressed with the performance jump the 480 has gotten. You can see the XFX is up well above the heavily overclocked Sapphire card as well as the Gigabyte. It still wasn’t enough to overtake the GTX 1060, but it’s a lot closer now. In the double precision testing, though, Nvidia has gimped its cards here so the RX 480 has always done well. But there was another jump in performance, putting it even closer to the performance of the GTX 1080.

graph26

graph27

Next, I tested in CompubenchCL, focusing on Bitcoin and video composition results as they are both things a lot of people will use their video cards for. In the video composition testing the updated drivers made a huge jump of 30 FPS. This put the RX 480 up above the GTX 1080 and the GTX 1070. If I hadn’t tested multiple times, I wouldn’t believe it. The Bitcoin results also saw a smaller bump but nothing like the other. The top Nvidia cards still rule this chart, but the RX 460 does outperform the GTX 1060’s by a large margin making it the best bang for the buck.

graph28

graph29

 


Cooling, Noise, and Power

Of course, when we aren’t also taking into account big driver updates the performance results between manufacturers with the same GPUs normally just depend on clock speeds and power settings. So the main thing to check out when looking for a card are the things card manufacturers can control, like cooling performance, noise, and power to a lesser degree. So this section focuses on all of those aspects. To start things off I tested the XFX RX 480’s power consumption using our standard test bench while running Valley Benchmark. This gives us a look at an average in game power draw. I use a Kill-A-Watt and document the highest wattage pulled for the entire system. Surprisingly, the XFX came in almost a dead tie with the power hungry Sapphire card. They have obviously tweaked the voltages to help with the performance, causing more power draw than your average RX 480. In fact, they pulled a little more than 40 watts more than the reference card. The new drivers could have something to do with this as well, I will have to do a little more testing to make sure.

graph30

For noise testing, I test with our decibel meter a foot away from our testbench. It is an open testbench, so this isn’t what you will expect for numbers in a normal case sitting next to your desk, but the numbers do help me compare from card to card. The XFX with the fans turned up ended up in the middle of the pack with cards like the reference cards up at the top. That said I was a little surprised because in my testing I did find this card to be noisier than most. It ended up being because when just in game the fans would spin up to 80% of their fan speed where most cards would normally be down in the 50% or less range in basic games.

graph31

My last set of tests were to take a look at the overall cooling performance of the card. To test this I run Valley Benchmark again and note the highest temperature reached when looped. I do this once with the stock fan settings to get a feel for what you will see out of the box. Then I test again with the fan turned all the way up to see what the cooler is capable if noise wasn’t an issue. The delta between the two gives us an idea of how much room is left in the cooler for overclocking. With stock fan settings the XFX 480 peaked at 77 degrees, just below the Gigabyte RX 480 and the reference cooler as well, not exactly impressive. Given the 80% fan speeds when testing I had a feeling there wasn’t much room left in the cooler and this was confirmed in the 100% fan speed test. It did drop in temperature 10 degrees, but this was right at the top of the charts, even above the reference 480. I don’t think the cooling performance of the card is bad, but I do think XFX has this thing tuned hot. The RX 470 with the same cooler didn’t do nearly as bad.

graph32

graph33

 


Overall and Final Verdict

So after taking a look at the XFX RX 480 8GB Hard Swap XXX I’ve learned a few things. For starters, XFX goes crazy with the long names and that XXX might even make people think other things. That, of course, doesn’t matter at all once you have the card, though. I also learned that AMDs new drivers gave the RX 480 even better performance nearly across the board, putting it up even closer to the GTX 1060 and even beating it in some tests.

As for the XFX RX 480, like their RX 470, I really dig the all black clean look they have going. It is neutral so it will work in very build and it's not flashy in any way. I plan on doing a full article on them, but I really dig the hot-swappable fans as well. Then when it comes to performance, the XFX card, combined with AMDs latest drivers, kicked but for performance. In the non-gaming benchmarks, I was blown away by huge jumps in performance. But even in the game benchmarks and synthetic benchmarks the XFX RX 480 proved that it should give you amazing performance at 1080p, good performance at 1440p, and even good performance in VR. I wouldn’t recommend it for the ultra high-resolution monitors, but for all but the craziest setup, the RX 480 is really all you need.

Now I did have a few gripes with XFX’s card. The extra long fan shroud that makes the card an inch longer for no reason being one. Its high power draw, just like the Sapphire 480, isn’t a deal breaker but it does cause heat issues. That, of course, leads me to the point on questionable cooling performance. This same cooler worked really well on their RX 470, but this card didn’t have the same extra headroom left in it that the other RX 480’s have, even the reference cards ran cooler at 100% fan speed. Because of that, even when testing things like Valley Benchmark after a little while the fans would end up running at up to 80% fan speed. So even though it wasn’t the loudest card in my noise benchmark, with the fans running at a higher speed in game than other cards, it ended up being a noticeably loud card in game.

With all that said, is the XFX R 480 still a good buy? Well, the performance was there for sure. XFX could use a little work on the cooling side, but as long as that doesn’t bother you it is a great card. It will handle anything you toss at it. More importantly, with it selling for 239.99 right now it is in line with all of the lowest priced RX 480’s and that doesn’t even take into account the $20 rebate. Given how close it performs with the GTX 1060, that really makes it a good value. The 1060’s are currently selling for $249.99, so $219.99 for nearly the same performance is a steal.

*Followup* I heard back from XFX on the fan noise I experienced. They said that earlier cards had a more aggressive fan profile and our sample ended up being one of those. Both of the firmware revisions are available at the following link: http://xfxforce.com/en-us/support/bios-files

fv5value

 

Live Pricing: HERE

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

Log in to comment

We have 1543 guests and one member online

supportus

Share This
Follow Us

Our TS Server Info: ts.lanoc.org

Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/lanoc