Unlike Nvidia, AMD has actually had a few more recent launches, they all fell right in the middle of the coin mining craze though that played havoc on GPU prices and availability. The RX580 launched last April and then Vega came in August to fill some of the gap in the high end. The RX580 was a refresh of the popular sweet spot card, the RX480 that launched back in 2016. They were both on the Polaris architecture and here we are again with a new Polaris based card in hand. AMD is officially introducing the RX590 today, just two weeks short of two and a half months after the original launch. AMD surprisingly decided to stick with the 500 series naming and just slip in a card hoping to fill in the gap between the RX580 and the GTX 1070.
Product Name: XFX RX580 Fatboy
Review Sample Provided by: XFX
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE
What is the RX590
Well as I mentioned before, the RX590 isn’t a new architecture, it is running on the same Polaris architecture that has been around for a few years now. It isn’t even a new Vega based card that was introduced after that. AMD took their original design and has just moved it from 14nm FinFET manufacturing to 12nm FinFET manufacturing. Normally this would make the die size smaller and allow for cheaper prices but they opted to actually keep the die size the same with the new process to allow for efficiency and performance improvements. Previously with the RX580 already pushing things higher than the RX480 it didn’t really look like there was any room left, but this new process has allowed AMD to bump the clock speeds up even higher. So at stock clock speeds, the RX580 had a boost clock of 1340 MHz and a base clock of 1257 MHz. Now the RX590 has a boost clock of 1545 MHz and a base clock of 1469. So the base clock is now higher than the RX580’s boost clock by 129 MHz. This makes the 1545 MHz boost clock that AMD is calling stock a big jump over even the fastest of the aftermarket RX580’s.
Looking through the rest of the specifications that are listed below there really aren’t other big changes. You get the same 8GB of GDDR5 like the RX580, same 36 Compute Units, and same memory interface. The only other big change is the change in board power. Remember these are the stock recommended numbers so aftermarket cards could require more but the RX590 is now calling for 225 Watts where the RX580 was 185 Watts.
As for pricing the RX590 does have a higher MSRP as well, as I’m writing this before the cards are available to buy I will have to wait and see what the price range will be overall but AMD was clear to point out that they do expect some cards to be at the $279 MSRP. That said this is a big jump over the MSRP of the RX580 that was $229 and is currently selling for as low as $199 so I will have to look at performance numbers before deciding if that is a good price or not. I do however know that AMD specifically wanted to bring out a card that fit in the gap between the RX580/GTX1060 and the GTX 1070. The GTX 1070 can be found for $359 and I was able to find one Vega 56 for sale in that same price range. That does leave a big gap between that and the $199 for the RX580. The $279 price point does fit right in the middle of that.
On the call leading up to this launch they were also talking about their research on how 1 in 3 games is spending $199-$399 on a GPU and 64% of gamers are still playing at 1080p. With both of those in mind, they brought out the RX590 to improve on the already good 1080p performance of the RX580 and to give another option in that optimum price point.
AMD was calling the RX590 a mix between high framerate AAA and esports gaming and they were showing off up and a 12% performance increase in their slides.
The other big push, and this wasn’t a big change from previous AMD launches, was to point out the value AMD is adding by having FreeSync over G-Sync. FreeSync monitor options are much cheaper and more readily available. Focusing on the 1440p and 1080 range that the RX590 can perform they showed off a few high refresh monitors available.
The other big announcement though was the RX590 actually comes with 3 free games from select retailers. You get a copy of Devil May Cry 5, The Division 2, and Resident Evil 2. All three haven’t come out yet so you are getting access to brand new games when they come out and each sells for $59.99, giving a bonus value of $179.97! Now not all of the games may be your thing, but talk about a great bonus on a $279 card, if you planned on buying all three it basically makes the card cost $99.
Here are the specifications for the XFX RX590 Fatboy that I will be testing today. You can see it does have a slight overclock over the reference clocks that AMD provided but beyond that it is similar.
No huge changes on the packaging for the new RX590 Fatboy. The box has a picture of the card on the front with the XFX logo up top. The red strip has all of the other important information including the model name. The only real change here is the new Fatboy model name that is done in an old school font that reminds me a lot of the ACDC album “The Razors Edge”. Around back XFX has a short features list but most of them are just your normal AMD listed features, they aren’t their card specific. The exception to that are the three highlighted up at the top that talk about the fan designs as well as the heatpipes.
Inside of the packaging is a cardboard box with the XFX logo embossed into the top. When you open that up you will find yet another box sitting up on top. Then below that, they have a few documents that are sitting on top of the card itself which is wrapped in a static protective bag. The box that sat at the top is tapped closed and I thought it was empty, even after opening it. But there is a second layer inside where you will find a few accessories so make sure to dig in there to find those.
So what does the RX590 Fatboy come with? Well for documentation you get an installation guide that on the back has a warranty card built in. That card has a copy of the same information that is on the sticker on your card for quick access. There is a note explaining that you should download the latest driver if possible, I highly agree. The driver on driver discs can be way out of date and cause problems. Then there was a piece of paper showing how to use AMD's Wattman to overclock your card even farther than the included clock speed. For accessories, you get two different PCIe power adapters. One turns two Molex connections into a 6-pin power and the other turns two 6-pin PCI powers into one 8-pin. I always recommend to avoid using these, but if you are in a bind you can use them temporarily to get your system up and running. Then there is, of course, the driver disc.
Card Layout and Photos
Last year with the RX580 launch I had the XFX GTS in the office and this was a similar card design to what we are seeing with the Fatboy. In fact, if you put them next to each other you wouldn’t really see any differences when it comes to the carbon fiber looking fan shroud. The Fatboy is a thicker card though, from what I can tell XFX has improved on the cooler design but stuck with the same fan shroud as the GTS. Ironically last year I based on the fake carbon fiber shroud mentioning it as questionable styling. That still applies here, for me the look is just too aggressive but I do think some people will like the look. XFX has avoided packing their card with RGB lighting and if they would drop the bright red dots on the middle of their fan blades the blacked out look might not bad so bad.
Around on the back, I really like the black backplate, the gloss black used for accents isn’t too bad as well though I would prefer a little less. The backplate is a thin sheet metal not a thick machined plate like some cards have so XFX had to put holes in it for airflow because this backplate doesn’t function as a heatsink. Looking up near the top edge of the card where you can see the PCI bracket it really gives you an idea of the size of this card. It is much taller than any reference or close to stock card on the market. That means you need to make sure you have the clearance in your case to fit this card before picking it up, most full-sized cases will support it but when you start to get into smaller mATX and ITX cases the gap between the GPU and the side panel or top of the case is a lot tighter.
Looking around the edges of the Fatboy we can get a better look at XFX’s cooling solution. For starters, all three sides are mostly open for airflow to flow out from the down facing fans. The heatsink design itself runs four heatpipes (two thicker and two thinner) from direct contact on the GPU out across the heatsink. The two thicker popes are on the longer side of the heatsink. The top edge has the XFX logo on the shroud and the new Fatboy design that sticks up farther also now shows the top heatpipes a lot more where before it was tight up against the backplate. It’s the end design that I’m still not a fan of though. I like the idea of having the backplate wrap around like XFX has done, but the fan shroud sticks out farther from the fan than it should and because of that they have made the card longer with nothing filling that space at all.
So as I mentioned the fan shroud design and backplate design is the same as on the RX580, the Fatboy design is all about the thicker heatsink that causes the card to be a two and a half slot card. Using the picture from our RX580 GTS review and a picture of the Fatboy you can see just how much meat they have added to the heatsink. You can also see how this opened up the gap around all of the edges as well.
For power, the RX590 Fatboy requires both an 8-pin and 6-pin for power. For comparison XFX only needed a single 8-pin for their heavily overclocked RX580 GTS. The power connections are flipped around with the clips on the PCB side to save room for the heatsink and that fat heatpipe that runs right next to the connections. XFX had to notch the PCB in two spots and the backplate also had to be notched as well. The RX580 GTS had a notch as well but with the second plug added XFX had to expand that. If you look closely in this area you can also see the small switch next to the power connections as well. XFX runs these on their cards to give you two BIOS options. XFX used to do a gaming focused and a mining-focused BIOS, but with mining dying off a little they went with a normal and a quiet mode for the RX590. It allows you a safe way to reflash your BIOS with a backup if something goes wrong.
On the back PCI bracket, there is a little ventilation built into the bracket with the XFX logo in one and the line of cutouts right above the bottom row of connections. For connections, you get one DVI plug up on the top and one HDMI below it. Then the other three are all DisplayPort. I should point out the plugs that XFX uses to keep dust out of the connections are a pain to get out and the DVI cover was actually thicker than normal and had to be removed to install the card.
Our Test Rig and Procedures
Our Test Rig Configuration (with affiliate links)
CPU - Intel i9-7960X
Motherboard - Asus ROG Rampage VI Apex
Memory - HyperX DDR4 Predator 3000MHz
Storage - Kingston A1000 960GB M.2 SSD
Cooling - Noctua NH-U12S
Power Supply - Corsair AX1200w
Case - Primochill Wetbench
So as always to start off my testing I like to start with the popular synthetic benchmarks. They don’t tell us what FPS to expect from real in game performance, but they do a good job with consistent tests that allow good comparisons from card to card. A majority of my tests are using 3DMark where UL has benchmarks that cover DX11 and DX12 testing at most popular resolutions. Fire Strike is the DX11 test and those tests range from 1080p (performance), 1440p (extreme), and 4K (ultra). So how did the RX590 do in those three tests? Well at 1080p it did a good job bridging the gap between the RX580 and the GTX 1070. The GTX 1060 wasn’t close here with the RX580 pulling ahead in the past year with driver updates. The RX590 showed a 6.9% increase here over the RX580. At 1440p the 1060, on the other hand, was still faster by a good margin with the RX580 and RX590 both at the bottom of the chart. There is a noticeable improvement between those two though going from 6860 to 7228, a 5.3% increase. The 4k ultra benchmark wasn’t really all that important because I know this isn’t a 4k focused card, but I did still include the results where we can see there is still a bigger gap here between the RX590 and the GTX 1070.
For 3DMark Time Spy, these are the DX12 focused benchmarks and with DX12 being the focus going forward, these are the most important to keep an eye on. In the original 1080p Time Spy the Fatboy came in between the RX580 and the GTX 1070 as expected. The GTX 1060 was down below the RX580 and the RX580 to RX590 performance increase was 7.1%, close to the same as what I saw with the Fire Strike results. As for the 1440p/extreme results that improvement dropped to 6.3% between the RX580 and RX590 and the GTX 1070 gap is much larger here.
My last synthetic benchmark was the Unigine Superposition benchmark where I tested at two different 1080p settings and then at 4K and 8K for the crazy high future results. The 1080p results were my focus, at 8K the 4 digit results were so low they didn’t even fit on the graph itself lol. But here, like in the other tests, the RX590 came in above the RX580 and below the GTX 1070, with that gap being rather large. The RX580 to RX590 improvement was 5.5% at medium and 7.7% at the extreme detail setting.
So VR specific benchmarks are still limited but considering that the RX580 was pushed as being fully VR ready, I was curious how the improved clock speeds would translate to VR performance for the RX590. Well, it was enough to bring the performance up over the GTX 1060 in the SteamVR benchmark going from a 7.5 to 8.2. But the VRMark tests were what I was most interested in. These tests have managed to test current performance with basic VR titles (orange room), current high-end VR performance (cyan room), and then future looking performance (blue room). While the tests do give a score, I prefer the FPS scores that are also given as they also provide target FPS for each test depending on the headset. The Vive has a target of 109 FPS on orange and blue and 88.9 FPS on the cyan test. So how did the RX590 do here? Well for starters it was up over the RX580 in all of the tests and WAY ahead of the GTX 1060. In the Cyan test, it was also up over the GTX 1070 and it reached the target FPS in orange and cyan but none of the cards tested have the power to push the blue room test over the target yet.
Now we finally get into the in game performance and that is the main reason people pick up a new video card. To test things out I ran through our new benchmark suite that tests 11 games at three different resolutions (1080p, 1440p, and 4k). I also slipped in a few variations on the same games for comparisons like DX11 to DX12, OpenGL to Vulkan, and a couple of games are just tested at their highest setting and lower but still high detail options to show the performance difference when things are turned down slightly. In total, each video card is tested 51 times and that makes for a huge mess of graphs when you put them all together. To help with that I like to start off with these overall playability graphs that take all of the results and give an easier to read the result. I have one for each of the three resolutions and each is broken up into four FPS ranges. Under 30 FPS is considered unplayable, over 30 is playable but not ideal, over 60 is the sweet spot, and then over 120 FPS is for high refresh rate monitors. This covers all of the games tested except Final Fantasy XV that we have a score rather than an FPS because they like to be different.
So how did the new RX590 Fatboy perform? Well, the big red bar in the 4K test confirmed what I already knew when it came to 4k performance. About half of the games were playable but not great and half weren’t playable at all at the settings I tested at. 1440P, on the other hand, was near half and half but with it all being playable but 9 were in the 30-59 FPS range and 7 were above 60 FPS, not bad but not perfect. Then at 1080p 12 of the games tested fell in the 60+ range, one was up over 120 FPS, and just three were playable but under 60 FPS. That seems to support AMD's push that the RX590 is an improvement on the RX580 where you will see even better 1080p performance with support for higher refresh rates on the esports focused titles.
Before getting into the other results, there is one test that didn’t fit into our resolution breakdown above, that is the Final Fantasy XV benchmark that only gives a score rating. Here the RX590 came in above the GTX 1060 but the RX580 didn’t. To be fair though the high setting that my testing was run at does include hairworks which is Nvidia focused, so keep that in mind with these results.
As for the rest of the results I have them all for all of the craziest of the crazy to sort through just like I did. With the exception of DOOM with OpenGL the last four cards on the graphs were consistent with the GTX 1070 always above the RX590, the RX580 below that, and the GTX 1060 at the bottom. At 1080p and 1440p the gap between them was fairly consistent but going up to 4k you can see the GTX 1070 pull out a larger gap. Beyond that, the DOOM results do a great job of showing why you should always run Vulkan over OpenGL the RX590 went from 95 FPS to 151 at 1080p. DX12 over DX11 was similar in Hitman, but not as significant of a jump, but 5 additional FPS isn’t bad.
I always like to include a few compute performance tests through our recently updated test suite has been giving me issues in this area. We are back down to two tests because I removed the tests not supported by most cards. The most interesting one though was V-Ray Benchmark that worked great on everything except the RX590 launch driver. Causing a reproducible bluescreen over and over. After talking with my good friend Rob over at Techgage where he was able to duplicate the issue I ran into as well, he explained to me that he has dropped the test from his own testing due to not having proper renders on AMD cards, causing possible performance issues in the test. Check out his coverage HERE.
So here we are with the tried and true Passmark Performance Test 9’s GPU Compute test and the always popular Blender Benchmark. So in the Passmark test, the RX580 and RX590 weren’t as favored as the Nvidia cards with even the stock clocked GTX 1060 coming in faster. Blender, however, was a lot better. The RX590 came in just faster than the GTX 1070, showing the jump from the RX580 and showing that the GTX 1080 isn’t far apart in Blender performance.
Cooling, Noise, and Power
My last batch of testing is focused on the stuff that a lot of people don’t consider like cooling performance, noise levels, and power usage. Oddly enough all of these also are the main areas where different aftermarket card brands can differentiate themselves. Cooling and noise is mostly about the performance of their custom coolers with overclock settings playing a role. Then power usage is all about the overclock settings. Going into this we know the thermal TDP of the stock RX590 is 225 watts and the XFX RX590 Fatboy is clocked at a boost clock of 1600MHz where the stock boost clock is 1545 MHz so it is faster and should put out more heat and potentially pull more power.
My first tests were to look at power usage. I ran two tests, one using 3DMark Fire Strike on the performance setting, specifically in the Combined test run. The second was using AIDA64 with its stress test to put a load on the GPU. The combined 3Dmark is close to what I saw in most of my actual in game testing as it isn’t as stressful on the GPU but it also puts some load on the CPU. The AIDA64 test is GPU only with everything else idling. I read wattage using a Kill-A-Watt hooked up to the testbench, so these results show the total system draw, not just the GPU. In 3DMark the RX590 pulled 389 watts, this was 29 watts more than the RX580 did on the same test and this was also higher than the GTX 1080 Founders Edition pulled as well and was close to the new RTX 2070. In the AIDA64 stress test the wattage dropped down to 326 watts and this time the RX580 was a lot closer at 328, both still well above most of the cards tested. As it turns out, even with the improved 12nm FinFET process you pull more power the more you crank up the older Polaris architecture.
Next, I took a look at the noise output of the two large fans that XFX has on their cooler. To test this I tested the decibel level at both 100% and 50% fan speeds. Idle results are too low to be accurate and I would prefer to show in game or under load results but the fan speeds there swing. So sticking with these two speeds we get an idea of overall noise range of a card, the cooling results later will help us understand if the card will be up in the 50 to 100% range. So the Fatboy’s fan run at 3199 RPM at full speed which is on the mid to lower range of the cards tested, but the decibel readings I ended up with were up on the higher side when the fans were turned up. From what I could see these are about the same as the fans on the RX580 GTS only running at a lower RPM so I have to wonder if the new thicker heatsink had to do with the higher noise levels. At 50% fan speed things weren’t too bad, but I wouldn’t want to run this at or near 100% fan speed too often.
My last tests were focused on the temperatures. Here I went back to the AIDA64 Stress Test that does a good job of loading up the GPU and ran two tests. My first test was with the stock fan profile to get a look at out of the box performance. The second was done the same way, only with the fans turned up to 100% fan speed. I did this to get a look at the total cooling capacity of the cooler that XFX included. So at stock speeds, XFX seemed to have the fan profile set to let the card run at 79 degrees under load. This was high up on my charts, similar to what reference and founders edition cards do. Cranking the fan speed up through the numbers dropped down closer to the middle of our charts at 59 degrees. Considering the higher power usage and clock speeds of the RX590, this wasn’t too bad to be two degrees from the good performing RX580 Sapphire card. The overall drop was 29.1% with the fans turned up. The stock profile number was a little concerning though, I think with this card you may have to run a custom profile to find the balance to get that down a little without forcing those fans to get noisy.
Overall and Final Verdict
So now that our testing is finished up, I just wanted to recap a few of the things I ran into. I know a lot of you only check out this section 😉 but be sure to flip through some of the other pages as well for more details on these. Starting with a few of the good things. Like the RX580 designs from XFX, the XFX RX590 has a solid cooling design that they improved on even more for this new card. The whole reason for the Fatboy name, that I’m really curious how people will react too is the additional thickness their new card has. The whole design other than the heatsink thickness is actually very similar to their previous cards. That includes the card having a backplate and the fan shroud design that I’m personally not a big fan of. I could actually talk a LOT about the shroud design but the main issue I have with it is the usage of that fake carbon fiber look, especially when combined with the red stickers on the fans when XFX could have a nice blacked out design without those. The shroud also forces the card to be far to long for no reason, not even using the space for a longer heatsink. With this still being pre-launch ,I haven’t seen any other XFX RX590 designs, but I hope they have a second option with their simpler shroud design available as well. Overall it is thin and feels cheap, a drastic change from the nicer XFX designs of the 7000 series and 200 series cards that I loved. That said, from what I have seen no one really went out of the way to make an all new design for the RX590’s beyond cooling improvements like what XFX did.
Thankfully the cards performance makes up for all of that, at least in cooling performance thanks to the thicker heatsink, noise on the other hand was up there at high fan speeds. This allowed XFX to overclock the RX590 up to 1600 MHz to improve on the gaming performance even more. Speaking of that, the 1080p performance is just about all you could ask for and on the off chance you want to play at 1440p from time to time, it is capable of that to a lesser extent. It does fit exactly where AMD promised in that it will get you high refresh rate performance for the “esport” titles and Triple-A games are all going to play at high settings in the 60 FPS range at 1080p. The downside to the overclock both from XFX and from AMD is the power usage of this card is up even higher, even with the smaller manufacturing process.
The big question both for the RX590 as a whole and for XFX’s RX590 Fatboy is how does the pricing work out compared to the performance. Well for starters the AMD was successful at having cards launch at their MSRP, this overclocked XFX model should be at $279.99. Now performance per dollar? Well at 1080p and 1440p I saw a performance increase of 5-8% in a majority of my tests, I know AMD mentioned seeing up to 15% in some tests but that 5-8% range seems to be more realistic. With new test results long after the launch of the GTX 1060 and the RX580 the clear hierarchy was the GTX 1070> RX590>RX580>GTX 1060 with the GTX 1070 still well ahead. As for pricing, currently you can find RX580 8GB cards for as low as $199 so the jump up to $279 is a 40% increase. So the RX580 is still the price per performance king at 1080p and anywhere near this price range.
The RX590 does have an ace in the hole with AMD offering three free games with it from select retailers. You get Devil May Cry 5, The Division 2, and Resident Evil 2, all three can be pre-ordered at $59.99 each and as the preorder part implies they aren’t available yet so you are getting brand new games as they come out. THAT is really what makes the RX590 a great value, without the free games I would recommend the RX580 but even if you only like one of those games it helps bring down the overall price if you figure them in. So there you have it really, if you are shopping for a mid-range card, the RX580 and RX590 are really the best direction to go right now. I love the GXT 1060 I use in our Lunchbox 4, especially for its power usage, but the 1060 is way too expensive in most cases and performed consistently lower than both the RX580 and RX590. Picking between those really depends on if you like any of the free games you can get with the RX590 or if you need just an extra small bump in performance over the RX580.
As for the XFX RX590 Fatboy, I tested today, if you like its styling then it will be all peaches and cream because that was my main issue with the card. Beyond that, it performed well, had a good overclock, and doesn’t have even one LED light let alone RGB light for those of you who aren’t into that sort of thing.
Live Pricing: HERE