AMD has just launched their Radeon RX 480 this week, and sales of the card also started today. If you’re looking to buy one, or compare prices, you’ve come to the right place – I have a lovely table of links for you. If you’re interested instead in an overview of the RX 480, you can read my mini-novella of an overview here. If you’re just looking for a TL:DR, here it is: Radeon R9 390/GeForce GTX 970 performance for less money, with the promise of R9 390X/GTX 980 performance from AIB custom cards that will have higher TDPs and better coolers. Now, hit the jump.
AMD Radeon RX 480 price comparison
|GeForce GTX 980 4GB||R8,266||R8,499||R8,458||R8,618||—||R8,749|
|Radeon R9 390X 8GB||R8,069||R8,286||R8,458||R8,573||—||R8,649|
|Radeon R9 390 8GB||R7,119||R6,999||—||R7,455||—||R6,899|
|GeForce GTX 970 4GB||R5,988||R5,957||R6,283||R6,019||R5,999||R6,349|
|ASUS RX 480 8GB||R5,799||—||—||—||—||—|
|Sapphire RX 480 8GB||R5,650||R5,399||R5,219||R5,417||—||—|
|Gigabyte RX 480 8GB||R5,399||—||—||—||—||—|
|PowerColor RX 480||—||R4,799*||—||—||—||—|
|MSI RX 480 8GB||—||—||—||—||R5,299||R5,299|
|XFX RX 480 8GB||—||—||—||—||R5,299||R5,299|
|Radeon R9 380X 4GB||R4,320||R4,550||R4,544||R4,597||R3,999||R4,599|
|GeForce GTX 960 4GB||R4,227||R4,435||R5,276||R4,307||—||R4,499|
Pricing across the board is much lower than I’d expected, and written about, in an earlier RX 480 pricing comparison. At R5,299, at least for some reference versions, the RX 480 is good value. It’s faster and has more memory than existing GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards which tend to cost more, and it positively buries the Radeon R9 380X and GeForce GTX 960. It doesn’t even need a high-powered PSU to run – just a decent 450W unit. That will change, however, with third-party custom coolers and board designs, because those will, I expect, typically ship with 8-pin PEG connectors facilitating a 225W total board power draw.
At R4,799, however, the value proposition is even stronger. When Wootware’s Rory Magee sent me the link to the listing as the NDA went up this afternoon, he mentioned that the price is actually a promotion, and an introductory special for early adopters. Time will tell if the custom version from PowerColor has a similar or lower price, but I think it will.
If, and when that happens, there’ll be a big gap in the market between the RX 480, with a price floor at around R4,999 and the GTX 1070, currently sitting at around R8,999. AMD needs to bring in Vega as soon as possible, and board partners need to bring their A-game to the table if the GTX 1060 arrives at a starting price of around $300 and matches GTX 980 performance. When that happens, it’ll be like letting the cat loose amongst the pidgeons. While I expect the GTX 1060 to have lower power consumption and equivalent peformance, the RX 480 will have the advantage of supporting a lower price, forcing NVIDIA’s hand – they could charge less for their chip and accept the losses, or they can stay at around $300 and try inflate the card’s value by marketing its marginally higher power efficiency. I don’t think it’ll be directly competing with the RX 480 on price, which is why this is important.
At the same time, Vega is needed to effectively combat the GTX 1070. At R8,999 for a reference Founder’s Edition, anyone looking for a high-end GPU setup will choose it over any existing Radeon R9 390X or GeForce GTX 980 or GTX 980 Ti. NVIDIA doesn’t mind gobbling up sales of its old high-end lineup, it’s the retailer’s problem now. AMD also knows that despite the GTX 1070 being a little over 50% faster across the majority of benchmarks, no-one is looking to buy two RX 480s for a multi-GPU setup, despite repeated promises to focus more on multi-GPU performance. It’s just too tricky with the current software landscape. Some of the most popular games played on Steam today, for example, are DirectX 11 titles. GTA V, for instance, hates multi-GPU scaling with a passion, while ARK: Survival Evolved practically requires it if you want to play the game at 4K.
Still, AMD can pat themselves on the back. The Radeon RX 480 delivers performance equivalent to a stock GeForce GTX 980 in a lot of scenarios, and at a minimum beats a stock Radeon R9 390. That’s a good result. It’s also much cheaper than either solution. I don’t think anyone should be buying a GTX 970 right now – if you’re determined to move to Camp Green, wait for the GTX 1060. It won’t be any slower than a GTX 970, and it’ll definitely last longer with all the new software features and DirectX 12 thrown into the mix.
If you’re moving to Camp Red, I think the RX 480 is a good bet, but if you’re interested in getting lower temperatures and more overclocking headroom, wait about a month for the custom boards to appear. If you’re thinking of buying a GTX 960 or R9 380 or R9 380X today, do it if that’s the only card that fits into your budget now, though an upgrade to the RX 480 comes recommended, even in reference form with all the caveats and tradeoffs that brings to the table.