PowerColor Red Devil RX 480 8GB Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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PowerColor Red Devil RX 480 8GB Introduction:
By now we know that AMD has conceded the high-end GPU market and is concentrating its efforts in the segment of the market where the bulk of the video card dollars are being spent, the $200-$300 bracket. That being said, the RX 480 is poised to deliver excellent performance at 1920 x 1080 and almost as much performance at 2560 x 1440. After looking at a competitor's card, I am interested in where this offering from PowerColor will perform by comparison.
Coming to market with a base clock speed of 1279MHz and a boost core clock of 1330MHz, the Red Devil RX 480 8GB is one of the highest boost core clocked cards on the market. That alone sets an expectation for performance. Not to mention the reputation of the Devil series cards from PowerColor that AMD's latest offering has to live up to. What makes the Devil series, this card included, special is that they come to market with massive cooling solutions to make sure the cards run cool. They come with upper end, if not the highest, core clock speeds, use PowerColor's Gold Power Kit electronics (including an all-digital PWM circuit), and are full of unique features, including custom PCBs. And to top it off, the Devil series just look fantastic.
This version of the Devil series, the Red Devil RX 480 8GB, is PowerColor's top end RX 480 card and retails currently for $279. Sporting a factory overclock and a ton of image, let's see what PowerColor brings to the table with the Red Devil RX 480 8GB.
PowerColor Red Devil RX 480 8GB Closer Look:
PowerColor's Red Devil RX 480 comes in the traditional Black and Blood Red Devil packaging that lets you know you are getting a beast of a card. It's a simple yet effective way to scream, "LOOK AT ME!" The front panel has the Red Devil graphic, the PowerColor logo, and the Radeon RX 480 model information. The back side of the package has a break out picture of the Red Devil RX 480 8GB to show you the feature set under the hood, while breaking down some of the card's specific features. Included in the feature set are the Double Blade III fans and the all-digital Gold Power Kit multi-phase power circuitry. Inside the outer sleeve is a nondescript brown cardboard box that holds the Red Devil during transit. The accessory bundle is on the slim side, but you really do not need a lot any longer, since the card will not need any power or display adapters in any modern build. What you do get are the obligatory quick installation guide, driver disc, and ownership card.
When you look at the Red Devil RX 480 for the first time, I get the sense that I am looking at the Devil 13 all over again, but smaller! In a way that would be correct, as the similarities in the look are there. The tri-fan cooling solution and red and black theme are there, to be sure. Where we see differences are in that this card is built around AMD's latest GCN architecture. This version would be equipped with the Polaris 10 GPU. Measuring 12.2 inches in length, this is a full-size video card. Even at over a foot in length, the card should fit almost every modern chassis. The tri-fan cooling solution is only a two slot solution, letting you pack more than one into your chassis in a CrossFireX configuration without any real challenges. The top view of the card has the Red Devil logo against a black background.
For a card using a massive multi-heat pipe cooling solution, PowerColor has kept the lines of the Red Devil clean by keeping the 8mm and 6mm heat pipes inside the shroud. Built to work with motherboards equipped with a PCIe 3.0 slot, the card will work on PCIe 2.0 hardware. For this version of the Devil series, PowerColor has used a dual blade fan that is said to increase airflow by up to 20% over standard fin designs.
Display connectivity on the PowerColor Red Devil RX 480 8GB consists of a single DL-DVI-D port, a single HDMI 2.0b port, and a trio of HDR ready DisplayPort 1.4 ports that support up to four displays. The opening in the I/O panel allows for some airflow to come out of the card, but the bulk of the thermal load will be dumped into the chassis. This is nothing new as we see it on most cards with this cooling design. Modern chassis are well equipped to turn over the case air volume fairly regularly with large 120mm and 140mm fans to manage the airflow. The back end of the card is open somewhat to allow for air to escape the shroud when the fan speeds ramp up.
CrossFireX configurations are supported on the RX 480 series by way of way of AMD's XDMA technology that no longer uses a CrossFire bridge connection and sends the inter-GPU communication through the PCIe bus. In place of the traditional bridge connections is a two-way switch. This switch is used to toggle between a low noise BIOS profile or the standard fan speed profile to give you a choice at the hardware level of how to run the fans on this card. The power supply to this card comes by way of an 8-pin PCIe power connection that addresses some of the concerns brought up with the reference cards and their 6-pin power connections being over drawn with the low TDP stated. As it turns out with the 8-pin PCIe connection, we can see a draw of up to 225W under load without fear of over drawing the PCIe slot or PEG power connection. PowerColor sticks with the 500W PSU recommendation for use with its Red Devil RX 480 8GB.
The cooling solution used on the Red Devil RX 480 consists of a pair of aluminum fin arrays interconnected with a quartet of 8mm copper heat pipes. These heat pipes lay flat against the copper contact plate that cools not only the Polaris 10 core, but the 8GB of GDDR5 memory and 6+1 phase power circuitry. A trio of 80mm Dual Blade III fans are mounted to the fin array instead of being mounted to the shroud. Each of these fans are connected to a PCB that distributes power to the three fans. This should make fan replacements an easy task if replacements are readily available from PowerColor. By using such a large pair of fin arrays, PowerColor has made cooling a priority.
PowerColor choose to go with a trio of 80mm Dual Blade III fans to keep the Red Devil from spewing the flames of hell out the back end of your PC by keeping the card cool. These fans feature a dual blade design that is said to improve airflow by up to 20%. The additional benefit is said to be able to push airflow through more of the area under the fan. Another side benefit is that the design also keeps dust build up away from the dual ball bearing hubs, preventing an early failure due to dust intrusion. The dual ball bearing hub is said to offer up to a 4x improvement in fan longevity. I was unable to get a firm confirmation of noise levels for this Apistek fan hub, but it seems to be one of choice for many fan designs.
Pulling the whole heat sink assembly off the Red Devil is fairly straightforward. Looking at the card stripped almost bare you can see that an all-black PCB is used on this custom build. A robust back plate is used to keep the card from becoming a flexible flyer with the large Devil series cooling solution. Using PowerColor's Gold Power Kit components, the Red Devil is equipped with a 6+1 phase all-digital power management circuit.
AMD's Polaris 10 is built on AMD's Fourth Generation Graphics Core Next Ellesmere architecture. This architecture is AMD's first foray into the 14 nanometer process, using GlobalFoundries to build the chips. Housing 5.7 bilion transistors in a 230mm² die, the "Polaris 10" has 2304 shader units, 144 texture units, and 32 ROPS, with a maximum boost clock speed of 1330MHz. The 8GB of high-speed GDDR5 memory is from Samsung, running an 8Gbps effective rate (200MHz actual) and flows through a 256-bit wide bus.
Now that we know what the Red Devil RX 480 8GB has to offer, let's see if it can live up to the hype and deliver impressive gaming performance.