XFX RX 480 XXX GTR Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
XFX RX 480 XXX GTR Introduction:
The performance delivered by AMD's 4th generation GCN Polaris core is a known commodity at this time. However, each manufacturer has its own take on how to improve that baseline performance delivered by AMD. XFX has been building some pretty serious cards for the AMD enthusiast and for this generation things have not changed much. The company is still building some pretty hopped up cards built to maximize the technology. The XFX RX 480 XXX GTR is a factory-overclocked card featuring a core clock speed of 1288MHz right from the factory. This XXX version comes out of a product stack that includes a card with a more robust 1336MHz boost clock speed, but I digress a bit. Overclocking is the great equalizer here. The big introductions to complement the Polaris core from AMD are XFX's new Ghost 4.0 cooling solution with an all new composite heat pipe design and the inclusion of XFX's own Hard Swap quick-change LED fan package. We know by now that the strong point for the RX 480 is delivering great performance at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and still stepping up to the plate at 2560 x 1440. Let's take a look at what XFX has to offer with its entry in the $250 price point currently occupied by the RX 480 XXX GTR.
XFX RX 480 XXX GTR Closer Look:
The packaging for the XFX RX 480 XXX GTR shows a 3/4 view of the card on the front panel with the XFX logo front and center at the top with the series this card belongs to in the bottom left corner. Along the bottom and far left are the AMD-based technologies supported by this card: VR ready, support for Freesync technology, DirectX 12 optimization, and HDR ready. The rear of the package goes over the feature set of this card, including Ghost 4.0 technology, which is supposed to be up to 40% more thermally efficient. Zero dB auto load sensing fans are used to keep this card as quiet as possible by spooling the fans up as the thermal load is increased. Last but not least are the Hard Swap fans that offer a new twist on fan removal. Inside the box, the card is packed into a cardboard enclosure that has proven to do the job well based on some of the packages I see from my delivery drivers. The accessories included with the RX 480 XXX GTR include... a quick installation guide. Minimal to say the least, but at this point, if you are spending on a decent video card, you more than likely have a monitor supporting at least a DVI connection and a power supply with at least one 8-pin PCIe power connection.
XFX RX 480 XXX GTR is built upon AMD's Polaris 10 4th generation GCN technology. From the front, you can see the pair of 90mm Hard Swap quick change fans equipped with Zero dB load sensing technolgy. As a technology, XFX is now packaging its Hard Swap fans with both the RS and GTR series cards. Instead of RGB fans that are really popular right now, XFX went with a unique solution that allows the end user to quickly remove the fans by releasing two clips and pulling the fan up and out of the shroud for easier cleaning or even replacing the fans with XFX's own Hard Swap fan kits available in red, white, and blue. The back side of the card features a ventilated back plate to help with card rigidity and aid in cooling. The XFX logo figures prominently on this robust back plate. When you add the cooling plate used around the socket, there should be no issues with PCB flex on this card. The top view shows the Ghost 4.0 cooling solution equipped with a pair of Hard Swap fans. Looking at the side view, the cooling solution appears to be quite compact and easily fits in a two-slot package, which is the defacto form factor for most enthusuast level graphics cards. Measuring 280 x 124 x 40mm in size, the RX 480 XXX GTR is going to fit in the majority af chassis on the market. Much like just about every current gaming-centric video card, the RX 480 XXX GTR is designed to run in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, but is backwards compatible to earlier standards.
Display connectivity on this RX 480 from XFX 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 six displays in an Eyefinity configuration. The I/O panel has a combination of vents, as well as an XFX logo cut out to allow the airflow from the Hard Swap fans to vent out of the chassis. When combined with the LED on the top of the card, there will be no mistaking which hardware you are running, no matter the view. Using an open-shroud design, some of the thermal load gets dumped into the chassis air stream. This is usually not a problem, as most modern chassis have enough airflow capacity built in right out of the box. The back end of the card is open to facilitate good airflow through the Hard Swap fan, Ghost 4.0 cooling solution.The wiring seen at the left of the rear of the card is used to distribute current and control information to the Hard Swap load-sensing fans.
AMD no longer uses a bridge connection to support its multi-GPU strategy, CrossFireX. CrossFireX configurations are supported by way of AMD's XDMA technology that sends the inter-GPU communication through the PCIe bus. An 8-pin power connection, when combined with the PCIe slot, provides up to 225 watts to the card. By using an 8-pin PEG connection, much like every Polaris card I have tested, XFX ensures that this card does not suffer the wrath of the public by consuming much more power than the PCIe or PEG connection can provide. The TDP of this card comes in at 150W from the factory. With a TDP this low, XFX is reccomending at least a 500 watt power supply to provide power to the entire system.
Pulling the Ghost Thermal 4.0 cooler off the card is fairly simple. Once separated from the PCB, you can see that there is a cooling plate used to cool the 8GB of GDDR5 memory as well as help strengthen the PCB around the socket. A large thermal pad is used to keep the digital VRM from suffering from a themal overrun and killing the power circuitry. XFX uses a new ultra low noise inductor as part of its new power circuitry to reduce the coil whine associated with many high-end video cards.
Getting rid of the thermal load generated by the factory-overclocked Polaris core is an all new Ghost 4.0 heat sink package from XFX. The airflow generated by XFX's own Hard Swap fans is pushed through the heat sink, providing added cooling to the VRM package and memory. At the heart of the new package is an all-new composite heat pipe. It uses both a micro-grooved internal structure on the tubing with a sintered capillary system to improve thermal transfer. These heat pipes are attached to a large, copper contact plate and feed the thermal load into the large fore and aft fin arrays. Three 6mm heat pipes feed into the back fin array, while just a single 6mm heat pipe feeds into the front fin array. Across the bottom edge of the fin array frame is a PCB that is used to distribute power to the Hard Swap quick change fan system used on the card.
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, this "Polaris 10" core has 2304 shader units, 144 texture units, and 32 ROPS. On this card from XFX, the Boost core clock speed out of the box is 1288MHz, although there are cards in the XFX product stack that are boosted up as high as 1336MHz. 8GB high-speed GDDR5 memory from Sansumg is used on this sample. Out of the box, the memory on this card runs at an 8Gbps effective rate (2000MHz actual) and flows through a 256-bit wide bus.
XFX traditionally makes some pretty interesting renditions of its cards to include factory-overclocked versions with large cooling solutions to complement the bare bones, reference-style cards. Let's dig in and see just how well this XFX RX 480 XXX GTR series card performs in games.