AMD Radeon RX 480 review: Redefining what's possible with a $200 graphics card

The $200 Radeon RX 480 is the first graphics card built around AMD's 14nm Polaris GPU, and it changes the game.

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Hitman

The Radeon RX 480 walks into Hitman with a default advantage, because IO Interactive’s Glacier engine heavily favors AMD hardware.

Programming note: Hitman automatically caps the game’s Texture Quality, Shadow Maps, and Shadow Resolution at medium on cards with 2GB of onboard memory. The EVGA GTX 970 FTW and VisionTek R9 380 were thus tested with those lower graphical settings. I’ve still included them in the graphs below so you can see the comparative DX11 vs. DX12 performance on those cards, but note that their results aren’t a direct apples-to-apples comparison with the others.

480 hitman
480 hitman 1440 dx12
480 hitman 1080 dx12

Surprise! The Radeon RX 480 solidly outpunches the overclocked EVGA 970 FTW, and it finishes in a dead heat with the overclocked Sapphire R9 390. That lead increases slightly if you use Hitman’s DirectX 12 support, which results in slightly lower average frame rates for GeForce cards, and higher average frame rates for AMD cards—but only if the card has 4GB of memory or more. Frame rates absolutely tank in DX12 with the 2GB cards.

Next page: Rise of the Tomb Raider performance

At a Glance
  • AMD's first graphics card built around its cutting-edge Polaris GPU delivers big performance and better power efficiency for just $200, or slightly more for an 8GB version.

    Pros

    • Dirt-cheap price
    • No-compromises 1080p gaming, good 1440p gaming
    • Can power virtual reality headsets
    • Big leap in power efficiency over past AMD cards

    Cons

    • Still not as power efficient as GeForce cards
    • Stability and performance issues with slick new overclocking software
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