AMD Radeon RX 470 review: A great graphics card with a terrible price

The Radeon RX 470 simply doesn't do enough to differentiate itself from the RX 480.

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Our test system

The XFX Radeon RX 470 fit right into PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system, which is loaded with high-end components to avoid potential bottlenecks in other parts of the machine and show unfettered graphics performance. Key highlights of the build:

  • Intel’s Core i7-5960X ($1,016 on Amazon) with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($97 on Amazon).
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard ($360 on Amazon).
  • Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($65 on Newegg), Obsidian 750D full-tower case ($155 on Amazon), and 1,200-watt AX1200i power supply ($308 on Amazon).
  • A 480GB Intel 730 series SSD ($248 on Amazon).
  • Windows 10 Pro ($199 on Amazon).

To see how well the Radeon RX 470 performs, we’re comparing it against a slew of other graphics cards. First up, there’s the EVGA GTX 950 SSC—a previous-gen $150 graphics card. We also tested the EVGA GTX 960 SSC, VisionTek Radeon R9 380, and Sapphire R9 380X to flesh out how the card compares against last-gen graphics cards.

We never tested the older R7 370 due to AMD’s… unorthodox rollout for the Radeon 300-series GPUs. Meanwhile, the 2GB HIS R7 270 we have on hand was plagued by compatibility issues with our test suite, prompting large pop-up warnings when we launched Ashes of the Singularity and a refusal to scale beyond 1650x1050 resolution in Far Cry Primal. That leaves us without a direct comparison between the RX 470 and its predecessors, but for what it’s worth, the GTX 950’s performance was decently ahead of the R7 370’s when it hit the streets.

The Radeon RX 480 ($240 for 8GB on Newegg), Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition (which costs $300, but uses the same underlying hardware as reference GTX 1060s that sell for $250), and Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 ($220 for 4GB on Amazon) represent the RX 470’s current-gen competition. Ideally, we’d include results from the $200 4GB Radeon RX 480, too, but hey, we only have an 8GB model on hand. Performance between the two models is nearly identical except in fringe cases, anyway. On the plus side, the $220 Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 is the exact same price as the XFX Radeon RX 470, for an apples-to-apples comparison of overclocked versions of these sister cards.

We benchmark every game using the default graphics settings unless otherwise noted, with all vendor-specific special features—such as Nvidia’s GameWorks effects, AMD’s TressFX, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled. AMD’s positioning the RX 470 as a great 1080p gaming card, so that’s where the bulk of our focus lies, but we also tested each game at 1440p resolution with all the current-gen cards. The last-gen cards simply shouldn’t be used for that resolution. They’re easily outmatched by every current-gen offering.

Hey, Tom Clancy! Want to kick things off?

Test 1: The Division

The Division, a third-person shooter/RPG that mixes elements of Destiny and Gears of War, kicks things off with Ubisoft’s new Snowdrop engine.

rx 470 the division

As expected, the XFX Radeon RX 470 blows away the last-gen GTX 950 and 960, and runs ahead of AMD’s own R9 380 and 380X by a fair margin. But there’s a sizeable 12 percent performance difference between the RX 470 and RX 480 at 1080p resolution, meaning the card won’t quite deliver the same uncompromising 1080p experience as the RX 480. That 52fps at Ultra graphics settings is nothing to sneeze at though, and if slipping below 60fps bother you, either using a FreeSync monitor or dropping the graphics down to High settings will push you back over that golden standard.

Next page: Hitman

At a Glance
  • XFX's gorgeous, thoughtful customizations are great, and the Radeon RX 470's performance devastates its predecessors, but it's priced too close to the RX 480.

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