AMD Radeon RX 460 review: An affordable graphics card with bleeding-edge tech

The AMD Radeon RX 460 graphics card is built for e-sports and low-power systems.

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Bottom line

While the Radeon RX 470’s positioning is downright baffling, the Radeon RX 460 achieves everything AMD set out to do. This affordable card gives e-sports games a tremendous shot in the arm over integrated graphics, brings all the modern technologies surging through Polaris GPUs down to entry-level price points, and finally gives AMD a true GTX 750 Ti competitor. Reference, power connector-less versions of the RX 460 would be a killer option for transforming a power-limited big-box PC into a decent gaming machine.

In theory, at least. Because the XFX card that AMD provided for review is a supercharged, powered-up 4GB version of the Radeon RX 460, we can’t really be sure how a 75W reference version performs. I’d imagine it wouldn’t be a massive decrease, especially in e-sports games. The XFX Radeon RX 460 we tested has only a 20MHz overclock.

Though I didn’t test a reference RX 460, I feel safe saying that if you’re in the market for a basic graphics card that lacks additional power connectors, AMD’s new card is the clear choice over a GTX 750 Ti. The Radeon RX 460 not only outpunches its low-powered rival in terms of sheer performance, it’s infused with the latest and greatest ecosystem technologies, like HDMI 2.0b, high-dynamic range video, dedicated async compute hardware, and H.265 encoding and decoding. The two-plus-year-old GTX 750 Ti lacks all of that.

Plus, modest cards like these pair wonderfully with an AMD FreeSync or Nvidia G-Sync monitor, which sync the refresh rates of your display and GPU to eliminate tearing and stuttering. FreeSync monitors don’t carry the hefty price premium that G-Sync monitors demand. You can pick up a 22-inch 1080p FreeSync monitor for as little as $130 on Amazon, or a blistering-fast 144Hz 1080p FreeSync display for $209 on Amazon. And if you’ve only got a 60Hz monitor, using AMD’s Frame Rate Target Control to limit the frame rate of e-sports games to 60 fps would result in even lower temperatures and power usage.

That suggestion is tempered somewhat by the appearance of some low-power 75W GTX 950 graphics cards in recent months, which also support HDMI 2.0. Those appear to be phasing out of the market, though some models can still be found for $120 or less after rebates.

Further reading: Every Radeon RX 460 you can buy

But what about memory capacity? The Radeon RX 460 comes in two variants, a 2GB model and a 4GB model. More specifically, the custom XFX design today costs $120 with 2GB of memory, or $150 with 4GB. If e-sports is your core focus, stick to the 2GB model. All the most popular e-sports games are designed to use under 2GB of memory, and the price is right on the cheaper XFX Radeon RX 470 model, with a reasonable $10 markup for the custom cooler and performance-boosting extras.

dsc00996 Brad Chacos

The 2GB XFX Radeon RX 460 earns our buying recommendation; the 4GB version doesn’t.

Only consider the 4GB Radeon RX 460 if you want the potential to play traditional games like the ones in our test suite, albeit at modest graphical fidelity. That said, XFX charges a steep price premium for the extra memory capacity. We’ve heard from other manufacturers that plan on charging $120 for their custom 4GB RX 460 models, and even less for 2GB variants, though we haven’t had a chance to test those rivals yet.

If you’re willing to spend $150 on a graphics card, you’ll get more oomph from a GeForce GTX 950, or much more oomph from a Radeon R9 380, which was a $200 graphics card out of the gate but can now often be found for $155 or less on Newegg after rebates. All those step-up options are limited to 2GB memory capacity, and the R9 380 demands two six-pin power connectors and much more energy overall, but they still outpunch the 4GB XFX RX 460 by a healthy margin for roughly the same price. The GTX 950 even uses roughly the same amount of power as the six-pin-enhanced XFX Radeon RX 460, and can often be found for RX 460-level prices after rebates.

The 2GB Radeon RX 460 is clearly the sweet spot for these XFX models, and the one that best fits the card’s intended role. It’s hard to recommend the 4GB XFX Radeon RX 460 given its high cost in a price-sensitive market segment, even though it’s a well-designed card overall.

In the end, the Radeon RX 460 provides AMD with something it hasn’t had in years: an affordable, power-efficient graphics card perfect for e-sports and home theater PCs. Polaris is paying off big-time. Though Nvidia will no doubt launch a GeForce rival to this in due time, I imagine AMD’s going to sell bucketloads of RX 460s around the globe.

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At a Glance
  • While we heartily recommend the Radeon RX 460 in general, XFX's customized 4GB version isn't compelling at this price point.

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