Priced out of its league
Now this is a strange one – looking at the specs, it’s basically an RX 480 with a tiny corner cut off several of the key components. In fact, it’s actually possible to pick up a baseline Radeon RX 480 for the same price as this card… but that’s generally the case with brand new products, whose price usually drops pretty quickly. If you were to buy a card the day this article was written, the Radeon RX 480 would be the obvious choice, but hopefully by the time you get this piece the price is a friendlier or so. Still, the difference between the two is so minimal that we’re not quite sure why the RX 470 exists.
There’s also some weirdness with the pricing between the 4GB and 8GB variants. In the case of the RX 460, a mere doubled your onboard memory from 2GB to 4GB, but in the case of Sapphire’s RX 470. Does. Not. Compute. Anyway, enough hoo-hah about weird pricing, let’s get to the heart of this card, the pulsing new RX 470 GPU, aka Polaris 10.
This is the exact same GPU as the one found in AMD’s full-blooded RX 480, just with a couple of edges trimmed off. It uses the Polaris 10 GPU, but instead of the full 36 Compute Units, the RX 470 comes with 32, giving it a total of 2048 Stream Processors. Texture Unit numbers have also been cut back a touch, from 144 in the RX 480 to 128 in the RX 470. ROPs remains identical, at 32 across both cards. There are two memory variants, 4GB or 8GB, and both push the data over a 256-bit memory bus. Both also run at 6.6Gbps, and use the older GDDR5 memory that AMD has stuck with on its more affordable cards.
Given the much higher specs, it’s no surprise to see that the RX 470 has almost double the number of transistors as the RX 460, at 5.7 billion versus 3 billion on the RX 460. Like all of AMD’s new products, these have been fabricated at Global Foundries, the first time in over a decade that AMD hasn’t used TSMC. They’re of the new 14nm FinFET variety, which helps to drastically cut power use and die size. This gives the RX 470 a TDP of just 120W, though Sapphire’s version ups this to 170W.
This is likely a result of the slight overclock it’s given the card. The core clock has been bumped up from 926MHz to 1120MHz, while the boost clock has snuck up from 1206MHz to 1260MHz – incremental improvements to say the least. To handle the extra TDP, Sapphire has included one 6-pin plug alongside the 8-pin power plug. It’s also replaced the usual single fan cooler with a dual fan model, which it calls the Dual-X cooling. These are decked out with twin ball bearings as opposed to the single ball used in most fans, which apparently “have an 85% longer lifespan than sleeve bearings” in Sapphire’s tests. If a fan does die, they’re easy to unplug – you then just send the dead fan back to Sapphire and wait for a new one to arrive in the mail.
The included LEDs indicate PCB temperature and fan speed, or just pulse in time with the rest of your system.
We’re used to seeing cards decked out with RGB lights, but at least the ones here have some kind of use other than making your PC look like a disco ball. The included RGB LEDs can be used to indicate PCB temperature and fan speed, or just pulse in time with the rest of your system. They’re nowhere near as overwhelming as on other cards either, with a much more subtle glow.
Unlike the RX 460, this card has a much healthier range of outputs, allowing for up to five displays. There’s the usual legacy DVI-D port, but twin HDMI 2.0b outputs will be a godsend for users who want to plug in both a VR headset and a HDMI equipped monitor. Finally, twin DisplayPort 1.4 ports are included. As a result, the card is fully HDR compatible, if and when these displays finally take over.
We have to question Sapphire’s pricing of this card. It’s possible to buy Sapphire’s very own RX 480 Nitro+ 4GB video card, which is basically identical. This is why we’ve benched the card against the RX 480. At this price, it’s also approaching the territory of Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060.
Sadly this leaves this card in a rather weak position. In three of the four tests, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 romped it home by over 10%. The difference will become even greater once VR is thrown into the mix, as Nvidia’s proprietary SMP technology will increase performance by another 50% or more. Sapphire might claim this version of the RX 470 is VR-ready, but if we were buying for VR performance, our money would be on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1060.
Even with that extra power, overclocking performance wasn’t anything to write home about. Our GPU maxed out at just 1.3MHz, a mere 40MHz over the default factory overclock. It appears that Sapphire really has squeezed the maximum potential out of this card.
Once again we’re left in a position where Australia’s higher prices result in a product that is fighting against products that are in a different league. Fingers crossed AMD and Sapphire can help to drop it to keep it away from Nvidia’s deadly GeForce GTX 1060.
RX 460 & 470 Benchmarks
SHADOW OF MORDOR Benchmarks
No question about it: the price needs to drop if this card is to compete with the likes of the GeForce GTX 1060.
- Solid performance
- Very quiet cooler
- Twin HDMI 2.0b outputs
- Considerably slower than GeForce GTX 1060