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The AMD Radeon RX 470 4GB Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Acoustical Testing / System Power Consumption

Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.

RX-470-4GB-62.jpg

MSI’s Twin Frozr VI heatsink doesn’t have to work all that hard to keep the Polaris 10 core cool and the acoustics show exactly that. This RX 470 is one of the quietest cards I have ever reviewed.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

RX-470-4GB-64.jpg

Cutting a few cores and reducing clock speeds does allow the RX 470 to get slightly lower power consumption numbers than the RX 480 4GB but not by a significant amount. As a result, this card still requires more power than the GTX 1060, a card that heavily outperforms it in nearly every scenario.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,840
Location
Montreal
Conclusion; A $199 Head Scratcher

In a week that saw a $1200 graphics card launch into the gaming market, AMD’s RX 470 is like a pallet cleanser for those craving something attainable. It is affordable, has extremely competitive performance metrics and, perhaps most importantly, completes a much-needed refresh of the mid-tier Radeon lineup. This isn’t the end-all of budget video cards but it is a very welcome step in the right direction.

The RX 470 actually finds itself in a relatively wide open market right now with the GTX 960 being discontinued, the RX 480 battling it out in the mid-range against NVIDIA’s GTX 1060, the R9 380X going EOL and not much else going on. There was a vast swath of open terrain to work with. This is where AMD has set themselves up for success but I’m not entirely sure they’ve reached for the right target this time around. If anything, from the $199 price of my sample to its extreme proximity to the RX 480 4GB, this is a confusing little product.

RX-470-4GB-66.jpg

When viewed from within a bubble by ignoring the RX 480 4GB results, the MSI RX 470 4GB Gaming X is quite impressive. It stomps all over the GTX 960 and goes on to provide near-GTX 970 / R9 390 performance levels which is an absolute revelation given the price both those cards were recently going for. Against the previous generation its performance per watt is straight off the charts and into another dimension. And DX12? NVIDIA can't even come close and their previous generation offerings just get embarrassed. Just remember, this is with the card in its “OC Mode” which can be selected through the MSI Gaming App.

Unfortunately when we take off those blinders and include the RX 480 4GB into the thought process, AMD’s new wunderkind goes all weak in the knees. By utilizing a slightly cut down Polaris 10 core AMD has created an interesting counterpoint to the RX 480 4GB and 8GB cards but not one that offers anything really different in terms of pricing and performance. Even with an out of box overclock, our MSI RX 470 Gaming X sample fell behind the RX 480 4GB even with OC Mode enabled. Its cut-down number of SIMD units, lower frequencies and truncated memory bandwidth play absolute havoc with that key performance per dollar ratio I brought up earlier.

RX-470-4GB-67.jpg

As you could probably judge from the initial tone of this review’s introduction, I was really hoping this GPU would distinguish itself by offering a mid-point solution between the RX 480 4GB and AMD’s upcoming RX 460. That hasn’t happened as the RX 470 does absolutely nothing to push aside the murk which typically floats around the $99 to $199 price bracket. As a matter of fact the RX 470 muddies the situation even further, particularly when it comes to custom boards that tread so dreadfully close to the RX480’s price point without offering higher framerates. But if (and this is completely hypothetical) this MSI card with its higher-than-reference performance results were factored into the equation at $179 rather than $199, as seen above we’d have a new leader on our hands.

I didn’t think I’d be saying this about an AMD card this generation but the RX 470 is just feels too expensive for its own good with its competition coming from directly within the Radeon lineup rather than from external sources. I’m beginning to feel like the RX 480 4GB was conceived as an effort to compete against a rumored NVIDIA solution that never materialized and now AMD has to deal with the repercussions of its presence at $199. So, a card that has proven to be a thorn in the GTX 1060’s side now looks like a very real problem for the RX 470’s success too. And yet with the RX 480 is such short supply (particularly the 4GB versions) one has to wonder if buyers will end up looking towards this new solution. This has me wondering whether or not the RX 480 4GB will ever be available in anything but limited quantities since without it, the RX 470's $179 price point makes absolute sense.

The real head scratcher is that, for the life of me, I can’t determine whether or not AMD simply priced this card too high or they didn’t cut it down enough to justify charging less for it. I think this is a simple catch-22 situation. Had they introduced it at $149 or even $159 with custom cards like the Gaming X going for $179, sales of the RX 480 4GB could very well have been cannibalized. The RX 470’s performance per dollar metrics would have looked otherworldly. Meanwhile, had AMD sawed off more of the core to attain that lower price, its competitive aspects against whatever NVIDIA has up their sleeves may have been compromised. Neither situation is optimal but as it stands, the RX 470’s current positioning just feels off, almost like the RX 480 4GB was a simple last-minute placeholder that’s mucking up what should have been a flawless launch.


I also want to be perfectly clear that none of this critique is being leveled against MSI. They have designed an absolutely spectacular card which is quiet, maintains consistent clock speeds and looks great. Unfortunately I only had the card for two days before the NDA lifted so overclocking will be left out of this but I nonetheless have high expectations on that front too. Yet even with its upgraded components and extremely cool temperatures the Gaming X still highlights AMD’s challenges to provide optimal performance per watt against NVIDIA’s latest solutions. To see the RX 470 consume some 19W more than a GTX 1060 is worrying to say the least given its relative framerates.

I don’t really believe the RX 470 is a lost cause but its initial starting point of $179 is just a bit too high in my eyes. That price doesn’t give AMD’s board partners any flexibility to create premium derivatives without smashing face first into the higher performing RX 480 4GB.
 
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