The AMD RX 580 8GB Performance Review


Analyzing Temperatures & Frequencies Over Time

Modern graphics card designs make use of several advanced hardware and software facing algorithms in an effort to hit an optimal balance between performance, acoustics, voltage, power and heat output. Traditionally this leads to maximized clock speeds within a given set of parameters. Conversely, if one of those last two metrics (those being heat and power consumption) steps into the equation in a negative manner it is quite likely that voltages and resulting core clocks will be reduced to insure the GPU remains within design specifications. We’ve seen this happen quite aggressively on some AMD cards while NVIDIA’s reference cards also tend to fluctuate their frequencies. To be clear, this is a feature by design rather than a problem in most situations.

In many cases clock speeds won’t be touched until the card in question reaches a preset temperature, whereupon the software and onboard hardware will work in tandem to carefully regulate other areas such as fan speeds and voltages to insure maximum frequency output without an overly loud fan. Since this algorithm typically doesn’t kick into full force in the first few minutes of gaming, the “true” performance of many graphics cards won’t be realized through a typical 1-3 minute benchmarking run. Hence why we use a 10-minute warm up period before all of our benchmarks.

I think the first thing to do here is to properly explain how AMD’s board partners are treating temperature this time around. Rather than letting their own nominal fan speed algorithms dictate temperatures, each card’s BIOS is loaded with a specific temperature and clock speed target. With those targets in mind, fan speed curves are adjusted to meet them.

In this instance you can see that the temperatures of both XFX and Sapphire cards top out between the 73°C to 75°C marks. Both of those are a long stretch away from the reference RX 480 but the results are to be expected from cards with extensive custom coolers like these.

Moving on the frequencies and we can see exactly where the RX 580 gets all of its performance from. Whereas the reference RX 480 struggled to maintain a continual 1250MHz clock rate in our tests, the XFX card topped out at 1366MHz while Sapphire’s Nitro+ pushed itself to 1411MHz. One thing to note is that unlike NVIDIA’s Boost algorithm, AMD’s PowerTune technology isn’t designed to take advantage of excess thermal headroom by offering “higher than boost” frequencies. Rather, PowerTune strives to hit a given clock and sits there regardless of how cool the silicon is running.

The actual performance differences between these three cards needs to be discussed as well since the chart above relates directly back to all of the in-game performance benchmarks we just ran through. The delta between the near-reference XFX RX 580 GTS XXX and the reference RX 480 is about 7% which is about where things lined up in all of the other tests.

Meanwhile, the Sapphire card’s $40 premium over the GTS XXX edition nets you a very marginal 4% increase. That result is particularly telling since it highlights why sometimes premium priced, pre-overclocked GPUs actually deliver less performance per dollar than less expensive models.

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