The AMD RX 580 8GB Performance Review


Conclusion; One of the Best Just Got Better

AMD intends for the RX 580 to become a true spiritual successor to the popular RX 480 and there’s no doubt in my mind it accomplishes exactly that. Despite many things pointing to the contrary, this is much more than a rebrand since these cards are being offered with higher clock speeds and some notable updates to their power consumption profiles. Some may argue that a 1340MHz speed bin for Polaris was already widely available on board partners’ overclocked SKUs but now AMD is making those higher clocks the new norm.

The true impact of those new frequencies upon raw performance data is pretty significant: there’s a delta between the RX 480 and RX 580 that fluctuates from 5% to 10% and points between. Add in a card such as the Nitro+ and you’re looking at 7-13% in averages and the lowest 1% of framerates depending on the title being tested. While that might not seem like much, the RX 480 was already riding high after some key driver releases and this update pushes AMD even further ahead of the GTX 1060 6GB. From my perspective, NVIDIA needs to enact some quick price cuts before their mid-tier darling gets overwhelmed. As it stands right now, there isn’t a single scenario wherein I’d recommend the 1060 over the RX 580, especially with products like XFX’s RX580 GTS XXX Edition sitting at about $240.

While it would be an understatement to say I’m stoked about what the RX580 brings to the table, I have to temper my excitement with a quick call back to reality. There are two pretty serious (in my eyes at least) limitations that have to be discussed, both of which are a byproduct of pushing the Polaris 10 core to new heights. First and foremost amongst these is power consumption. With such high frequencies, this is one power hungry little bugger. In our tests it consumed just as much as a reference GTX 1070 and when overclocked to Sapphire’s levels it requires even more juice. For those keeping track at home, that’s a whole 70W higher than a GTX 1060 6GB Founders Edition. If you are building a small form factor system, this fact alone may eliminate the RX 580 from contention.

Then there’s overclocking and what can I say on that point? After hours of heartache and frustration I simply gave up trying to whip Wattman into line. The end result for both cards was less than a 60MHz (at best!) core clock increase. If I strayed even a half percent out of line, finer-grain monitoring tools like GPU-Z would show the core speed fluctuating madly even though Wattman registered the higher speed as being locked in. Go a bit further afield and a driver crash would necessitate a hard system reboot. Will more mature tools fix this? Perhaps but I’m not going to say things will change either. Doing so would be falling into the usual “wait and see” trap that doggedly follows on the heels of almost every launch these days.

I’m also going to throw up a flag of warning here to; not just for AMD but NVIDIA as well. Had I been limited to the card that was originally sampled –the $280 Sapphire Nitro+ Limited Edition – my opinions about the RX 580’s overall value would have been very, very different. This highlights the danger of sampling premium cards at launch; they rarely, if ever, offer a good price / performance comparison. I understand the need to highlight a board partner’s offerings but there are plenty of other options that can and should be sampled before halo products.

So I’m going to wrap this up here and now. I think the RX 580 is the best possible drop-in upgrade solution that money can buy provided your PSU is up to the task of powering it and there’s full awareness of the very limited overclocking headroom. Not only can this card offer superlative 1080P performance but it has the chops to power through high detail level 1440P content as well. NVIDIA’s GTX 1060 6GB can’t even come close, even when EVGA’s Superclocked edition is thrown into the mix.

Personally I’d recommend looking at options like XFX’s GTS XXX Edition that hover around the $240 to $250 mark for the best bang for buck. However, if you want something a bit more enthusiast-oriented, Sapphire’s Nitro+ Limited Edition will certainly fit the bill nicely but it is simply too expensive for this segment.

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