AMD Radeon RX 480 Power Draw Controversy Rev. 3.0

Page 2 : New Driver To Correct RX 480 Power Draw, Our Opinion

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New Driver To Correct RX 480 Power Draw

At 3:14 PM on July 6 (GMT+8), AMD’s Communications Lead, Garrath Johnson, emailed us the solution that AMD has developed – a new driver to correct the excessive Radeon RX 480 power draw from the PCI Express bus. Check it out :

We promised an update today (July 5, 2016) following concerns around the Radeon RX 480 drawing excess current from the PCIe bus. Although we are confident that the levels of reported power draws by the Radeon RX 480 do not pose a risk of damage to motherboards or other PC components based on expected usage, we are serious about addressing this topic and allaying outstanding concerns. Towards that end, we assembled a worldwide team this past weekend to investigate and develop a driver update to improve the power draw. We’re pleased to report that this driver—Radeon Software 16.7.1—is now undergoing final testing and will be released to the public in the next 48 hours.

In this driver we’ve implemented a change to address power distribution on the Radeon RX 480 – this change will lower current drawn from the PCIe bus.

Separately, we’ve also included an option to reduce total power with minimal performance impact. Users will find this as the “compatibility” UI toggle in the Global Settings menu of Radeon Settings. This toggle is “off” by default.

Finally, we’ve implemented a collection of performance improvements for the Polaris architecture that yield performance uplifts in popular game titles of up to 3%1. These optimizations are designed to improve the performance of the Radeon RX 480, and should substantially offset the performance impact for users who choose to activate the “compatibility” toggle.

AMD is committed to delivering high quality and high performance products, and we’ll continue to provide users with more control over their product’s performance and efficiency. We appreciate all the feedback so far, and we’ll continue to bring further performance and performance/W optimizations to the Radeon RX 480.

1: Based on data running ’Total War: Warhammer’, ultra settings, 1080p resolution. Radeon Software 16.6.2 74.2FPS vs Radeon Software 16.7.1 78.3FPS; Metro Last Light, very high settings, 1080p resolution, 80.9FPS vs 82.7 FPS. Witcher 3, Ultra settings, 1440p, 31.5FPS vs 32.5, Far Cry 4, ultra settings, 1440p, 54.65FPS vs 56.38FPS, 3DMark11 Extreme, 22.8 vs 23.7  System config: Core i7-5960X, 16GB DDR4-2666MHz, Gigabyte X99-UD4, Windows 10 64-bit. Performance figures are not average, may vary from run-to-run.

 

Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.7.1

The Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.7.1 driver is now available! Here are the compatibility and performance updates that promises to solve the Radeon RX 480 power draw problem :

  • The Radeon RX 480’s power distribution has been improved for AMD reference boards, lowering the current drawn from the PCIe bus.
  • A new “compatibility mode” UI toggle has been made available in the Global Settings menu of Radeon Settings. This option is designed to reduce total power with minimal performance impact if end users experience any further issues.  This toggle is “off” by default.
  • Performance improvements for the Polaris architecture that yield performance uplifts in popular game titles of up to 3%. These optimizations are designed to improve the performance of the Radeon RX 480, and should substantially offset the performance impact for users who choose to activate the “compatibility” toggle.

Also, the Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.7.1 driver appears to fix the limited PCI Express bandwidth on the Radeon RX 480, giving it a further boost in performance :

  • Radeon RX 480 limited PCI-E Bandwidth (PCI-E bandwidth is now at the correct speed on the Radeon RX 480) with Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.7.1.

You can download the new drivers below :

 

Our Opinion

AMD has basically acknowledged that the Radeon RX 480 does indeed draw more power over the PCI Express bus than is allowed by the PCI Express specifications. That is also a tacit acknowledgement that the Radeon RX 480 has a thermal design power (TDP) in excess of 150 W.

They claim that the excessive Radeon RX 480 power draw will not damage the motherboard or related components. However, they also qualify that as limited to “expected usage” – that means using the Radeon RX 480 as is, and not overclocking it.

The Radeon Software Crimson Edition 16.7.1 driver they just released offers 3 changes :

  • shifting the excessive power draw from the PCI Express bus to the 6-pin PCIe power cable.
  • reduce the power consumption of Radeon RX 480 through a “compatibility” toggle in the driver.
  • improve the Radeon RX 480‘s performance by 3%, to offset the reduced performance when the “compatibility” toggle is enabled

We have a dedicated article covering the Radeon Software 16.7.1, which looks at its performance improvements. You can check it out here -> Radeon Software 16.7.1 Performance Comparison.

Although AMD implied that the performance impact of the “compatibility” toggle is substantially less than 3%, we examined its real impact and how much the Radeon Software 16.7.1 driver’s performance offset it. Check it out in our article – True Performance of the Radeon RX 480 Examined.

Going forward, we expect the Radeon RX 480 cards to eventually ship with an 8-pin PCI Express power connector for “compatibility” reasons.

 

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