The Radeon RX 480 graphics card has become AMD’s main novelty in the graphics market. She opened a new generation of Polaris video accelerators based on the 14nm process technology. Previously, we introduced you to the standard reference design Radeon RX 480 model. Among its features is a simple cooling system, which clearly limited the overclocking potential. Therefore, the expectations of many users were associated with non-reference cards. And finally, after some waiting period, such models began to appear on sale. What can the Radeon RX 480 with improved cooling do? We will find out on the example of the ASUS ROG Strix RX 480 video card.
ASUS ROG STRIX-RX480-O8G-GAMING
The video card in question comes in a standard box for ASUS. The package includes Velcro ties for wires, a disk with software, instructions and an invite code for 15 days of World of Warships premium.
Structurally, the video card does not differ from other ASUS ROG Strix models of the middle and higher price levels. Including there are no visual differences with STRIX-GTX1060-O6G-GAMING.
Compared to the reference variants, this card looks simply monstrous. Its length reaches 30 centimeters, a massive cooler is equipped with three fans at once. There certainly will not be any problems with overheating.
The reverse side of the video card is protected by a metal plate with a simple geometric pattern on the surface. On the right side is a large illuminated ROG logo.
On the side, a massive radiator is clearly visible, only partially covered with a plastic casing. The Republic of Gamers inscription on the side of the case is also not complete without LED backlighting.
In the corner there is one 8-pin power connector, which is turned with the latch up.
There are five display connectors on the rear panel: two HDMI and DisplayPort plus one DVI. The presence of a pair of HDMI simplifies the connection of virtual reality (VR) systems.
There are LED strips under the ASUS shroud, and there is an LED panel under the ROG logo on the back plate. This backlight is configurable through the Aura Software app. You can not only change the color in a wide range, but also turn on various lighting effects with pulsation, flicker, etc.
No surprises with the cooling system. The cooler is completely identical to those installed on all older ASUS models. It is based on five thick heat pipes with direct contact technology. In this case, the graphics chip is covered by three heat pipes, which is better than the contact with two pipes of the GeForce GTX 1060 Strix.
The radiator consists of two separate sections, which are pierced by heat pipes. One of the sections complements the base, where all the tubes are fixed. The second section «hangs» on four tubes and along the way removes heat from the VRM unit. For contact with power elements there is a special platform with a thermal pad. This joint design is very efficient for cooling the VRM directly, but increases the overall heat load on the cooler.
A large radiator is blown by three 92 mm fans.
Power Logic PLD09210S12HH fans are used.
A small heatsink for memory chips is provided. But it does not cover all the microcircuits, and the contact with the rest is incomplete. Taking into account the airflow of the board with three fans, this is a small problem.
The PCB is made with a unique design that differs markedly from the standard short board.
Based on a single unified design for older models, a lot in common with STRIX-GTX1060-O6G-GAMING and even with STRIX-GTX1070-O8G-GAMING.
The GPU is powered by a 6-phase system using DrMOS chips. High quality, durable capacitors and chokes are soldered to the Super Alloy Power II standard.
The Polaris 10 processor sits on the substrate at a 45° angle and is protected by a large bezel. Eight gigabytes of memory are typed in GDDR5 Samsung K4G80325FB-HC25 chips.
Recommended frequencies for Radeon RX 480 1266/8000 are MHz. ASUS ROG Strix runs at 1330/8000 MHz (core/memory). The specified core frequency is the maximum.
The reference video card at 1266 MHz has a base value of 1120 MHz, below which the frequency should not fall even at maximum load. For ASUS, the base frequency is not indicated, we can assume that it is at the level of 1184 MHz or higher. For older Radeons or GeForces, the frequency was largely dependent on temperature, and powerful cooling allowed for maximum Boost. In the case of the Radeon RX 480, everything clearly rests on severe power limits, and even the Strix also has a “floating” frequency. When tested in Tom Clancy’s The Division (lower left screenshot) in Full HD, the core frequencies kept below the 1300 MHz mark, there were drawdowns up to 1255 MHz. Peak core temperature did not exceed 63 °C. The heavier benchmark Metro: Last Light at 2K warmed up the core to 65 ° C.
Note that this testing was carried out on an open bench at 24 °C indoors. The fan speed was slightly above 1500 rpm, the noise was minimal. The reference version with a turbine cooler has a core temperature that easily exceeds the 80 °C mark with a higher noise level.
The video card supports several operating modes. The frequencies of 1330/8000 MHz correspond to OC Mode, in Gaming Mode the frequency is reduced to 1310 MHz, the quiet Silent Mode provides for a core frequency of 1290 MHz.
To overclock new Radeons, you can use the WattMan application, which is part of the AMD Settings software package, or specialized utilities from video card manufacturers. ASUS GPU Tweak II supports all the overclocking and monitoring features of Polaris family graphics cards. If we talk about monitoring the parameters, then in the case of the ASUS ROG Strix RX 480, even the data from the VRM temperature sensor and many other advanced data are available to the user. But there is one caveat with overclocking — this application limits the memory frequency, not allowing it to be raised above 8160 MHz.
This limitation can be bypassed in WattMan. On the other hand, AMD’s application doesn’t allow fine tuning of the core frequency in very small increments, as is possible with ASUS GPU Tweak. As a result, we did the following: first, we selected the core overclocking in ASUS GPU Tweak, and then raised the memory frequency in AMD WattMan. Using these methods, we managed to pass all the tests with a frequency configuration of 1365/8680 MHz. Increasing the power limit to the maximum made it possible to stabilize the core frequency at the maximum with minimal deviations up to 1360 MHz. This is illustrated below with a screenshot of monitoring parameters in Metro: Last Light. The fan speed was manually raised to 1900 rpm.
Memory overclocking can be called standard for the Radeon RX 480. But 1365 MHz in the core is a real achievement against the background of the overclocking that our reference video adapter demonstrated. This frequency was given by ASUS with a slight increase in voltage, higher frequencies led to artifacts or sudden throttling. The latter happened once at 1365 MHz, so we will consider this value as the limit for Strix.