The Radeon RX 480 Reference Card

The reference design for the Radeon RX 480 is a combination of the design language used in the Fury X and R9 Nano and the lower cost materials necessary to hit that $199 price point.

The black-on-red color scheme continues along with the screw-on front plate design. The new Radeon font and logo is stickered on the radial blower-style fan and the plastic of the shroud as well. Unfortunately, there is no red LED illumination – something that I think would have added to the appeal of the reference cooler.

Much like the GTX 1070/1080 cards, and most reference designs from both AMD and NVIDIA, the RX 480 will ship with a blower-style cooler mean to expel as much heat from the chassis as possible. This is good news for users that build small form factor systems or for system integrators like Falcon Northwest, but it will mean higher noise levels than with other aftermarket cooler designs.

The PCB of the RX 480 is shorter than the cooler; a trend we see being expanded on by all parties. It’s not quite as short as the R9 Nano was, but it’s still impressive. The cooler is able to draw air in from behind the card as well as in front it thanks to the open back design.

There are no CrossFire connection up top – the Radeon RX 480 continues to use PCI Express for CrossFire communication using xDMA.

The RX 480 requires a single 6-pin power connector – though I wouldn’t be surprised to see partners’ cards ship with 8-pin or multiple 6-pin in an attempt to find more headroom for the GPU in overclocking.

Output connectivity on the card includes three full-size DisplayPort connections and an HDMI 2.0 port. Lacking DVI is kind of a bummer for a budget friendly card, honestly, but I imagine most gamers running at 1080p will have HDMI-equipped displays.

The cooler on the RX 480 isn’t exceptionally loud, but the blower style design is going to win any awards from quiet PC enthusiasts. At idle it does well but under a full load it is definitely louder than the cooler used on the GTX 1080 Founders Edition. Unfortunately I don’t have a reference design GTX 970 card to test so the results you see here are from an EVGA ACX 2.0 retail unit. It’s not a fair comparison, but I wanted to show how the new Radeon compares to some other products on the market today.

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