Is it time to buy that new GPU?

How much added performance does an RX 580 offer on a new game like Prey?

Testing commissioned by AMD. This means that AMD paid us for our time, but had no say in the results or presentation of them.

Earlier this week Bethesda and Arkane Studios released Prey, a first-person shooter that is a re-imaging of the 2006 game of the same name. Fans of System Shock will find a lot to love about this new title and I have found myself enamored with the game…in the name of science of course.

While doing my due diligence and performing some preliminary testing to see if we would utilize Prey for graphics testing going forward, AMD approached me to discuss this exact title. With the release of the Radeon RX 580 in April, one of the key storylines is that the card offers a reasonably priced upgrade path for users of 2+ year old hardware. With that upgrade you should see some substantial performance improvements and as I will show you here, the new Prey is a perfect example of that.

Targeting the Radeon R9 380, a graphics card that was originally released back in May of 2015, the RX 580 offers substantially better performance at a very similar launch price. The same is true for the GeForce GTX 960: launched in January of 2015, it is slightly longer in the tooth. AMD’s data shows that 80% of the users on Steam are running on R9 380X or slower graphics cards and that only 10% of them upgraded in 2016. Considering the great GPUs that were available then (including the RX 480 and the GTX 10-series), it seems more and more likely that we going to hit an upgrade inflection point in the market.

A simple experiment was setup: does the new Radeon RX 580 offer a worthwhile upgrade path for those many users of R9 380 or GTX 960 classifications of graphics cards (or older)?

  Radeon RX 580 Radeon R9 380 GeForce GTX 960
GPU Polaris 20 Tonga Pro GM206
GPU Cores 2304 1792 1024
Rated Clock 1340 MHz 918 MHz 1127 MHz
Memory 4GB
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit
TDP 185 watts 190 watts 120 watts
MSRP (at launch) $199 (4GB)
$239 (8GB)
$219 $199

For my testing I am using our Frame Rating capture-based performance method to see how much performance improvement we see in Prey. The target this time was to see if users going for this upgrade could reliably run at 2560×1440 resolution at the Very High quality preset.

Here are the results.

Clearly the new Radeon RX 580 8GB graphics card produces a better overall gaming experience in Prey than the R9 380 and the GTX 960. The difference between being able to run this new PC title at 60+ FPS at 2560×1440 or NOT, with high image quality settings enabled, is a mid-range graphics card upgrade.

Radeon RX 580 8GB, Average FPS Comparisons, Prey
  Radeon R9 380 4GB GeForce GTX 960 2GB
2560×1440 +74% +60%

The new Radeon RX 580 is 74% faster than the R9 380 and 60% faster than the GTX 960 in Prey, at Very High image quality settings at 2560×1440. That is not an insignificant delta!!

Prey is just one game, but this trend is something that AMD has been promoting since before the RX 500-series hit the street. Older GPUs and graphics cards based on them continue to fall behind in terms of both performance and power efficiency. If you are planning to run at resolutions higher than 1080p, or even if you want to run at higher refresh rates than 60 Hz at 1080p, then it may be time to start looking for that replacement hardware.

For the vast majority of consumers that purchase hardware in the $250 and below range, AMD’s new Radeon RX 580 family is a great choice.