AMD has had a big year. With the highly successful launch of its Ryzen 7 CPUs, followed by the Ryzen 5s, the company is on a roll with new products. They’re competitive, cheap and tick all the right boxes for many customers. But AMD isn’t done with 2017 just yet. There are still more Ryzen chips to come, along with new Accelerated Processing Units (APUs) and a brand new high range graphics card architecture. Meanwhile, AMD has also done a mild refresh of its Polaris graphics cards, with the launch of the Radeon RX500 series.
As product refreshes go, the RX500 series is an evolution, a tweak, of the original Polaris GPU architecture. The existing products based on Polaris 10 (RX480 and RX470) and Polaris 11 (RX460) all get a number bump to RX580, RX570 and RX560 respectively. A newer, smaller version of Polaris, codenamed Polaris 12 joins the product portfolio. Polaris 12 is an entry level product, and will be named the RX550. This is an entirely new product, since the RX460 was the cheapest of the Polaris cards in the previous product cycle.
So you may ask, just what does the RX500 series bring to the table? AMD has refined the 14nm manufacturing process for the cards, bringing a mild increase in both base and boost clock speeds. For example, the RX480 has a base clock of 1120MHz with a maximum boost clock speed of 1266MHz. The RX580 bumps those values up to 1257MHz and 1340MHz, respectively. That’s a relatively large increase in clock speeds on both counts. Similar gains are seen across the other products in the stack, though RAM speeds remain the same. However, the increase in clock speed does come with a price.
The price is a massive increase in peak power consumption. The 14nm manufacturing process that AMD is using for Polaris is aimed at low powered devices. Unfortunately, graphics cards are the complete opposite of this, and the higher up in clock speed you go, an exponential increase in power consumption is the result. However, there is a counter balance here too. AMD has, through refining the manufacturing process, also managed to decrease idle power usage dramatically. This means that the Radeon RX500 series will consume much less power when under light loads. You can’t be playing games all day every day, right?
If you’re interested in the new Radeon RX500 series, you’re in luck. Initial supplies of the graphics cards have already hit our shores. A quick price check at the usual suspects show custom RX580s to be about AU$400, and custom RX570s to be just over AU$300. Either way, they’re decent mid-range products. If you’re still hanging out for high end graphics cards, Vega is coming. Soon.