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AMD details driver fix for Radeon RX 480's controversial, spec-exceeding power draw

Brad Chacos | July 7, 2016
AMD's $200 Radeon RX 480 draws much more power than it should through your motherboard, which could damage low-end systems.

So I guess we’ll hear more on Tuesday. If the software fix involves reducing the power draw for the RX 480, that’ll most likely lower performance in the reference editions of the card as well, especially since Polaris’ performance is closely tied to the card’s power limit.

radeon rx 480 5
Brad Chacos

It’s too bad that 6-pin connector on the AMD Radeon RX 480 isn’t an 8-pin.

The real bummer: This all could’ve been avoided if AMD had simply used an 8-pin or 2x 6-pin power connectors. I’d expect many custom RX 480s from AMD’s partners to beef up the card’s pins, both to increase the card’s overclocking potential and to completely sidestep this troubling power consumption issue.

It’s a damned shame AMD overreached with the single 6-pin connector rather than playing it safe. The Radeon RX 480 redefines what’s possible with a $200 graphics card, and indeed consumes far less power than the older R9 390/390X that it’s comparable to performance-wise. Oh well. Again, while you’re waiting to hear more from AMD on Tuesday, I’d highly recommend reading PC Perspective’s exhaustive analysis on the RX 480’s power draw issue. It’s stellar.

UPDATE: Here’s AMD’s promised update in full:

“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%. 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.

 

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