AMD launched an entire refresh cycle of its midrange graphics cards today. While our review focuses on the RX 580, AMD is also shipping new SKUs for the RX 460 and 470, as well as a new part, the RX 550. Let’s step through what’s changed for these chips, and what the updates mean for gamers in these market segments.
RX 560 and RX 570
The RX 560 and RX 570 are both iterative improvements of the RX 460 and RX 470 GPUs AMD launched nearly a year ago. Both Anandtech and Hot Hardware included the RX 570 in their reviews, and it broadly shows the same pattern as the RX 580 — which is to say, performance is improved by ~12 percent, the GPUs are quieter (thanks to improved cooling solutions relative to AMD’s reference designs on the RX 470 / RX 480), and they throttle much less. The flip side is that these GPUs do burn more power. Anandtech’s review implies that the RX 570’s power curve is a bit better than the RX 580s, meaning the gap between the stock RX 470 and a custom, overclocked RX 570 is about 10 percent smaller than the equivalent gap between a stock RX 480 and an overclocked RX 580. Since the RX 570 is also clocked lower than the RX 580, this fits our theory that Polaris is slamming into the top of its frequency curve. We don’t know how much headroom is left in these chips, but we’re fairly certain tapping it will burn larger and larger amounts of power relative to measured performance improvement.
The RX 570 is positioned between the upper-end of the GTX 1050 Ti’s price range and the bottom of the GTX 1060 3GB’s. The 1050 Ti is decidedly outclassed by the RX 570, while the 1060 3GB is more of a toss-up. As Eurogamer’s results show, there are comparisons where AMD wins that match and others where it loses.
The RX 460 is a bit different from its predecessor, in that it now has more available GPU cores and a higher clock speed.
The RX 460 had 896 cores, 56 texture mapping units, and 16 ROPS (896:56:16). The RX 560 is a 1024:64:16 design with a base clock of 1175MHz compared with the RX 460’s 1090MHz, for a gain of 8 percent. Boost clocks have also increased by 6 percent.
Between the additional cores and the higher clocks, the RX 560 should be a strong update to the RX 460. AMD is claiming that the RX 560 should be on store shelves by early May with an SEP of $ 100 for a 2GB card. The RX 460 isn’t as fast as Nvidia’s GTX 1050 or GTX 1050 Ti, but the RX 560’s higher clocks and expanded core counts should help AMD’s budget GPU compete more effectively. If OEMs offer factory overclocked cards, we could see the RX 560 unseating the GTX 1050 as the budget GPU of choice. It’ll also help if 4GB cards end up in the $ 100 – $ 120 price range — currently the cheapest RX 460 with a 4GB frame buffer is $ 109 at Newegg.
The RX 550, aka Polaris 12
Finally, AMD is shipping an RX 550 for the first time, to anchor the sub-$ 100 market. AMD and Nvidia haven’t put much focus on this space for several years — most people who buy hardware in this price bracket use an integrated GPU. AMD’s GPUs in this price band have been based on Cape Verde (GCN 1.0) or Oland (GCN 1.x — it’s a variant between GCN 1.0 and 1.1, with some, but not all, of Hawaii’s features).
AMD hasn’t released much information about the RX 550 yet. We know it’s built on a new GPU, codenamed Polaris 12, with a boost clock of 1175MHz, 512 cores, and 2GB of VRAM. The memory bus is still 128-bit, and the RX 550 reportedly has 32 texture mapping units, or TMUs.
The biggest factor in the RX 550’s performance is probably its ROP count. The R7 250X was significantly faster than the R7 250 because it fielded a 640:40:16 core as opposed to a 384:24:8 core. If AMD uses 16 ROPs (512:32:16), the RX 550 should easily win past the R7 250X. If AMD only uses 8 ROPS, performance predictions get a good deal murkier.
Either way, it’s much faster than AMD’s R7 250. This new GPU is being positioned as an entry-level gaming GPU, with HDMI 2.0b support, HEVC and 4K playback capability, and as being available in low-profile designs for SFF form factors where your ability to upgrade your GPU may be sharply limited by space. It’s also an obvious attempt to win laptop designs, where power is at a premium.
AMD isn’t doing anything fundamentally new with its RX 5xx refresh cycle, but both the RX 560 and RX 570 should be noticeably faster than their predecessors, improving the company’s competitive stance against Team Green.
The RX 550 isn’t likely to be a major profit center. But there are people who like PC gaming, but can’t afford to spend much money on hardware. If you’re stuck on an old R7 250, we expect the RX 550 to offer drastically better performance for well under $ 100. Exactly how closely it matches the RX 560 will depend on how many ROPs the GPU is configured with.