XFX RX 580 Black Edition

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I have had the pleasure of working with several GPUs throughout my lifetime. I have mostly stuck with Nvidia over the years but did bounce back and forth between AMD and NVidia. Since the launch of Ryzen, I have started liking AMD again. XFX has always been a company I had been eager to check out because of their business model. XFX has a company motto of not just “making great digital components but rather mind-blowing video cards with crushing performance”. XFX is a division of PINE Technology which is a manufacturer of gaming technologies. Today we will be looking at their latest solution from AMD, the RX 580. The 580 is a refresh of the 480, but with the launch of AMD “Vega” on the horizon can this card still find a place in the market? Let’s see if the 580 has anything new to offer Gamers and enthusiasts looking to upgrade their not so old RX 400 series cards.

The specifications of the 580:

RAM 8 GB
Memory Speed 8000 MHz
Graphics Card Ram Size 8 GB
Brand Name XFX
Item model number RX-580P8DFD6
Item Weight 2.5 pounds
Product Dimensions 10.6 x 1.6 x 4.9 inches
Item Dimensions L x W x H 10.63 x 1.57 x 4.88 inches
Computer Memory Type DDR5 SDRAM
Technologies
AMD FreeSync™ 2 technology Y
Radeon™ Chill Y
ReLive Capture Y
DirectX® 12  Y
Vulkan™ Y
AMD Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) Y
Radeon™ Software Y
AMD CrossFire™ Technology Y
AMD XConnect™ Ready  Y
AMD Eyefinity Technology Y
OpenCL™ Support Y
Polaris Architecture Y
AMD LiquidVR™ technology Y

Why the XFX 580?

The 580 is a refresh of the 480, and in fact, there are BIOS flashes going around online that can allow 480 owners to flash their card to 580 Specifications. What the 580 does offer though is optimizations and new control over the new cards. Polaris isn’t new but does offer 4th gen GCN graphics cores with a stunning display engine. The 580 is still built on the 14nm FinFET technology but XFX includes XFX OC and Radeon CHILL technology for easy overclocking. The XFX 580 here has a True Clock of 1405 MHz that can boost to 1425 MHz, and 8000 MHz Memory Clock that can boost up to 8100 Mhz. The thing that will set the XFX card apart from the rest will hopefully be its performance, cooling, and overclocking. We shall see later in benchmarks if XFX can stand out to be the best with its built-in technologies from AMD. The whole goal of the 580 is to become more competitive with the Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB model.

Shipping

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The product packaging displays useful information about the 580 and continues to the back with more information on the XFX technologies built with their RX 580 card. The red/black color scheme seems appropriate given its an AMD card. If you hadn’t noticed already it is VR ready, but not just ready, it’s premium ready.

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If there was such a thing as VR ready why not label everything with it. Oh wait, there is! Just like the RGB craze, everything needs to have RGB or be VR ready to be marketed towards gamers. There is some truth to this. In order to have a good VR experience, you need a pretty beefy system with at least a GTX 970 or AMD RX 480. So technically a GPU can be VR ready because you will need a smooth experience for VR to be enjoyable.

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It might be hard to make out but the internal cardboard box has an imprinted XFX logo. I really enjoy small details like this that someone might miss while tearing apart their packaging. It’s small details like this that help a product stand out against its competitors.

The included accessories are as follows:

  • XFX RX 580
  • Driver CD
  • Overclocking guide ( Not sure if this is only review units or not)
  • Warranty & Driver information cards

Next, we will get into the details and design of the card. Right off the bat, I noticed the white XFX logo which is really nice but adding some sort of lighting or RGB would be a welcomed addition to their top of the line cards. They do sell a model of these cards that have swappable LED fans. You can find more about that here. Seems some of these models are exclusive to Bestbuy!

Design

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This card is absolutely beautiful. It offers a very nice black finish with a ton of small details. Most notably you can see angular and linear details from the front. The XFX 580 offers 40% more efficiency through the unibody heatsink under the shroud. It has a direct transfer of heat over VRM which can increase thermal performance.

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The backplate does help protect your GPU and XFX claims it offers additional cooling. The backplate will help the card stay strong and prevent sagging or bending. XFX says the cooling occurs when heat is emitted and rises from the GPU and can act as heat transfer as the backplate absorbs the excess heat.

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Due to the heatsinks design, this 580 has enhanced VRM and memory cooling. XFX has spent several hundred hours researching ways to improve temperatures of this card. By doing this they have found ways to reduce temperatures of the VRM by up to 30% and GDDR temperatures by 20′ C. This also has a total effect on noise levels which can show additional 5% lower levels.

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XFX is also quieter than its competitors due to their ultra low noise inductors. Often inductors can cause loud buzzing noises when using low-quality parts, but XFX inductors are exclusive to them and offer a lower noise compared to other parts used in the market.

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Radeon chill is an intelligent power-saving feature for Radeon cards. It dynamically regulates your FPS based on your movements in your games. During peak gameplay, your GPU can deliver the full framerate potential and reduce it if performance decreases.

XFX OC will push your GPU beyond its True Clock potential. For more information on tweaking this using Wattman look at the instructions here.

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XFX has an all new composite heat pipe technology that they claim is the first super heatpipe. Essentially, the heatpipe is designed with both liquid and capilary action to increase surface area by up to 30%. This increases thermal efficiency by a large amount. By having a larger surface area, more heat will be exchanged and at a faster rate.

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The XFX RX 580 offers new control over your fans with Zero dB auto load. This new auto load technology is accomplished by new fans with load sensing technology. They can run at the highest possible setting for performance but the Zero dB fan system will keep your fans running at an efficient RPM to avoid annoying noise levels. You can have the performance when needed but also have a quiet system when you’re not doing intensive tasks.

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The RX 580 is designed to work with Vulkan cross-platform graphics. This next generation API uses high-level access to your GPU to provide maximum performance in applications.  It is built over OpenGL and can enhance even some current gen games. Check out what it has done for DOOM 2016.

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AMD Freesync is supported with the 580 and uses version 2. This will essentially help smooth out gameplay when using a FreeSync monitor. Vsync was developed to help get rid of screen tearing and has been around for some time. Screen tearing will occur when Vsync is disabled and the frame rate exceeds your display’s refresh rate. With Vsync on it eliminates tearing but stuttering can occur if the frame rate of your game falls below your monitors refresh rate. Higher refresh rate monitors are better for this, but FreeSync was developed to eliminate these issues altogether. FreeSync achieves this by taking your display’s refresh rate and syncing it with your GPU.

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AMD exclusively offers GPU scaling with multiple GPUs through its crossfire technology. “AMD CrossFire technology lets you connect multiple graphics cards to amplify your system’s graphics processing capability including enhancements that set a new standard of consistent and smooth gameplay”.GCN ( Graphics Core Next) allows more access to the core metal of the GPU. By doing this, you can expect faster performance within games and a smoother overall experience.  The 4th generation of GCN offers asynchronous shaders and an enhanced geometry engine. Puting GCN together with crossfire will give you a total package of performance that is can create the ultimate gaming experience.

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Eyefinity is an AMD technology that allows you to use multiple monitors, up to six displays without a performance hit over a single GPU. I have not had the luxury of testing this because I don’t own 6 monitors, but if I did I have a feeling this technology would offer a great dynamic experience.

The RX 580 is ready for the latest of displays by using the latest standards. Radeon GPUs with Polaris architecture support HDMI 2.0b and DispalyPort 1.3 for higher resolutions and refresh rates.

 

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You’re probably wondering what is different specifically other than the look fo this card than XFX’s competitors. For starters, XFX has built a good relationship with its customer to expect the best from XFX. Overclocking your card is never guaranteed but XFX factory overclocks the card and does the work for you. It is BIOS level tuned for optimal performance and is tested over state of the art equipment so each XFX card reaches its maximum performance level.

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XFX offers a 3-year warranty and is backed up their promise of a superior product.  This means you have protection by a 3-year limited hardware warranty on manufacturing defects of anything on the card.

Testing

Testing GPUs can be a lot of fun! Not only do you get to play games to check for performance, you can also easily overclock your card for extra performance. I will be looking at MSI AfterBurner software to inspect overclocking gains, test the cards performance with a few games, test noise levels, and power consumption.

Each game tested will use a resolution of WQHD 2560 x 1440, and using the highest possible refresh rate the monitor supports. I have an XG2703-GS Gsync monitor but Gsync only supports Nvidia GPUs. The refresh rate monitor does offer an overclocking mode of 165Hz with Gsync but 144Hz otherwise. I used 144Hz to be fair for both the RX 580 and GTX 1060 cards tested.

I also don’t have another monitor for testing HD resolution (1920 x 1080) but I should soon have a 1920 x 1080 monitor to compare results.

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My test bench is as follows:

  • ViewSonic XG2703-GS Monitor
  • Motherboard- Asus x370 Crosshair VI Hero
  • CPU: Ryzen 1700
  • Network Card- Netgear AC 1200 USB
  • Cooler- Thermaltake Contact Silent 12 AM4 air cooler
  • Memory- Corsair Vengeance DDR4 3000MHz
  • Video Card: RX 580 vs. GTX 1060
  • Storage- OCZ VX 500
  • Power Supply- Thermaltake PRO RGB 850W
  • OS: Windows 10 x64 Pro
  • Mouse- Logitech G403 Wireless Gaming Mouse
  • Keyboard- Coolermaster MasterLite Keys Keyboard
  • Headphones- Logitech G533 7.1 Surround Sound Wireless Headset

Overclocking

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Man, I don’t know where to start with the overclocking of this card. Seems there is a power road block with the RX series of cards. I have to say that at least it is factory overclocked from the reference speeds because I am only able to squeeze a little bit of performance out of the already overclocked card. The XFX card boasts 1425 in OC mode, from it’s 1405 True Clock. Getting to 1500 MHz is almost impossible and the card will actual reduce speeds. I was able to get just below that at around 1452 Mhz with a 2250 (x4) = 9000 Mhz memory overclock. Power was set to +50 load and I used my custom fan curves for noise levels. Increasing the power load here had caused me a ton of issues when trying to reach 1500 Mhz. I was only able to add a small amount of +15mV before I ran into a wall with frequencies.

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The average temperature recorded was during benchmarking and gameplay sessions. The RX 580 using my custom fan curves for both cards did have lower temps.

with current graphics cards, please make sure your PC is well ventilated. This will help on the overall GPU temperatures. Once the card reaches a certain threshold in temperature it will start throttling on the boost frequency as well as voltages and fan RPM.

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For noise testing, I used a high gain microphone. I want to explain a few things about noise testing, and this unit in particular.

First: Testing noise levels can be difficult. First, don’t expect the same levels even with similar hardware. There are too many differences and variables that go into sound testing. You have to account for background noise and other sounds in the environment.

Second: I am one reviewer, and am not a professional sound studio. I am not testing these items in perfect conditions. I do not have an anechoic sound chamber in my test studio.

Since GPUs produce a ton of heat you’re going to need to set up some form of fan curve. The higher the RPM the more heat that can be dissipated, but with a higher RPM level the sound of the fans can be a little bit annoying. I try and find a balance between noise and performance where I can. I optimally look at how loud it goes at 100% and set my curve based off of that. 50dB is equivalent to a noise level of a normal conversation and within reason.  These levels are within the margin of error of each other and might be a little different because the reference GTX 1060 has one blower style fan and the XFX RX 580 uses two fans.

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I tested the Watts used by using a KILL A WATT. This is also the total power consumed by my entire system. These levels will vary differently from system to system, and my system is also overclocked which will also use more power. The difference between the GTX 1060 and RX 580 isn’t that much, I would say that the difference here is the single six-pin PCIe connector required for the 1060 vs the RX 580’s 8 pin connector. It will take more power for the RX 580 to be overclocked but Both these cards are overclocked. This is another reason why the 1060 is close to the power of the RX 580.

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Bf1 shows some promising results of the RX 580 as it basically trades blows with the GTX 1060. 78 FPS vs 80 FPS is very minimal and could vary from game to game.

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I suppose this wouldn’t be an AMD review without checking out Ashes of singularity. This benchmark is brutal and taxes your hardware like crazy. The idea here though is that it has been optimized well with Ryzen and AMD hardware. It is a DX 12 benchmark and resembles an older game called Total Annihilation. I ran the benchmark on high to really push each GPU. We do see the RX 580 push ahead in performance here over the GTX 1060 and this might be the case because of in game optimizations.

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This is the most interesting benchmark fo all because I decided to test each card using the Vulkan API. DOOM 2016 in itself is my favorite game of 2016 and definitely is worth your time. Each card performs extremely well here but when ran in Vulkan mode the RX 580 pulls ahead by 7 FPS. Vulkan is still new so I don’t have a definitive answer it’s better optimized over AMD or Nvidia but both GPU manufacturers include support for it. There are not enough games yet to test the full potential of Vulkan or even compare results to.

Conclusion

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The RX 580 definitely offers a bit more in performance as a refresh. Also, RX 480 owners will be happy to know they can update their BIOS to a 580 BIOS. I do have a few criticisms though for this card. First RGB is a total craze right now and would be welcomed on this XFX card. The second criticism I have is the initial investment. If you already own a 480 then there isn’t a huge reason to upgrade to the newly refreshed card. It does sport faster frequencies from the factory but this is easily accomplished with the BIOS flash or overclocking.

As far as design goes the XFX RX 580 card looks fantastic. In my opinion, it’s the best looking aftermarket card available. I love the included fans and VRM solution and this card when setting up with the proper fan curve isn’t too loud and perform fantastically. At times the RX 580 definitely was beating the GTX 1060. I think between the two cards you couldn’t go wrong for WQHD gaming. Each card trades blows with different specifications but ultimately are very similar in performance. The RX 580 is also cheaper than the reference GTX 1060 which makes it an even more compelling option when purchasing a new graphics card. You can buy the XFX RX 580 right now for $249.99 on Amazon.

 

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XFX RX 580 Black Edition

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