AMD Aims for the Mid-Range Crown With $200 Radeon RX 480

AMD Aims for the Mid-Range Crown With $200 Radeon RX 480

AMD's newest video card is all about providing affordable power for games.

AMD has finally announced its latest video card: the AMD Radeon RX 480. The RX 480 is the first follow-up to the company's R9 300 series and the first card in its new Polaris architecture. Polaris is built on a 14nm FinFET design, as opposed to the 300 series' 28nm processor. In layman's terms, that means more graphical prowess with a lower power draw.

Most expected AMD to open with its high-end cards to compete with Nvidia's recently announced GTX 1080 and 1070. Instead, AMD is aiming for the mid-range segment with the RX 480. The card will come in two versions: a 4GB and 8GB model. The 4GB version will cost $199, while the 8GB model's price is still underdetermined. It'll likely come in at around $249 or lower, given the pricing of current video cards.

Theoretically, the specs of the RX 480 (via AnandTech) put it around AMD's Radeon R9 390 or Nvidia's GTX 980 in power. The thing is, both of those cards cost way more than $250. Every now and then, a card comes along that provides the right mix of power and pricing, becoming the de facto answer for "Which video card do I buy?" for all but the most hardcore of enthusiasts. If Nvidia doesn't answer the RX 480 with an equally-priced GTX 1060, it becomes the mainstream gaming card. $250 for a great 8GB gaming card is amazing.

Beyond that, AMD is hoping to ride the virtual reality wave to success. Both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift require rather strong desktops to power their games. Both headsets call for an Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better to function, meaning the cost to entry is rather high. The RX 480 matches or beats the aforementioned cards in price and outclasses them both in power. AMD is hoping to be the answer for, "What card do I buy for VR?" as well. And VR owners are on board.

"We congratulate AMD for bringing a premium VR ready GPU to market at a $199 price point," said HTC virtual reality vice president Dan O'Brien in the press release.

Hint: smaller is better.

"We've seen an incredible range of immersive applications and game-changing experiences that have given millions of people around the world their first taste of virtual reality," said Oculus VP of product Nate Mitchell. "AMD is going to help drive that adoption forward even more by bringing their high-end VR GPUs to the $199 price point."

There are still some issues though. There are no benchmarks yet, outside of a few leaks and AMD's numbers. AMD still has to contend with a rather poor driver situation in some titles; what good is all that power if the drivers aren't up to snuff? Assuming this new push into the mainstream, I'm hoping that AMD's programmers are working on hard on ensuring support for the latest and greatest games.

Regardless, AMD has thrown a solid feint at Nvidia. The Radeon RX 480 will be launching on June 29 with further information on the card and the pricing for the 8GB model coming later this month.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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