Introduction, Design Performance (Part I)
[Editors’ Note: Be aware that pricing and features for video cards based on a given graphics chip can vary, depending on the actual card maker. AMD and Nvidia make video “reference cards” based on their graphics processors, which they often send out for review. Third-party partners—MSI, Sapphire, Gigabyte, EVGA, Asus, and many others—make and sell cards that often adhere closely to the design of these reference boards (“stock boards”), as well as versions with slight differences in port configuration, clocking, the amount and speed of onboard memory, and the cooling fans or heat sinks installed. Be sure the specs and ports/connections on any “partner” board you’re looking at match what we’ve reviewed before making any assumptions. Here, we’re reviewing Gigabyte’s upticked version of the Radeon RX 470; AMD didn’t issue a reference version of this board.]
Now that AMD’s Radeon RX 470 graphics processor (GPU) has been out in the wild for a bit, tricked-out cards from AMD’s partners are starting to find their way to our testing lab. We’ve already sampled a fiery version of this particular GPU from PowerColor, which was a decent value and ominously named the Red Devil Radeon RX 470. We also just landed the subject of today’s review, the Gigabyte Radeon RX 470 G1 Gaming 4G, which has even more flair.
Gigabyte’s version is designed similarly to the Red Devil, in that it offers the same “Polaris 10”-architecture GPU, a sizable dual-fan cooling apparatus, and a bit of overclocking right out of the box. The most obvious difference between this Gigabyte card and the PowerColor variant is that the Gigabyte offers swanky RGB lighting. Gigabyte’s card cost about the same when we wrote this; the Gigabyte was around $189.99 from most retailers, while the PowerColor card sold from $179.99 to $199.99. We’ll call the pricing a wash. At this writing, AMD was also offering the 2016 game Hitman as a bonus with purchasing select Radeon cards, including these; we noticed this specifically on Newegg.com.
This G1 card, in particular, is Gigabyte’s premium offering among its Radeon RX 470-class cards—or perhaps we should say more premium. Gigabyte offers only two versions of the Radeon RX 470 (the other is the Gigabyte Radeon RX 470 WindForce 4G), unlike some other chip lines, which may come in four or five variants packing the same GPU. Then again, for midrange video cards, there’s not a whole lot you can do beyond slap on a fat cooler, perhaps overclock it a smidge, add some buzzwords, and call it a day.
The Radeon RX 470 G1 Gaming 4G has the aforementioned huge cooler, RGB lighting on the top edge (in two spots), a metal backplate (which, like on the Red Devil, seems a bit gratuitous in a card this price, but looks cool), and a “binned” GPU. What that means is that Gigabyte has pretested its RX 470 chips and put the highest-performing ones aside to use in the G1 Gaming 4G cards.
In theory, then, the GPU here should boost and overclock better than the ones in the lower-end WindForce Radeon RX 470 it sells. That card is very much similar to the G1 Gaming 4G, but features a…let’s call it “un-binned” GPU, and is set to run at AMD’s stock speeds for the RX 470. Otherwise, the cards are much the same, both outfitted with RGB lighting, a backplate, and a dual-fan cooler. Also almost the same? The basic specs. The out-of-the-box core-clock delta between the G1 Gaming 4G and the WindForce 4G is just 24MHz, which we suspect won’t make much difference.
As far as specs on the G1 Gaming 4G go, as we noted, it’s lightly overclocked, with a maximum boost clock speed of 1,230MHz, or 24MHz over the stock boost-clock spec. The card sports 4GB of GDDR5 RAM that runs on a wide 256-bit interface, and has a thermal design power (TDP) rating of 120 watts. (Gigabyte recommends a 500-watt power supply for use with this card, which is almost certainly way more than necessary unless you’re pairing it with a massively overclocked high-end CPU or other power-hungry components.)
This particular card features an eight-pin PCI Express power connector, which, like the backplate, seems a bit excessive for a card of this class. Because the PCI Express slot provides just 75 watts, there’s certainly a need for additional power, but many partner cards are just fine with a six-pin connector, so it’s interesting that the modest out-of-the-box overclock here is calling for the two extra pins. Maybe it’s there for overhead, to give the card some additional overclocking cred. We’re not complaining too much (it’s always better to have more power in reserve than not enough), but you’ll want to make sure your power supply has the connector, or pick up an adapter.
This is a dual-slot card that features Gigabyte’s “silent fan” technology, which shuts off the card’s fans when it’s not under load, so you can use your computer in peace for day-to-day activities. One of the light-up areas on the card edge is labeled “Fan Stop”; if you have a PC case with a window on the side panel, this indicator will let you know fan status without having to rely on your ears.
The card has a standard mix of five outputs, typical of a dual-slot card: three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI, and one dual-link DVI. It supports a maximum resolution of 7,680×4,320, which equates to a 2×2 grid of 4K displays. The card includes a three-year warranty and also lets you tweak it via the company’s XTREME ENGINE software. (Yes, it’s spelled in all capital letters, because, we guess, it’s that extreme.)
We covered Gigabyte’s gaming software in our last review of a Gigabyte G1 Gaming card, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1050 Ti G1 Gaming 4G. The only difference we found with the Radeon RX 470 was that we weren’t able to adjust the Temperature Limit or voltage. Here’s what it looks like with the RX 470…
With the basics out of the way, let’s jump into our performance section and see how it stacks up.
Oculus RiftHTC ViveRadeon RX 480GeForce GTX 1060GeForce GTX 950GeForce GTX 750 Ti.
The Gigabyte Radeon RX 470 G1 Gaming 4G faces stiff competition on two fronts in the benchmarks: the PowerColor Red Devil RX 470, and the more recently released Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti, which we tested in a version from Gigabyte, the GTX 1050 Ti G1 Gaming 4G, with the same feature set. The Red Devil Radeon RX 470 is a direct competitor, as it uses the same GPU as the G1 Gaming 4G and is close in price, whereas the GTX 1050 Ti we’re comparing it to was $30 less expensive at this writing. GTX 1050 Ti-based cards generally run $140 to $160, or $30 to $50 less than our Gigabyte card on the bench here.
3DMark (Fire Strike)
We started off our testing with Futuremark’s 2013 version of 3DMark, specifically the suite’s Fire Strike subtest. Fire Strike is a synthetic test designed to measure overall gaming performance, and Futuremark has expanded Fire Strike nowadays into three subtests of increasing difficulty. Let’s look at the basic test (known simply as “Fire Strike”), since these are midrange and entry-level GPUs.
In this initial bout, we see the Gigabyte G1 Gaming and the PowerColor Red Devil are neck-and-neck, as they should be. The two cards scored close enough to one another to be within the margin of variation that exists when you run this test a few times. In other words, they’re effectively equal. Both cards also beat the GTX 1050 Ti, with no contest. The GTX 1060 was the overall fastest of the bunch, but it costs a bit more (6GB versions of the GeForce GTX 1060 begins at $250), so that’s not a big surprise. Also interesting is how closely the RX 470 aligned with a boosted, last-generation GTX 970 we tested here (the Zotac GeForce GTX 970 Amp Edition, specifically).
Tomb Raider (2013)
Here, we fired up the 2013 reboot of the classic title Tomb Raider, testing at the Ultimate detail preset and three resolutions.
In the Battle of the Croft, we once again saw the two RX 470 cards produce scores that are similar, so it’s likely that’ll be a pattern throughout testing. They were both able to crank out over 80 frames per second (fps) at 1080p, which is buttery-smooth. What’s even better is that they were also able to achieve over 55fps at 2,560×1,440, impressive for a sub-$200 GPU. The GeForce GTX 1050 Ti held its own in this real-world test, but it was a marked bit slower than either RX 470.
Next, we rolled out the very demanding real-world gaming benchmark test built into the title Sleeping Dogs…
The Gigabyte Radeon RX 470 G1 Gaming 4G proved to be an excellent choice for this game at 1080p settings, hitting just over 60fps. The Red Devil was close behind, making both cards more than powerful enough for this title. They weren’t quite as capable at 2,560×1,440, though, reaching a barely-smooth plateau of around 35fps, which could turn into a slideshow if there’s a sudden frame drop. Overall, though, once again the two RX 470 cards were tied, and a clear step faster than the GTX 1050 Ti.
The popular title Bioshock Infinite isn’t overly demanding, but it’s a popular one with stellar good looks. In its built-in benchmark program, we set the graphics level to the highest preset (Ultra+DDOF)…
In this older game both of the RX 470 cards tore it up, hitting over 100fps at 1080p, within one frame per second of each other. They were also both over 65fps at 2,560×1,440. Once again, the GTX 1050 Ti lagged behind significantly, while the GTX 1060 reigned supreme by a decent margin at all resolutions.
Next up was Hitman: Absolution, which is an aging game but still pretty hard on a video card.
Both the Gigabyte G1 Gaming RX 470 and the Red Devil RX 470 struggled a bit with this title, hitting just around 40fps at 1080p resolution. (The 8x MSAA setting on this game we use is a killer.) Interestingly, the GTX 1050 Ti was extremely competitive here, making it nearly a three-way tie. The only GPU that could hit 60fps at 1080p on this test was the GTX 1060.
Far Cry Primal
Next, we moved to a more recent game, released in 2016. Ubisoft’s latest open-world first-person hunting game is one of the most demanding titles we use, thanks to its lush foliage, detailed shadows, and otherwise incredible environments. We tested at the Normal preset here.
The Gigabyte RX 470 G1 Gaming stomped the GTX 1050 Ti in this test, and once again was in lockstep with its devilish PowerColor rival. Both cards ran at 86fps to 87fps at 1080p, which is outstanding for a recent title. They were even powerful enough to run this demanding game at just shy of 60fps at 2,560×1,440. We see smooth performance scaling according to price on this test, with the GTX 1060 at the top, the Radeon RX 480 below it, followed closely by the RX 470 and then the GTX 1050 Ti.
Grand Theft Auto V
One of the most popular game franchises on the planet, Grand Theft Auto needs no introduction. Version V took a lot longer than many expected to land on the PC. But when it finally did, in early 2015, it brought a number of graphical improvements and tweakable visual settings that pushed the game far beyond its console roots.
Note that many of the cards below have no bars because they would not run GTA V at our exact test settings. That’s a quirk of this game, in that it will automatically bounce down settings if the game perceives it will not run acceptably at a given mix of resolution and detail settings.
In a trend reminiscent the movie Groundhog Day, the two RX 470s were within a few fps of each other at 1080p. Despite this game’s demanding graphics, they both ran at a blistering 85fps and 88fps. Both cards scaled in parallel with resolution increases, too.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Lara Croft rises once again in the early 2016 iteration of Square Enix’s long-running action franchise. As our hero works to unfold an ancient mystery (and reveal the secret to immortality) ahead of the ancient and deadly Order of Trinity, she traipses through a slew of complex atmospheric environments, from arid tombs to the frigid Siberian wilderness. A dynamic weather system, and the complexities of Lara’s wind-tousled hair, add to the game’s visual complexity.
Interestingly, in this test, both RX 470 cards were much closer than usual to their more expensive sibling, the Radeon RX 480. That aside, both cards performed well in this test and repeated the pattern of sky-high frame rates at 1080p and almost 60fps at 2,560×1,440. That said, recognize that this is at the game’s Medium setting. We also tested at Very High, and at 1080p, and saw more daylight between the RX 470s and the RX 480, the RX 470 cards neared, but did not quite hit, the 60fps threshold at 1080p. (Gigabyte’s card was a little closer.)
We also tested at Very High, and at 1080p, and saw more daylight between the RX 470s and the RX 480, the RX 470 cards neared, but did not quite hit, the 60fps threshold at 1080p. (Gigabyte’s card was, though, was closer.)
The newest game in the Hitman franchise finds Agent 47 turning over a new leaf, and embarking on a journey of self-discovery as a teacher at a school for underprivileged children. Just kidding, of course; he kills loads of people in this one, just like the rest. It does offer gorgeous graphics in both DX11 and DX12 varieties, though. We’ll tackle the former first.
We see a small performance delta between the two RX 470 cards here, not not one big enough to really say one card is faster than the other. In a second game on our test list, the RX 470s also came close to matching the performance of the RX 480, marking the RX 470 a solid value.