Late yesterday, AMD addressed concerns regarding the bus power draw of its Radeon RX 480 graphics card in a statement to the press and in a post on the AMD Gaming Facebook page. The upcoming Radeon Software 16.7.1 update will include changes that lower the amount of power the card draws through the PCIe slot. That update will also create an option to reduce the total power consumed by the card called "Compatibility Mode," presumably for the lowest-end systems out there. AMD says that Compatibility Mode will have "minimal" performance impact.
Radeon Software 16.7.1 also includes a set of optimizations for the Polaris architecture that purportedly increases performance by as much as three percent in some games. AMD says this performance increase should help to offset any performance decreases that users experience by turning on Compatibility Mode in Radeon Settings.
AMD notes that despite the fix, it still believes that the RX 480's power draw behavior as configured at launch doesn't threaten motherboards or other components in a system. RX 480 owners who are nonetheless concerned should be getting peace of mind soon, though: AMD will be releasing Radeon Software 16.7.1 "in the next 48 hours." We'll have to wait and see what folks with in-depth power testing equipment find out once they get this new driver-card combo on the test bench.
The full text of AMD's statement follows:
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%1. 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.
AMD is committed to delivering high quality and high performance products, and we’ll continue to provide users with more control over their product’s performance and efficiency. We appreciate all the feedback so far, and we’ll continue to bring further performance and performance/W optimizations to the Radeon RX 480.
1: Based on data running ’Total War: Warhammer’, ultra settings, 1080p resolution. Radeon Software 16.6.2 74.2FPS vs Radeon Software 16.7.1 78.3FPS; Metro Last Light, very high settings, 1080p resolution, 80.9FPS vs 82.7 FPS. Witcher 3, Ultra settings, 1440p, 31.5FPS vs 32.5, Far Cry 4, ultra settings, 1440p, 54.65FPS vs 56.38FPS, 3DMark11 Extreme, 22.8 vs 23.7 System config: Core i7-5960X, 16GB DDR4-2666MHz, Gigabyte X99-UD4, Windows 10 64-bit. Performance figures are not average, may vary from run-to-run