Certain Radeon RX 460s may hold unlockable shader and texture units

Folks willing to try their luck have long had success "unlocking" the full-fat forms of certain AMD chips. The Phenom II X3 720 is perhaps the most recent example. Some builders were able to turn on that chip's ostensibly-disabled fourth core with the right motherboard and firmware, although the long-term stability and reliability of that fourth core was an open question.

The Polaris 11 die

Now, reports are coming in that it's possible to enable an extra two GCN compute units on certain Radeon RX 460 graphics cards with a community-produced firmware update. That firmware enables all 1024 shaders and 64 texturing units on Polaris 11 chips. The GPU wizards at TechPowerUp say that prospective unlockers will need a Sapphire Nitro RX 460 4GB card or an Asus Strix RX 460-O4G card to start with, plus the proper modified firmware to flash for each card from overclocking.guide.

The Sapphire Nitro RX 460 4GB card

Before we go any further, it's worth noting that Sapphire's Nitro RX 460 doesn't have the dual-BIOS switch common on many Radeons, so a failed firmware update could brick the card. We can't comment on the Asus Strix RX 460's setup. This unlocking process could also enable malfunctioning hardware or cause other weirdness. Proceed at your own risk. So long as one is willing to clear those hurdles, though, TechPowerUp reports that an "unlocked" Sapphire RX 460 enjoys about a five-percent performance bump in The Witcher 3, while the Asus Strix RX 460 gets about a 10% boost. Not bad.

All that said, the unlocking party may not be long-lived. TechPowerUp also reports that AMD has resumed firmware signature checking on its cards with the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition update, so that driver will fail to load with cards running unsigned firmwares. Folks trying to flash their cards will have to stick with older drivers—not an appealing prospect considering ReLive's many benefits. Still, if a smidge of extra performance is worth the inconvenience, the brave can at least give it a shot on compatible cards.

Comments closed
    • Chrispy_
    • 3 years ago

    Given the signature checking, this seems like more effort than it’s worth.

    I mean, back in the day I turned an ATi Radeon 9700 into a 9700 Pro and more ‘recently’ I flashed an HD 6950 to a 6970.

    The 460, on the other hand, is the runt of the Polaris pecking order. It’s already woefully underpowered and would only be bought by someone with severe budget constraints or a TDP limit of 75W. Trying to overclock or unlock one is like trying to polish a turd.

    Don’t get me wrong, the 460 is a card that enables non-gaming machines to play games, but why on earth would 5-10% matter at this tier of the GPU heirarchy? Surely it’s the difference between 1080p30 and 1080p32; If you really want more frames per second, spend more cash and get the 470 for 1080p120 at only 50% more outlay.

      • watzupken
      • 3 years ago

      Actually, I do agree with you. If the card is not able to provide smooth FPS in a game, I doubt unlocking the additional cores are going to help much. I Guess it is just for the fun to be able to unlock more potential to stretch the performance. Gavin said that, it may be too risky for meagre benefits. And only cards that cost more, comes with the additional 6 pin power required to ensure that it works fine after the unlock. I think it makes more sense to go for a RX 470 instead.

      • synthtel2
      • 3 years ago

      1080p30 versus 1080p60, you mean? That’s about the scale of the gap between them (a bit more really, but definitely not 4x).

    • brucethemoose
    • 3 years ago

    Why lock the firmware anyway?

    Unlockable cards just makes AMD’s products that much more enticing, and they aren’t a position like Intel where they can just arbitrarily gimp SKUs without any fear of being less competitive.

      • ch┬Áck
      • 3 years ago

      pricing tiers

    • derFunkenstein
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<] The Phenom II X3 720 is perhaps the most recent example.[/quote<] Just the other day some of us were daydreaming about unlocked CPUs. I had a Phenom II X2 550 that unlocked and ran at 3.4GHz. Back in The Day, I also had a Radeon 9500 Pro that unlocked to a full 9700 Pro, including the full 256-bit memory bus. Huge gains at high resolutions there. In fact, it seems like just about every unlockable gimped part has been AMD or ATi. The GeForce 6800 is the only notable exception I can remember.

      • TheRazorsEdge
      • 3 years ago

      I had a Radeon 6950 unlocked to a 6970.

      Everyone creates one or two product tiers by selectively disabling parts of a primary product. Intel, AMD, NVIDIA—every product cycle, without fail.

      The only difference in those so-called “gimped” parts is that AMD used firmware rather than microcode or physical methods.

      I wonder if part of AMD’s value proposition is that they allow this sort of tinkering. There is certainly no technical hurdle that prevents them from enforcing their SKU differentiation scheme the same way as their competitors.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 3 years ago

        Everybody does it, but outside of one Nvidia example, it seems the green team has been more successful in keeping end users from re-enabling those disabled features.

          • Prestige Worldwide
          • 3 years ago

          Because they sever the connection to the disabled hardware with lasers! Pew pew.

    • Ninjitsu
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]The Phenom II X3 720 is perhaps the most recent example[/quote<] Probably the Radeon HD 7850 was more recent - iirc that could be unlocked to a 7870. (or was it the 7870 that could be unlocked to a 7950?)

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      7870 was the full-fat Pitcairn where the 7850 was partially disabled. 7950/7970 were Tahiti. If such unlocking was actually possible it’d be that a 7×50 was unlockable to 7×70.

        • NTMBK
        • 3 years ago

        There was one model of 7870 (the 7870 XT) that was actually a heavily cut down Tahiti chip. Not sure if it was unlockable, though.

          • MagariNegi
          • 3 years ago

          I’ve got the 7870 XT, never heard you could unlock them. It’s got a cutdown 7950 chip if I remember correctly.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 3 years ago

            Ah, indeed you do remember correctly.

            [url<]http://www.hardcoreware.net/sapphire-radeon-7870-xt-tahiti-le-review/[/url<]

      • etana
      • 3 years ago

      I unlocked my 6950 to a 6970. Still running it actually.

      • f0d
      • 3 years ago

      even later cards than the 7850 were unlockable

      some r9 290s could unlock to 290x’s and some fury’s were able to be unlocked to fury x’s

      • modulusshift
      • 3 years ago

      It actually couldn’t. You could flash the 7870 firmware, but all it would do is change the clock speeds to 7870 levels. It didn’t unlock any extra hardware, and the 7850 was already a good overclocker, and could hit those levels regardless.

    • joselillo_25
    • 3 years ago

    The 2gb version do not have power connector. If I unlock mine I would fry the PCIe line or have some stability problems?

      • derFunkenstein
      • 3 years ago

      If you flash the firmware for a 4GB model you’re likely to brick your card

        • joselillo_25
        • 3 years ago

        they have released the 2 gb version. I do not know if the power limit of 75w will be crossed using this unlocked BIOS.

      • Vaughn
      • 3 years ago

      Are you serious bro?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This