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Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V kicks off our newly revised tests at 1920x1080. We cranked almost every setting we could to "Very High," and we even dialed in 2x MSAA plus FXAA to make Los Santos and San Andreas that much more free of jaggies. You can ignore the Vsync and full-screen settings in the screenshots below—they're artifacts of the way we had to capture those clips. We've included buttons beneath some of the graphs to allow readers to get an impression of the changes in our testing data since our initial RX 470 review went live.

If you read our first iteration of this review, the numbers above represent a major change in performance for the RX 480. Originally, both cards were able to push about 60 FPS on our test system. Now that our test system isn't suffering from insidious DPC latency issues, however, the fully-enabled Polaris chip distances itself considerably from its lesser cousin. Our 99th-percentile frame times are all much lower, too.

The somewhat furrier frame-time graph for the RX 470 versus the RX 480 in GTA V is one case where we might be observing the difference that 8GB of memory makes on the beefier Polaris card, as well. With GTA V's "extended distance scaling" maxed, the RX 470, the R9 380X, and the GTX 960 all appear to be swapping data in from main memory often, while the RX 480 appears to be able to keep all the assets it needs in its pool of GDDR5. I'm guessing that keeping that data local has a noticeable impact on smoothness and performance.

These "time spent beyond X" graphs are meant to show "badness," those instances where animation may be less than fluid. The 50-ms threshold is the most notable one, since it corresponds to a 20-FPS average. We figure if you're not rendering any faster than 20 FPS, even for a moment, then the user is likely to perceive a slowdown. 33 ms correlates to 30 FPS or a 30Hz refresh rate. Go beyond that with vsync on, and you're into the bad voodoo of quantization slowdowns. And 16.7 ms correlates to 60 FPS, that golden mark that we'd like to achieve (or surpass) for each and every frame.

In our new results, none of the cards we tested spend any time beyond the 50-ms mark working on tough frames, and only the GTX 960 spends a notable amount of time on frames that take more than 30 ms to render. Past the critical 16.7-ms threshold this time around, however, the RX 480 practically never runs into frames that take more than 16.7 ms to render. The GTX 970 is close behind, while the RX 470's trouble with our test settings shows itself as a couple of seconds spent past 16.7 ms. We may have to dial back the "extended distance scaling" setting in GTA V for future tests.