The cards at hand
To show what its fresh Polaris GPUs can do, AMD sent over a trio of Radeon RX 500-series cards for our perusal.
MSI's RX 570 Gaming X 4G reps the slightly cut-down Polaris 20 GPU in tandem with 4GB of 7 GT/s GDDR5 memory. To keep the GPU cool, MSI taps one of its excellent Twin Frozr VI coolers. This twin-fan design has earned a TR Editor's Choice award in one of its other iterations. Here, MSI threads twin heat pipes through a slim fin stack that slips nicely into the confines of a dual-slot design. Despite its relatively modest dimensions, we observed rock-solid 1281 MHz boost clocks from this card in operation.
We wish MSI had reinforced this card with a backplate for the looks, but you can't have it all, we guess. The RX 570 Gaming X 4G will go for $189.99 at e-tail.
In fully-enabled Polaris 20 territory, Sapphire's Nitro+ Radeon RX 580 carries over the company's classy design language from its RX 480 cards. The Nitro+'s metal backplate features a geometric design that's eye-catching without being garish, and the Sapphire logo on the side of the card lights up in a pleasing shade of light blue.
Sapphire carries heat away from the Polaris 20 chip using four beefy heatpipes and a tall, dense fin stack. We don't have official base and boost clocks for the Nitro+ card just yet, but we observed a solid 1411 MHz boost speed from our sample in our tests. Sapphire pairs this card with 8 GT/s GDDR5, and builders will pay $249.99 for the package.
The PowerColor RX 580 Red Devil Golden Sample will likely get the adrenaline flowing for the pubescent, or at least the pubescent at heart. If you can get past the Hot Topic-approved iconography scattered over this thing, we observed 1430 MHz boost clocks out of the box—an impressive figure for a Polaris GPU. The Red Devil sports 8 GT/s GDDR5, as well.
The monster two-and-a-half-slot cooler on board the Red Devil could let overclockers extract the most from the Polaris 20 GPU, and PowerColor reinforces the card's enormous fin stack with a suitably devilish backplate. All that metal doesn't come cheap, though. The RX 580 Red Devil Golden Sample will go for $270 online.
Because of its sane dimensions and reasonable $250 price tag, we elected to test the RX 580 using the Sapphire Nitro+ card. The Red Devil Golden Sample's slightly higher stock clocks are tempered by its $270 price tag and outsize cooler. We figure if you can stomach paying $40 over the suggested price for one of these cards, you should probably start looking at GeForce GTX 1070s.
Our testing methods
Since the Radeon RX 500 cards are derived from existing hardware that we're quite familiar with by now, we didn't feel it was necessary to revisit every game in our test suite for this article. Instead, we ran some quick tests using three games: GTA V, Crysis 3, and Hitman (using that game's DX12 renderer) to get a sense of how the new Radeons improved over past products.
As always, we did our best to deliver clean benchmarking runs. We ran each of our test cycles three times on each graphics card tested, and our final numbers incorporate the median of those results. Aside from each vendor's graphics drivers, our test system remained in the same configuration throughout the entire test.
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 7 1800X|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5|
|Memory size||16GB (2 DIMMs)|
|Memory type||16GB (2x8GB) G.Skill DDR4-3866 (rated)|
|Storage||Intel 750 Series 400GB (system drive)
2x Corsair Neutron XT 480GB SSDs
1x Kingston HyperX 480GB SSD
|Power supply||Corsair RM850x|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro with Creators Update|
Our thanks to Gigabyte, G.Skill, Kingston, Corsair, and Intel for their contributions to our test system, and to EVGA, MSI, AMD, and XFX for contributing the graphics cards we're reviewing today.
|Driver revision||GPU base
|XFX Radeon RX 470 RS 4GB||Radeon Software RX 500 series press beta||-||1256||1750||4096|
|XFX Radeon RX 480 RS 8GB||--||1288||2000||8192|
|MSI Radeon RX 570 Gaming 4G||--||1281?||1750||4096|
|Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+||--||1411?||2000||8192|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1050 Ti SC Gaming||GeForce 381.65||1632||1835||2027||8192|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||2000||3072|
|EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 6GB SC Gaming||1607||1835||2000||6144|
For our "Inside the Second" benchmarking techniques, we now use a software utility called PresentMon to collect frame-time data from DirectX 11, DirectX 12, OpenGL, and Vulkan games alike. We sometimes use a more advanced tool called FCAT to capture exactly when frames arrive at the display, but our testing has shown that it's not usually necessary to use this tool in order to generate good results for single-GPU setups.
You'll note that our test card stable is made up of non-reference designs with boosted clock speeds and beefy coolers. Many readers have called us out on this practice in the past for some reason, so we want to be upfront about it here. We bench non-reference cards because we feel they provide the best real-world representation of performance for the graphics card in question. They're the type of cards we recommend in our System Guides, and we think they provide the most relatable performance numbers for our reader base. When we mention a "GTX 1060" or "Radeon RX 470" in our review, for example, just be sure to remember that we're referring to the custom cards in the table above.
With that exposition out of the way, let's talk results.