Overclocking the RX 480

We did not adjust any of our cards’ fan profiles (except for the 290X whose fan was allowed to spin up to 100% to prevent throttling), nor voltage for our benchmark runs or for overclocking.  We did however, push up the power target controls to maximum for the RX 480 when we attempted overclocking since we tested in Summer (warm, 77F-79F) conditions.  We also made very sure to warm up all of our cards before benching.  We used the latest version of WattMan which came with the Crimson 16.2.2 launch drivers for overclocking the RX 480.

Here is what we get while looping Heaven 3.0 at stock settings.  The clock speed hovers around 1227MHz and notice that the temperature is 80C with a maximum of 83C, and the fan is barely noticeable.stock-settings-loop-1

Overclocking the RX 480 was problematic for us, and there appears to be almost no headroom with the reference cooler since temperatures begin to rise steeply with just a 2% overclock.  Notice it jumps to 89C with a maximum of 92C.  However, there is no throttling yet and the automatic fan speed does not ramp up.stock-settings-loop-2-pc-OCNow we try a 3% overclock and temperatures max out at 93C, yet it begins to throttle the clockspeedsstock-settings-loop-3-pc-OCWe were able to go all the way to 5% overclock with the voltage and fan profile on automatic, and the temperatures stayed at 93C, but performance suffered.  Since overclocking is evidently so poor with the reference cooler of our sample at automatic fan speeds, we did not post any performance results.  Yet we believe that a lot of performance from overclocking is left on the table.

We expect that AMD’s partners will have much more robust cooling available, and we will revisit RX 480 overclocking then.  The reference version cooler is OK for stock speeds, but you probably don’t want to overclock without first cranking up the fan speed.  For our sample, we found that the heat from the GPU increased significantly with even a mini-overclock – from 83C at stock speeds to 93C with a 2% increase in the core clocks using the automatic fan profile.

The RX 480 runs cool and quiet, but it requires stock speeds to do it.  When we first began overclocking our RX 480, we foolishly first tried a 10% overclock, watched our temperatures spike, and then it crashed our system and we had to restore it from a disk image.

Let’s head to the performance chart to see how the RX 480 compares with its competing cards of Summer, 2016.