AMD Radeon RX 590: a graphics card cut for Full HD

AMD ends the year 2018 with a new graphics card, the Radeon RX 590. Nothing extravagant in this new model that brings no architectural novelty (type GCN 4) and is always intended for owners of full HD screens . AMD justifies the arrival of this third iteration of its Polaris chip by its etching in 12 nm (against 14 nm so far). What to push the operating frequencies and adjust the offer to deal with Nvidia.
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We conducted our tests on a Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro + (© Digital).

No need to procrastinate, let’s be clear right away: the Radeon RX 590 is nothing more than a Radeon RX 580 whose frequencies have been increased. The replaced model was released in 2017 – and replaced the Radeon RX 480 of 2016, without providing anything other than increased frequencies. Clearly, the Radeon RX 590 is simply to be seen as a third version of the Radeon RX 480. We find a Polaris graphics chip – named Polaris 30 for the occasion – based on GCN 4.0 architecture and not Vega – reserved high-end cards. This GPU however benefits from the latest refinements in terms of engraving since it takes place in 12 nm (both at TSMC and Samsung) and no longer in 14 nm as the first two versions. Technically, the 12 nm bears only the name since it is more of a 14 nm optimized than anything else.

However, this optimization in the etching process allows AMD to once again increase the frequency of its graphics chip. It now operates at a base frequency of 1,469 MHz and can climb to a maximum of 1,545 MHz via its turbo mode. In two years, the designer of the Radeon has managed to win 279 MHz or 22% on the turbo frequency, which is still interesting, even if it is at the expense of the limit of consumption. AMD pushes the TDP to 225 watts on the Radeon RX 590 while it is 185 watts on the RX 580 and 170 watts on the RX 480.

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Since 2016 – year of release of the Radeon RX 480 – games have become more greedy in graphics resources. AMD estimates the leap to 15% on headlines (AAA) and 100% on games typed eSports. All this in Full HD, the definition of the Radeon RX 590. © AMD

On the other hand, nothing changes on the side of the graphic memory which remains confined to 8 GB of GDDR5. It always operates at 2 GHz on a 256-bit bus for a bandwidth of 256 GB / s. Note, however, that some partners offer custom versions with a 2.1 GHz memory. This is particularly the case of Sapphire with its Radeon RX 590 Nitro + which also offers factory overclocking of its GPU (+15 MHz).

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NOISE 5/5

AMD does not offer a reference Radeon RX 590 and only custom versions are offered by its partners. We did our tests on the Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro + mentioned above. It has a cooling system with two fans, heat pipes and finned radiators. A fairly conventional system that has been more convincing since now the temperature of the GPU is 75 ° C while the noise level remains very contained. A card all the more discreet that it has the good taste to cut off its ventilation at rest.

CONSUMPTION 3/5

Not surprisingly, the increase in memory frequency is accompanied by an increase in power consumption. The newcomer draws an average of 197 watts alone with peaks at 202 watts. This is roughly twenty watts more than the Radeon RX 580 .

This increase in power consumption is accompanied by an increase in performance, but to a lesser extent. As a result, the efficiency is slightly lower, far from what Nvidia offers with its GeForce GTX 1060.

GAMING PERFORMANCE 3/5

In games, after several tens of minutes of non-stop play, the Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro + sees its actual frequency oscillate between 1 478 and 1 519 MHz for an average of 1500 MHz. This allows it to advance by 11% the model that it replaces in Full HD – the definition targeted by this model. What pass the GeForce GTX 1060 Reference 9% overall to par with versions customs most overclocked factory.

We also conducted tests in WQHD although the map does not initially target this segment. In this definition, there are many games that can not be set to a maximum level of detail. Owners of this type of screen will have every interest in turning to a faster model ( Radeon RX Vega 56 at AMD, GeForce GTX 1070 Ti  ,  RTX 2070 at NVIDIA) or reduce the level of detail by one or two notches. depending on the case.

The final word

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The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro + will have a hard time competing with the entry-level GeForce GTX 1060s and future GeForce 20s (© Les Numériques).

With the Radeon RX 590, AMD seems to arrive at the end of the possibilities of its GCN architecture and its Polaris chip. The newcomer’s gain, even if it is at the expense of power consumption, allows the company to position itself a little more suitably against the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 in the segment of mid-range graphics cards . Absolutely, the performance is also quite satisfactory to play on a full HD monitor without making concessions on the graphics settings – except for one or two games or the antialiasing should be adjusted a little less strong.

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Come the question of the tariff. The Radeon RX 590 starts at 290 € for an average price of 300 €. This is more or less the average price charged by Nvidia on its GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB. However, it benefits from a starting price of € 270 and fairly frequent promotions lowering the entrance ticket to around € 220 . Faced with this scenario, the Radeon RX 590 clearly does not carry weight.

Should we bury this model? Not necessarily, because these promotions are only there to permanently empty the stocks of Nvidia’s model! Once these stocks are emptied, AMD will have an interesting shooting window but the coming weeks will be decisive. Indeed, the RX 590 will have to face the replacements of GeForce GTX 1060 and GTX 1050 Ti. In the first case, it is certain that the Radeon RX 590 will be exceeded in terms of performance. Nvidia’s pricing policy will then be decisive, even if the company has largely slid up the slider for the first GeForce RTX 20. See also the performance and price of replacements for GeForce GTX 1050 / Ti – which we do not think not see until the middle of the first quarter of 2019. The match is going to be tight.

STRONG POINTS

  • Performance for the game Full HD.
  • HDMI 2.0b and DP 1.4 “ready”.

WEAK POINTS

  • Still no real news from AMD since 2016.
  • Electricity consumption rising sharply.

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