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Wrap Up: PC Gaming on a sub-$140 GPU
The Radeon RX 460 was around 40% slower than the Radeon RX 470 and while its small lead over the R7 370 is more favorable looking, it's worth remembering that the 370 sold for $150 when it was released more than a year ago. Likewise, the RX 460 was about on par with the GeForce GTX 950, a graphics card that was released this time last year for $160. Today the GTX 950 is selling for as low as $130.
In order to undercut those products, the Radeon RX 460's ~$110 MSRP has the potential to deliver a superior cost per frame option, unless you slap 4GB onboard and try to sell it for $139 which is what many manufacturers like Sapphire intend to do. In that case, the RX 460 remains a step forward, it's just a very small step.
As mentioned earlier, the RX 460 features 13% fewer cores than the R7 370 along with a massive downgrade to the memory interface which reduces bandwidth by 37%. Helping to offset this are architectural improvements and a 23% boost in frequency.
Given that the RX 460 was 13% faster than the R7 370 on average, we wondered how much of this originated from the increase clock speed and how much can be attributed to the architectural refinements. To answer that question, we dug out some old graphics cards and began running a few quick tests. The results were interesting.
We started with the Radeon HD 7790, a GCN 2nd generation part boasting the same 896 cores. Although this GPU only operates at 1GHz, it has no problem running at 1.2GHz once overclocked. The only issue to match them properly was the 1GB frame buffer of the card we had on hand, which is an obvious handicap over the RX 460's 4 gigs. That being the case we decided to test with older eSports games such as Counter-Strike and League of Legends.
To our surprise, the overclocked HD 7790 performed almost on par to the RX 460. The cards were a match in League of Legends, while the RX 460 showed a ~10% edge in Counter-Strike.
It then occurred to me that the 7790 was rebadged in 2013 as the R7 260X, and we happened to have a 2GB model on hand. The 260X ran at 1.1GHz so we only had to overclock by 100MHz this time with a slight increase also required for the VRAM. Since we have more memory to play with this time I ran Star Wars: Battlefront, in which the overclocked R7 260X was just 7% slower than the RX 460, rendering 39fps on average versus 42fps.
Curiously, the overclocked power consumption of the 7790 and 260X are virtually identical to the RX 460. Given more time, I would have liked to conduct additional testing, but based on what I've seen so far for the type of games the RX 460 is designed to play, the 4th Generation GCN architecture provides very little over what AMD offered back in 2013 for only $150.
Having minimal headroom for overclocking hurts the RX 460's value to someone who wants the most out of their money. We struggled to stabilize a 9% overclock on the RX 460 while the GTX 950 can be pushed by almost 30% before sweating it.
In the end, the RX 460 stacks up well enough against Nvidia's year-old budget offerings but its small improvement in efficiency leaves us wondering how it will look beside a budget Pascal GPU. Furthermore, the budget Radeon is only attractive if you end up paying less than $120 for it.
Pros: Matches sub-$150 GPU competition, sometimes it's a fraction faster. Polaris shines when tested with DirectX 12 and Vulkan titles.
Cons: Doesn't overclock well. 4GB cards are too expensive.