AMD has come out guns blazing yet again when it comes to the first major release that its Polaris architecture will field against Nvidia’s offerings. The chipmaker has essentially dealt its arch-rival a crucial blow even with the GTX 1080 and its smaller sibling, the GTX 1070 barely out of the door as Nvidia announced its Pascal hardware flagships earlier this May.
AMD is not aiming to unseat the presumed king of the hill, the GTX 1080 or even the more economical GTX 1070 from Nvidia via its first major Polaris release in the form of a singular GPU solution, the RX 480, especially at the price point of $200. It is rather aiming to give it a run for its money with potentially the best value-for-money GPU entrant in a long time that is expected to compete with the rumoured GTX 1060 even as it significantly undercuts the GTX 1070 and essentially beats or matches its bigger sibling, the GTX 1080 at a price point that could end Nvidia’s hype train especially when one considers its higher-than-expected $600 MSRP for the GTX 1080.
AMD has taken the challenge differently from Nvidia however; the RX 480 is essentially a GPU that aims to be in the hands of as many gamers, VR enthusiasts as well as mainstream users as possible in a bid to essentially increase the silicon-maker’s market share rather than aim for the king of the hill seat for now. This does make sense for AMD, which has been haemorrhaging a significant amount of market share over time to Nvidia as its 900 series Maxwell-based GPUs essentially took performance and optimizations crowns time and again over the past few years.
AMD’s RX 480 ambitions aim to disrupt Nvidia’s current hold over the market. It is not aiming for any performance crowns, but rather is essentially AMD’s first play that could seriously undercut the GTX 1070 and 1080’s price: performance ratios. While AMD is claiming that the GPU ran Ashes of Singularity in crossfire to essentially beat the GTX 1080 despite costing as much as two-thirds of its announced price and merely used 50% of its actual compute potential. It must be noted that Ashes of Singularity is a game that is essentially considered favourable for AMD since it was released given the fact that it extensively uses DirectX12, something that AMD GPUs seem to significantly perform better in.
AMD’s play is an admirable one, but also risky at the same time. It will cede important space at the top-line where the enthusiast tier exists as well as the biggest margins. Irrespectively, the RX 480 is essentially a very deadly placeholder for Nvidia and it may make many potential buyers question spending $380 for the GTX 1070 and $600 for the GTX 1080 even as Nvidia has yet to answer the threat that the RX 480 poses to its mid-tier heir-apparent, the GTX 1060. AMD is playing this equally smart, the RX 480 is clocked at a measly 1.2 GHZ when tested with final shipping clock speeds a closely guarded secret. The RX 480, if it is an indicator of where the rest of Polaris is heading, could be a very big warning sign for Nvidia when it comes to downward pricing pressure in the coming months from its competition even as they both grapple for increasing control over the VR industry.