In what’s hopefully the final chapter on AMD’s saga over the last week with the Radeon RX 480’s power consumption, AMD has posted the previously promised 16.7.1 driver set on their website.

As a reminder, 16.7.1 is being released first and foremost to address RX 480’s power consumption issues, in which reviewers found that it was drawing too much power from the PCIe graphics (PEG) slot, and that the total power consumption of the card was at times exceeding 150W, which is the technical limit for a card with a 6-pin power connector. Of the two issues, PEG power consumption is arguably the greater of the two, as the external power connectors are far more forgiving.

To that end, 16.7.1 rolls out a two tier solution to the problem.

  1. Shift some of the power load off of the PCIe Graphics (PEG) slot connector in order to bring PEG slot power consumption within the PCIe spec. This doesn’t reduce total power consumption and performance is unaffected; power delivery is merely shifted. Based on earlier data this will put the 6-pin connector further over spec, but the vast majority of PSUs are very tolerant of this going out of spec.
  2. Because total power consumption of RX 480 can still exceed 150W – and as a result also exceed the limits for the 6-pin connector – AMD has also implemented an optional a “compatibility” toggle that reduces the total power consumption of the card. This is to better ensure that both the PEG slot and 6-pin power connector stay below their respective limits. Since the RX 480 is already throttling at times due to power limits, this does hurt performance (more on that below), but it's also the most standards-compliant solution.

Along with the power changes, the driver also incorporates some previously scheduled bug fixes and performance improvements. This includes fixing GTA V stuttering, and small performance boosts for a limited number of games that AMD states should improve performance by up to 3%.

Finally, the 16.7.1 driver can be found on AMD’s website. Note that the driver itself is not WHQL certified, but given AMD’s rush to get it out ASAP, I don’t imagine they were interested in waiting for WHQL certification to come back before releasing them.

Diving into matters then, PC Perspective has already taken a look at the new driver and done individual power rail measurements, finding that AMD’s fixes work more-or-less as advertised. They have found some edge cases where the card is still drawing a watt or two more power from the PEG slot than the specification allows, though at this point we’re arguing over inches. It should be noted however that even in compatibility mode, PC Perspective is still finding that power consumption is technically exceeding 75W on the 6-pin connector, though like the PEG slot by notably less than when not using compatibility mode.

Meanwhile to look at the performance impact of the new driver, I quickly ran our RX 480 through a selection of games at 2560x1440, both with and without compatibility mode.

Radeon RX 480 8GB Performance: 16.6.2 vs. 16.7.1

In standard mode where power consumption isn’t curtailed, performance is essentially unchanged outside of Tomb Raider, which is one of the games targeted for optimization. Essentially this proves that there’s no performance impact from merely shifting power consumption off of the PEG slot to the 6-pin power connector.

Meanwhile in compatibility mode, there is a very small performance hit, though it varies with the game. Compared to standard mode, we’re looking at no more than a 1fps performance drop (~3%), with some games losing only a fraction of a frame per second. That there is a performance drop is consistent – so compatibility mode isn’t free – but overall the performance change is within the +/- 2% margin of error for these benchmarks.

Radeon RX 480 8GB Power Consumption: 16.6.2 vs. 16.7.1

Finally, when it comes to power consumption, measurements at the wall back up our earlier findings. In standard mode, power consumption at the wall bobbles by a couple of watts compared to the 16.6.2 drivers. With compatibility mode on, we see power consumption drop by 18W under Crysis 3, and 13W under FurMark. The average GPU clockspeed in both cases is similarly reduced, with Crysis 3 shaving off around 50MHz.

Anyhow, we’ll have a bit more on the subject in next week’s full Radeon RX 480 review. But in the meantime it looks like AMD has been able to get a handle on their power problems and largely rectify them within the span of a week, making for a fairly quick recovery on the RX 480’s launch fumble.

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  • eddman - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    The point is that parts, when non-OCed, should ideally be within specs. I have OCed my CPU but I did it knowingly.

    The reference 480 is already on the verge of being out of spec or slightly above it in its stock state. In practice, it's not a problem exactly but standards are there for a reason for non-OCed stuff. If you OC it, it'll go even further above spec. There are reference cards out there from both companies that still fall within power specs even after OCing.

    SunnyNW makes a good point. Maybe AMD started with a lower power consumption where a 6-pin was fully within standards but then, in the last minute, realized that performance wasn't good enough and instead of making a new card, they up-clocked the already available cards to their max.

    Yes, for OCing consumers would be served better by custom cards but reference cards have usually been very OC friendly.

    Most PSUs can easily handle out-of-spec power draws, so probably the majority (almost all?) users shouldn't have any problems at all, but it's still a bit of an ugly situation.

    I would personally go with a 480 with an 8-pin or two 6-pin connectors.
  • RaistlinZ - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    So basically gamers have three choices: 1) Your PCIE being out of spec, 2) Your 6-pin power being out of spec, or 3) Reduce performance. This should never had been an issue in the first place. This is still a failure on their part.
  • bigboxes - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    Or it's not an issue for the majority of users with a quality PSU. RTA.
  • Eugene86 - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    Quality PSU? Are we talking about the same user base here? The people buying the 480 are trying to get the best "value" for their money, unsuccessfully in this case. You really think they're going to be spending extra money on a "quality" PSU? These are the same people who can't afford an extra $50 for a higher end card.
  • miribus - Friday, July 8, 2016 - link

    6+2 connector instead of a 6 and you're within spec. If your card is installed look at it, if you see 3 yellow wires going into it, calm down, if it were something else it'd be drawing 150W now and be within spec. If it doesn't change to a 6+2 cable and ignore the +2. The "out of spec" driver overrides the 75W limit but that connector was rated for 150W. The 480 won't draw close to that.
  • Nagorak - Saturday, July 9, 2016 - link

    $200 is actually quite a bit for a graphics card. I'm not sure those who are spending in that price range are going to be getting the cheapest PSU possible. You can buy a decent PSU for $50 or so. The people who are cutting corners with the cheapest PSU possible are probably buying $100 graphics cards or have such a weak system they can't game on it anyway.
  • ACE76 - Monday, July 11, 2016 - link

    I just built my Skylake 660k system and my Corsair 850 watt PSU only cost me $100...I have an 8gb RX480 in my system....not a cheap system at all.
  • K_Space - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    My shiny new card is running an average of 0.4 fps slower. DAMN you AMD!!
  • Cygni - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    It really wouldn't be the first card to go over spec on the 6-pin, ya know...
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, July 7, 2016 - link

    To be fair, performance barely drops (3%), but it's saving 20W (over 10%) on power. That also makes the efficiency game more interesting. If they can bring power down to that level, they're a good bit closer to Pascal than they were 7 days ago. Still not close, but certainly better.

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