XFX Radeon RX 480 vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition full review

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AMD and Nvidia have a long-standing rivalry. These graphics card companies have been battling for a couple of decades now. In the middle of 2016, both firms announced their new ranges, but it's only now in 2017 that Nvidia's seems complete with the announcement of the monstrous Titan Xp.

AMD's range tops out with the RX 480, which is roughly equivalent in terms of performance with Nvidia's mid-range GTX 1060. So you could say that Nvidia is the obvious winner at the moment.

But hold on one second, reader. Unless you have a huge budget and you're aiming to play games at resolutions higher than 2560x1440, or you want as much raw performance possible for the very best quality with a VR headset, then the dilemma of which brand to go for is as real as ever.

And don't overlook the fact that AMD is about to announce its next-generation graphics cards called Vega, which should bring the fight to Nvidia's top cards.

Here, we offer a comparison of the current flagship - the RX 480 - and Nvidia's GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 to help you decide which to buy.

We've compared Nvidia's current range in more detail, and done the same with AMD's range of Polaris cards, and before spending any money you should read our full reviews of the latest and best graphics cards.

In the green corner: Nvidia 1060, 1070 and 1080 prices

Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070 vs AMD RX 480 - 1080

You can buy GTX 1080 from retailers such as Overclockers UKeBuyer, Scan, Amazon, Maplin and Currys. Prices have dropped since the 1080 Ti was announced, and now range from £479.99 all the way up to £699.99 for the most expensive water-cooled variant. Of course, you'd be quite mad to buy that latter version as that's what a 1080 Ti costs.

The GTX 1070 comes in a Founders Edition for £395, but can be found cheaper at £349.99 from third-party manufacturers.

The GTX 1060 Founders Edition costs £275, but it doesn't take much searching to find GTX 1060 cards for under £190. Those cheapest cards have 3GB of RAM, though, while the 6GB versions will cost you around £240.

In the red corner: RX 480 price

The Radeon RX 480 was launched on 29 June 2016. Like the GTX 1060 there are two versions - a choice of either 4GB or 8GB of RAM.

Expect to pay around £170-1080 for a 4GB card, and £210-230 for an 8GB model.

If you're on a budget or looking to get the best bang for your buck, the RX 480 is better value for full-HD (1920x1080) gaming than the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. AMD's card is less than half the price of the GTX 1070 and is an astonishing 70 percent cheaper than the GTX 1080.

The GTX 1060 gives the RX 480 a good run for its money, and the choice between a 3GB 1060 and a 4GB RX 480 is tricky indeed. At a pinch we feel the £180 RX 480 is the best value option with its extra memory, but do check our reviews to see exactly how specific cards perform as manufacturers tend to overclock to get better performance.

GTX 1080 & 1070 vs RX 480 - Red army

Given the popularity of the older R9 390 and R9 380 cards among gamers on a fairly tight budget, the RX 480 somehow manages to offer the performance attributes of the R9 390, whilst being as cheap as the R9 380.

Winner: AMD RX 480

Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 vs AMD RX 480: Specifications

Given the AMD RX 480's price, we didn't expect mind-blowing specs from the red team, however AMD hasn't disappointed us, with specs that sit between its older R9 380 and R9 390 - impressive considering it costs just as much as the R9 380 when it was released. The most impressive part of the GPU's specs is the high core clock it has versus previous generation AMD cards and the amount of stream processors.

RX 480 key specifications:

  • Stream Processors: 2304
  • Core Clock: 1120MHz
  • Boost Clock: 1266MHz 
  • VRAM: 4 & 8GB
  • TFLOP: 5.8
  • Memory Clock: 7Gbps (4GB) & 8Gbps (8GB)
  • Memory Bus Width: 256-bit
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/s): 224 (4GB) & 256 (8GB)
  • TDP: 150W
  • Transistors: 5.7b
  • Manufacturing process: FinFET 14nm
  • Power: 1x 6-pin

Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070 vs AMD RX 480 - AMD Card

The GTX 1080 and GTX 1070 both have impressive specs, they are as follows:

GTX 1080 key specifications

  • CUDA Cores: 2560
  • Core Clock: 1607MHz
  • Boost Clock: 1733MHz
  • VRAM: 8GB GDDR5X
  • TFLOP: 9
  • Memory Clock: 10Gbps
  • Memory Bus Width: 256-bit 
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/s): 320 
  • TDP: 180W
  • Transistors: 7.2b
  • Manufacturing process: FinFET 16nm
  • Power connector: 1x 8-pin PCIe 

GTX 1070 key specifications

  • CUDA Cores: 1920
  • Core Clock: 1506MHz
  • Boost Clock: 1683MHz
  • VRAM: 8GB GDDR5
  • TFLOP: 6.5
  • Memory Clock: 8Gbps
  • Memory Bus Width: 256-bit 
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/s): 256 
  • TDP: 150W
  • Transistors: 7.2b
  • Manufacturing process: FinFET 16nm
  • Power connector: 1x 8-pin PCIe 

GTX 1060 key specifications:

  • CUDA Cores: 1280
  • Core Clock: 1506MHz
  • Boost Clock: 1708Hz
  • VRAM: 6GB GDDR5
  • TFLOP: 3.8
  • Memory Clock: 8Gbps
  • Memory Bus Width: 192-bit 
  • Memory Bandwidth (GB/s): 192
  • TDP: 120W
  • Transistors: 4.4b
  • Manufacturing process: FinFET 16nm 
  • Power connector: 1x 6-pin PCIe 

The Nvidia cards all use the Pascal architecture. VR is a big focus for Nvidia, and Pascal brings big performance jumps in this area. Amazingly, the newer cards are not only cheaper than their predecessors (the GTX 980 and GTX 970), but the GTX 1080 and 1070 also out-punch the 2015 Titan X (based on Maxwell architecture).

That cost £850-900 and - at the time - was the best single-GPU card on the market. Of course, the first Pascal Titan X then out-punched the GTX 1080, but we now have the 2017 version: the Titan Xp.

Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 vs AMD RX 480: Performance

This is all rather besides the point, here, though.

So, to get back to the point, the GTX 1060 isn't trying to compete with any Titan X, but rather the AMD RX 480. In some games the RX 480 is quicker. In others, it's the 1060. Much of the time, you can say it's down to which games are optimised for AMD or Nvidia, so it pays to find out for which side your favourites are optimised before buying either of these cards.

When you put the AMD RX 480 against the GTX 1070 and 1080, the AMD card is beaten by the amount of raw power the two Nvidia cards have, where it's hard for the RX 480 to compete.

Clearly the GTX 1070 and 1080 are best suited to those who want to game at QHD or 4K.

Nevertheless, both the RX 480 and GTX 1060 provide fantastic value for money. If you're just looking for the best 1080p (1920x1080) experience, then both cards will suffice. If however, you're looking for more, then the GTX 1070 and 1080 are the logical choices.

It should also be noted that the RX 480 does better than a GTX 970 (especially given its 3.5GB VRAM memory problem) and be on-par in certain areas as the R9 390.

If you're looking for outright performance, it's a no brainer; the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 have far more graphics firepower. And the cost proportionately more. Yes, you could run two RX 480 cards in Crossfire, but you'd be roughly on a par with a GTX 1070, and have spent around the same money.

Winner: Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070

Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 vs AMD RX 480: Features

Both red and green camps have their advantages and disadvantages, the biggest one being what the architectures of both companies can bring to the end user.

The most obvious one is drivers and software support. AMD was previously known as having horrendous driver support. The firm has somewhat addressed the issues with new sleek and stylish software - Crimson - but at its core, AMD still has software problems and occasional game compatibility issues.

Don't get us wrong, Nvidia isn't perfect, especially with some of its bundled software such as ShadowPlay (which allows you to record gameplay), but it's generally accepted that Nvidia drivers and software have fewer problems than AMD.

AMD added the ability to record gameplay in December 2016 with its ReLive software.

Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070 vs AMD RX 480 - Pascal

One of Pascal's highlights is Nvidia Ansel, an exciting tool for those who like taking pictures in games. The tool allows you to take multiple images from a point of view that might not be present in-game. In other words, having the ability to take screenshots within a handful of games, where you can have different perspectives and angles that you might not have ever seen on your monitor.

On the AMD Polaris cards, there's no equivalent.

What you do have AMD FreeSync. This is AMD's answer to Nvidia's G-Sync, a clever way for the graphics card to synchronise with a compatible monitor in order to give you a super-smooth tear-free experience.

The major advantage of FreeSync is how much it costs. FreeSync monitors are a lot cheaper than G-Sync screens. For more, see our roundup of the Best gaming monitors.

Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070 vs AMD RX 480 - GPU

Both architectures support game streaming, VR and have great display output capabilities (DisplayPort 1.3, HDMI 2.0a/b etc). 

So Nvidia offers a few more features, but AMD's FreeSync means you can buy a cheaper gaming monitor. It's hard to call a winner between the two.

Really it's down to whether you want Ansel or FreeSync, although this is an overly simplistic way of looking at it.

Winner: Tied

Nvidia GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 vs AMD RX 480: Power

In the past, power draw and efficiency are two things where AMD has got a lot of bad press. AMD's cards tend to use a lot of power making them more expensive to run and require a beefier PC power supply.

This might not bother many, but heat dissipation which ultimately leads to fan noise, has been a focal point within the online community of PC builders.

Nvidia GTX 1080 & 1070 vs AMD RX 480 - Pascal card

In this respect, older AMD cards are known to run a lot hotter and because of this, for the same GPU load, are much louder. You might not think a graphics card can be that loud, but believe us, the AMD cards can sound like a jet wanting to take off.

Thankfully, third-party manufacturers such as MSI designed very cool (pun intended) fans that did a lot better than the stock AMD coolers.

With the RX 480, though, AMD has addressed this and the card runs a lot quieter than any previous generation AMD card and uses only 150W.

Back in the green corner, all new Nvidia cards run silently on both the stock fan design and the after-market coolers by manufacturers.

Taking this into account, it's hard to call a winner in this section of the comparison as both new AMD and Nvidia cards run silently.

Winner: Tied

Specs

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Founders Edition: Specs

  • Core clock: 1506 MHz (1708 MHz boost)
  • Memory bandwidth: 192 GB/sec
  • Memory bus width: 192-bit
  • CUDA cores: 1280
  • APIs: DirectX 12, level 12_1
  • Vulkan
  • OpenGL 4.5
  • Multi-Projection: Yes
  • VR Ready: Yes
  • SLI Ready: No
  • Memory type and capacity GDDR5, 6GB
  • Active vapour chamber cooler
  • Power Connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Power Consumption: 120W
  • Recommended System PSU: 400W
  • PCIe 3.0
  • OS Support: Windows 7-10, Linux, FreeBSDx86
  • Ports: DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.0b, Dual-link DVI
  • HDCP: 2.2
  • Simultaneous outputs: 3
  • Card width: 2 slots
  • Dimensions: 111mm x 249.5mm
  • Software: None
  • Accessories: None
  • Warranty: 3 years

XFX Radeon RX 480: Specs

  • GPU: AMD Radeon RX480
  • Compute Units: 36
  • Stream Processors: 2304
  • Core Speed: 1120MHz
  • Boost Speed: 1288MHz
  • Memory Speed 8GHz
  • Memory Bandwidth >224 GB/sec
  • Memory bus width: 256-bit
  • Memory type and capacity GDDR5 8GB
  • PCIe 3.0
  • CrossFire Ready: Yes
  • Power Consumption: 110W
  • Recommended System PSU: 350W
  • Power Connector: 1x 6-pin
  • Ports: 3x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0
  • Card width: 2 slots
  • Dimensions: 127mm x 254mm
  • Accessories: None
  • Warranty: 2 years

Best prices today: XFX Radeon RX 480

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