When AMD unveiled its new Polaris architecture last December, the company declared the new GPU family would arrive in two flavors: Polaris 11 and Polaris 10. Polaris 10 launched in July with the RX 480 and RX 470, while Polaris 11 powers the RX 460, which debuts today at $110.
The RX 460 is a smaller, cut-down version of the Polaris 10 GPU, with 896 shader cores, a boost clock of up to 1.2GHz, 56 texture units, and 16 ROPS. It uses a 128-bit memory interface instead of the 256-bit path favored by the RX 470 and RX 480, which limits total memory bandwidth to 112GB/s. It has two Compute Units disabled (14 active from a total of 16), and an estimated TDP of less-than 75W.
Hot Hardware, Tom’s Hardware Guide, and Digital Trends reviewed the RX 460 and came away impressed with the card’s performance, value, and overall characteristics. How strong the RX 460 is against Nvidia cards depends on what you test — in DX12 and Vulkan games, the RX 460 tends to punch well above its weight class, while DX11 games are a bit more of a mixed bag. At its best, the RX 460 wins over the Nvidia GTX 950, a significantly more expensive GPU. It’s always faster than the older Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti, which sells for ~$100, and packs significantly more memory than Nvidia’s current budget card.
The RX 460’s overall performance is perfectly adequate for 1080p gaming on a budget, and there’s no trace of the current draw issues that tagged the RX 480 when it launched. Even the overclocked cards tested by THG and HH were easily within the PCI-SIG specification, though Sapphire and Asus both opted to overclock their hardware and include a six-pin connector. According to AMD, no six-pin connector is technically necessary, though including one probably gives the card some additional overclocking headroom it would otherwise lack. Some manufacturers are also building 2GB variants of the card, though 4GB appears to be more common. Pricing on the 2GB variants will presumably be lower than the 4GB cards, but it’s not clear by how much.
Overall, the RX 460 is a much-needed refresh for a price segment that AMD’s past refreshes haven’t addressed very well. AMD did a decent job of trickling older GCN hardware into lower price brackets, but the last major refresh it launched in the sub-$150 market was the HD 7790, aka Bonaire, aka the Radeon R7 260X. The RX 460 is significantly faster than the GTX 750 Ti (another good budget card back in 2014), and it’s more power efficient than any of the other GPUs in this price segment, with more memory to boot.
There are two factors that’ll be critical to RX 460 sales. First, AMD needs to demonstrate that it can ship the card. Right now, the RX 480 and RX 470 are nowhere to be found according to NowInStock.net. The handful of cards that hit market appear to be sticking closer to the official SEP, but they aren’t exactly plentiful. Nvidia, meanwhile, has better availability on the 1080, 1070, and 1060 — but the pricing is also significantly inflated.
This leaves gamers with three options: You can wait for prices to come down, you can buy a GPU at an inflated price (typically in the 10-20% range above MSRP), or you can try to pounce on an AMD Polaris GPU via emailed updates from NowInStock.net or a similar service. The idea of walking into a store and just buying whatever card you want seems a quaint anachronism in the 2016 GPU refresh cycle.
As of this writing, Newegg shows one RX 460 on-sale at its suggested $110 price: The PowerColor Red Dragon RX 460. Better snap it up quickly if you want one.
Now that we’ve got the entire Polaris lineup on the table, we can draw some conclusions about the GPU family. On the one hand, AMD’s new GPUs add support for features like HDMI 2.0b, better async compute capability in the lower-end cards, improved power efficiency, and larger RAM loadouts. These are all welcome features and the RX 460 should do a fine job of anchoring the ~$100 price point.
What’s less clear is whether or not AMD will be able to carve out a significant niche for itself. As strong as the RX 460 is relative to other cards on the market, Nvidia can answer it easily by trimming price on the GTX 950. The performance-per-dollar ratio on the GTX 950 is already better than the RX 460 in many cases, judging by the benchmarks at Tom’s Hardware. $20 is significant in this market and the 4GB of RAM on the RX 460 vs. the 2GB on low-end GTX 950s is a further advantage for AMD, but neither is insurmountable. If Nvidia decides to get aggressive with its pricing, it can sweep the legs out from under AMD’s new card in short order.
I suspect NV will wait and see how the market responds to RX 460 before making a move. Even that’s a win for AMD, at least in a sense. The past few years have seen Nvidia mostly on the offensive and AMD responding to Nvidia’s onslaught with strategic price cuts and product bundles. Potentially forcing Nvidia to trim its own prices to respond to an AMD launch is likely a refreshing change of pace for Team Red.