So less than 24 hours before the embargo passed we received this 8 GB model of the RX 470, and I was like, "oh heck we have got to make this review work before the embargo lifts". So here you go, please forgive me the occasional grammatical error as this MSI GAMING X review was a bit of a rush job alright. Okay, let's face it, the Gaming X series is a product that attracts the masses, and MSI has done it again -- this one has a truly proper cooler, is 100% silent, has an 8-pin power connector and is a notch tweaked out of the box as well (and properly tweaked with a steady 1242 MHz clock, hardly any downclocking). Also it overclocked (manually) the best out of the three cards we have reviewed. I'll say it again, this card is 100% silent. Now do expect a 229 USD price-tag for this 8 GB version, but sure, MSI will release a 4 GB version as well likely in the 199 USD bracket. Overall the performance might be a tiny notch lower compared to the RX 480, but it still is pretty darn good. Even at 2560x1440 if you'd forfeit a little in, say, AA levels, the card can manage itself quite well.
The Gaming X series come with the stylish TwinFrozr VI cooler and looks serious. The 2016 update also comes with RGB LED lighting control as well as a LED array in the rear, surrounding the fan. The top logo etc. you can switch on/off or to any color and animation you prefer, the choice is yours. In the end the result is a lovely looking product, however a warning to MSI; the TwinFrozr series is slowly becoming a little repetitive with the black/red design. I do understand branding though, but imagine this cooler in black with just white accents, eh?
Performance wise you always need to place things into perspective, and the final sales price is the biggest variable that will determine the success of the RX 470. For 4 GB if you pick a product in the 179 USD space, I think you'd be golden. But another variable is of course your gaming resolution, and 1080P is the domain for this card. You are looking at a product that competes in-between the GeForce GTX 960 and GeForce GTX 970. If you compare to say a 280/280X/280 series graphics card, well, for 199 or 229 USD you are in for a treat in terms of performance and value. Let's not forget about other features; the Radeon RX 470 and Polaris 10 overall will offer proper performance, Eyefinity features and PCIe gen 3 compatibility and all the other stuff like HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.4 with HDR support and so on. The Radeon RX 470 series is a proper DirectX 12 product right from the get-go.
Who Would The Radeon RX 470 Be Best Suited For?
As always, the answer to that question is a little complex. I would say that you'll need to look at your monitor and game preferences first and foremost. This card at its given price range makes quite a lot of sense right now for 1080P. It is however capable of rendering 2560x1440 resolution games, but you'll run out of raw performance rather sooner than later. At WQHD (2560x1440) most games run well enough if you forfeit on image quality though, e.g. lower AA and complex texture quality settings and shadows. Another benefit is that at least the most elementary and arbitrary DirectX 12 feature levels are supported in hardware. Even on very harsh-on-the-GPU titles you'll refrain from un-ticking graphics quality options to gain on framerate performance, there's very little trade-off to be made as the RX 470 will deliver enough. In short, for the money this is an excellent 1080P card (if you opt for that model). With 8 GB we feel the card is rather future proof, however we're not sure the extra money is well invested (worth it) at 1080P.
Cooling and Noise levels
The Gaming X model comes factory tweaked at 1242 MHz and that tweak is done properly as the dynamic boost frequency remains pretty much at that frequency all the time. The temperature hovers at roughly 66 Degrees C, and that is under full gaming stress, so that's lovely as well. The best part is that it is a totally silent card. And when I say silent I really do mean silent, period. We tested the PowerColor Red Devil, we tested the ASUS STRIX, but neither one of them comes close to the TwinFrozr VI in terms of low noise levels. The cooler itself works really well, the card however does exhaust a bit of the warm air inside the PC, the vent at the monitor IO plate is hardly used if at all. The card did not make any coil whine noises.
The board is rated at roughly 120 Watts TDP, that means when you completely stress it, that's the power consumption. Our measurements showed that the board TDP is in the 130~135 Watt region, we measured a little higher but with some games also noticed lower wattages. The move to 14nm FiNFET obviously is testimony to a great perf/watt ratio. No complaints here really.
The card in default mode (reference) is running ~1242 MHz on the boost frequency. Overclocking wise we could get the card stable at 1380 MHz. The memory would reach only 7.4 Gbps stable on this card. Aside from the memory, this is the fastest overclock out of all cards tested. In the overclocked condition it remains silent with temps close to the 65 Degrees C domain. Also when overclocked we did not notice any limiters kick in, and that yielded really proper overclock results translated into actual performance.
Let me first get something out of the way, the 8 GB graphics memory on a RX 470 is not needed, in fact we had a hard time noticing a difference whatsoever over 4 GB performance. However if you want to be a little more future proof and you can miss that extra 25 bucks, well why not? It certainly won't hurt you. Just do not expect performance benefits at this time. MSI took the RX 470 GPU and improved on the design with a proper cooler - a proper tweak and also included a DVI connector. Anyone looking for an affordable upgrade to a WQHD capable graphics card coming from, say, a 280/380, well... this card series will offer nice value for money. Other than that the Radeon RX 470 4 GB/8 GB is obviously a little gem for the gamer on a budget, it's great for 1080P owners and doesn't shy away from 2560x1440 either. A nice plus is the relative lower power consumption. The Polaris 10 architecture seems very sound and proves it can deliver big-time whilst remaining in line power consumption wise, we do think it is merely a small iteration over GCN Generation 3, the die-shrink with 14nm FinFET is the biggest benefit in terms of relative performance and wattage. Heat and noise wise I'd like to declare the product as a truly and nicely custom cooled AIB product, it is extremely silent while temps hover in that 65 Degrees C domain at maximum. We think the 470 series will be a nice mainstream product series offering good value for money, but as I always recommend, you need to make sure that you will not purchase the product with price hyper-inflated, 179~199 USD is the purchasing domain that makes the most sense if you pick up the MSI RX 470 4 GB Gaming X model. The Gaming X overall is a proper Full HD gaming graphics cards with all the right boxes ticked. Honestly I do not have any complaints, highly recommended. In fact, with this proper tweak, overclock ability, inaudible performance and lovely looks I'll even hand out a top pick award. It is a nice mid-range graphics card worthy of your purchasing short list.
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