The flagship of the red team’s new generation of graphics cards, AMD’s RX 480, is finally here. The 480 aims to be a groundbreaking card for the mainstream gamer. With prices of $199 and $229 for the 4GB and 8GB versions respectively, the card is squarely in the mid-range price point, but with significantly more power than previously seen in a card at this price. The card performs just slightly above the GTX 970 or R9 390 — cards that cost $320+ until very recently.
This finally puts a VR-capable graphics card in the hands of the masses.
First: Which version to get, 4GB or 8GB?
Only a few of the most demanding modern games use more than 4GB of video RAM, and then only with the settings turned all the way up, or at very high resolution (a.k.a greater than 4K). GTA V is the most popular example. And at those settings and resolutions, an RX 480 isn’t powerful enough to produce smooth frame rates anyway. Outside of these uncommon scenarios, a 4GB RX 480 will perform exactly like an 8GB RX 480.
However, for the few times it might be needed, and for future games that may need more VRAM, $30 is a fair price to pay for extra peace of mind and potential future-proofing. This is a long way of saying that both the 4GB and 8GB cards are good options. (If you are building a PC for more than gaming — such as video editing — you may see more advantages to having additional video RAM.)
Also, watch the price
Since the RX 480 is made with new GPU manufacturing technology, supply is nearly guaranteed to be low at launch, and demand will be very high. As a result, you may see RX 480 cards on sale for significantly higher than the suggested $199-229 price. Our build recommendations are based on the suggested price, as the 480 is not a logical purchase at much higher prices.
As a baseline, we would not recommend buying the RX 480 if the price is much higher than the GTX 970 or R9 390, so compare prices before making a decision.
The one exception to this would be if you know you’ll be investing in the RX 480 for a long time. Reviews indicate that the card performs especially well with DirectX 12 games. For now, there are only a few known DX12 games coming out, but they include Battlefield 1, Deus Ex Mankind Divided, and ARK: Survival Evolved.
Next: The RX 480 Builds
We are going to wait for official benchmarks and final prices before adding the RX 480 to the Logical Increments parts list, but in the meantime, we’ve got two affordable example builds using the RX 480. If you’re planning a build with AMD’s new little powerhouse, this is a good place to start. First, see our Excellent RX 480 build for $955, or further below we have a Budget RX 480 build for $665. (Prices are current as of publishing date. Also note that new computer builds need an operating system. We recommend Windows 10.)
The Excellent RX 480 Build ($955)
Taking the rumored performance of the 480 into account, we suggest a build based off our Superb and Excellent tiers. This PC will meet the official requirements of VR gaming with an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, and it will play every current PC game very well at the highest settings at the common 1080p resolution, and most at 1440p resolution, along with doing things like video editing quite well.
The advantages of this build over the Budget build below are slightly higher performance, easier upgrades in the future due to the better motherboard and more powerful power supply, better cooling, and higher quality components that should add a little extra reliability.
GPU: RX 480 8GB ($230)
The 8GB version of AMD’s new graphics card is the star of the show. If you don’t have a ton of cash to spend, this is now the best graphics card for less than $300.
The i5-6500 is a powerful, efficient, affordable CPU. It’s more than capable of handling modern PC games. It’s also a good starter CPU for moderately heavy workloads such as video editing or 3D rendering.
Motherboard: ASRock Z170 Pro4S ($80)
In the Z170 Pro4S, ASRock offers a very good budget board. M.2 support, 6 rear USB 3.0 ports and CrossFire support ensure this board has all the features you need without breaking the bank.
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB DDR4-2400 ($70)
Kingston has always been a reputable memory brand and its HyperX Fury series is a reliable option for solid performance and value. 2400MHz and a 15 CAS Latency is a standard choice for Skylake chips and Z170 boards, ensuring compatibility. It doesn’t break the bank but is more than fast enough. 16GB is more than enough for modern games and most computing tasks. Most people could go with 8GB to save a bit of money and never notice a difference.
SSD: SanDisk Ultra II 240GB ($70)
This is a high-quality SSD that will enable fast boot times, and provide ample storage for core programs and a select few favorite games to reduce load times.
HDD: HGST Deskstar 2TB ($70)
This 2TB hard drive allows plenty of storage for the average user. If you need more space, feel free to get a larger drive. HGST makes particularly reliable drives.
Heatsink: CoolerMaster Hyper 212 EVO ($30)
The Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO is an excellent, very popular value heatsink. At only $30, it has a very solid price/performance and will ensure a longer life span of the CPU while staying quiet.
Power Supply: EVGA GS 650W 80+ Gold ($90)
This is a high quality power supply. Gold efficiency for cooler operation and less wasted power. Fully modular to keep your case tidy. Plenty of extra power for extra reliability and the option to add additional parts to your build in the future, such as an additional RX 480 for extra graphics horsepower.
Case: Fractal Design ARC Midi R2 ($110)
A fully featured case for a very fair price, upon its initial release the ARC Midi R2 was ground breaking with its numerous dust filters, fan controller and cable management features. It is an easy case to work in with modular drive cages to create a cool, quiet and clean PC.
The Budget RX 480 Build ($665, micro ATX)
While the build above is very powerful for the money, it’s still outside of many people’s budgets. Since the RX 480 is targeted to be a mainstream card, we also wanted to design a budget build that would still maximize the power of the 480 on a smaller budget. As a bonus, this build incorporates a micro ATX form factor. This build will run any current game smoothly, with maximum settings, at 1080p resolution. If you decide in the future that you need more graphical horsepower to get higher frame rates, you can replace the GPU with a more powerful one.
GPU: RX 480 4GB ($200)
The 4GB version of the 480 is just as powerful as the 8GB version except at very high resolutions in graphically intensive games. It’s also $30 cheaper.
CPU: Intel i5-6400 ($180)
Still nearly as powerful as the i5-6500, but slightly more affordable.
Motherboard: ASUS H110M-K Micro-ATX ($55)
The H110M-K is a quality entry-level board, although it lacks features such as overclocking support, an M.2 slot, or CrossFire support. None of those features are necessary for this build.
RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB DDR4-2133 ($35)
Non-Z Skylake chipsets don’t support faster memory than 2133, which means we can save a bit on RAM. 8GB is plenty for most people.
SSD: SanDisk SSD Plus 120GB ($40)
If you’re looking to save more money, you don’t actually need an SSD. However, we still recommend an SSD for your Operating System, because it makes booting up and launching applications so much faster.
HDD: Seagate Barracuda 1TB ($50)
A 1TB hard drive provides plenty of storage for the average user. You can get as large a drive as you think you will need.
Heatsink: Intel stock cooler (free)
Intel’s stock heatsink is perfectly adequate for the i5-6400, and it’s hard to beat the price.
Power Supply: Seasonic S12II 520W 80+ Bronze ($55)
A high-quality, bronze-tiered power supply. Quiet and reliable.
Case: Corsair Carbide 88R ($50)
To suit the motherboard choice, a great quality budget mATX mid tower is a good choice for under $50. It skips a lot of high-end features like fan controllers, but it still has necessary dust filters, adequate cable management, and even a modular 3.5” bay. Please note that it is advisable to get an extra 120mm front intake fan.
Don’t want to read about all these parts? Watch our build recommendations in video form instead!
And that’s it! Whether you’re looking for a fully featured RX 480 build, or something that gets you the maximum performance for minimum money, we hope these example builds give you some inspiration. Keep an eye on our homepage for continually updated recommendations on RX 480 builds.