This is the main reason I read so many sites every day.  Issues like I am about to highly elaborate on is why I do not post much when news breaks because the devil is in the details and those never come out when things first break.

Many hardware sites simply do not do detailed hardware examinations to make sure the cards power draws are not going out of spec either at all or excessive amounts.  If they are this can damage critical parts like your motherboard and power supply.  I have seen too many times what happens to motherboards and other components when you run them out of spec in terms of power draw.

I have watched the AMD Radeon RX480 launch with interest as AMD is now firmly in P-4 land.  having problems containing power usage with chips not performing well in regards to industry leaders.  For many years now the AMD CPU side has been a near disaster with their low performance, high power draw chips due to bad design decisions and now it looks like their graphics side has gotten bitten as well.  The new RX480 parts are decidedly mid-range which is not necessarily a bad price point but as i started watching reviews serious concerns about the new cards power draw began to emerge.

PC and are a couple of the few sites that intimately tests cards not just for performance but for standards compliance including voltages when it comes to graphics cards.  After looking at the review from tomshardware(warning very technical) and then the review from pcperspective I decided to hold off on writing about what should have been a good design win for AMD until all the facts were in.

AMD, to it’s credit, has released a new driver to address some of the hardware power problems on the card.  However Nvidia cards are not immune to driving certain things out of spec…namely the 6 pin power connector.  Nvidia however is overdrawing the 6pin PSU connector which while being driven technically out of spec is safer because many PSUs have quite a bit of overcapacity built into that section.  AMDs new drivers instead of severely over drawing the motherboard(bad idea in my book) moves more of the load to the 6 pin PSU connector.  Unfortunately the motherboard is still overdrawn a little bit even with the load shifting.  There is a compatibility mode you can turn on that drives power consumption down a bit but also puts the motherboard essentially on spec AND reduces the total power draw of the Radeon card without a large impact on performance.

This leads me to wonder.  If compatibility mode essentially put the card on spec with the motherboard power draw specifications AND reduces overall power draw of the card without a major impact on performance why is this not done by default?

The new Radeon cards are good mid range performers and SHOULD have been a great launch and made AMD a good set of profits.  Unfortunately some self-inflicted wounds caused by pure laziness and sloppiness have once again rendered their ugly heads.  I am also left to wonder how far out of spec cards from both AMD AND Nvidia have been running and wondering if this had led to the spike in PSu/motherboard failures I have been seeing over the past couple of years.  Hopefully this new wave of power standards compliance testing will reign in both AMD and Nvidia on their power draws to make cards that stay within specifications.

Overdrawing the PSU connection to me is not a huge issue as long as it isn’t approaching the built-in margins for the connector.  This is why when ETC Maryland builds hardware close attention to both base line specifications and the underlying hardware standards are researched. Recommendations are then made with sufficient margins for either upgrade capabilities or for purely longevity capabilities to handle the inevitable outliers when it comes to standards violators(like graphics cards).  Now having read these series of articles I will be re-evaluating my hardware margin recommendations even further.

Few companies in the the industry take the time to properly and thoroughly research all facets of your new technology builds like ETC Maryland.  If you want technology researched properly, to all industry specifications the first time.  Contact ETC Maryland for all of your technology needs.