The ASUS RX460 STRIX brings entry-level gaming to a new level - it's compact, cool, quiet and packs a bigger punch than we were expecting.
Sporting the 14nm FinFET Polaris 11 architecture, the RX460 GPU from AMD was intended to make a splash - ASUS gave it the STRIX treatment to make sure that splash was even bigger. I'll declare it up front - we really liked this graphics card. The ASUS ROG STRIX RX460 impressed us throughout the testing on many levels. The GPU is the only entry-level thing about this card, the cooler is as high quality as it gets.
Whilst NVIDIA released their new GPU line up in top-down order, starting with the beastly GTX 1080 at over $1,000 - AMD took a different approach with the release of the mid-range RX480 and then the lower spec'd RX460 and RX470 GPUs. This move was great news for budget conscious gamers looking for something new. The Polaris architecture is the next evolution for AMD and involves a more efficient, cooler result with a graphics core optimised for DX12. The 'here and now' RX460, RX470 and RX480 are an encouraging sign of the new architecture.
I wouldn't normally look at an entry-level card twice but this one is different - for a start it's packing 4GB of GGR5, has a virtually silent cooling solution, RGB LEDs, flawless build quality, relatively small footprint for a non-ITX card and the performance has reset our expectations of entry-level.
When we usually discuss entry level cards amongst ourselves or with gamers at LANs, the first thing most people say is "Yeah but..." and then a list of things an entry level card can't do start to flow - things like VR, playing games at Ultra settings etc. This is all true but the price in this case is about half of a decent mid-range card so how about we spend a bit of time in this review looking at what it can do?
We put the ASUS STRIX RX460 through the standard benchmarks, the in-game benchmark utilities and then went to town with some general gameplay testing which is where we really appreciated the value this brings to the lower end of the market. Let's spend a moment to look at the so-called lower end. This is an area that has either a restriction on price or where a gamer only needs more than integrated but not as much grunt as the mid-range cards. We don't all need massive horse power pushing our pixels and the typical eSports titles aren't as demanding as the latest release AAA titles.
The STRIX RX460 comes with an OC mode hitting 1256MHz and a Gaming mode (default) running at 1236MHz. It should be noted though that there are no true 'reference' cards available with the stock boost clocks of 1200MHz. For this reason, we left the card in Gaming mode as the ASUS design team intended it to be used.
ASUS strapped on the dual fan STRIX cooler to keep things cool and quiet despite giving the GPU a 36-56MHz nudge for a better result when gaming.
The card is compact and looked small in our Define R5 case. There is a single 6-pin power connector and is easy to access. There is a neatly-concealed but still very accessible 4-pin fan header - Yes, a case fan header! The STRIX cooler will go passive at low temperatures so if the case airflow and ambient temperatures are managed, the twin fans on the graphics card cooler don't have to work as hard. By linking a case fan to the cooler with the ASUS software, you can control the airflow over the card or through the case to help manage the noise and thermal profile. This is a brilliant design feature and ASUS really kicked a goal by including it.
The price to performance ratio of the RX460 STRIX is set to the entry level. The ASUS Strix Edition costs more than some of the other versions of the RX460 that come in closer to or even below the $200 mark. This seems fair enough when the build quality, Aura lighting, virtually silent cooler and generous overclock are all put into perspective.
As with other current AMD GPUs, FreeSync is supported to smooth out the experience if you have one of the quickly growing list of monitors that support FreeSync.
The card comes with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort connections - so for those still using an older monitor with DVI, no extra dongles or uprades are required.
ASUS STRIX Cooler
The ASUS STRIX cooler is a legitimate 'Premium' cooler. It is extremely effective, makes very little noise and looks completely badass. The STRIX version of the RX460 takes an entry level GPU and makes it 'fancy' with higher clock speeds, customisable AURA RGB lighting, almost silent operation and a build quality that seems out of place at this end of the market. The STRIX cooler on this card really is that good.
The Crimson software from AMD, the ASUS Aura and the ASUS GPU Tweak II utilities were all 100% stable throughout all of our testing. We didn't see any memory leaks, lockups or other issues at a system level, nor did we experience any in-game issues or driver crashes.
The ASUS software was intuitive and allows gamers to create a custom effect on an entry level GPU - nice!