The MSI Radeon RX 480 Gaming X 8 GB is a mid-range graphics card based on the Polaris architecture. The graphics card has two DisplayPort inputs, two HDMI connectors and a single DVI-D input.
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Pro pretty quiet operation
The Twin Frozr IV cooler equipped on the RX 480 doesn't produce much noise at all. In idle and overall less intensive situations, the fans of the cooler don't spin up at all. The Gaming X card uses passive cooling until it reaches 60° C, which means it's basically silent. Even under full load the card remains pretty quiet with a measurement of 38 decibels (A). For comparison, a reference RX 480 produces around 43 dBA of noise. Because the decibel scale is logarithmic, the 5 dBA difference between a reference RX 480 and the Gaming X version is definitely noticeable (it's about 50% louder).
Pro Suitable ports for VR headsets
MSI has made a slight adjustment to the available connectors of the RX 480 Gaming. Instead of going with the regular combination of 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI and 1x DVI-D, they have opted for 2x DisplayPort, 2x HDMI and 1x DVI-D instead. The additional HDMI connector is particularly useful when using the card in combination with a VR headset such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which require two HDMI ports. Connecting a VR Headset won't require an adapter.
Pro 8-pin power connector allows for plenty of headroom
A reference RX 480 is equipped with a 6-pin power connector, but the power limit of the 6-pin connector has proven to be an issue for the RX 480 cards, as the total power consumption is sometimes higher than specified. The RX 480 Gaming 8 GB uses an 8-pin connector and although an 8-pin connector requires more power than a 6-pin connector, this effectively eliminates all concerns about the RX 480's power consumption and distribution and allows plenty of headroom for overclocking the card even further.
Pro Great cooling system prevents throttling
The RX 480 8 GB Gaming X features MSI's Twin Frozr IV cooler which results in low temperatures for the GPU. When idling, the GPU heats up to 37 degrees Celsius at stock speeds. Although this may sound a little on the higher side, the cooler does not spin up at all until it reaches 60° C. In full load situations, a maximum temperature of 73 degrees C is reached, which is still 9 degrees lower than a reference RX 480.
Lower temperatures not only allow a longer lifespan for the graphics card, but it also prevents throttling. Throttling is the phenomenon where the card slows itself down (it reduces the clock speed) in order to cool down and prevent overheating, effectively sacrificing performance. This never occurs with the Gaming X card.
Pro Features adjustable RGB LED lightning
The exterior of the MSI Gaming X 8 GB features some LED lights (the shards surrounding the cooler) which are color-adjustable to any RGB color via MSI's included software package. This allows you to customize the look of the graphics card, which can be useful if your setup is built with a specific color scheme in mind.
Pro Good overclocking potential
The MSI Gaming X RX 480 allows for overclocking past the factory setting, and is optimized for use with MSI's Afterburner software. In this particular case, a maximum boost clock of 1370 MHz was achieved (over a reference 1267 MHz, an 8% increase) and a memory clock of 9000 MHz (compared to the original 8000 MHz (+ 12.5%). This resulted in a score of 4796 in the 3D Mark Time Spy benchmark and some performance improvements in games as well. In Hitman for example, an overclocked MSI Gaming RX 480 achieves an average framerate of 64 FPS, while the same card without overclocks achieves an average of 57 frames per second.
Con Higher price tag due to low availability
The MSI's Gaming version of the RX 480 8 GB is in high demand and the card has some stock issues. A direct result of this is that the card is more expensive than its RX 480 competitors, although the manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) is only $269.99. While the prices now have come closer MSRP, they're still artificially inflated for now.
Con Factory overclock doesn't impress
Although MSI has factory overclocked the RX 480 Gaming X's boost clock, the normal GPU Clock and Memory Clock haven't been increased. For a card in this price category, these factory overclocks aren't as impressive as some other RX 480 cards.