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How To: Overclock RX 480 Reference Card

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I once overclocked an Intel
Mar 3, 2008

Hey OCF, I'm back with another guide. I picked up a RX 480 when they first came out, and I was finally able to sit down and tear it apart. The RX 480 is an odd beast, it gives and takes based on a varying different factors. I've only just started to fully understand the card, but there is a lot I can't fully explain. The goal of this guide is to simply list the process I took to create a stable 24/7 OC for my RX 480. All the trials and errors I ran into will hopefully enable others to get further than I.

Early warning, this guide was created with a fully watercooled system. Results will vary with different cooling techniques!


As the title indicates, my RX 480 is a Gigabyte 8GB reference card with 88% ASIC Quality. I replaced the stock cooler with a XPS BLADE RX480. The GPU block is a ~$40 less than the EK varient. The major difference between the two is MOSFET cooling. The EK block has water flowing over the FETs, while XPS does not. When researching blocks I came across buildzoid's post on his ventures of LN2 RX480 OCing. The FETs are designed to run in a hotter environment, so cooling them further creates no gain.

Short of it, the XPS is cheaper and EK's variant is a bit overkill.

As for my WC setup it is as follows:

Pump --> 1x180 RAD --> CPU Block --> Res --> GPU Block --> 2x180 Rad --> pump.

The 1x180 Rad has a push pull of 2xDelta.
The 2x180 Rad has 1xDelta and 1xCorsiar generic.

Fans are rigged to a PWM controller (each fan port can push 30W). During 24/7 OC testing, all fans were set to lowest setting.

CPU Block: XPS Raystorm

For this guide, I used AMD Driver Version 16.9.2 for Win 10 x64. In my opinion, this is the lowest driver level you should be using for overlocking. BIOS overclocking REQUIRES 16.9.1+, ATIFLASH will not work without it.


You will need the following software:

Please read the entire process steps before trying anything; it is important to understand what will happen before doing this OC fully blind.

To preface, the RX 480 will be different than other GPUs that you have overclocked in the past. New technology is featured on these new gen cards, and so techniques must change. One of the biggest frustrations I had with this card, is the ill support of voltage control. For the most part, I found that software tools would not hold my core voltage after a shutdown. At least it would hold it for one startup/shutdown sequence, and than for some reason it would never register again. A true 24/7 overclock requires no tinkering after setup. That is the goal of for this process. The agenda is for you to learn how to have a true, boot up, no tinker, set and forget, stable 24/7 OC for your RX480.

First you will need to backup your card's stock BIOS. (See steps in Appendix) This is very important, for if anything were to go wrong your best bet is to flash back to stock. You will also need this image if you want to change between modded BIOS's.

The second step you need to take is flashing your card's bios with the unlocked air bios. Inside Unlocked AIR BIOS package, you will find the ASUSRX480.air.rom file. This rom will allow you to test the true limits of your card with your current cooling system. The unlocked bios provides a higher tolerance of power draw, and unlocks the core voltage, and core/memory frequencies. (See BIOS flashing process below).

Once you have the unlocked bios flashed to your card, you can begin the first round of overclocking. Use Asus GPU Tweak II to overclock your RX 480 to the highest you can. Personally, I set my Power limit to the highest it could go, and than I set my GPU voltage to 1.25v. I will strongly suggest that you do not go for higher voltage than 1.25 for a 24/7 OC. With the Power limit nearly unlimited, you can easily draw ~250Ws. This is more than enough to get a high core frequency. The goal of working with ASUS GPU Tweak II and this unlocked BIOS is to find your card's sweet spot.

At a certain point, your GPU will not allow for a higher core frequency, no mater what kind of voltage you apply. Usually this results in a driver crash, and requires a system reboot. Don't worry! You will have many of these instances. It is very important that you do not create a bootup OC setting that has not been tested. AMD's wattman will save the card's OC settings in a special place. If a boot loop of a bad OC occurs, you will have to flush your drivers in Safemode using DDU.

With each OC attempt, you should be running a benchmark or stress tool of some sort. I suggest that you take a long time to find what works with your card. The OC will be brought into a new BIOS and your card will be locked to it. So please make sure you take the time to fully stress your card.

Once you find those right settings you can now move to the next phase, bringing that OC to a 24/7 bootup. As you may have noticed, Asus GPU Tweak II can forget settings during a reboot cycle. I'm not sure if it is the tool's fault or if it has to do with the drivers. Regardless, the software tools will not always keep your settings. This is why a modded BIOS is required.

Open up the Polaris BIOS Editor, and than open up the ASUSRX480.air.rom. I have found that it is best to edit this ROM as it has given me better success than editing a stock rom. Once opened you should have a window like this:


The two windows you should modify are the GPU and MEMORY windows. It is here that you can set the different core/memory frequency and power states. For my modded BIOS, I only changed the Memory frequency and the very last GPU core voltage to 1.25V.


Doing this, I setup a baseline setup for my 24/7 GPU OC. Like I've said, I found it hard to keep a specific core voltage set. With my modded BIOS, I am able to keep it at a specific voltage.

Once these settings are set, save the modded BIOS into the same directory as your ATIFLASH program. YOU ARE REQUIRED TO FLASH BACK TO STOCK FIRST!!! If you try to flash your card with a non-stock BIOS already applied, the result will be a failed BIOS flash. Please make sure to flash back to stock, than flash with your new modded BIOS. I HIGHLY SUGGEST to also clean your drivers and uninstall ASUS Tweak II once the stock BIOS has been flashed to the card. It is best to remove any fingerprints of older GPUs. Flashing the BIOS of your GPU with these different BIOS's results in a differently signed GPU. The Drivers must be reconfigured, and tools must make a new profile. Deleting all history removes any chance of conflicts.

At this point, you should have a stable system, with a new core voltage and GPU memory frequency. You can now use a software oc tool to play with the GPU core. I suggest MSI Afterburner, as it can save the settings without issues. Set the Power Limit to max, and now try to set your GPU frequency back to the level you had with Unlocked AIR BIOS. Once you cannot push the core further, save the setting into the 24/7 profile.

There you have it. You now have a 24/7 OC for your RX 480!



BIOS Flashing
Step 1) Download ATIFlash for RX 480 (link provided above)
Step 2) Place contents of ATIFlash in an easy to access place. You will be using command prompt a lot, so CD navigation should be easy.
Step 3) Open a command prompt window with Administrator rights.
Step 4) Navigate to ATIFlash to your ATIFlash director using CD (ex. CD C:\users\dolk\desktop\ATIFlash\)
Step 5) Use the following command to flash bios: atiflash.exe -p 0 <name_of_rom> -f
Step 6) When indicated that flash has finished, restart computer.

With your GPU with STOCK BIOS applied:
Step 1) Open up GPUz
Step 2) Press the SAVE BIOS button


More to come! Will be updating throughout the day. Edits and Updates are just so that I don't lost info. :)
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I guess it's the same as for any non-reference card with one tricky step ... reference has 6 pin power connector. I wonder if you make it to run at 150W pcie rail. Reference has 75+75W max so 150W max at unlocked power limit. It let to OC a bit but I guess you count on some more. My card is showing 185W max on gpu at 1.25V so I guess it's above 200W in total.
I have no idea about reference card but my HIS vrm run at max 75*C without heatsinks but with some airflow from 120mm fan. That's max after overvolting to 1.25V +150% power limit and full load in 3D.

Of course waiting for results :)
@Woomack I've recorded my RX 480 pulling 250W with my process. BIOS does well in balancing power draw.
I'm not sure, I haven't played too much with it. Honestly I want to try the Memory timing out. OCN is very active in that branch, and it seems to help with the cards total performance.
I was reading about it last night as well, haven't personally played with it any.

My Sapphire Nitro+ 1342core is hitting 1465/2250 on the stock BIOS, but I am maxing out the BIOS PWM settings right now. I feel like if I adjust for more wattage I can be into the 1500+ range. Good news is this card is rated high as **** for the PWM temps so I don't really have to worry about them.
@Neb, it may be worth tyring to flash to a ref design? I'm not sure about memory though. A lot of the OCN guys are using non-ref cards and playing with Mem timings. They seem to have a lot of luck.

I've also found that setting voltage past 1.25V makes it harder for the chip to run. 1.25V was the sweet spot for me. Drivers crash at 1460MHz though :(

Added Thoughts: Card is 88% Asic Quality. Also At certain points, I found that going colder improves clock per mV. I maxed out around 1300 core on AIR before going water. But load temps don't seem to matter, its all in the idle it seems.
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@Neb, it may be worth tyring to flash to a ref design? I'm not sure about memory though. A lot of the OCN guys are using non-ref cards and playing with Mem timings. They seem to have a lot of luck.

I've also found that setting voltage past 1.25V makes it harder for the chip to run. 1.25V was the sweet spot for me. Drivers crash at 1460MHz though :(

Added Thoughts: Card is 88% Asic Quality. Also At certain points, I found that going colder improves clock per mV. I maxed out around 1300 core on AIR before going water. But load temps don't seem to matter, its all in the idle it seems.

I am only at 1.2v for my card, I am curious what your vdroop is.
Interestingly enough your card just barely beats mine. I need to bump my TDP in the BIOS lol



WTF? it has to be a margin of error thing

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I could bench at ~1450MHz but after half day of benching I couldn't pass ~1415MHz on the same card with the same settings and cooling. I'm not sure why. I also see that what is passing 3DMark multiple times is not always stable and after 30-40 mins of playing games it may crash even at lower load than in benchmarks.
Tried a bios mod for shiz and giggles with the guide Dolk posted. Results were 1350-2250 @ 1.25v. Ran TimeSpy/FireStrike and the card's temp maxed @ 72c and all seemed well. Tried gaming with cod mw 2 and was rewarded with black screen :-/

Reverted back to original bios-

Me is thinking the mem might be undervolting :confused:
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The RX 480 is a good card, even at stock speeds. If you're using a 1080p display it will master most games with authority. But, and this my but, my solution will be this http://www.galax.com/en/graphics-card/hof/galax-geforcer-gtx-1070-hof-159.html It's a shame, because my 480 is my first AMD card that doesn't have massive driver failures. I like it. I have zero complaints about the performance. Just time to try Team Green. :)