AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB Folding@Home Review

Hello again.

Today, I’ll be reviewing the AMD Radeon RX 580 graphics card in terms of its computational performance and power efficiency for Stanford University’s Folding@Home project. For those that don’t know, Folding@Home lets users donate their computer’s computations to support disease research. This consumes electrical power, and the point of my blog is to look at how much scientific work (Points Per Day or PPD) can be computed for the least amount of electrical power consumption. Why? Because in trying to save ourselves from things like cancer, we shouldn’t needlessly pollute the Earth. Also, electricity is expensive!

The Card

AMD released the RX 580 in April 2017 with an MSRP of $229. This is an updated card based on the Polaris architecture. I previously reviewed the RX 480 (also Polaris) here, for those interested. I picked up my MSI-flavored RX 580 in 2019 on eBay for about $120, which is a pretty nice depreciated value. Those who have been following along know that I prefer to buy used video cards that are 2-3 years old, because of the significant initial cost savings, and the fact that I can often sell them for the same as I paid after running Folding for a while.

RX_580

MSI Radeon RX 580

I ran into an interesting problem installing this card, in that at 11 inches long, it was about a half inch too long for my old Raidmax Sagitta gaming case. The solution was to take the fan shroud off, since it was the part that was sticking out ever so slightly. This involved an annoying amount of disassembly, since the fans actually needed to be removed from the heat sink for the plastic shroud to come off. Reattaching the fans was a pain (you need a teeny screw driver that can fit between the fan blade gaps to get the screws by the hub).

RX_580_noShroud

RX 580 with Fan Shroud Removed. Look at those heat pipes! This card has a 185 Watt TDP (Board Power Rating). 

RX_580_Installed

RX 580 Installed (note the masking tape used to keep the little side LED light plate off of the fan)

RX_580_tightFit

Now That’s a Tight Fit (the PCI Express Power Plug on the video card is right up against the case’s hard drive bays)

The Test Setup

Testing was done on my rather aged, yet still able, AMD FX-based system using Stanford’s Folding@Home V7 client. Since this is an AMD graphics card, I made sure to switch the video card mode to “compute” within the driver panel. This optimizes things for Folding@home’s workload (as opposed to games).

Test Setup Specs

  • Case: Raidmax Sagitta
  • CPU: AMD FX-8320e
  • Mainboard : Gigabyte GA-880GMA-USB3
  • GPU: MSI Radeon RX 580 8GB
  • Ram: 16 GB DDR3L (low voltage)
  • Power Supply: Seasonic X-650 80+ Gold
  • Drives: 1x SSD, 2 x 7200 RPM HDDs, Blu-Ray Burner
  • Fans: 1x CPU, 2 x 120 mm intake, 1 x 120 mm exhaust, 1 x 80 mm exhaust
  • OS: Win10 64 bit
  • Video Card Driver Version: 19.10.1

 

Performance and Power

I ran the RX 580 through its paces for about a week in order to get a good feel for a variety of work units. In general, the card produced as high as 425,000 points per day (PPD), as reported by Stanford’s servers. The average was closer to 375K PPD, so I used that number as my final value for uninterrupted folding. Note that during my testing, I occasionally used the machine for other tasks, so you can see the drops in production on those days.

RX 580 Client

Example of Client View – RX 580

RX580 History

RX 580 Performance – About 375K PPD

I measured total system power consumption at the wall using my P3 Watt Meter. The system averaged about 250 watts. That’s on the higher end of power consumption, but then again this is a big card.

Comparison Plots

RX 580 Performance

AMD Radeon RX 580 Folding@Home Performance Comparison

RX 580 Efficiency

AMD Radeon RX 580 Folding@Home Efficiency Comparison

Conclusion

For $120 used on eBay, I was pretty happy with the RX 580’s performance. When it was released, it was directly competing with Nvidia’s GTX 1060. All the gaming reviews I read showed that Team Red was indeed able to beat Team Green, with the RX 580 scoring 5-10% faster than the 1060 in most games. The same is true for Folding@Home performance.

However, that is not the end of the story. Where the Nvidia GTX 1060 has a 120 Watt TDP (Thermal Dissipated Power), AMD’s RX 580 needs 185 Watts. It is a hungry card, and that shows up in the efficiency plots, which take the raw PPD (performance) and divide out the power consumption in watts I am measuring at the wall. Here, the RX 580 falls a bit short, although it is still a healthy improvement over the previous generation RX 480.

Thus, if you care about CO2 emissions and the cost of your folding habits on your wallet, I am forced to recommend the GTX 1060 over the RX 580, especially because you can get one used on eBay for about the same price. However, if you can get a good deal on an RX 580 (say, for $80 or less), it would be a good investment until more efficient cards show up on the used market.

5 responses to “AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB Folding@Home Review

  1. I realize this was posted a while ago, but I just came across your site, which I love. I also picked up an rx580 on the cheap ($100 on ebay) and am using it mostly for folding. It’s true that at default settings, the rx580 is not efficient, but AMD was doing whatever they could to up the performance, efficiency be damned. On my card, I lowered the frequency from 1366 MHZ to 1250 MHZ, and the voltage from 1150mV to 950mV, and the card is stable and running at about 80 Watts. So much better efficiency is possible.

    • Wow that’s an awesome result! And it makes sense…typically gaming cards are competing for benchmark scores. I will try and do an article where I downvolt / underclock an AMD card in the future.

  2. Still tuning my card, but I have some data on efficiency with the rx580. I’m running FAHBench 2.3.1 w/ OpenMM 7.4.1 in mixed precision mode, WU real (higher power than WU dhfr):

    Std — Default out of the box setup, 1366MHz@1150mV
    OC — Radeon Auto-Overclock feature, 1436MHz@unknown voltage
    UV — Manual undervolting to 1250MHz@950mV

    Setting GPU Watts Watts at the wall Relative performance
    Std 106 218 —
    OC 120 245 +3.8%
    UV 75 168 -6.3%

    A few notes:
    — The GPU power is reported by the Radeon software, and I believe is just the chip, not the total board power.
    — The undervolting is stable — I had even lower settings running in FAHBench that then threw exceptions when running actual work units.
    — I’ve seen reviews where folks say their rx580 “sounds like a jet taking off”. Now I get it, that OC feature is LOUD.

    Seems obvious, that at least for these AMD cards, there is tremendous room for efficiency improvements if you’re willing to get away from the default settings.

  3. I got back into folding during the COVID-19 spike (although I jumped back in early enough for the beta). I normally only get 2 WU a day since I game for a few hours in the evening, but I am able to stably run with the following settings:

    (Graphics mode, cause I never though to do compute mode)
    Stage7 1340MHz@1000mV
    Stage 6 1300MHz@975mV
    301-330k per day

    I’ve a set of settings that are stable in the FAHBench that are even lower, but those don’t seem to translate to stable real work units.

    I’ll be checking compute mode out after my next WU ends.

    • Cool, welcome back! I wish I still had my RX 580 test card (sold it on eBay). I’d like to run some extended testing on compute vs. graphics mode, say 20 work units or so on each, to get an average answer on how much better compute mode is. Looking forward to seeing how compute mode works for you

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