One of the stranger rumours that had cropped up following the launch of AMD’s latest and greatest new graphics card was that people had found a way to convert the cheaper 4GB version of the RX 480 card into the more expensive 8GB model.
It’s not gossip anymore; there’s a way to do it.
The trick that made all this possible was, ironically, AMD themselves. When they sent out review units of the RX 480 to the press, all the samples had 8GB of onboard GDDR5 memory. But because the RX 480 was being sold in 4GB and 8GB variants, reviewers needed some way to test the card’s baseline performance.
We didn’t receive one, but over in Europe select members of the press were given a special BIOS. That BIOS could be used to flash the RX 480 sample from an 8GB to the base settings of a 4GB. So, naturally, people asked: if you can flash an 8GB card to 4GB, would the reverse be possible?
Under most circumstances, it wouldn’t. The 4GB models of the RX 480, in a normal world, would only ship with four 1GB memory chips on board, compared to the eight on the 8GB version. Flashing the BIOS would do bugger all, because the memory simply wasn’t there.
That was, of course, until people bought retail 4GB RX 480 cards. Which happened to have eight 1GB memory modules.
TechPowerUp wrote earlier this morning that they have successfully got an “AIB partner-branded retail 4GB Radeon RX 480” reporting and running as an 8GB card. They downloaded the BIOS from the 8GB review unit they got from AMD using the ATIFlash program, which was then flashed onto their retail 4GB card.
“To confirm that this mod works, we first tested our 8 GB review sample with its untouched 8 GB BIOS, and used that as control. Next, we tested the retail 4 GB card with the BIOS it shipped with. Lastly, we flashed this 4 GB card using ATIFlash with the 8 GB BIOS, which we extracted from our 8 GB card using ATIFlash. We ran “Call of Duty: Black Ops III,” on the three. This game can consume dedicated video memory beyond 4 GB at 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160).
To make things a little more relevant to Australians: the cheapest 4GB versions of the RX 480 are currently selling for $319 at PC Case Gear, although it says the card is currently “sold out”. The 8GB models, meanwhile, start from $369.
So the question is: if you can simply buy a reference 4GB card and unlock another 4GB of memory through flashing the BIOS, why would you ever bother buying the 8GB models at all? It’s not a completely safe process, though. To make sure your card has eight memory modules, you’ll have to unscrew everything, break the seals and your warranty. On top of that, you’ll need to know how to use ATIFlash (something AMD certainly won’t approve of).
And don’t forget, this comes off the back over concerns about the RX 480’s power usage.
I’ve been told AMD are in the process of getting a statement, but it’s not known whether it’ll address just the power usage or if it’ll tackle the latest drama as well. Either way, I’ll update the post once that arrives.