The Radeon RX 500 series is a series of graphics cards made by AMD. These cards are based on the fourth iteration of the Graphics Core Next architecture, featuring GPUs based on Polaris 30, Polaris 20, Polaris 11, and Polaris 12 chips. Thus the RX 500 series uses the same micro-architecture and instruction set as its predecessor, while making use of improvements in the manufacturing process to enable higher clock rates.
One common problem with this card seems to be instability of certain makes that come factory overclocked. An example is the Nitro series cards from Sapphire, although these are not the only cards affected; Asus Strix OC and MSI Armor OC are known to be too. After installing the reference driver from AMD – which is recommended by the card manufacturer in Sapphires case – a crash frequently happens that results in a black screen or a freeze while doing any kind of gaming or using any GPU intense application, followed by a message stating “Wattman settings have been restored due to an unexpected system failure” but with little or no information from the application that has crashed (Leaving the user asking “What? Man…” couldn’t resist).
So what is the problem? And more importantly, How do you stop it from happening?
The problem seems to stem from Wattman itself. Although it works fine on stock speed cards the settings the reference implementation of Wattman sets do not compensate for manufacturer tweaks or over clocks; possibly the reason why a lot of suggestions online point to removing manufacturer over clock. This will indeed work in most cases but it is definitely not a perfect option. Why would we pay a premium for factory over clocked units and then run them at stock speeds? There has to be another option, right? Well in fact there are a couple of other options that do indeed work, and they are as follows (with pro’s and cons).
Option 1: Remove Wattman
This sounds easier than it is, and an unfortunate problem is that you actually have to remove Radeon Setting altogether. This means no Relive, no custom resolutions and no per-game settings can be modified with the official control panel afterwards. This actually isn’t a problem for most people, as most recent games do come with enough customisation options to cover most cases – and let us be honest here – even though it is there do you actually use it? If you answer yes to this question, maybe consider option 2. Also you may want to consider other programs that can do the same task with less issues; personally I find things get worse not better when using AMD or Nvida provided control panels and prefer things like Riva Tuner so this is my preferred method and should work in most cases with minimal messing around.
These instructions are for Windows 10, but should be similar on other platforms. Click Start and open Settings, then click Apps:
Find “AMD Software” in the list and click “Modify”:
In the AMD Software wizard untick “AMD Display Driver”, “AMD HDMI Audio Driver” and possibly any other drivers listed here, you only want to have “AMD Radeon Settings” ticked at this point:
and then click Uninstall. Reboot the system when prompted, and that is it. This does actually work and you should notice a LOT less crashes and overall your system will be more stable. If you are using the fans that were pre-installed on your card you also should actually hear them working when they should be so they may make a little more noise; but this is normal. They (and they rest of your card) are now running at the speeds and power settings that they were tested to run at.
In my tests with various CPU configurations this also improved performance in various benchmarks, but of course benchmarks are not the issue here – the card running as expected is – and it should now. Some people may say this is nonsense but it really is a fact. Wattman of course wont produce any errors because it isn’t installed but this is not relevant at all. Before making this change, in some cases the system would only run for a few hours without a freeze or stability problems of some kind, but after it can run for months without any issues (regular crashes and user error aside of course). Try it, if it doesn’t work then there is Option 2. You can always re-install it later and make sure not to re-install it on a driver update.
Pros: Just works, and is easy do to.
Cons: Can easily be undone with a driver update, and you will be missing various tweaks you can apply with the settings page for your card.
Option 2: Use Wattman to apply a better profile.
This option is great and once you find the right settings for your card it can work just as good, if not better than the above. It is for advanced users only and although different sources will all have their settings to apply I find they can be a bit of a hit-and-miss, and something that you will have to tweak on a per-card basis. For this method you will actually use the AMD settings application rather than uninstall it. Rather than ramble on about this method, I have linked to one of the various video guides that can be found online. The settings provided should give a good basis to go on, but will require some tweaking to get right, especially the power limit settings. One of the cards I tried was fine with +15% but didn’t like anything above, another of the same type and brand wasn’t happy unless I increased this to +50%; so keep this in mind.
Pros: After some tweaking it can work as well if not better than option 1.
Cons: Can be hard to find the right settings for you, so really for those that like to tweak. You really have to have patience to find the sweet spot for the power limit setting; just increasing this to +50% and hoping for the best can make the crashes more frequent not less like some advise. You may also have to apply this tweak every reboot.
Of course, this is only my experience with the cards and this should only be taken as advice; but I personally find option 1 to be better all-around. It requires minimal knowledge to perform and I have always found the bundled AMD software a little lacking. It can be a little unstable too, but that is just like, my opinion man. 🙂
Follow this advice at your own risk, and if you still have problems I wish you good luck with the RMA.