Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 review: Polaris rethought and refined

The wait was worth it for custom Radeon RX 480 cards.

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We didn’t expect to be able to push the Nitro+ RX 480 much further, considering its meager out-of-the-box overclock—but we wound up pleasantly surprised. Using the WattMan overclocking tools inside AMD’s Radeon Crimson control panel, we were able to boost the card’s power limit by 15 percent, its memory clock by an additional 100MHz, and its core clock all the way up to 1405MHz, which represents a 7.5 percent frequency increase over the Nitro+’s default 1306MHz max clock speed.

Doing so required cranking the fan speeds pretty high to avoid throttling. We set the max at 3,000 RPMs, which is definitely noticeable and definitely loud. Under load, they routinely spun at 2,800 RPMs or more, which helped keep the card running cool despite all the extra power coursing through its innards.

Now for the bad news: That epic (for Polaris) bump in clock speed still didn’t result in massive performance increases, though there were slight improvements in the games and benchmarks we tested. (Note, however, that we’re coming the 4GB Nitro+ against an 8GB reference RX 480, which not only has more memory, but faster memory, too.) Seeing that, Sapphire’s decision to keep the clock speeds lower (and thus, also keep the card cooler, quieter, and drawing less power) seems rational.

See for yourself!


nitro 480 gpu temp oc

Power use

nitro 480 power use oc


nitro 480 fire strike oc
nitro 480 time spy oc

The Division

nitro 480 division oc

Far Cry Primal

nitro 480 fcp 1440
nitro 480 fcp 1080 oc

Ashes of the Singularity

nitro 480 ashes 1080 crazy oc
nitro 480 ashes 1080 high oc

Next page: Bottom line

At a Glance
  • The 4GB Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 delivers tremendous build quality, great performance, and thoughtful touches for a price that won't break the bank.


    • Quiet, efficient cooler
    • Astonishing build quality for the price
    • Great 1080p and 1440p gaming performance
    • Tremendous price to performance ratio


    • Not overclocked much over reference RX 480
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