Sapphire Nitro RX 460 OC review: A classy, capable low-cost graphics card

But that fanciness comes at a price.

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Our test system

We tested the Sapphire Nitro RX 460 OC with  PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system. It’s not the sort of system a card like this would normally slot into, but we test all graphics cards in the same system to keep variables to a minimum. Our testbed’s loaded with high-end components to avoid potential bottlenecks in other parts of the machine and show unfettered graphics performance. Key highlights:

  • Intel’s Core i7-5960X ($1,016 on Amazon) with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($102 on Amazon).
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard ($380 on Amazon).
  • Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($65 on Newegg), Obsidian 750D full-tower case ($150 on Amazon), and 1,200-watt AX1200i power supply ($310 on Amazon).
  • A 480GB Intel 730 series SSD ($248 on Amazon).
  • Windows 10 Pro ($190 on Amazon).

We’re pitting Sapphire’s $140 Nitro RX 460 4GB against the EVGA GTX 750 Ti ($110 on Newegg), which is still so popular that it wasn’t retired when Nvidia rolled out the GeForce GTX 950. We’ll also be testing that newer card, in the form of the EVGA GTX 950 SSC ($150 on Newegg). Finally, there’s the aforementioned XFX Radeon RX 460 4GB ($150 on Newegg), which packs a slightly more modest 1,220MHz overclock than the Nitro’s 1,250MHz.

Because we already know how the Radeon RX 460 compares against the two Nvidia cards (it’s far ahead of the GTX 750 Ti in performance, and decently behind the GTX 950 in most games), we’ll spend most of this review focusing on the differences between the XFX and Sapphire models.

We benchmark every game using the default graphics settings unless otherwise noted, with all vendor-specific special features—such as Nvidia’s GameWorks effects, AMD’s TressFX, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled. For this entry-level card, we used our standard 1080p resolution benchmarks, but also tested each game with medium graphics settings enabled to see how they run with graphics dialed back. It’s a more realistic representation of how these cards would be used in the real world.

Test 1: E-sports

We originally tested the XFX Radeon RX 460 with a wide variety of e-sports games, including League of Legends, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch. All ran buttery-smooth, cruising past 90 frames per second (and sometimes far more, depending on the game) at 1080p resolution at High graphics settings, even when several characters were unleashing hell onscreen simultaneously.

The Sapphire Nitro RX 460 4GB delivers even higher butt-kicking frame rates than the XFX model in e-sports games at those settings. Chalk it up to the Nitro’s higher overclock and unyielding speeds.

To put that in perspective, here’s a chart from our look at e-sports performance on an APU-powered budget system that AMD designed in conjunction with the Fnatic professional gaming team. The chart below shows how each game runs at 1080p resolution, and then lists a second entry that shows what settings we needed to nerf in order to coax the games into hitting 60 fps. Sometimes it required dropping the overall resolution; other times we needed to reduce in-game graphics settings; on several occasions we had to do both.

fnatic amd apu esports performance

In other words, the entire Radeon RX 460 family, including the Sapphire Nitro, provides a massive step up over the integrated graphics in AMD APUs for competitive gaming.

Onto the regular benchmark suite!

Next page: The Division

At a Glance
  • Sapphire's custom model delivers thoughtful touches you don't normally find in budget graphics cards, but 4GB versions of the Radeon RX 460 simply cost too much.

    Pros

    • Thoughtful design
    • Overclock speed stays rock-solid during gameplay
    • Supports a wide-range of cutting-edge technologies

    Cons

    • All Radeon Rx 460 models with 4GB of memory aren't priced compellingly
    • Rock-solid overclock requires slightly more power and heat.
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