Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ review: AMD battles for PC gaming's sweet spot, again

Polaris refined and repurposed still kicks ass.

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Our test system/Division results

We tested Sapphire’s Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ on PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system. Our testbed’s loaded with high-end components to avoid bottlenecks in other parts of the system and show unfettered graphics performance.

  • Intel’s Core i7-5960X with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($120 on Amazon).
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard ($230 on Amazon for an updated version).
  • Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($130 on Amazon), and 1,200-watt AX1200i power supply ($310 on Amazon).
  • A 480GB Intel 730 series SSD ($280 on Amazon).
  • Phanteks’ Enthoo Evolv ATX case ($190 on Amazon).
  • Windows 10 Pro ($158 on Amazon).

We’re comparing the $250 Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ against its natural competitors. Since this is an overclocked model, it’ll go up against an overclocked RX 480—MSI’s ferocious 8GB Gaming X, specifically. We also tested EVGA’s overclocked 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 SSC ($250 on Amazon) and stock-clocked 3GB GeForce GTX 1060 ($190 on Amazon), as well as Gigabyte’s overclocked $180 Aorus RX 570 to show how the RX 580’s little brother holds up.

AMD’s marketing materials compare the RX 580 to the older R9 380 and GTX 970, pushing the “upgrade with Ryzen” angle, but we’re not going to do that here. Frankly, the RX 480 already outpunched those cards, as covered in PCWorld’s year-old RX 480 review—especially the older Radeon.

Each game’s tested using its in-game benchmark at the mentioned graphics presets, with V-sync, frame-rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled.

The Division

The Division, a gorgeous third-person shooter/RPG that mixes elements of Destiny and Gears of War, kicks things off with Ubisoft’s new Snowdrop engine. We test the game in DirectX 11 mode; The Division recently rolled out an update that adds DirectX 12 support, but the performance is virtually identical to the DX11 results.

division Brad Chacos/IDG

The overclocked EVGA GTX 1060 and MSI RX 480 cards deliver virtually identical performance here. The Sapphire RX 580 Nitro’s bolstered clock speeds eke out a few extra frames but it’s a pretty minor increase. The roughly 13 percent lead the RX 580 maintains over the RX 570 is enough to firmly push it past 60fps at 1080p, and deliver a noticeably smoother 1440p experience. There’s a big difference between frame rates in the lower- and upper-40s.

Next page: Hitman

At a Glance
  • The Radeon RX 580 is basically the Radeon RX 480 with a new name, but that still makes it the best mainstream graphics card around. Sapphire's custom Nitro+ design is stellar.

    Pros

    • Great 1080p, good 1440p, and solid VR gameplay
    • Compelling price to performance
    • Sapphire's Nitro+ customizations look and work great

    Cons

    • Lags far behind GTX 1060 in power efficiency
    • Basically a rebrand of the RX 480 with slightly higher clock speeds
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