Sapphire Radeon RX 570 Pulse and RX 580 Pulse review: Solid gaming on a tight budget

While Sapphire's flagship Nitro+ series goes for broke, the Pulse lineup focuses on value.

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Bottom line

Again, our underlying recommendations remain the same as in PCWorld’s original Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 reviews: The RX 570 is the best sub-$200 graphics card you can buy and a 1080p gaming champion; the 4GB RX 580 offers much more versatility at a compelling $200 price point; and the 8GB RX 580 is a great graphics card that trades blows with Nvidia’s 6GB GTX 1060. None are compelling upgrades if you already own comparable Radeon RX 400-series hardware. If you want more info, check out PCWorld’s guide to the best graphics cards for PC gaming.

So what do we think about Sapphire’s budget-oriented Pulse models specifically? It varies by model—largely because of price.

sapphire pulse 3 Brad Chacos/IDG

The Sapphire RX 580 Pulse and RX 580 Nitro+.

The $230 8GB Sapphire RX 580 Pulse earns our unequivocal recommendation, offering a slight overclock and a custom cooler that stomps on AMD’s reference design for the same price as a stock model. This graphics card will chew through 1080p games without compromise, deliver a damned fine 1440p gaming experience (especially paired with an affordable FreeSync monitor), and even run VR games without breaking a sweat. This card delivers a lot of bang for your buck.

The RX 580 Pulse isn’t quite as cool or quiet as its pricier $260 Nitro+ cousin but it still delivers fine results in both areas. It’s a great graphics card for the price, delivering almost as much pure performance as the Nitro version—but it still leaves breathing room for Sapphire’s flagship. The extra money for a Nitro+ gets you a quieter, chillier cooler, a slightly higher overclock, and more robust features for pushing those clock speeds even further—namely, a dual BIOS and an extra power connector. Not too shabby.

We didn’t test the $200 4GB Sapphire RX 580 Pulse today, but since it features the exact same custom cooling design as these and the same underlying tech as the 8GB model, we feel safe recommending it without hesitation.

sapphire pulse 7 Brad Chacos/IDG

The $180 Sapphire RX 570 Pulse is a stellar card for 1080p gaming. The minor $10 bump over the RX 570’s MSRP gets you a lot of extras. The only thing that keeps us from recommending it flat-out is that at that cost, it’s brushing up against entry-level $200 4GB RX 580 cards that can simply do more because of their extra potency—a long-standing Radeon sin that started with the confusingly priced RX 470 a year ago.

The RX 570 Pulse trades performance blows with the $180 Aorus RX 570, which packs a custom cooler of its own, yet Sapphire’s card runs 4 degrees chillier. Unfortunately, online retailers are currently selling all Pulse series cards with a $10 markup—a bummer for hardware that hangs its hat on value. At $10 less than the Pulse, Gigabyte’s card is probably the better buy in this extremely price-sensitive segment, but if you can find the RX 570 Pulse at Sapphire’s $180 price, pick it up in a heartbeat—or find an extra $20 and step up to the 4GB RX 580 Pulse instead.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to correct pricing info. The original version listed Sapphire’s Pulse cards at $10 more, but after publication, Sapphire representatives reached out to say that the higher pricing online is due to retailer markups.

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