Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition review: Taming Vega's flaws with brute force

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Our test system

We tested the Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX Vega 64 Limited Edition on PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system. Our test bed is 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 ($110 on Amazon).
  • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard.
  • Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($205 on Amazon).
  • EVGA Supernova 1000 G3 power supply ($200 on Amazon).
  • A 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD ($140 on Amazon).
  • Corsair Crystal Series 570X case, deemed Full Nerd’s favorite case of 2016 ($180 on Amazon).
  • Windows 10 Pro ($180 on Amazon).

We’re comparing the heavily customized Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition against AMD’s Vega 64 reference duo, the $499 air-cooled RX Vega 64 and $599 liquid-cooled RX Vega 64. (That’s suggested pricing; in the real world, Vega cards are virtually impossible to find and, when available, their prices are wildly inflated.) All were benchmarked using the Balanced power profile on the stock BIOS, running AMD’s new Radeon Software Adrenalin Edition. To show how the Radeon cards compare against their GeForce counterparts, we’ve also included results from the $500 GTX 1080 Founders Edition and the PNY GTX 1080 Ti XLR8, which cost $735 before going out of stock across the internet. Sapphire’s card is almost the same price, right? We prefer to use reference cards in our reviews, but our GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition died.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the mentioned graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled. Given the capabilities of these particular cards, we’re testing at 1440p and 4K resolutions alone. They’d all scream at 1080p.

Game benchmarks

The Division

The Division ($50 on Amazon) just received a massive overhaul with its 1.8 update, adding large new sections to the map as well as new PvP and PvE modes. It’s a gorgeous third-person shooter/RPG that mixes elements of Destiny and Gears of War, using Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine. We test the game in DirectX 11 mode.

snp division Brad Chacos/IDG

Here, we see some trends that’ll hold true over most of these benchmarks. AMD has kept plugging away at its drivers since Vega’s launch, and now even the reference model holds a very slight lead over the GeForce GTX 1080, whereas before it was very slightly behind, by a mere 1fps in August.

All three Radeon RX Vega cards perform within a hair of each other at 4K resolution. Things open up a bit more at 1440p, where the Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition comes in a few frames faster than the standard Vega 64, and a few frames slower than the liquid-cooled Vega 64. That makes sense, as the Nitro+ Limited Edition’s maximum clock speeds falls squarely between the speeds of the two reference cards.

None of AMD’s Vega cards, including the $659 Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition, comes close to challenging Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti.

Next page: Ghost Recon: Wildlands

At a Glance
  • The Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition eliminates Vega's heat and noise issues with the most impressive cooling we've seen.

    Pros

    • The most effective GPU cooler we've tested
    • Very quiet fans
    • Overclocked and built to overclock more
    • GPU support bracket included

    Cons

    • Gargantuan size
    • Some coil whine
    • Performs like GTX 1080, priced like GTX 1080 Ti
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