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

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Should you buy the Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition?

Obnoxious heat and noise levels are the glaring problems with reference Vega 64 graphics cards. AMD’s reference model trades blows with Nvidia’s $500 GeForce GTX 1080 in pure performance, but that doesn’t matter. Just being in the same room as them sucks. Vega’s sky-high power draw is another drawback, but one that some people frankly don’t care about once their PCs are plugged in.

sapphire radeon vega 64 nitro le 7 Sapphire

With the Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition, Sapphire rolls up its sleeves, leans into Vega’s massive energy draw, and puts the pedal to the metal to tame those core Vega concerns through sheer brute force. It achieves its goals wonderfully. This hulking beast is the graphics card equivalent of a Hummer. We’ve never seen a high-end GPU hit temperatures this low, and that includes AMD’s liquid-cooled hardware. It’s whisper quiet. It’s incredibly attractive. It’s loaded with extra features. Hell, it even comes with a support bracket to help your GPU stay straight and stylish in your case.

But like a Hummer, all that luxury comes at a steep price. Vega 64 punches in the GTX 1080’s weight class, but at $659, the Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition lurks closer in price to the $700 to $800 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, and Nvidia’s titan blows it away in sheer performance. Highly reviewed, highly customized GTX 1080 graphics cards like the Asus ROG Strix GTX 1080 can be found for $570 on Newegg, and Nvidia’s GPU is proven to overclock like a champ. Out of the box, the Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition gives you a mild overclock with all the cooling and power management tools you need to crank clocks through the roof manually, but that extra performance isn’t guaranteed. AMD’s Vega architecture isn’t known for having abundant overclocking headroom, either. Even slight speed boosts to Vega result in large power draw leaps.

The Nitro+ Limited Edition’s price will likely climb shortly after the card launches, too. Right now, you can’t find any reasonably priced Vega cards in stock—Newegg’s e-shelves hold a single Vega 64 reference card for a whopping $680 as I write this. And Sapphire isn’t joking around with the Limited Edition tag. It’s not going to eliminate the Nitro+ LE series when the first run sells out, but new inventory will only be made when there’s a free gap in the company’s production schedule.

sapphire radeon vega 64 nitro le 6 Sapphire

All that considered, most people would be better off buying a GeForce GTX 1080 or GTX 1080 Ti, depending on your needs and budget.

Still, there will be some people for whom the Nitro+ LE, high price and all, is the right option. AMD doesn’t charge display makers to use its game-smoothing FreeSync technology, so FreeSync monitors lack the hefty upcharge associated with Nvidia G-Sync screens. If you’ve invested in a high-end 1440p or 4K FreeSync gaming monitor—displays like the 144Hz, 1440p Nixeus EDG 27 ($400 on Amazon) or Samsung’s wild 49-inch FreeSync 2 monitor, the CHG90 ($1,175 on Amazon)—then you need a beastly Radeon card to power it. Playing on a 4K FreeSync monitor with Sapphire’s card proved mighty delicious indeed.

If you’re willing to spend the money to achieve high-end Radeon ecosystem nirvana, then the astonishingly cool, impressively quiet Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 64 Limited Edition will give you the best Vega 64 experience possible. It’s much better than the liquid-cooled Vega 64.

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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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