XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy review: Pedal to the heavy metal

Smaller process, bigger cooler, faster speeds—with tradeoffs

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($360 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($260 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($416 for 32GB on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($180 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($170 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($100 on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $280 XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy against the Asus ROG Strix RX 580 Gaming Top OC, which cost $300 when it launched, as well as EVGA’s 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 SSC ($310 on Newegg). We typically like to test the first example of a new GPU using stock configurations, but because the Radeon RX 590 is only shipping in custom, overclocked versions, we’re comparing the Fatboy to custom, overclocked rivals. To show how these $200 to $300 cards compare against step-up options, we also tested the $400 reference Radeon RX Vega 56 and $380 GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition.

Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled, and temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) enabled to push these high-end cards to their limits. If anything differs from that, we’ll mention it. We focused our testing on 1440p and 1080p, as those are the natural resolutions for these graphics cards.

AMD Radeon RX 590 benchmarks

Strange Brigade

Let’s kick things off with Strange Brigade ($50 on Humble), a cooperative third-person shooter where a team of adventurers blast through hordes of mythological enemies. It’s a technological showcase, built around the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies and infused with features like HDR support and the ability to toggle asynchronous compute on and off. It uses Rebellion’s custom Azure engine. We test with async compute off.

strange brigade Brad Chacos/IDG

Both the Radeon RX 580 and Radeon RX 590 are significantly ahead of the 6GB GTX 1060. The Radeon RX 590 is about 8.5 percent faster than the Radeon RX 580 at 1080p resolution, and 6.66 percent faster at 1440p.

As expected, the Vega 56 and GTX 1070 are much faster.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Humble) concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous—even the state-of-the-art GeForce RTX 2080 Ti barely manages to average 60 fps with all the bells and whistles turned on at 4K resolution. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with DX12. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider.

sotr Brad Chacos/IDG

Even though Tomb Raider is ostensibly an Nvidia-backed game, the XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy outpaces the similarly-ish priced EVGA 6GB GTX 1060 SSC by 16.36 percent at 1080p resolution and 19.44 percent at 1440p resolution. The Radeon RX 580 sticks to within 7 percent of the performance of its newer, faster cousin.

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • The XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy uses brute force and an improved 12nm process to muscle past Nvidia's GTX 1060, but it doesn't displace the RX 580 completely.

    Pros

    • No-compromises 1080p and good 1440p performance
    • Lots of ports
    • FreeSync and free games offer great ecosystem value
    • Dual-BIOS lets you choose: speed or quiet
    • Out-performs the 6GB GTX 1060

    Cons

    • Hot and power hungry
    • Very large, fat card may not fit in all cases
    • Not much faster than RX 580 for the price
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