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

Smaller process, bigger cooler, faster speeds—with tradeoffs

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Fire Strike, power draw, thermals, and noise

We also tested the GeForce RTX 2070 Founders Edition using 3DMark’s highly respected Fire Strike synthetic benchmark. Fire Strike runs at 1080p (green bar), Fire Strike Extreme runs at 1440p (red bar), and Fire Strike Ultra runs at 4K resolution (blue bar). All render the same scene, but with more intense graphical effects as you move up the scale, so that Extreme and Ultra flavors stress GPUs even more. We record the graphics score to eliminate variance from the CPU.

fire strike Brad Chacos/IDG

Yep, everything falls about where you’d expect after observing the gaming benchmarks, which is always the case with Fire Strike.

power Brad Chacos/IDG

We test power draw by looping the F1 2018 benchmark after we’ve benchmarked everything else with a card, and noting the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter. The initial part of the race, where all competing cars are onscreen simultaneously, tends to be the most demanding portion.

Here’s where pushing AMD’s Polaris GPU to its ragged edge starts to show more drawbacks. In order to crank the clock speeds so high and beat the GTX 1060 so consistently, AMD cranked the Radeon RX 590’s power consumption to 11, too—move-to-12nm-architecture be damned. The XFX Fatboy draws over 100W more than the overclocked EVGA GTX 1060 SSC, and it requires even more energy than the much more powerful Radeon RX Vega 56.

xfx fatboy temps Brad Chacos/IDG

We test thermals by leaving HWInfo’s sensor monitoring tool open during the F1 2018 5-lap power draw test, noting the highest maximum temperature at the end.

This was the most shocking find in this entire review. I expected the Radeon RX 590 to be faster than the RX 580 and GTX 1060, and I expected it to draw more power to achieve those goals. But when I pulled the XFX Fatboy and its massive triple-slot cooler out from its box, I did not expect this graphics card to come anywhere near 81 degrees Celsius under load. That’s downright hot compared to the other custom-cooled cards we’ve tested, even much more powerful ones. The Fatboy’s fans work hard to keep it even at this level. This is one of the louder custom coolers we’ve tested in recent memory, though it’s still far from loud. The Quiet BIOS brings the noise levels down by a fair amount. (We weren’t able to test its performance impact, alas.)

AMD is clearly putting the pedal to the metal with the Radeon RX 590.

Next page: Should you buy the AMD Radeon RX 590?

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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