Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ review: The new 1080p gaming champion

Heavy metal, refined

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Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ power draw, thermals, and noise

We also tested the Sapphire Radeon RX 590+ using 3DMark’s highly respected Fire Strike synthetic benchmark. Fire Strike runs at 1080p, Fire Strike Extreme runs at 1440p, and Fire Strike Ultra runs at 4K resolution. 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. The Sapphire card scores slightly higher than the XFX Fatboy despite its slightly lower clock speeds, which matches the performance difference we saw in actual games. Kudos to Sapphire’s memory overclock and badass cooler.

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.

Even a move to the 12nm process and a highly effective cooler can’t help here. The Radeon RX 580 already drew much more energy than the GTX 1060, and to consistently triumph over Nvidia’s mainstream champion, AMD cranked the Radeon RX 590’s power consumption to 11. The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ draws 100W more than the overclocked EVGA GTX 1060 SSC, and sucks down more juice than even the much more potent Vega 56 and GTX 1070.

temp 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.

And here’s where the Sapphire RX 590 Nitro+ gets more impressive. While the XFX Fatboy runs hot even with a much thicker triple-slot cooler, Sapphire’s standard-sized dual-slot card never exceeds 75 degrees Celsius—a very respectable temperature for a mainstream graphics card. Sapphire’s card makes slightly less noise than XFX’s using the standard Performance BIOS, too, and its Silent BIOS is downright quiet. This graphics card doesn’t make its presence known in any obnoxious ways.

Next page: Should you buy the Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+?

At a Glance
  • The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ delivers superb 1080p gaming performance with few compromises, though the power draw is massive.

    Pros

    • Superb 1080p and good 1440p gaming performance
    • Effective custom cooler
    • Loaded with extra features
    • Comes with 3 free triple-A games

    Cons

    • Very high power draw
    • Discounted RX 580 GPUs offer better value
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