Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700 XT review: Superfast and nearly flawless

Sublime software makes the impeccable hardware design even better.

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Trixx Boost: Slightly lower resolution, much faster performance

Sapphire is rolling out a greatly enhanced version of its Trixx overclocking and monitoring software to accompany the Nitro+’s launch, revolving around an awesome new feature dubbed “Trixx Boost.” As I said when I tested a preview version for the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 review, Trixx Boost is wonderful, full stop.

Sapphire provided a beta version for Nitro+ reviewers to test, but you don’t have to take my word on how it performs. The new version of Trixx is available now. Most of the following text is pulled from my earlier preview, as it still behaves the same.

Trixx Boost essentially creates bespoke, configurable new display resolutions that you can select in-game, slightly less pixel-packed than the most common gaming resolutions: 4K, 1440p, and 1080p. The small dip in overall resolution greatly enhances gaming frame rates. Sapphire’s tool allows you to activate AMD’s superb new Radeon Image Sharpening technology to restore what little visual fidelity is lost at virtually no performance impact. The final image is virtually indistinguishable from rendering at native resolution, but it runs at much higher speeds.

trixx 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

Sapphire says Trixx Boost should work with older GPUs as well, and AMD recently added Radeon Image Sharpening support to the Radeon RX 470, 480, 570, 580, and 590. However, RIS works only in DX9, DX12, and Vulkan games. Vrucially, DX11 (a.k.a. the most commonly used game renderer) isn’t supported yet, and you can’t use it in DX9 games for non-Navi GPUs.

All that said, testing Trixx Boost in Far Cry: New Dawn, a DX11 game, shows next to no visual impact. Boost is the real star here, and works in all games. RIS is just the cherry on top when it’s available.

Entering the Boost tab of Trixx reveals the tool’s straightforward settings. You use a slider to determine at what percentage of the original resolution you want the Boost resolutions created. By default, it was set to 85 percent, which I used for testing. You then decide which common gaming resolutions will get Boost variants. You could create just one for your most-used resolution or enable the whole 4K/1440p/1080p stack—and choose whether to enable Radeon Image Sharpening. Once you’re done, click Apply. Your screen will flash and flicker for a few seconds while the Pulse GPU creates the new resolutions.

screenshot 17 Brad Chacos/IDG

Screenshot of a custom resolution created using Sapphire’s Trixx Boost software.

All that’s left to do after that is to select the new Boost resolution manually in your games. As you can see in the image above, with Trixx Boost set to 85 percent, it created a display resolution of 3264x1836 to use as an alternative to the standard 3840x2160 “4K” resolution. Both the standard resolutions as well as the Boost resolutions appear as options, so be sure to select the correct one to get Boost’s advantages.

What an advantage it is. Here are the performance results running the following games at standard 1440p and 4K resolutions, and at the Boost-created 2304x1296 and 3264x1836 resolutions. Just look at the results!

trixx d2 Brad Chacos/IDG
trixx fcnd Brad Chacos/IDG
trixx grw Brad Chacos/IDG

With Trixx Boost active, the $440 Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700 XT hits the same frame rates as the $700 GeForce RTX 2080 Super Founders Edition at 1440p resolution. At 4K, the Nitro+ surpasses it, coming damned near the performance of the monstrous $1,200 GeForce RTX 2080 Ti in Ghost Recon Wildlands and Far Cry New Dawn. (It ties the RTX 2080 Super in Division 2 at 4K.) You could presumably push performance even further if you spent five minutes in AMD’s Radeon Settings app using Wattman’s one-click auto-overclocking tools.

Holy. Crap. If you buy the Sapphire Nitro+, go download Trixx and activate Trixx Boost pronto.

These tricks aren’t unique, to be clear. You can create custom resolutions for the same effect using other software options. But few people outside of enthusiasts ever bother with those niche hardcore tools. Trixx Boost makes it so quick, easy, and painless to achieve noticeably faster speeds with minimal visual impact, it’s a joy. This is a big feather in Sapphire’s cap.

That’s not to say Trixx Boost is perfect. I’d like to see widescreen resolution options rolled in as well, and for Sapphire to integrate Radeon Wattman’s one-click auto-overclocking for a noob-friendly performance boost. (The software supports overclocking, but only in manual form, which requires more trial-and-error and time.) But this is a stellar first step, a smart spin on the industry’s newfound infatuation with upscaling for more performance. I suspect other GPU makers may find “inspiration” from Trixx Boost soon.

Next page: Power, thermals, and noise

At a Glance
  • The Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700 XT delivers excellent performance that's pushed even further with some smart software tricks, and the graphics card's hardware design is so thoughtful it's virtually flawless. We can't think of anything we'd change.

    Pros

    • Excellent gaming performance
    • Trixx Boost software uses smart downscaling for great FPS gains
    • Extremely cool and quiet
    • Gorgeous physical design
    • Thoughtful hardware and software features

    Cons

    • No dedicated ray tracing hardware
    • Physically large card might not fit in some systems
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