Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT review: Simple is better

Aided by performance-enhancing Trixx.

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Power draw, thermals, and noise

We test power draw by looping the F1 2020 benchmark at 4K for about 20 minutes after we’ve benchmarked everything else and noting the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter, which measures the power consumption of our entire test system. The initial part of the race, where all competing cars are onscreen simultaneously, tends to be the most demanding portion. 

This isn’t a worst-case test; this is a GPU-bound game running at a GPU-bound resolution to gauge performance when the graphics card is sweating hard. If you’re playing a game that also hammers the CPU, you could see higher overall system power draws. Consider yourself warned.

power Brad Chacos/IDG

The Radeon RX 6600 XT demonstrates terrific power efficiency, and the Sapphire Pulse does nothing to muck that up.

We test thermals by leaving GPU-Z open during the F1 2020 power draw test, noting the highest maximum temperature at the end.

temps Brad Chacos/IDG

Despite having a lower price and less imposing cooler, the Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT manages to hang tough with the XFX Merc 308’s wonderfully low temperatures and nearly inaudible operation. This doesn’t act like a budget cooler whatsoever. The Asus ROG Strix achieves stunningly frigid temps but does so by cranking up fan speeds, making it somewhat less pleasant to actually play with than the Sapphire and XFX models.

Should you buy the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT?

As I said in my initial Radeon RX 6600 XT review, most people should be avoiding buying a graphics card right now. Prices remain insane while we suffer through a global chip shortage. In a vacuum, paying $400 for a graphics card finely tuned for 1080p gaming—high refresh-rate 1080p gaming, sure, but still 1080p gaming—feels utterly outlandish. (Trixx Boost helps cushion the blow, though.) That goes doubly so with the much faster GeForce RTX 3060 Ti costing only $20 more than the 6600 XT’s $379 baseline price tag. In a sane world, that would clearly be the better option.

dsc01810 Brad Chacos/IDG

But we’re still living in interesting times. The GeForce RTX 3060 that the Radeon RX 6600 XT card handily bests is selling for $700 or more when you can find it, despite ostensibly being a $330 GPU. The RTX 3060 Ti is selling for $800 to $1,000 on Ebay right now. Worse, AMD’s new offering showed up on resale sites for $600-plus hours after it debuted, making even that too-high $379 price tag look like a relative discount.

All of which is to say, if you can sit out this generation, sit out this generation. Maybe give Nvidia’s GeForce Now a whirl. Hopefully things will calm down eventually.

If you must upgrade now, the Radeon RX 6600 XT delivers wonderfully fast 1080p gameplay for high refresh-rate monitors. That’s really the best use case for this GPU due to its memory setup, which falls off pace a bit if you step up to a higher 1440p resolution.

The Sapphire Pulse’s terrific Trixx Boost software helps pick up the slack there and propels the 6600 XT’s already-awesome 1080p performance to blistering new heights. This feature remains a game-changer for Sapphire—quite literally, as it can get up around 60 fps in games that rivals can’t at 1440p. I’m shocked that no other company has ripped it off yet. Add up Trixx; a surprisingly good cooler; performance on a par with much more expensive 6600 XT models; and a modest (if fictitious) $20 premium for all that, Sapphire really has crafted a winning package here. Sometimes simple is better.

We can’t give this GPU an Editors’ Choice award or a higher rating, because paying $400 for a 1080p GPU remains poor value. If MSRPs were real, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti truly would be the no-brainer pick. But all that stuff doesn’t matter if you’re upgrading your graphics card at this point in time. You get what you can get. And if you’re looking for a capable no-frills graphics card to power your kick-ass high refresh-rate 1080p monitor, price be essentially damned, look no further. The Sapphire Pulse is the Radeon RX 6600 XT I’d personally buy if I were willing to spend this sort of money on a 1080p graphics card, and I’d be sure to turn on Trixx Boost.

This story, "Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT review: Simple is better" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT is a simple, straightforward graphics card that focuses on good cooling and excellent performance, aided by a killer Trixx Boost software feature. It's a great 1080p gaming option if you're willing to pay pandemic pricing for a GPU.

    Pros

    • Excellent, fast 1080p gaming
    • Trixx Boost can make performance much faster
    • Cool, very quiet custom design
    • AMD features like FSR, Radeon Boost, Smart Access Memory can make it faster
    • Reasonably sized, just a hair over 2 slots
    • Laser-focus on good performance and cooling

    Cons

    • Very, very high MSRP for a 1080p card
    • No extra features like BIOS switch or RGB lighting
    • 1440p performance isn't as impressive due to memory setup (but Trixx Boost helps)
    • Ray tracing lags behind Nvidia's performance
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