Sap­phire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+: New 1080p gam­ing cham­pion

Heavy me­tal, re­fined.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews - BY BRAD CHA­COS

AMD’S Radeon RX 590 is the best 1080p graph­ics card you can buy, and at $280, it won’t break the bank. But the Sap­phire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ we’re re­view­ing to­day proves it’s even bet­ter than we orig­i­nally thought.

The card draws an im­mense amount of power, and the XFX Radeon RX 590 Fat­boy ( go. that AMD sent U.S. re­view­ers ran hot de­spite com­ing equipped with a mas­sive triple-slot cooler. Push­ing AMD’S Po­laris ar­chi­tec­ture so far—this is the same GPU’S third in­car­na­tion, af­ter the Radeon RX 480 and 580—re­quires heavy me­tal, we con­cluded at the time. While that’s still true, Sap­phire’s graph­ics card shows that the Radeon RX 590 doesn’t have to be gar­gan­tuan.

The bright blue Sap­phire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ ($280 on Newegg ( go.pcworld. com/590r)) comes loaded with fea­tures.

Even more im­pres­sively, it man­ages to hit higher frame rates and lower tem­per­a­tures

than the XFX Fat­boy de­spite fit­ting in a stan­dard two-slot de­sign. This is the best Radeon RX 590 we’ve tested.


The Radeon RX 590 is al­most iden­ti­cal to the

Radeon RX 580 un­der the hood, uti­liz­ing the same un­der­ly­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion, but on an im­proved 12nm man­u­fac­tur­ing process. That process shrink lets AMD’S new GPU hit much faster speeds than the Radeon RX 580 and RX 570, which will con­tinue to be sold as well.

Here’s how all three of AMD’S main­stream graph­ics op­tions com­pare spec-wise:

The Sap­phire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ pushes per­for­mance even fur­ther. It ships with a 400Mbps ef­fec­tive mem­ory overclock, and the GPU clock speeds hit 1,560MHZ, a slight boost over the 1,545MHZ ref­er­ence spec. That’s also slightly slower than the 1,580MHZ XFX Fat­boy on pa­per. But as you’ll see in our bench­marks later, Sap­phire’s card man­ages to meet or even slightly ex­ceed the Fat­boy’s per­for­mance in games, thanks to its mem­ory overclock and po­tent cus­tom cool­ing sys­tem.

Sap­phire re­lies on its flag­ship Nitro+ cus­tom cooler to tame the RX 590. Start­ing at the core, Sap­phire switched to a new ther­mal paste that it claims im­proves ther­mal con­duc­tiv­ity be­tween the GPU and heatsink by 30 per­cent. The 54-fin heatsink is aug­mented by a pair of 6mm and a pair of 8mm heat­pipes. The fins are aligned with the length of the card to help dump hot air out of the back of your sys­tem.

A pair of large, dual ball-bear­ing fans in­fused with blue LEDS are cen­tered in the card’s at­trac­tive blue shroud. Those fans remain idle when the Nitro+ is un­der light loads—even in the menu of games—and use Sap­phire’s Quick Con­nect tech­nol­ogy for easy re­place­ment if needed. You can use Sap­phire’s Trixx soft­ware to check on the sta­tus of your fans.

The card comes with dual BIOSS, which you may tog­gle via a switch on the Nitro+’s edge. The de­fault Nitro Boost pro­file hits the ad­ver­tised 1,560MHZ clock speeds by ramp­ing up the fans. Shift­ing the BIOS switch to the left en­ables a Si­lent setting—called

“op­ti­mized for com­pute” on the pack­ag­ing, oddly enough—that greatly re­duces fan noise but drops down to the ref­er­ence speeds for the mem­ory and GPU clock. We con­ducted full test­ing on the de­fault high-per­for­mance pro­file only, but even that didn’t get overly loud. The Si­lent setting lives up to its name.

Sap­phire de­signed the Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ with over­clock­ing in mind. The PCB has two ex­tra lay­ers for more power and lower tem­per­a­tures, and the card’s equipped with Sap­phire’s sig­na­ture black di­a­mond choke and a 200,000-hour poly­mer ca­pac­i­tor. The 6-phase board was de­signed to han­dle up to 300 watts via its 6-pin and 8-pin con­nec­tors, and if some­thing some­how goes wrong, Sap­phire equipped the Nitro+ with an ex­tra PCIE fuse for pro­tec­tion.

The card’s topped off with a sturdy grayand-blue me­tal back­plate, com­plet­ing the Sap­phire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+’s sleek fu­tur­is­tic look. Looks are sub­jec­tive, but to my eye, this graph­ics card is gor­geous, es­pe­cially if a PC has blue, sil­ver, or white parts. A pair of Dis­play­ports, two HDMI con­nec­tions, and a DVI-D port of­fer plenty of au­dio/vis­ual op­tions.

Geforce-beat­ing per­for­mance isn’t the only rea­son to con­sider buy­ing this card. AMD is keen to tout the wide ar­ray of af­ford­able Freesync mon­i­tors avail­able for but­tery-smooth gam­ing (, and right­fully so. Nvidia’s ri­val G-sync mon­i­tors are tar­geted to pre­mium crowds, not the masses. AMD will also toss in three free games—the Divi­sion 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Res­i­dent Evil 2—when you buy a Radeon RX 590 at par­tic­i­pat­ing re­tail­ers,

mak­ing this card a great value if you’d planned on pick­ing up any of those ti­tles. They won’t be avail­able to play un­til early next year, though.

Enough talk! Let’s take this to the bench.


We packed our ded­i­cated graph­ics card test sys­tem with some of the fastest com­ple­men­tary com­po­nents avail­able to put

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