Shadow of the Tomb Raider
our testing. Because we extensively compared the RX
590 against rival GPUS like the RX 580 and GTX 1060 in our XFX Fatboy review ( go.pcworld. com/xfxr), we’ll let the benchmarks speak for themselves for the rest of the games testing. Shadow of the Tomb Raider ($60 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ shdw) concludes the reboot trilogy, and it’s utterly gorgeous— even the state-of-the-art Geforce RTX 2080 Ti barely manages to average 60 fps with all the bells and whistles turned on at 4K resolution. Square Enix optimized this game for DX12, and recommends DX11 only if you’re using older hardware or Windows 7, so we test with that. Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses an enhanced version of the Foundation engine that also powered Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Far Cry 5
Finally, a Directx 11 game! Far Cry 5 ($60 on Humble at go.pcworld. com/fcr5) is powered by Ubisoft’s long-established Dunia engine.
It’s just as gorgeous as its predecessors, and even more fun.
Ghost Recon Wildlands
Move over, Crysis. If you crank all the graphics options up to 11, like we do for these tests, Ghost Recon Wildlands ($50 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ recn) and its Anvilnext 2.0 engine absolutely melt GPUS.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
Middle-earth: Shadow of War ($50 on Humble at go.pcworld. com/shwr) adds a strategic layer to the series’ sublime core gameplay loop, adapting the Nemesis system to let you create an army of personalized Orc commanders. It plays like a champ on PC, too, thanks to Monolith’s custom Lithtech Firebird engine. We use the Ultra graphics preset but drop the Shadow and Texture Quality settings to High to avoid exceeding 8GB of VRAM usage.
The latest in a long line of successful games, F1 2018 ($60 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ f118) is a benchmarking gem,
supplying a wide array of both graphical and benchmarking options—making it a much more reliable option that the Forza series. It’s built on the fourth version of Codemasters’ butterysmooth Ego game engine. We test two laps on the Australia course, with clear skies.
Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation
Ashes of the Singularity ($40 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ sing) was one of the very first
DX12 games, and it remains a flagbearer for the technology to this day thanks to the extreme scalability of Oxide Games’ next-gen Nitrous engine. With hundreds of units onscreen simultaneously and some serious graphics effects in play, the Crazy preset can make graphics cards sweat. Ashes runs in both DX11 and DX12, but we only test in DX12, as it delivers the best results for both Nvidia and AMD GPUS.
We’re going to wrap things up with a couple of older games that aren’t really visual barnburners, but still top the Steam charts
day-in and day-out. These are games that a lot of people play. First up: Grand Theft Auto V ($30 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ gta5) with all options turned to Very High, all Advanced Graphics options except extended shadows enabled, and FXAA. GTA V runs on the RAGE engine and has received substantial updates since its initial launch.
Rainbow Six Siege
Finally, let’s take a peek at
Rainbow Six Siege ($40 on Humble at go.pcworld.com/ rnss), a game whose audience just keeps on growing, and one that still feels like the only truly next-gen shooter ( go.pcworld. com/rain) after all these years.
Like Ghost Recon Wildlands, this game runs on Ubisoft’s Anvilnext 2.0 engine, but Rainbow Six
Siege responds especially well to games that lean on async compute features.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Definitely, if you’re in the market for a Radeon RX 590. The Sapphire Radeon RX 590 Nitro+ ($280 on Newegg at go.pcworld.com/590r) is better than the XFX RX 590 Fatboy in every way, from performance to size to heat dissipation.
The question is whether you need a Radeon RX 590. It’s the best mainstream (sub-$300) graphics card available for 1080p gaming. It puts in a fine showing at 1440p resolution, too, especially if you don’t mind bumping some visual settings from Ultra to High or have a Freesync monitor to smooth out any slight frame-rate hiccups. The Radeon RX 590 pounds on the GTX 1060 in every game but GTA V at roughly the same street price as Nvidia’s cards, and AMD tosses in three free triple-a games from popular series, too. There’s no reason to buy a GTX 1060 right now unless you need a mini-itx GPU for a tiny
PC, or have limited power supply capability. The Radeon RX 590 blows it out of the water.
But AMD’S other mainstream cards deliver outstanding value too. A huge number of gamers rock 1080p, 60Hz monitors. The Radeon RX 570 excels at high-fidelity gaming at those settings, and it can often be found for under $160 on sale. The Radeon RX 580 is a lot faster than the RX 570, but the custom
Asus Strix model we tested is only 7 or 8 percent behind the Sapphire RX 590 Nitro+’s performance. You can usually find some 8GB Radeon RX 580s selling for around $200 on sale ( go.pcworld.com/rdrg) these days, and you get your choice of two of the three free games that come bundled with the RX 590 with the lesser-powered cards. That’s an absolutely stunning value that tarnishes the RX 590’s allure, especially with performance being so close.
Highly overclocked RX 580 models with beefy custom coolers (a.k.a. something similar in quality to the Sapphire RX 590 Nitro+) still tend to cost $250 or more, though. If you want something swanky, or simply want as much future-proofing as possible under $300, opting for the Radeon RX 590’s extra oomph makes a lot of sense. Sapphire’s Nitro+ is easily the best Radeon RX 590 we’ve tested. The card delivers impressive all-around performance while staying quiet under load, and Sapphire loaded the card with luxurious features like fans that idle under light loads and a dual BIOS. It looks and feels luxurious, too.
Highly recommended. Just make sure it makes sense for you to snag a Radeon RX 590 rather than a discounted Radeon RX 580 before you pull the trigger.