Without question, the Nitro+ RX Vega 56 8G is a premium implementation of AMD’s Radeon RX Vega 56. Its Tri-X Cooling system is massive, adding enough heft to the card’s design that a bundled support bracket is warranted. RGB lighting across the top and back looks classy without becoming gaudy. And downloadable TriXX NITRO Glow software facilitates complete control over the LEDs’ behavior, including turning them off completely for a more stealth look.
Sapphire’s thermal solution is, by far, this card’s most notable differentiator. Yes, it chews up three expansion slots on your motherboard and is incredibly heavy. But the two-part sink, connected by a number of heat pipes and topped with a trio of fans, is brutally effective. Sapphire’s Tri-X cooler enabled lower GPU temperatures than AMD’s reference Radeon RX 56 at slower fan speeds, all while running at a higher GPU voltage that made it possible to sustain more aggressive clock rates.
The price you pay for this opulence is two-fold. First, there’s the literal cost, which exceeds $700 from third-party vendors selling though Newegg. Then, there’s the markedly higher power consumption we measured. Under a normal gaming load, the Nitro+ RX Vega 56 8G uses almost 80W more than AMD’s reference version. That’s pretty obscene for a slight performance boost.
Another issue we discovered along the way was the Nitro+ RX Vega 56’s inductor whine. The high-pitched buzz proved most distracting on uncapped menu screens but was also audible during some gameplay as well. AMD’s reference cards suffer from the same artifact; the Nitro+ is simply louder when it’s affected.
In the end, it’d be difficult to recommend a Radeon RX Vega 56 that’s only available from no-name vendors at prices starting in the $700 range, especially since Newegg has the Nitro+ RX Vega 64 8G with two bundled games for $400. Our point here isn’t to pick at Sapphire's card, though. Rather, with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1660 Ti selling for $280 and up, we wanted to shine a light on Radeon RX Vega 56 boards available between $270 and $300. Although the Radeons use up a lot more power than the Turing-based GeForces, AMD’s solution is faster through our benchmark suite. And it’s especially superior in newer games that utilize DirectX 12.
While we’ll know soon enough whether AMD’s Navi design was worth waiting for, we can tell you now that Radeon RX Vega 56 outperforms the much newer GeForce GTX 1660 Ti at a very similar price point. It took nearly two years for Vega 10 to hit truly attractive price points. If you can find Radeon RX Vega 56 for less than $300, though, it’s a real winner.
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