Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT Review: Cooler and Quieter Than AMD’s Reference Card

Conclusion

AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 launch was a mixed bag. On one hand, we praised the company for performance that was stronger than we expected, significantly lower power consumption than its previous generation, quieter reference coolers, and a competitive value proposition relative to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 Super and vanilla 2060. On the other, we didn’t love the Radeon RX 5700 XT’s operating temperatures, lower performance per watt than the competition, and lack of ray tracing acceleration.

Add-in board partners like Sapphire obviously can’t ameliorate all of AMD’s shortcomings. However, the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT does fix some of what we found problematic on the reference design. Dual 95mm axial fans, for example, spin more slowly and make less noise than the single centrifugal fan on AMD’s own Radeon RX 5700 XT. They also cool more effectively, pulling the Navi GPU’s operating temperature down 10°C compared to the reference card. And the Pulse does this in its Performance mode, enabling higher clock rates than we saw from AMD. A second BIOS gives you the freedom to use more conservative frequencies for lower power consumption; fortunately, the difference between them is relatively minor.

Sapphire does include some extras you don’t get with the reference card. The company will ship you a replacement fan in the event yours malfunctions, for instance. We also like the latest version of its TRIXX software, which is clean, informative, and functional (thanks to the toggle switches for controlling resolution scaling and Radeon Image Sharpening). Although the utility is still in beta and requires a bit of polish, we found it to be fully functional with our Pulse sample.

We weren’t particularly enthused about the reference Radeon RX 5700 XT’s $400 price tag compared to a GeForce RTX 2060 Super for the same amount of money. AMD’s card was almost 10% faster than Nvidia’s, yes. But its higher power consumption, hotter GPU, and deficit in ray-traced games tipped the scales the other way for us. The Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT’s $410 MSRP is even higher. Sapphire does use a Dual-X cooler to rectify the reference design’s runaway temperatures. It’s oh-so-quiet, too. But you’re still being asked to pay more money for even higher power use. And ray tracing is still absent. You need to be OK with these things before any Radeon RX 5700 XT becomes the right choice.

If that’s the camp you find yourself in, then the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT deserves an extra half of a point on our scoring scale compared to AMD’s own implementation. It addresses the solvable critiques we had of the reference design with only a minor bump up in price.

Image Credits: Sapphire

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9 comments
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  • hannibal
    What was expected. Cooler, quiter version. Interesting to see what other vendors do and what prise.
  • Gillerer
    When employing upscaling+sharpening in games, ideally you don't want to set lower resolution, but use an in-game resolution scale under 100% instead. That way the UI elements and texts will still be rendered at the native monitor resolution and be perfectly crisp - those are where you're likely to first notice any fuzziness.
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    Hmm... the review keeps on saying this board is "quieter" than the reference version, yet there are no Noise Level tests that show you how quiet it is (or isn't).
  • tennis2
    Please fix Y-axis scale in the Frequency plot. 1250MHz - 2250MHz perhaps
  • Blytz
    Ok, so if the pricing for me is generally that the AIB boards at the same price to 5% cheaper than the 2060 supers, for a card that nips at the heels of the 2070 (and sometimes the 2070 super depending on the game) I'd assume this is a no brainer for me
  • iam2thecrowe
    Not sure if I'm blind, but I cant see anywhere in the article weather or not you test your gfx cards in a case? or in open air? In my experience this type of cooler can be problematic in some cases, particularly smaller cases.
  • AeroWB
    Chris, thanks for the great review. The amount of information packed in the review is amazing. I really like the inclusion of the Frames per Second by Percentile graphs. Unfortunately the graphs are a little small and the colors are sometimes so close its very hard to see what is what.

    Also I want to dare you to change the order of the cards in the graphs based on the 99 percentile values. The 99 percentile scores are more important to determine the experience than the old average FPS measurement.

    For power consumption I'd like a graph with the power consumption from Metro with the other cards in the review, now I have to go to multiple reviews to compare.

    Futher the review is lacking noise measurements while there are fan RPM, clock rate and temperature measurements. As a user I am more interested in noise than those other 3, as noise I can compare top other cards the other 3 measurements are less interesting and sometimes even incomparable.

    In the conclusions you mention that its a good card but though its 10% faster than a GTX2060 Super its higher power consumption and lack of ray tracing make it a hard choice. As a user I am looking at performance per dollar first and performance per watt second, and I think that holds for most user. Now while ray tracing is nice feature it cannot be used in the majority of games and especially in this segment enabling ray tracing is a tough trade off as you probably will see more stuttering (or you will need to lower other graphics settings, can that a be good trade ever?)

    So my conclusion would be reversed. The RX5700XT is the default choice in this price and only if you need to limit power consumption (for example if your case has bad cooling) or if you'd really want to do ray tracing the GTX2060 becomes the better option. Also the Sapphire RX5700XT is 10% faster on average over the average FPS of the 13 games. If we look at 99 percentile its 12% faster, again not much but still a good bit. Also the drivers are less matured so you could a expect a little more improvement from that side too.

    Its not such an easy the choice as the Ryzen 3000 is compared to the Core i5/7 at this moment where the former is better in almost all aspects, but I think the RX5700XT is the better choice for most gamers shopping around this price.
  • King_V
    Given how, with Sapphire's previous cards, the Pulse was the "good" cooler, and the Nitro/Nitro+ had the "even better" cooler, I'd be curious to see how their Nitro cooling solution does, when they release one for the 5700XT.
  • spigias
    Quote:
    Chris, thanks for the great review. The amount of information packed in the review is amazing. I really like the inclusion of the Frames per Second by Percentile graphs. Unfortunately the graphs are a little small and the colors are sometimes so close its very hard to see what is what. Also I want to dare you to change the order of the cards in the graphs based on the 99 percentile values. The 99 percentile scores are more important to determine the experience than the old average FPS measurement. For power consumption I'd like a graph with the power consumption from Metro with the other cards in the review, now I have to go to multiple reviews to compare. Futher the review is lacking noise measurements while there are fan RPM, clock rate and temperature measurements. As a user I am more interested in noise than those other 3, as noise I can compare top other cards the other 3 measurements are less interesting and sometimes even incomparable. In the conclusions you mention that its a good card but though its 10% faster than a GTX2060 Super its higher power consumption and lack of ray tracing make it a hard choice. As a user I am looking at performance per dollar first and performance per watt second, and I think that holds for most user. Now while ray tracing is nice feature it cannot be used in the majority of games and especially in this segment enabling ray tracing is a tough trade off as you probably will see more stuttering (or you will need to lower other graphics settings, can that a be good trade ever?) So my conclusion would be reversed. The RX5700XT is the default choice in this price and only if you need to limit power consumption (for example if your case has bad cooling) or if you'd really want to do ray tracing the GTX2060 becomes the better option. Also the Sapphire RX5700XT is 10% faster on average over the average FPS of the 13 games. If we look at 99 percentile its 12% faster, again not much but still a good bit. Also the drivers are less matured so you could a expect a little more improvement from that side too. Its not such an easy the choice as the Ryzen 3000 is compared to the Core i5/7 at this moment where the former is better in almost all aspects, but I think the RX5700XT is the better choice for most gamers shopping around this price.


    Great comment, thank you AeroWB, your conclusion is much better than Chris.(opinions respected of course) . Had to visit other tech sites for a comparisons too. Makes me wonder what happened to this site.