There's no question this is more of a 'budget' RX 6600 XT when you look at the Sapphire design and box. The packaging is about as no-frills as you can get, with a plain brown cardboard box inside the outer sleeve and a relatively small box to begin with. That's not a bad thing, and if you're interested in building a smaller PC, the dual-fan cooler and relatively compact design are just what you'll need.
The Pulse measures 240x118x43mm (our measurements — the official size is 240x119.85x44.75mm) and weighs just 611g. The ASRock Phantom by comparison weighs 898g and measures 306x131x47mm, while the Gigabyte Eagle measures 289x112x38mm and tips the scales at 674g. The Sapphire takes up just a bit more than a standard 2-slot width, but can probably be classified as such still, though we recommend users avoid putting any expansion card in the adjacent slot regardless, as that can impede airflow and lead to substantially higher temperatures.
Sapphire uses two custom-sized 88mm fans, with integrated rims that help improve the static air pressure and cooling. We'll see the effects of that design choice when we get to the power and cooling tests later, but potential buyers shouldn't have anything to worry about. Like most other RX 6600 XT cards, it also includes a single 8-pin power connector, and unless you plan on radical overclocks with LN2, that should be more than sufficient.
Aesthetically, there's zero lighting on the Pulse, RGB or otherwise. Some people will appreciate that, as it means you can put the card in a PC in your bedroom and not have to deal with the technicolor light show. Of course, you'd still need a case and motherboard that don't have glowing lights everywhere, but we'll leave that as an exercise for the PC builder. On the other hand, if you're a fan of RGB lighting, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.
The one noteworthy extra Sapphire includes with its graphics cards is Sapphire Trixx. Most graphics card manufacturers have software of some form, either for overclocking or hardware monitoring, or both. Sapphire doesn't provide overclocking, but it does have HW monitoring if you want it. More importantly, it has Trixx Boost, which can use AMD's Radeon Image Sharpening to let you select a lower resolution and then have everything scaled to the normal resolution. The default 85% setting is a reasonable option, and as an example, it renders at 2176x1224 and upscales to 2560x1440. We included some benchmarks at 1440p with Trixx Boost enabled, and you get about 25% better performance than native 1440p.
What about image quality? There's a bit of a tradeoff there, mostly noticeable on high contrast text. Subjectively, though, most people likely wouldn't even notice the difference unless they're specifically told to look for it. I gave it a shot, having someone else set the in-game resolution to 2560x1440 or 2176x1224 while I was out of the room, then coming back and trying to determine whether Trixx Boost was enabled or not. I managed about 75% accuracy, but considering random guessing would get me 50%, that's not too bad.
Certainly, Sapphire makes a case for Trixx Boost being more practical than end-user overclocking. If you custom-tune your GPU, adjusting clocks and increasing the fan speed, you might get a 10% increase in overall performance. However, that generally comes after an hour or so of tweaking and tuning, and it's still not guaranteed to be 100% stable. On the other hand, Trixx Boost can easily get you 20% more performance, in about 30 seconds, for a minor drop in image quality but zero reduction (that I noticed) in stability. It's sort of like AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution (AMD FSR) only it was already available a year ago, and it works in all games. We have to wonder if Sapphire will look into updating Trixx Boost to incorporate AMD FSR instead of RIS, given both are open source, but AMD FSR has better overall image quality supposedly.
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