Sapphire Radeon RX 6700 XT Nitro+ Review: Good Cooling, Same Performance

Sapphire's RX 6700 XT Nitro+ focuses on features and aesthetics more than factory overclocks.

Sapphire Radeon RX 6700 XT Nitro+
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

The Sapphire Radeon RX 6700 XT Nitro+ hopes to attract buyers with its extra features and bling. Right now, it doesn't really matter as every GPU that's produced gets sold at elevated prices. It's as good as any other 6700 XT — and as expensive.


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    + Great cooling

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    + Nice aesthetics

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    + Modest overclocks

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    + Good 1440p performance


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    No faster than reference 6700 XT

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    Jacked up pricing

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    Can't find the card in stock

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AMD's Radeon RX 6700 XT launch proceeded pretty much as expected: The card was competitive with Nvidia's RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 in performance, and it sold out just as fast as every new GPU released during the past nine months. These days, finding one of the best graphics cards in stock feels more like winning the lottery. The RX 6700 XT currently occupies the ninth spot in our GPU benchmarks hierarchy, and it's just as sought after as other modern GPUs. Our GPU pricing index currently shows it selling for an average price of over $900 on eBay.

Today we're looking at the Sapphire Radeon RX 6700 XT Nitro+, a custom card that follows the usual pattern of adding more bling, better cooling, and boosted clocks. Sadly, it's just as bad as the reference card when it comes to availability, and the official pricing (which doesn't have much meaning right now) is quite a bit higher than AMD's own model.

In fact, Sapphire gave a list price of $579 at the time of release, the same as the higher spec RX 6800 reference card from AMD. There's not a chance the 6700 XT Nitro+ card can match the reference 6800 in performance, but then as we were just saying, "official" prices are basically meaningless right now. The 6700 XT cards sell for $800 or more, even via the Newegg Shuffle, while RX 6800 cards tend to be in the $950 range.

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GPU Specifications
Graphics CardSapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+RX 6700 XTRX 6800
ArchitectureNavi 22Navi 22Navi 21
Process TechnologyTSMC N7TSMC N7TSMC N7
Transistors (Billion)
Die size (mm^2)336336519
GPU Cores256025603840
Ray Accelerators404060
Infinity Cache (MB)12812896
Game Clock (MHz)254824242105
VRAM Speed (Gbps)161616
VRAM (GB)121216
VRAM Bus Width192192256
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)13.012.416.2
Bandwidth (GBps)384384512
TBP (watts)230230250
Launch DateMar-21Mar-21Nov-20
Launch Price$579$479 $579

In terms of specs, the Nitro+ has a relatively minor factory overclock. The reference card's Game Clock is 2424MHz, with a maximum Boost Clock of 2581MHz. Sapphire's Nitro+ card comes with a maximum Boost Clock of 2622MHz — a 1.6% improvement on the maximum boost — but its Game Clock is 2548MHz, a 5.1% increase over the reference card. That means it can do 13.0 TFLOPS FP32 compared to 12.4 TFLOPS... or at least that's the idea. Despite the theoretical improvements in clock speeds, in practice, actual clocks during testing tended to be nearly the same as the reference card.

Performance isn't the only factor, of course. Sapphire currently lists three variants of the RX 6700 XT: A reference model, the RX 6700 XT Pulse, and the RX 6700 XT Nitro+. The first two have reference clock speeds with little in the way of bling. The Pulse card has a smaller cooler than the Nitro+ we're reviewing, with dual fans and a single BIOS. The Nitro+ adds some RGB lighting on the top and back sides of the GPU (none on the fans) along with a dual BIOS switch. Except, the BIOS switch is now handled via software, rather than a physical switch, so you have to boot into Windows and use Sapphire's Trixx utility to swap to the backup BIOS. Basically, it's a way to have software defined quiet and performance modes.

Design and Aesthetics of Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+

The Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+ measures 313x131x48mm, so it's a 2.5-slot width form factor. Despite the large size, it only weighs 1020g — more than the reference 6700 XT (267x110x38mm and 883g) but less than the reference RX 6800 card (267x120x38mm and 1384g). The two outer fans on the Nitro+ are custom 94mm diameter models, while the center fan is a slightly smaller 83mm model (measurements are mine and could be off by about 1-2mm).

Besides the aesthetics, the Sapphire cooler does reduce temperatures quite a bit, which in turn means the fans can spin more slowly and thus generate less noise. It's virtually silent at stock settings, and as with most modern GPUs, the fans will stop completely when the GPU temperature falls below a certain threshold (usually around 40C). Sapphire also offers a few extras in the way of software, specifically the Trixx utility with Trixx Boost.

Trixx Boost leverages AMD's Radeon Image Sharpening and allows you to set a static resolution scaling factor. Think of it as a simplistic alternative to DLSS—it lacks any fancy machine learning, but it still works well enough. Dropping the resolution by 10%–15% brings an equal improvement to frame rates. It's not particularly important for 1080p gaming, but at 1440p or 4K, the reduction in resolution can prove quite beneficial. Perhaps more importantly, unlike AMD's Radeon Boost, which dynamically upscales based on movement and other factors, and can now use VRS (Variable Rate Shading) as an alternative to resolution scaling, a static scaling factor means you don't get odd dips and spikes in frametimes. That's a problem users have noticed with Radeon Boost.

Looking at Trixx Boost, we have to wonder why AMD or Nvidia haven't taken a similar approach. Nvidia's DLSS 2.0 seems to be relatively agnostic about the games and upscaling these days. Quality mode uses 2x upscaling, Balanced is 3x upscaling, Performance uses 4x, and Ultra Performance uses 9x upscaling. Are those integer scaling factors really necessary, though? Probably not, and some tuning could likely provide us with a slider or percentage upscaling similar to what we've seen with non-DLSS scaling options, but with presumably higher image quality. Maybe that will be DLSS 3.0, but we digress.

Test Setup for Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+  

We spoke with Sapphire representative Ed Crisler on the Tom's Hardware Show last month, around the time of the RX 6700 XT launch. While there was plenty to say, one interesting point Ed made was that performance isn't really a differentiating factor for most custom cards these days — that features and aesthetics are a bigger deal. Whether or not that's correct (opinions will vary), it might be because there's really very little difference in performance.

In fact, out of our test suite, we noted a meager 1% improvement in performance from the Nitro+ compared to the reference card. Even with overclocking the memory to the maximum +150MHz (17.2Gbps effective speed) and bumping up the maximum boost clock to 2800MHz, the Sapphire card was still only 7% faster on average. It technically hit the highest GPU clocks we've ever seen on a graphics card, using air cooling no less, but clock speed only gets you so far.

We're using our standard GPU test PC, the same setup we've been running for over 18 months — and it continues to do just fine, particularly at higher resolutions where the CPU becomes even less of a factor. Our test suite consists of 13 games, tested at 1080p/1440p/4K and ultra/highest/max settings (give or take), with each test setting run multiple times to ensure consistency of results. The RX 6700 XT primarily targets 1440p gaming, though 1080p and 4K are also possible with the right settings. We've highlighted the Sapphire Nitro+ results, including overclocked performance, along with the reference AMD card.

1440p Gaming Performance on Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+

Starting with 1440p ultra, the Nitro+ lands right above the reference 6700 XT, with an average lead of just 1%. Individual results show a range of -0.5% (Watch Dogs Legion) to +4.1% (Strange Brigade), though with the typical +/-1% margin of error there's little to get excited about in terms of performance. The Nitro+ does manage more than 60 fps in every game we tested at this resolution, however, which is a great start.

If we look at the bigger picture, the RX 6700 XT comes in just behind the RTX 3070, and slightly ahead of the RTX 3060 Ti — at least if we're only focused on rasterization performance. With ray tracing enabled, outside of AMD-promoted games like Dirt 5 and Godfall, Nvidia's GPUs tend to lead by a sizeable margin, and turning on DLSS Quality mode allows cards like the 3070 to basically double or even triple the performance that the 6700 XT can manage at native resolution. See our RTX 3070 vs RX 6700 XT GPU face-off for a comparison of ray tracing and DLSS performance on the two cards.

On the other hand, the RX 6700 XT easily trounces the RTX 3060 12GB card, and current market prices put those two GPUs at a similar level — that's because prices are largely based on potential Ethereum mining performance, it seems. If you're looking at $940 for an RX 6700 XT (Sapphire or some other brand), versus $920 for an RTX 3060, from a gaming perspective the AMD GPU wins hands down — it's about 40% faster on average at 1440p ultra.

Last, let's quickly note the overclocked RX 6700 XT results. The boosted clocks are enough to put the Sapphire card solidly ahead of the stock clocked RTX 3070, but it still trails the RX 6800 reference card by 10%. Despite the 8% increase in memory clocks, there's no making up for the 25% deficit in memory bus width. Overall performance ends up being pretty similar to the previous generation RTX 2080 Ti, though without the option for DLSS — at least until FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR) arrives some time later this year.

1080p Gaming Performance on Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+

Dropping down to 1080p, the CPU starts to become a bit more of a bottleneck, and more than half of our games (Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Far Cry 5, Forza Horizon 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, Metro Exodus, Red Dead Redemption 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and Watch Dogs Legion) all show the Sapphire Nitro+ and reference 6700 XT as tied, or even with the Sapphire slightly behind (margin of error). Buying for out-of-box factory stock performance isn't the draw, obviously, and the overall difference between the two cards is 0.6% in favor of the Nitro+.

You could easily get more performance with Trixx Boost at a slightly lowered target resolution, though at 1080p it's certainly not necessary. Overall performance sits at around 130 fps, and the three lowest performing games still hit 90 fps (give or take) at 1080p. Overclocking the GPU accomplishes less as well, improving performance by less than 5% overall — again, CPU limits come into play.

The Sapphire card does basically match the 3070 overall now, but that's partly because of the massive gulf between the two GPUs in Assassin's Creed Valhalla where it's 35% lead is more than double what we saw in any other game (Borderlands 3 gave the Nitro+ a 16% lead). The 3070 also has at least a modest performance lead in six of the games we tested, and ties in three others. Drop down to the 3060 Ti and the Sapphire has an 8% overall lead (again, helped immensely by Valhalla), and it soundly trounces the RTX 3060 12GB by 36%.

Gaming Performance on Sapphire RX 6700 XT Nitro+ 4K