The Sapphire RX 7900 XT Pulse is a bit of a curiosity, as far as our test results go. On paper, it should be faster than the reference 7900 XT. Other sites show it as being a few percent faster. Our particular sample, though? Not quite so great, with higher power draw and at best equivalent performance. We suspect most Pulse cards will fare slightly better, as it's a bit surprising that the card didn't clearly beat the reference design in performance.
It also used about 5% more power on average while delivering equivalent performance, and temperatures were a few degrees Celsius higher under load. But the good news is that the fans and cooling are clearly superior, with noise levels peaking at 40 dB(A) compared to the reference card that gets noticeably louder at 49 dB(A).
If you're looking for an inexpensive RX 7900 XT and you don't care about RGB lighting or flashy designs, the Sapphire Pulse is a great option. If you prefer something with more bling, the ASRock Phantom Gaming OC has some RGB to brighten your day, for the same $779 asking price. And that's probably the best news overall: RX 7900 XT cards can now be had for $120 less than the original (too high) launch MSRP.
That price change was pretty much required, as performance in general ends up being roughly equivalent to the RTX 4070 Ti. Rasterized performance at native rendering is faster, but ray tracing is slower, and DLSS still provides better quality upscaling, in more games, than FSR 2.
AMD does provide you with a lot more VRAM, 20GB versus Nvidia's competing card with just 12GB. If you're worried about games starting to push into requiring 16GB or more VRAM, it's potentially a safer bet. Or you can just recognize that HD texture packs often do very little for image fidelity and stick with settings that won't exceed 12GB (unless a game is poorly coded, which unfortunately seems to be the case with a lot of recent ports).
Which of these high-end cards ends up being the better pick will ultimately come down to the games you want to play, and what settings you want to use. If you want all the bells and whistles turned on, you might think that the 20GB VRAM trumps 12GB, and it does in some cases. But then you also have to consider that ray tracing will almost always favor Nvidia's RTX 4070 Ti, sometimes by a lot, even if it doesn't have as much VRAM.
We're also still waiting for AMD's lower cost RX 7800 XT and RX 7700 XT GPUs to launch. That will likely happen in the next month or two, though we're not sure on pricing just yet. We're also not sure where performance will land, and it could end up that a $600 RX 7800 XT will only roughly match the existing $600-ish RX 6950 XT.
This generation of GPUs increasingly feels like a step sideways from AMD, moving to GPU chiplets and prepping for future generation architectures while cutting costs, rather than a significant step forward in performance. Yes, the top RX 7900 XTX and 7900 XT are faster than the previous generation, but we could see diminishing gains further down the RX 7000-series product stack.
For top-shelf performance from AMD, the RX 7900 XTX can still beat the RX 7900 XT by 18% at 4K ultra. That's a pretty big jump, accompanied by a 21% increase in price (for the least expensive cards right now). The Sapphire RX 7900 XT Pulse meanwhile also beats the previous generation RX 6950 XT by 20% at 4K, for a 31% increase in price (using current online prices). Prices are fluctuating quite a lot right now, likely due to the impending Navi 32 launch, so keep that in mind.
The Sapphire RX 7900 XT ultimately ends up as a fine option for those shopping in the upper range of AMD GPUs. It's not exceptional, but it's better than some of the other alternatives, depending on your perspective. If you're planning to sit this generation out, it will probably be another 16–18 months before we start seeing the next generation GPUs that might have something more to say about performance, hopefully at better prices (though we wouldn't count on that).