Sapphire RX 7900 XTX Nitro+ Vapor-X Review: More Is More

Better cooling, lots of RGB lighting, and no faulty vapor chambers.

Sapphire RX 7900 XTX Nitro+ Vapor-X
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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The Sapphire RX 7900 XTX Nitro+ Vapor-X — because who doesn't like extra descriptors in a product name — ends up as a potentially interesting card, but only if prices come down. That goes for all RX 7900 XTX models, incidentally. While you can make the argument that the XTX outperforms the RTX 4080 in rasterization performance, it lacks some of the features that Nvidia's latest GPUs provide and certainly doesn't warrant the currently higher price.

Sapphire's top variant packs on a massive cooler that does its job well. It requires a large case and has some very bright RGB strips, which some people will love and others might not appreciate. If you don't want the RGB but also don't want the reference 7900 XTX, Sapphire makes a 7900 XTX Pulse, which omits all the RGB bling but changes the fans and cooler and has a lower boost clock of 2525 MHz (compared to 2680 MHz on the Vapor-X). But given what we've seen from performance so far, there's probably not much difference there.

There's plenty to like with the Vapor-X, but a lot of it ultimately feels like overkill. Power use was consistently 50W higher than the reference 7900 XTX, a 14% increase that only delivered about 2% better performance on average. You could run with the secondary BIOS that lowers clocks and power use (or use Sapphire's TriXX software to switch modes), but then why buy a premium model for reference performance?

Okay, you can do that for the lower noise levels and improved thermals. Buy it for the looks and features, in other words, and not for any potential improvement in performance. And when you're already looking at a graphics card that costs a grand, what's another ten percent to get a design you like more — or not?

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Unfortunately for gamers everywhere, right now isn't a great time in the world of consumer GPUs, despite having five new generation cards launch in the past three months. The issue is that prices have shot up across the entire gamut, so rather than getting better performance than the previous generation at a lower price, the best we can do is better performance at a similar or higher price — and it's mostly higher prices.

Third-party AIB cards like the Sapphire Nitro+ Vapor-X aren't spared, as they cost even more than the reference cards or models that don't pack in quite as many extras, usually for minimal performance gains. If we look at generational upgrades, you get about 40% higher performance than last generation's RX 6950 XT (at 4K). However, while the official launch MSRPs might be similar, the cheapest RX 6950 XT currently costs $699, while the best we can find for the 7900 XTX is $1,299 for Sapphire's reference card. That's 86% more expensive for 40% higher performance, definitely not the direction we want to be heading.

There was a big outcry over Nvidia's RTX 4070 Ti launching at $799, and deservedly so. But the RX 7900 XTX is no better and actually ends up quite a bit worse at current prices. Again, hopefully things will settle down in the coming weeks and months, because this is nearly as bad as what we saw during the height of the cryptocurrency mining boom in 2021. Frankly, no one should be paying such prices for these latest generation GPUs.

If you can find the Sapphire Vapor-X for close to its official $1,099 MSRP, it's far more tolerable for the top performing AMD solution. Until and unless that happens, we recommend sitting tight with whatever GPU you currently have, or perhaps consider something like the RX 6700 XT or 6750 XT. Sure, that's only a bit more than half the performance, but for less than one third the price it's a far more sensible option. 

Jarred Walton

Jarred Walton is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on everything GPU. He has been working as a tech journalist since 2004, writing for AnandTech, Maximum PC, and PC Gamer. From the first S3 Virge '3D decelerators' to today's GPUs, Jarred keeps up with all the latest graphics trends and is the one to ask about game performance.

  • zecoeco
    This one narrows the gap even more with the RTX 4090.
    It tells me that AMD can offer an RTX 4090 beating card with a lower price tag, but for some reason they're not interested in the beyond $1000 market.
  • -Fran-
    Thank God Sapphire is actually cheaper in the EU than any other AMD partner XD

    Vis a vis, this card is the same price as PowerColor and Asus models.

    Such a great performer, but I don't like this design xP

  • DavidLejdar
    Over here, Vapor-X sells for 1,499 Euro, and 7900 XTX for 1,269 Euro (including 19% VAT in both cases). And sure is quite a price difference for such a FPS difference. And then there is the RX 7900 XT, going for less than 1,000 Euro now.

    For the time being, I am fine with the RX 6700 XT (OC) though. At 1440p and ultra settings, I do get at least around 70 FPS in a number of games I tried so far.

    A better GPU would increase the FPS, but it won't improve the built-in graphical assets of many a game, which are ever so often designed to run on consoles, where even the PS5 comes "only" with a peak performance of 10.3 TFlops. And a PC port usually doesn't redesign all of it, which means that a RX 6700 XT with 12.4 TFlops is not easily falling behind in that regard, especially when alongside a resonable CPU and a Gen4 SSD (which the PS5 and Xbox already have, for the increased transfer rate as well for the lower latency).
  • cknobman
    IMO Ray Tracing today is like 4k gaming was back in the 1080ti generation.
    Its possible but requires too many compromises and should only be used in specific cases.
    We need 1-2 more generations before ray tracing will be mainstream.

    So right now I could care less about ray tracing, especially at anything above 1080p.
  • Elusive Ruse
    Good stuff Jarred, thanks. Great card but at anything above $1000 it's criminal. Not like a thousand dollars is a fair price mind you.
  • redgarl
    So AMD AIBs card are costing more than reference cards and it is a con, but Nvidia ones are as worst but it is fine....

    You wonder why we can take you guys seriously?

  • redgarl
    You cannot find a 4090 at MSRP. They orbit around 1800$. And in all honesty, the 7900XTX AIB card can OC and be between 10-15% from a 4090.
  • redgarl
    The performance of this card is impressive, however the aesthetic is horrible. Even if the XFX model perform worst, it is still provide enough headroom for a similar OC, and at least, it is one of the best looking GPU available.
  • Sleepy_Hollowed
    Damn, if this was at MSRP I'd think about it, but it's a lot.

    A little issue I have is that I don't know why game engine companies don't have an option to turn on Ray Tracing on cut scenes only and then none during gameplay, I'd be down for that, not that there's much difference on how games look most games anyways.
  • Exploding PSU
    Always liked Sapphire cards, and this one is no exception. I personally buy GPUs mostly on aesthetic (after considering pricing obviously), as performance-wise GPUs of the same series from different brands probably aren't really that different between each other, especially for a casual user like me. I mean, maybe a couple degrees difference in temperature or a single-digit percent in FPS, but honestly not enough for me to feel it.

    I liked the last year's model better (the Nitro Pure one), albeit I'm extremely impartial to white parts and random geometric shapes. The RGB look tasteful to me, albeit I personally wouldn't set it to rainbow colours and would settle to strictly static colour, kind of elegant.

    Hey, that's just my opinion. From my short experience hanging around the forums I know any mention of RGB would invite open combat on the comments so... just to be on the safe side, the "you do you" disclaimer.

    If I were in the market for a new GPU, I might consider picking this one up. But nah, I'm waiting for Yeston's turn.

    I made fun of the box art on Sapphire's RX 6950 XT Nitro+ Pure, and I'm happy to say the blue and black artwork on the 7900 XTX is less ugly. Not that it really matters once you unpack the card.

    Full transparency, the product packaging was part of the reason why I chose my current GPU. Yeah I know, doesn't make sense and all, but hey glad you mentioned the box... Cheers