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AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT Roundup: ASRock, Asus, and Sapphire Reviewed

Sapphire Nitro+ RX 6800 XT

Pros:

+ Relatively lightweight with good cooling

+ Smarter RGB location

+ TriXX Boost

+ Theoretically less expensive

Cons:

- Finding one for sale

- Requires a large case

The Sapphire RX 6800 XT Nitro+ is perhaps the most traditional of the three custom cards we're looking at today. It's not quite as large and certainly not as heavy as the ASRock card, but the cooling still gets the job done and the card runs cool and quiet. It's actually lighter than AMD's reference card, despite being slightly larger physically. The Nitro+ measures 310x134x55.3mm, so it's a bit shorter than the ASRock card but still occupies 2.7 slots. However, it only weighs 1232g, over 500g less than the ASRock, and 350g less than the AMD reference design. (AMD's card measures 267x120x49mm and weighs 1500g, if you're wondering.)

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Sapphire often has three different models of each GPU. The base model is the Pulse, the Nitro+ is a step up and offers a higher factory overclock and more RGB lighting, and sometimes a Nitro+ SE kicks things up another notch. The top GPUs may also get a Toxic variant, which boasts the highest overclocks and pulls out all the stops, often with extreme pricing. Due to the limited quantity of Navi 21 GPUs currently available, Sapphire doesn't have a Pulse 6800 XT right now, or a Toxic. Maybe those will come in the future, but currently all of Sapphire's 6800 XT cards are from the Nitro+ line.

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The main difference between the Nitro+ we're looking at and the Nitro+ SE is that the SE has RGB fans. If you want extra bling, the SE might be what you're after. Our take is that Sapphire actually has a smarter RGB setup than many other GPUs, as the fans typically face the bottom of the PC case and aren't even visible. The Nitro+ has all of its lighting on the 'top' of the card (which would face the side of your PC case, right where the window would be) and also puts an RGB icon on the back of the card (which would face upward in your typical case). There's a light strip on the top along with the Sapphire logo, and while it's not quite as in-your-face as other cards, it gets the job done.

Sapphire is also the only company to specify a higher 350W TDP on its Nitro+, though all three custom cards use similar amounts of power in practice. No surprise there, since they're all rated at 2360 MHz boost clocks (and can often exceed that speed in games). Sapphire also recommends an 850W power supply. With a pair of 8-pin power connectors, plus the PCIe slot, the Nitro+ has access to 375W of power and uses nearly all of it. Overclocking does push the card beyond 375W, but the extra power comes from the 8-pin PEG rather than the x16 slot, which is good. Even overclocked, the highest PCIe slot power we measured for the Nitro+ was only 45W. Sapphire also has new fans with an integrated rim to improve static pressure, and the thermals and noise levels are very good.

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One extra that Sapphire offers is its TriXX software suite, which now has a new trick that's perhaps work checking out. TriXX Boost leverages AMD's own RIS (Radeon Image Sharpening) and supports upscaling of content. In most games (specifically, games that don't detect your monitor's native resolution and then internally scale from that), TriXX Boost lets you create a custom resolution that will then get scaled to the normal native resolution, and the sharpening helps to avoid the normal blurriness.

How does it perform? At 4K, upscaling from 85 percent resolution (3264x1836) to 4K, we measured performance that was anywhere from 20 to 30 percent higher than native. Did it look worse? Using screenshots and comparing, sure, there was a slight loss in fidelity, but it’s not something you'd really notice in motion. 20-30 percent higher fps, though? Yeah, that was very noticeable. It's perhaps not as sophisticated as Nvidia's DLSS technology, but it's worth considering for relatively minor upscaling of around 10-15 percent.

Interestingly, because of TriXX Boost, Sapphire specifically discourages end-user overclocking and doesn't support it via TriXX. You can check the fans and tweak the lighting, but overclocking requires some other utility. Considering overclocking can void your warranty and cause instability in pursuit of usually 5 percent more performance, toying with resolution scaling generally delivers far more noticeable performance improvements.

Thanks to the traditional design, Sapphire officially has the lowest price of the custom cards we've looked at so far. Whether it will remain at $770, or jump to a higher price segment (we're seeing a 'suggested' price of $1000 at Newegg right now), however, isn't clear. Is the Sapphire Nitro+ 6800 XT a good value? That depends on actual prices. For now, good luck finding one in stock. In fact, supply of AMD's Big Navi chips appears to be even worse than Nvidia's Ampere GPUs, which is why the retailers are charging extra. If you can find the Sapphire Nitro+ at a more reasonable price, we have no qualms recommending it. At $1,000 or more, though, we'd suggest biding your time. 

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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.