AMD’s Radeon RX 5700 XT and Radeon RX 5700 launch was a mixed bag. On one hand, we praised the company for performance that was stronger than we expected, significantly lower power consumption than its previous generation, quieter reference coolers, and a competitive value proposition relative to Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 Super and vanilla 2060. On the other, we didn’t love the Radeon RX 5700 XT’s operating temperatures, lower performance per watt than the competition, and lack of ray tracing acceleration.
Add-in board partners like Sapphire obviously can’t ameliorate all of AMD’s shortcomings. However, the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT does fix some of what we found problematic on the reference design. Dual 95mm axial fans, for example, spin more slowly and make less noise than the single centrifugal fan on AMD’s own Radeon RX 5700 XT. They also cool more effectively, pulling the Navi GPU’s operating temperature down 10°C compared to the reference card. And the Pulse does this in its Performance mode, enabling higher clock rates than we saw from AMD. A second BIOS gives you the freedom to use more conservative frequencies for lower power consumption; fortunately, the difference between them is relatively minor.
Sapphire does include some extras you don’t get with the reference card. The company will ship you a replacement fan in the event yours malfunctions, for instance. We also like the latest version of its TRIXX software, which is clean, informative, and functional (thanks to the toggle switches for controlling resolution scaling and Radeon Image Sharpening). Although the utility is still in beta and requires a bit of polish, we found it to be fully functional with our Pulse sample.
We weren’t particularly enthused about the reference Radeon RX 5700 XT’s $400 price tag compared to a GeForce RTX 2060 Super for the same amount of money. AMD’s card was almost 10% faster than Nvidia’s, yes. But its higher power consumption, hotter GPU, and deficit in ray-traced games tipped the scales the other way for us. The Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT’s $410 MSRP is even higher. Sapphire does use a Dual-X cooler to rectify the reference design’s runaway temperatures. It’s oh-so-quiet, too. But you’re still being asked to pay more money for even higher power use. And ray tracing is still absent. You need to be OK with these things before any Radeon RX 5700 XT becomes the right choice.
If that’s the camp you find yourself in, then the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT deserves an extra half of a point on our scoring scale compared to AMD’s own implementation. It addresses the solvable critiques we had of the reference design with only a minor bump up in price.
For those looking for something much more affordable, the AMD has also announced a Navi-based RX 5500 that the company says will come in desktop form and compete with the GTX 1650 and 1660. And if you're looking for a card that can better handle 4K, recent mentions of Navi 22 and Navi 23 in a recent Linux driver (first spotted by 3DCenter forum veteran Berniyh) may (or may not) be our first glimpse of higher-end AMD GPUs that could compete with Nvidia's RTX 2080 Super and 2080 Ti.
Image Credits: Sapphire
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