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Sapphire Radeon RX 6600 XT Pulse Review: Compact and Just as Fast

Basically a reference design for RX 6600 XT

Sapphire Radeon RX 6600 XT Pulse
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

Our Verdict

The Sapphire RX 6600 XT Pulse performs just as well as other cards and runs cool and quiet. It eschews bling in favor of a lower starting price, though finding one in stock remains difficult.

For

  • + Reasonably fast and affordable
  • + Power efficient and runs cool
  • + Sapphire card is relatively compact
  • + Trixx Boost is useful

Against

  • - No bling (pro for some) and few extras
  • - Online supply still very limited
  • - Struggles with ray tracing and higher resolutions

Tom's Hardware Verdict

The Sapphire RX 6600 XT Pulse performs just as well as other cards and runs cool and quiet. It eschews bling in favor of a lower starting price, though finding one in stock remains difficult.

Pros

  • + + Reasonably fast and affordable
  • + + Power efficient and runs cool
  • + + Sapphire card is relatively compact
  • + + Trixx Boost is useful

Cons

  • - - No bling (pro for some) and few extras
  • - - Online supply still very limited
  • - - Struggles with ray tracing and higher resolutions

The AMD Radeon RX 6600 XT officially launched on August 11, 2021, and we're looking at the Sapphire Radeon RX 6600 XT Pulse today. Initial supply, at least for overseas markets and some brick and mortar stores like Micro Center, was better than we've seen for other new GPU launches during the past year. If supply could keep up with demand, even at a higher starting price of $380, it could be one of the best graphics cards. A card in hand is worth two in the virtual shopping cart, after all. But indications are that supply isn't keeping up with demand, even on these 'lesser' GPUs.

That's despite the fact that initial demand was quite a bit lower for the RX 6600 XT. After all, it's only about the same level of performance as the previous generation RX 5700 XT, for about the same price as well — in theory, anyway; the RX 5700 XT generally sells for about twice its launch price right now. That's because it can do over 50MH/s in Ethereum mining, while the RX 6600 XT can only do about 32MH/s, and while they both hit similar levels of mining efficiency after optimizing mining settings, deploying fewer cards at higher hashrates is generally preferred by miners.

Anyway, on to the story at hand, the Sapphire Radeon RX 6600 XT Pulse. This is, for all intents and purposes, a reference model RX 6600 XT. It does come with a modest factory overclock, but the power use does adhere to AMD's 160W TDP, unlike the ASRock card we received for the initial launch review. Here's a quick look at how the specs compare, and we'll also have a Gigabyte RX 6600 XT Eagle in the charts (with a separate review coming soon).

RX 6600 XT GPU Specifications
Graphics CardSapphire RX 6600 XTReference RX 6600 XTASRock RX 6600 XTGigabyte RX 6600 XT
ArchitectureNavi 23Navi 23Navi 23Navi 23
Process TechnologyTSMC N7TSMC N7TSMC N7TSMC N7
Transistors (Billion)11.111.111.111.1
Die size (mm^2)237237237237
CUs32323232
GPU Cores2048204820482048
Ray Accelerators32323232
Infinity Cache (MB)32323232
Game Clock (MHz)2382235924282359
VRAM Speed (Gbps)16161616
VRAM (GB)8888
VRAM Bus Width128128128128
ROPs64646464
TMUs128128128128
TFLOPS FP32 (Boost)9.769.669.959.66
Bandwidth (GBps)256256256256
PCIe Slot Interfacex8 Gen4x8 Gen4x8 Gen4x8 Gen4
TBP (watts)160160180160
Launch DateAug-21Aug-21Aug-21Aug-21
Launch Price$379 $379 $499 $379

The Sapphire Pulse comes with a very modest 23MHz factory overclock, compared to the reference specs. That's a one percent overclock that should basically end up as noise in the benchmarks. The Gigabyte card actually uses the reference clock, so we can at least make some comparisons there, though differences in cooler design and other elements come into play.

Overall, though, we're looking at a potential 3% factory overclock on the ASRock card, while the other two RX 6600 XT samples are lower. There are also higher clocked RX 6600 XT cards, but they cost quite a bit more — like the Phantom Gaming. The Sapphire and Gigabyte 6600 XT cards we have for testing and review actually come with a theoretical MSRP of $380, while the ASRock Phantom costs over 30% more. The only place you're likely to see such a price is at Micro Center, at least in our experience, but the Pulse at least looks a lot better than the $550 MSRPs we've seen on a few other models, especially since end-user overclocking can mostly close the gap.

Something else worth noting is that, now that we have almost two weeks of data to draw on, the average selling price of the RX 6600 XT on eBay right now sits right around $640. If you're willing to deal with eBay, you could get lucky on an auction and pay less than that, but in general, we're looking at a 50% or higher markup on the RX 6600 XT. About 15% of that goes to eBay, so the scalpers aren't the only ones taking their pound of flesh. Our advice, as usual, is to avoid eBay if at all possible.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards

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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.

  • logainofhades
    No bling and few extras isn't exactly a con, nor is its performance, at higher resolutions, as it was marketed as a 1080p card.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    One super important point about Sapphire cards: they have upsampling built in into TRIXX. It may not be FSR or DLSS, but you can upscale ANY game you want through it using the GPU. I have no idea how it does it, but you can.

    Other than that, this card looks clean and tidy. Not the best looking Sapphire in history, as that one goes to the original RX480 Nitro+ IMO. What a gorgeous design it was. I wish they'd use it for everything and get rid of the fake-glossy plastic garbo they've been using as of late.

    Regards.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    Yuka said:
    One super important point about Sapphire cards: they have upsampling built in into TRIXX. It may not be FSR or DLSS, but you can upscale ANY game you want through it using the GPU. I have no idea how it does it, but you can.

    Other than that, this card looks clean and tidy. Not the best looking Sapphire in history, as that one goes to the original RX480 Nitro+ IMO. What a gorgeous design it was. I wish they'd use it for everything and get rid of the fake-glossy plastic garbo they've been using as of late.

    Regards.
    Wow! It's almost like you ... didn't read the review. LOL

    I talk quite about about Trixx Boost and even ran benchmarks with it enabled at 1440p, FYI.
    Reply
  • -Fran-
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    Wow! It's almost like you ... didn't read the review. LOL

    I talk quite about about Trixx Boost and even ran benchmarks with it enabled at 1440p, FYI.
    I did read it; I must have omitted it from my mind :P

    Apologies.
    Reply
  • TheAlmightyProo
    Yuka said:
    One super important point about Sapphire cards: they have upsampling built in into TRIXX. It may not be FSR or DLSS, but you can upscale ANY game you want through it using the GPU. I have no idea how it does it, but you can.

    Other than that, this card looks clean and tidy. Not the best looking Sapphire in history, as that one goes to the original RX480 Nitro+ IMO. What a gorgeous design it was. I wish they'd use it for everything and get rid of the fake-glossy plastic garbo they've been using as of late.

    Regards.


    iirc that RX 480 Sapphire Nitro (did they do this in 580 too?) is the one with all the little holes in it and otherwise straight lines etc. I also seem to recall swappable fans, but could be wrong...
    But yeah, it was a beaut, my fave design at the time, and I'd have so gone for one if I hadn't decided on a 1070 (Gigabyte Xtreme Gaming) as a safer bet holding 2560x1080 for longer before needing to drop to 1080p. That said, I've always liked Sapphires and eventually got one this year (6800XT Sapphire Nitro+ SE @3440x1440) and I'm absolutely not disappointed in that or my first full AMD CPU in 16 years (5800X) Sure, not so great at RT and FSR needs to catch up and catch on but I have maybe 2-3 games out of 50 I'd play that'll make use of either, no great loss yet until they become more refined and ubiquitous imo. It runs like a dream and cool too. Assuming AMD keep up or overtake the next gen but one, I'd be happy to buy Sapphire again.
    Reply
  • TheAlmightyProo
    JarredWaltonGPU said:
    Wow! It's almost like you ... didn't read the review. LOL

    I talk quite about about Trixx Boost and even ran benchmarks with it enabled at 1440p, FYI.

    Trixx looks like a damn good app tbh. Having a Sapphire 6800XT Nitro+ SE I could be using it but omitted doing so... I dunno, maybe cos it's already good enough at 3440x1440?
    However, I do have a good gaming UHD 120Hz TV (Samsung Q80T) waiting to game from the couch (after an upcoming house move) which might do well with a little boost going forward as I'm not even thinking of upgrading for at least 3-5 years and after the first iterations of the 'big new things' have been refined somewhat.

    So thanks for spending some time on that info and testing with it on. I might've ignored or forgotten it but knowing it's there as a tried and tested option is good to know.
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    TheAlmightyProo said:
    Trixx looks like a damn good app tbh. Having a Sapphire 6800XT Nitro+ SE I could be using it but omitted doing so... I dunno, maybe cos it's already good enough at 3440x1440?
    However, I do have a good gaming UHD 120Hz TV (Samsung Q80T) waiting to game from the couch (after an upcoming house move) which might do well with a little boost going forward as I'm not even thinking of upgrading for at least 3-5 years and after the first iterations of the 'big new things' have been refined somewhat.

    So thanks for spending some time on that info and testing with it on. I might've ignored or forgotten it but knowing it's there as a tried and tested option is good to know.
    FWIW, you can just create a custom resolution in AMD or Nvidia control panel as an alternative if you don't have a Sapphire card. It's difficult to judge image quality, and in some cases I think it does make a difference. However, I'm not quite sure how Trixx Boost outputs a different resolution via RIS. If you do a screen capture, it's still at the Trixx Boost resolution, as though it's simply rendering at a lower resolution and using the display scaler to stretch the output. Potentially it happens internal to the card's output, so that 85% scaling gets bumped up to native for the DisplayPort signal, but then how does that use RIS since that would be a hardware/firmware feature?

    Bottom line is rendering fewer pixels requires less GPU effort. How you stretch those to the desired output is the question. DLSS and FSR definitely scale to the desired resolution, so that Windows+PrtScrn capture images at the native resolution. Trixx Boost doesn't seem to function in the same way. ¯\(ツ)
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    logainofhades said:
    No bling and few extras isn't exactly a con, nor is its performance, at higher resolutions, as it was marketed as a 1080p card.
    Performance at higher resolution is definitely a con since in a sane GPU market, nobody would be willing to pay anywhere near $400 for a "1080p" gaming GPU with a gimped 4.0x8 interface and 128bits VRAM in a healthy market. This is the sort of penny-pinching you'd only expect to see on sub-$150 GPUs. On Nvidia's side, you don't see the PCIe interface get cut down until you get into sub-$100 SKUs like the GT1030.

    As some techtubers put it, all GPUs are turd sandwiches. The 6600XT isn't good for the price, it is just the least worst turd sandwich at the moment if you absolutely must buy a GPU now.
    Reply
  • logainofhades
    Price aside, the card was advertised as a 1080p card, and the 6600xt does 1080p quite well. I don't understand the gimped interface either, but AMD promised 1080p, and delivered. Prices are stupid, and will be for quite some time, as many are saying 2023, before this chip shortage ends.
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    logainofhades said:
    Price aside, the card was advertised as a 1080p card, and the 6600xt does 1080p quite well.
    $400 GPUs have been doing "1080p quite well" with contemporary titles for over a decade. I personally find it insulting that AMD would brag about that in 2021.
    Reply