SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 480 8GB GPU Reviewed

On: Saturday, February 4, 2017 Comment: 0 Hit: 2566

Introduction:

With Polaris, AMD brought another revolution for main stream PC Gamers in the form of 4th Gen CGN with Async Compute, Vulcan, HDR, 14nm FinFet, Next-Gen Dsiplay, VR and DX12 ready to name a few. Instead of targeting high end to Enthusiast grade market segment, AMD focused on mid-range segment. Their highly popular graphics card in the market at the moment is none other but RX 480. For what AMD has offered in this powerful card yet with very attractive consumer price is main selling feature of the card and with cross fire support enabled, AMD has taken the battle upfront with NVIDIA with counter offering of GTX 1060.

Today’ we will be reviewing SAPPHIRE RX 480 Nitro and will be putting it up against ZOTAC GTX 1060 Mini which has already been reviewed. Now, this sounds like a tp of the line AMD card against bottom of the line NVIDIA card but as no other GTX 1060 was available hence this comparison. SAPPHIRE is a well-known and popular AIB partner of AMD. Their Nitro series is the high end offering for the enthusiasts.

 

 

 

Specifications Comparison:

GPU

RX 480

GeForce GTX 1060

Stream Processors/CUDA Cores

2304

1280

VRAM

8GB GDDR5

6GB GDDR5

Bus Interface

256 bit

192 bit

Core Clock

Upto 1306MHz with V-BIOS

Base : 1506MHz

Boost : 1708MHz

Memory Clock

2000MHz

8GHz

PCI Express

3.0

3.0

Display Outputs

2x Display Port 1.4

2x HDMI 2.0b

1x DL-DVI-D

3x Display Port 1.4

1x HDMI 2.0b

1x DL-DVI

Multi Display

Quad Displays

Quad Display

Power Consumption

225W

120W

Recommended PSU

500W

400W

Power Input

8-pin

6-pin

API

OpenGL® 4.5

OpenCL 2.0

DirectX® 12

Vulkan™ 1.0

Shader Model 5.1

Open GL 4.5

12 API feature level 12_1

Cooling Solution

Dual Fan with Nitro Free Flow

Single Fan

Slot Size

Dual

Dual

SLI / CF

CF Supported

Not Supported

Dimensions

240mm x120mm x42mm

174mm x 111.15mm

 

Packaging:

Card comes in stylish box of two main colors; black and red. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX 480OC is mentioned on the top front with main features such as Dual Fan, VR Ready, Nitro BGoost, DX12 Optimized mentioned on the bottom.

Backside of the card has printed specs of the card and introduction to the SAPPHIRE Nitro Gaming Series along with the bit of introduction of the SAPPHIRE.

 

Inside we have another box containing the graphics card and the accessories. Packing box is sturdy. Graphics card is packed inside aanti static container. There is a foam on the inner side of the box covering the top of the box for further protection.

 

Included accessories are: -

Driver Disk,

User Manual and Product Registration Guide

Card is wrapped inside a static proof sheet.


Features of the Card:

Before we dive in the details of the card, let’s have few words on some of the highlighted features by SAPPHIRE under Nitro Gaming Series cards.

  • Dual-X Cooling

This card features SAPPHIRE’s acclaimed cooling solution with two 95mm fans with state-of-the-art radiator design. Size of the fans is enough to cover the entire heatsink and most of the PCB for effective cooling.

  • Nitro Free Flow

SAPPHIRE has taken the department of cooling the card seriously and has introduced vents on the top and bottom of the cooler shroud to ensure the effective heat dissipation. Backplate also has vents from the top side for the same very purpose and reducing the bounce back of hot air.

  • Intelligent Fan Control III

SAPPHIRE has implemented Zero DB Cooling. User can set the temp limit for the fans to start spinning. They won’t spin below 60C. Hence under light load, user will have silent PC. With Nitro Cool Tech, temp limit can be changed.

  • Dual BIOS

Card has dual or two BIOS. One is with 1266MHz core clock while the second has overclocked 1306MHz core clocks.

  • Nitro Glow

Card features RGB LED lighting on the top side of the card for SAPPHIRE text. This text illuminates in your desire color for which TriXX 3.0 utility from SAPPHIRE needs to be installed. There are 5 predefined modes including Fan Speed Mode, Rainbow, GPU Temp Mode. There is a button the backside of the card which can be pressed one by one for each effect.

  • Quality Components

Card features Black diamond 4 chokes which are 10% more cooler and 25% more efficient than a normal choke. These Mark 4 chokes have built-in heatsinks. High-polymer aluminum capacitors rated at 16,000 hours are on the PCB for more reliability.

  • Quick Connect

This is an interesting yet very handy approach by SAPPHIRE. XFX is also following this scheme on some of their cards. Fans on the cooler are replaceable in case they become faulty. More on this is later in the review.

  • Fan Check System

Using TriXX 3.0, user can now check the status of the cooler and health of the fans. Should there be any issue with the fan(s), software will report it and instead of sending the complete card under RMA, user can get replacement fan(s) and swap with the faulty one(s).

Closer Look:

This card is a beauty to say the least. Front side of the card features textured plastic shroud in black color. Black PCB is visible. There are two 95mm fans with the SAPPHIRE Nitro printed on them. Fans are replaceable.

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To remove the fan, unscrew the screw beneath the fins on the top side. This will release the underlying border stick of the fan. Lift the fan slightly and then pull it forward gently. Fan will be off in no time.

Once both fans are removed, heat sink is clearly visible with 6 heat pipes. Heat sink is slimmer.

 

Fan blades are airfoil section ones and are designed to ensure the maximum air flow inside the card yet offer silent operation. These are dual ball bearings with dust repelling feature.

 

Top side is equally aesthetically pleasing. There is a SAPPHIREname engraved with LED underneath it. Three main vents are visible. One is next to the SAPPHIRE text and two are on the backplate side.

Two screws are there on the shroud. On the backplate there is V BIOS Switch.

This switch enables the user to get boost in core clock of 1306MHz from 1266MHz.Surprisingly, there is no power header on the top side of the card.

There is an attractive and well-designedbackplate on the backside of the card. Backside of the GPU is not covered. SAPPHIRE Nitro and logo are visible on the far end side. PCB has vents on the top side of the card for the effective heat dissipation.

Near the top end on the rear we have LED Mode Switch to change the color modes .

 

On the front side there is a 8-pin power header. SAPPHIRE has taken a good approach towards cable management perspective by not covering the top side of the card though it may not be a welcome addition by main stream users who would be using custom sleeve cables. Cable will still be visible though. Fans power connector is also visible on the left side.

 

On the bottom, we can see two massive heat pipes. These are 10mm in size and span across the entire heatsink. SAPPHIRE has maintained the aesthetics on this side of the shroud as well.

 

Backside of the card has typical IO port featuring:

3x Display Port 1.4 ports

1x HDMI 2.0b port

1x DL-DVI port

Testing System

Following test system was used during our tests.

Asus Rampage V Edition 10

Intel i7 6850k [Stock]

Corsair Vengeance 64 gigs @ 2666MHz

Samsung 840 EVO 250GB [for OS] /1TB SSD [For Steam Games]

WD Black 6TB [For Orign and Uplay games]

Corsair AX 1200i

Windows 10 x64 Professional Edition

Graphics Driver : Crimson Edition ReLive

MSI After Burner 4.0

SAPPHIRE TriXX 3.0

Methodology

Cards’ performance was first tested on stock with benchmark software and games.Following stress tests were conducted:

Unigine Heaven 4.1

Unigine Valley 1.0

3dMark Time Spy

3dMark Fire Strike 1.1

3dMark Fire Strike Extreme 1.1

3dMark Fire Strike Ultra 1.1

  • Following games were tested:

Battlefield 1

Battlefield 4

Metro Last Light Redux

Grand Theft Auto V

Call of Duty : Black Ops 3

Far Cry 4

Assassins Creed Syndicate

Doom

Gear of Wars 4

Games were test on 1080p and 1440p on Ultra maxed out settings to put the hardware under extreme usage scenario. Where FPS dropped significantly below 60FPS, games were run on High or Very High settings to determine the performance level of the card. All the settings used are mentioned in the graphs. Battle Field 1 was run under DX11 and DX12 APIs. Results are interesting.

DX12 Testing

Battlefield 1 gave us hard time to record FPS count in DX12 mode. MSI AB was crashing the game instantly upon the game load. FRAPS overlay was not working and the recorded FPS thru benchmarks were way off the charts. Dxtory was also not showing FPS counter. Finally, Action gave the FPS counter though it was not without a trick of changing the full screen to windowed first and then switching to full screen mode. FPS counter from within options of Gear of Wars 4 was used to record FPS count in DX12.

DX11 games were all tested with MSI After Burner. With NVIDIA card, DX12 readings were taken with Shadow Play from GEForce Experience.

3d Mark

These are graphics scores, not overall scores. RX 480 definitely taking a lead here with approximately 3-5% performance gain.

 

Unigine Valley was run at 1080p and 1440p with Ultra settings. Only Average FPS are shown in the graph.

SAPPHIRE RX 480 is struggling against ZOTAC GTX 1060 mini though performance margin seems to be reducing when resolution goes high.

Unigine Heaven was run at 1080p and 1440p at Ultra settings. Only Average FPS are shown in the graph.

SAPPHIRE RX 480 is struggling against ZOTAC GTX 1060 mini but on high resolution performance gain of NVIDIA card is reduced.
                                                                                                       

Doom


Both cards have solid performance in Doom using Vulcan API.

Battle Field 1

Battle Field 1 was run with Ultra and High settings with DX11.

On Full HD, both cards have given a solid performance even on Ultra settings. FPS were dropped below 60 on 1440p with Ultra settings. This is not bad at all given the fact that they are not main stream, enthusiast grade graphics cards. SAPPHIRE RX 480 has 4% performance gain over NVIDIA’s card.

 

Battle Field 1

On high settings, both cards have delivered good performance. Again, SAPPHIRE RX 480 taking a lead with 4% performance gains. Even on 1440p, 65 FPS on average is really good for AMD card.

Battlefield 1

Only, Action was able to provide FPS counter and performance hit was not incorporated in the FPS approximation. Results are as seen on Action in DX12 and Shadow Play from GEForce Experience for NVIDIA card.

12% Performance gain on NVIDIA card on 1080P while 1% gain by AMD card on 1440p.

Battle Field 1

 

Battle Field 4

Both cards have handled this game very well though NVIDIA card has approx 20% performance gains over AMD card.


 

Grand Theft Auto – V

GTA-V was an interesting comparison. With AMD CHS on AMD card and NVIDIA PCSS on NVIDIA card, both cards significant performance hit of approx 14% on average for both cards. Hence, settings were changed to Softer. Not bad with maxed out settings though NVIDIA card has 4-5% performance gains.

 

Grand Theft Auto-V

On High settings with 2x MSAA and Tessellation, Ambient Occlusion of Normal, performance gains of NVIDIA card is reduced. On Full HD, both cards were head to head, well almost.


Far Cry 4

 

As expected, with Ultra settings, both cards have struggled though AMD card has 2% performance gains.

 

Far Cry 4

With relaxed settings,  AMD card shines out the competition with 12% performance gains on full hd and 9% in 1440p.

Call of Duty : Black Ops 3

 

Both cards have handled this game very well on both resolutions with AMD card taking a leap of 7.8% performance gains over NVIDIA card in full HD.


Metro Last Light Redux

 

Metro LLR has been a brutal benchmark for any graphics card owing to its intense graphics and deep environment. On very high settings, both cards have struggled with dips all around though NVIDIA card taking leap here.

Metro Last Light Redux

 

With relaxed settings, both cards have handled the Full HD very well. Though none could meet 60 FPS on 1440p and NVIDIA card maintained their performance gains.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

Huge performance gains for AMD card of upto 29%. Impressive performance from AMD card. Mind you, gamers won’t run maxed out settings on these cards without tweaking to make the game play smother.

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate

 

Gear of Wars 4

Gear of Wars 4 is a DX12 based game. Unfortunately, this game was not available when GTX 1060 was reviewed hence, only SAPPHIRE Nitro+ RX 480 OC result is shown below which is damn impressive.

Overclocking, Thermals and Power Draw

 

 

SAPPHIRE RX 480

ZOTAC GTX 1060 Mini

Boost clock on Stock

1306MHz

1885.5MHz

Temperature on Idle

41C

29C

Temperature on Load

76C

68C

 

SAPPHIRE RX 480 was OCed to +169MHz on Core clock and +50MHz on Memory clock with 100% voltage boost.

 

SAPPHIRE RX 480

ZOTAC GTX 1060 Mini

Boost clock with OC

1475MHz

2076 MHz

Temperature on Idle

44C

41C

Temperature on Load

77C

71C

 

Noise

During my complete testing, fans were run on default settings. I did not change the fan curve to bring the temps down as temps above are still very good for both cards. As no sound recording equipment was available at the time of testing NVIDIA card, sound level could not be checked. Fans on SAPPHIRE RX 480 were damn impressive even under load. We used UNI-T UT350 Series Sound Level Meter to check the dB and 38 dB was the reading with card under load on default fan curve.

Power Draw

 

SAPPHIRE RX 480

ZOTAC GTX 1060 Mini

Stock

400W

300W

Overclock

430W

360W

 

Overclocking Results

To check the performance gains following bench software and game were used:

Unigine Valley

Fire Strike

Time Spy

Battle Field 4

 

3dMark

There is a approx 12% gain in graphics score of SAPPHIRE RX 480 which is quite a good performance boost with the stable overclock.

Unigine Valley

This run at 1080p only with overclock. Only FPS are shown in the graph. Approx 11.4% performance boost for SAPPHIRE RX 480.

Gaming Performance Boost

6 FPS gain on average is a good figure which represents 10% gain.

Few words on TriXX 3.0

TriXX 3.0 is a utility from SAPPHIRE much like we have MSI After Burner or EVGA Precision X. If there is one thing I found myself not liking was the interface of the software. May be they have over done the design element but this is my personal opinion. Interface presents face of the robot. We have GPU Clock in the left eye and Memory clock in the right eye. Underneath them, we have Voltage settings with GPU Clock slide on its left side and Memory clock slider on the right side.

User can save upto 5 different profiles with settings of own choice. On the left bottom section, we have Fan Check setting. Click it and it will open a window which will show the fan monitoring activity and health status. If fans need to be changed, it will be indicated there.

Right below, we have Nitro Glow. Click on it to access LED Window. From there, user can change the color or the color effect. LED can be turned off completely. Three levels of brightness have been provided which is a nice and subtle touch.

To access the various settings, click on the Settings on the left side of the profiles.

Monitoring page can be accessed by clicking on the Hardware Monitor. Below is the snap of it which was taken right after the session of Battle Field 1. We’ve GPU Core Clock, GPU Memory Clock, GPU Temperature and many other settings. Setting which gained my attention was the Power Draw of the Card. We have GPU Only Power Draw which will give the user good idea on how much power card alone is drawing.

Conclusion:

With RX 480 and Polaris architecture, AMD has turned the table around and offers the gaming community a complete solution for their gaming needs. RX 480 Nitro+ OC is a top of the line solution from SAPPHIRE which is among a few other best solutions from like of XFX and Asus under RX 00 series. In our tests, RX 480 seems to be the winner. Though it may suffered in some games, but that varies from game to game, game optimization and drivers. Hardware in itself is ready to deliver the punch. This comparison may not hold that much of a ground as one high end product was reviewed against one low end one but ZOTAC card has delivered as well. There is always a tradeoff between green team and red team. I’m damn impressed with AMD card and believe me these words are coming out from NVIDIA’s user.

Performance:

Performance wise, SAPPHIRE RX 480 Nitro+ OC card has delivered very good gaming experience. I’ve absolutely no complaint with it on Full HD. Anything and everything which I’ve thrown at it, it has chewed it very well with few exceptions. I cranked up all the possible graphics settings to max and tested the card on 1080p and 1440p resolutions.  In some games, it has struggled particularly on 1440p. Card has good overclocking potential as well though silicon lottery can’t be ruled out.

Design:

Design is a plus along with the overall performance of SAPPHIRE RX 480 Nitor+ OC. With RGB LED lighting, Dual BIOS switch, vented yet elegant backplate, their design team has delivered a one heck of a design.

Value:

With $250 / Rs. 335000 (PKR), one would get ultimate gaming experience card for 1080p resolution. For what it offers in this price range is too good for the gamer.

I would rate this SAPPHIRE RX 480 Nitro+ OC card as “Must Have” and “Performance”.

Special thanks to our sponsor, PakDukaan for this review.

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