Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ Review 56

Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ Review

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Introduction

Sapphire Logo

The Sapphire Radeon RX 5700 XT Nitro+ is the company's flagship custom-design graphics card based on the new 7 nm AMD RX 5700 XT Navi graphics processor. This card arrives hot on the heels of AMD's add-in board partners launching custom-design Radeon RX 5700-series graphics cards a little over two months following the July 7th launch of Navi. With the Nitro+, Sapphire went all-out, including a very large triple-slot, triple-fan cooler, plenty of RGB functionality, a software-controlled dual BIOS switch, optional ARGB fans and of course higher clocks out of the box. It is priced at $440, right in the middle of NVIDIA's RTX 2060 Super and RX 2070 Super.

The Radeon RX 5700 XT is AMD's first true performance-segment graphics card in over two years since the RX Vega series. It's based on the brand new "Navi" architecture that leverages the 7 nm silicon fabrication process and brand new number-crunching machinery AMD calls RDNA compute units. These constitute the biggest update to AMD's GPU design since the very first Graphics CoreNext (GCN) architecture circa 2013. Together with clock speeds, RDNA is designed to bring about massive IPC improvements over GCN. The silicon also has a number of architectural changes. An interesting series of price adjustments and product launches ensure that even at its starting price of $399, it offers a bit more price-performance than NVIDIA.



AMD had originally planned to launch the Radeon RX 5700 XT at $449 and the RX 5700 at $399, with the two cards beating the $499 NVIDIA RTX 2070 and $349 RTX 2060 respectively. This forced NVIDIA to refresh its lineup with the new RTX 2070 Super at $499 and the RTX 2060 Super at $399. The RTX 2060 Super in particular was carefully crafted not to cannibalize the RTX 2070. AMD seeped into this imbroglio of NVIDIA and slotted the RX 5700 XT at $399 and the RX 5700 at $349, at which prices they outclass the RTX 2060 Super and original RTX 2060 respectively. NVIDIA didn't adjust prices of its RTX 2060 Super or RTX 2070 Super any further, and we hence have a fair bit of headroom between the RTX 2060 Super and the RTX 2070 Super in which AMD's board partners can launch custom-design RX 5700 XT cards with factory-overclocked speeds and other goodies, such as quieter coolers.

At the heart of the Radeon RX 5700 XT is the 7 nm "Navi 10" silicon with an impressive 10.3 billion transistors crammed into a 251 mm² die. Unlike the "Vega 20", Navi is a more traditional GPU in that the package only has the GPU die and is surrounded by memory chips. AMD opted for cost-effective 256-bit GDDR6 memory over exotic design choices such as HBM2. At a memory frequency of 14 Gbps, Navi enjoys a healthy memory bandwidth of 448 GB/s. It also features the latest-generation PCI-Express gen 4.0 x16 host interface with full backwards compatibility for older generations of PCIe, so you can pair it with AMD's new Ryzen 3000 processors on an X570 chipset motherboard. The buzz-words "7 nm" and "PCIe gen 4.0" are extensively used in AMD's marketing, as if to suggest that Navi is a generation ahead of NVIDIA's Turing, which is built on 12 nm and has PCIe gen 3.0.

Radeon RX 5700 XT Market Segment Analysis
 PriceShader
Units
ROPsCore
Clock
Boost
Clock
Memory
Clock
GPUTransistorsMemory
GTX 1070 Ti$4502432641607 MHz1683 MHz2000 MHzGP1047200M8 GB, GDDR5, 256-bit
RTX 2060$2901920481365 MHz1680 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M6 GB, GDDR6, 192-bit
RX 5700$3502304641465 MHz1625 MHz1750 MHzNavi 1010300M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
GTX 1080$5002560641607 MHz1733 MHz1251 MHzGP1047200M8 GB, GDDR5X, 256-bit
RTX 2060 Super$4002176641470 MHz1650 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RX Vega 64$400 4096641247 MHz1546 MHz953 MHzVega 1012500M8 GB, HBM2, 2048-bit
GTX 1080 Ti$7003584881481 MHz1582 MHz1376 MHzGP10212000M11 GB, GDDR5X, 352-bit
RX 5700 XT$4002560641605 MHz1755 MHz1750 MHzNavi 1010300M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
Sapphire RX 5700
XT Nitro+
$4402560641770 MHz1905 MHz1750 MHzNavi 1010300M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070$4402304641410 MHz1620 MHz1750 MHzTU10610800M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
RTX 2070 Super$5002560641605 MHz1770 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit
Radeon VII$6803840641802 MHzN/A1000 MHzVega 2013230M16 GB, HBM2, 4096-bit
RTX 2080$6302944641515 MHz1710 MHz1750 MHzTU10413600M8 GB, GDDR6, 256-bit

Packaging and Contents

Package Front
Package Back




You will receive:
  • Graphics card
  • Documentation

The Card

Graphics Card Front
Graphics Card Back
Graphics Card Front Angled

Sapphire came up with a completely fresh look for this generation's Nitro Series. The front of the cooler is dominated by black with some silver highlights. On the back you'll find a high-quality metal backplate in a matching color theme. Dimensions of the card are 31.0 x 13.5 cm.

Graphics Card Height
Graphics Card Back Angled

Installation requires three slots in your system.

Monitor Outputs, Display Connectors

Display connectivity options include two standard DisplayPort 1.4a and two HDMI 2.0b ports.

AMD took the opportunity to update the display controllers handling these outputs by leveraging DSC 1.2a (display stream compression), which unlocks very high resolution and refresh-rate combinations over a single cable. Among the single-cable display modes supported are 8K 60 Hz (which took two DP 1.3 cables until now), 4K 240 Hz, and 1080p as high as 360 Hz. On top of these, the outputs support HDR and 30 bpc color-depth for better color accuracy in creative applications.

Graphics Card Power Plugs

The board uses two 8-pin power connectors. This input configuration is specified for up to 375 watts of power draw.


If you are the RGB type, this header will come in handy. It lets you synchronize the graphics card with your motherboard's RGB lighting. Simply connect a cable and select "external RGB" mode in TRIXX.


AMD's Navi generation of GPUs no longer supports CrossFire. DirectX 12 does include its own set of multi-GPU capabilities, but implementation requires game developers to put serious development time into a feature only a tiny fraction of their customers might ever use.

Sapphire made good use of that area by positioning their BIOS switch feature here. The second BIOS runs at reduced fan speed for a quieter experience. Please note that the BIOS switch supports three positions. From left to right, these are "default", "quiet" and "performance". With the default setting active, you are able to change the BIOS selection using Sapphire's TRIXX software. While the switch itself is instant, a reboot is required for the new BIOS to activate as the BIOS/driver only reads the BIOS during startup.

Disassembly

Graphics Card Cooler Front
Graphics Card Cooler Back

Sapphire is using five heatpipes and a copper base on their cooler. This piece of the cooler also provides cooling for the VRM circuitry.


Once the main heatsink is removed, a second heatsink that takes care of cooling the memory chips and some parts of the VRM circuitry becomes visible.


The RGB-illuminated backplate is made out of metal and protects the card against damage during installation and handling.

On the next page, we dive deep into the PCB layout and VRM configuration.
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