Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ Limited Edition 8 GB Review 179

Sapphire Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ Limited Edition 8 GB Review

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AMD today launched the Radeon RX 580 leading the new RX 500 series of graphics cards. It's been a while since AMD's last enthusiast-segment graphics card. The Radeon R9 Fury X launched way back in June 2015, and it looks like you have to wait a little longer for AMD to launch its true successor. With AMD spending its R&D resources on getting the SoCs that power new-generation game consoles and the new Ryzen CPU family right, its discrete graphics lineup does not seem to be their highest priority.

Back in 2015, AMD had the R9 Fury X to compete with NVIDIA's enthusiast-segment GTX 980 Ti, and the R9 390 series to compete with the performance-segment GTX 980/970, with the R9 Fury offering an interesting in-between value proposition. The R9 380 took on the upper-mainstream GTX 960 to good effect. By 2016, AMD's lineup above this segment was wiped out. The Radeon RX 480 and RX 470 based on the new "Polaris" architecture could at best match the GTX 1060 6 GB and GTX 1060 3 GB, respectively, but got nowhere in the league of the high-end GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. With NVIDIA launching the GTX 1080 Ti and the new TITAN Xp, there's just that much more catching up for AMD to do. The company does have the "Vega" silicon in the pipeline, but it's not known if the ASIC competes with the GTX 1080, or the GTX 1080 Ti, which is 35% faster. In the meantime, AMD has been nurturing a kind of "alt-left" marketing strategy with its "BetterRed" campaign, which called for "VR for all" during the RX 480 launch and now calls for "performance for all" with the RX 580.

The RX 580 continues to be based on the 4th generation Graphics CoreNext architecture, aka "Polaris," but is not exactly a rebrand of the RX 480. The underlying ASIC is the same Ellesmere GPU as on the RX 480 as it comes with the same transistors, but boasts manufacturing improvements. This means that the core configuration of the two is identical, but the RX 580 is able to run at higher clock speeds. This chip is clocked at 1257 MHz, with 1340 MHz Boost, while the memory is untouched at 8.00 GHz (GDDR5 effective). Although they're available in both 4 GB and 8 GB variants, 8 GB is being purported as the more common memory amount for the RX 580, and 4 GB for the RX 570. AMD is also formally launching a suite of software features with the RX 580, which should also be available to the RX 480 through driver updates, such as FreeSync 2. With the RX 580, AMD hopes to extend its performance lead over the GTX 1060 6 GB and inch a little closer to the GTX 1070. Its launch is particularly opportune for the Summer upgrade season, right when AMD's Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors are grabbing some serious attention.

It seems the Radeon RX 580 will be launched mostly as custom-design cards through AMD's add-in board (AIB) partners, so you may not see many or any reference-design cards in the market. Leading the charge is Sapphire with its Radeon RX 580 Nitro+ 8 GB graphics card, the company's flagship RX 580 offering. The card features a brand new custom-design PCB with a stronger VRM setup that draws power from a combination of 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe power connectors, and a more elaborate Dual-X cooling solution than the ones the RX 480 Nitro+ comes with. The cooler features a dense aluminum fin-stack heatsink that's ventilated by a pair of user-replaceable fans. An additional pair of fans comes included in the box.

The card comes with a dual BIOS which lets you select between a quiet BIOS running at low fan noise and 1411 MHz GPU clock, and a boost BIOS which runs the card at 1450 MHz, with higher fan noise.

Radeon RX 580 Market Segment Analysis
RX 470
RX 570
R9 390
GTX 970
RX 480
RX 580
Sapphire RX
580 Nitro+ 8 GB
R9 390X
GeForce GTX
1060 3 GB
GTX 980
GTX 1060
GTX 980 Ti
Radeon R9
Fury X
GTX 1070
Shader Units20482048256016642304230423042816115220481280281640961920
Graphics ProcessorEllesmereEllesmereHawaiiGM204EllesmereEllesmereEllesmereHawaiiGP106GM204GP106GM200FijiGP104
Memory Size4 GB4 GB8 GB4 GB8 GB8 GB8 GB8 GB3 GB4 GB6 GB6 GB4 GB8 GB
Memory Bus Width256 bit256 bit512 bit256 bit256 bit256 bit256 bit512 bit192 bit256 bit192 bit384 bit4096 bit256 bit
Core Clock1206 MHz1244 MHz1000 MHz1051 MHz+1266 MHz1340 MHz1411 MHz / 1450 MHz1050 MHz1506 MHz+1126 MHz+1506 MHz+1000 MHz+1050 MHz1506 MHz+
Memory Clock1650 MHz1750 MHz1500 MHz1750 MHz2000 MHz2000 MHz2000 MHz1500 MHz2002 MHz1750 MHz2002 MHz1750 MHz500 MHz2002 MHz
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