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Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480 Review

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480 Review

When AMD launched their RX 480 graphics card last month they did so with a decent reference design and it was priced at a level which competed with the GTX 970. Since then the market has changed with the 970’s replacement, the GTX 1060 being launched and now we get to see how it compares to a custom design RX 480. Welcome to our Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480 Review.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480 Review – Polaris Highlights

Known as Polaris while it was approaching launch, the latest AMD products based on this GPU will be called Radeon RX 460, RX 470 and RX 480. Manufactured using the latest FinFET 14 process these new products benefit from that architectures lower power requirement which in turn means lower temperatures and reduced fan speed/noise. The new RX series is very much about gaming with performance enhancements across the architecture and we’ll look at the framerates later in this article, but AMD is looking to offer more than just that.

Those who like to view the latest high-def content on Netflix and Amazon can do so over HDMI 2.0b and DisplayPort 1.4 and the RX series supports HDR both in gaming and video playback. Streamers will look to use the built in GPU compute functionality which works with leading capture software such as OBS, minimising CPU use and maximising performance. Then, as far as VR goes, Polaris is fully compatible with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive and through features such as native support for asynchronous compute should offer optimal performance.


TrueAudio Next is also built into this product, offering real-time GPU audio physics processing and AMD’s software is also receiving a few tweaks, one of the most notable being the launch of Radeon WattMan. An overclocking and tweaking experience for enthusiasts. Fine tune the graphics card to your exact power, thermal and acoustic needs in a much more advanced way than previous cards/control panels allowed.


Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480 Review – The Card

sapphire-nitro-radeon-rx-480-plus sapphire-nitro-radeon-rx-480-back

Sapphire call their cooler “Dual-X” a name which appears to come from the presence of two 95mm ball bearing fans. These have enhanced airflow profile over the previous generation and, as a result, run 10% quieter. The ball bearing design is less prone to dust issues and Sapphire also note that they have designed the card to allow air out of the backplate where it can be exhausted from the system by our CPU cooler. As an added bonus Sapphire also allow removal of the fans quickly and easily so that if any fault develops with them they can be replaced without the need to return the card.

Turning the card over we can see the aluminium backplate and that up in the top right corner there is a dual BIOS switch along with a button which controls the mode of the LED lighting on top of the card. Sapphire also enhance the build quality with High-polymer, aluminium capacitors and Black Diamond 4 Chokes which have their own heatsink built in. All designed to enhance reliability, stability and performance.

sapphire-nitro-radeon-rx-480-outputs sapphire-nitro-radeon-rx-480-power

The RX 480 normally uses a single 6pin power connector however Sapphire go with an 8pin, ideally suited for overclockers. Round at the outputs we find two DisplayPort connectors along with two HDMI (2.0b support). Multi-screen setups are supported as is 3D, 4k and VR. All of the usual features are present such as support for DirextX 12, FreeSync, OpenCL, Direct Compute , Virtual Super Resolution and Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC) which allows us to specify a maximum framerate and have the card hit this, rather than its maximum, reducing power use and heat generated.


As far as the key specs go on a reference card we get a core speed of 1266MHz and memory of 2000MHz (8GB GDDR5). The Sapphire version is 1342MHz core with the same memory speed, again on a 256bit bus.


AMD Radeon RX 480 Review – Performance

Testing was performed on the Intel Core i7-6950X running on an X99 board with 16GB of DDR4 and a Samsung 850 Pro SSD. Windows 10 was the OS and all games along with the OS were patched.

NVIDIA Driver: 368.64
AMD Driver: Latest Crimson Edition

3dmark-nit480 nit480-review-bf-1440 nit480-review-doom-1440 nit480-review-dota-1440 nit480-review-f1-1440 nit480-review-warhammer-4k temps-nit480 3dmark-nit480-oc

Radeon RX 480 Review – Conclusion


When we look at Sapphires version of the RX 480 against the reference design, overall we prefer the Nitro+. The overall look of the card is better, in our opinion, much sleeker. We like the idea of easily replaceable fans and of course, any enhancements to the quality of components used on a card are always welcome. The choice of display outputs is definitely an improvement as current consumers are more likely to need HDMIs than DisplayPort connectors and the higher spec power input is a nice bonus.

The card features are also good. DirectX 12, Async compute, support for VR, support for the latest video codecs, HDR, 4K, etc. All good and of course support for all the key game streaming/recording applications is a big thing for many gamers.

Moving to performance, in our original RX 480 review the card fared quite well against the GTX 970. When the GTX 1060 was launched a couple of weeks ago NVIDIA took the performance lead in this price segment. Now with custom, overclocked models of the RX 480 such as the Nitro+ we get a card which sits at the same performance level as the GTX 1060.  At resolutions up to 2560×1440 the RX 480 (Sapphires Nitro+ 8gb version) gives very impressive framerates with no compromises on the detail levels.

Recommended Award

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Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX480
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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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