Sapphire makes some of the best custom cooled AMD cards on the market. The Sapphire Nitro comes to mind. However, the Nitro isn’t the only card is Sapphire’s arsenal. They are also the makers of the Pulse series of cards as well. Which brings us to this review. On the bench, we have the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT. With 8 GB of GDDR6 running on a 256-bit bus, 2560 stream processors and boost clocks up to 1925 MHz, the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT is designed with 1440p gaming in mind. So, how does AMD’s latest architecture paired with Sapphire’s exceptional coolers compared to the competition? We ran the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT through our suite of benchmarks to try and answer that very questions.
The last few generations have been rather exciting with AMD coming out swinging on both the CPU and GPU side of things. It was on August 14th, 2017 that AMD released their long-awaited Vega line up of graphics cards. AMD’s 5th generation GCN, or Graphics Core Next architecture was based on their 14nm FinFET architecture and featured HBM2 memory in place of the traditional GDDR memory. On February 7th, 2019, AMD released the predecessor to the RX Vega line up, the Radeon Vega VII. Using the Vega 20 graphics processor, The Radeon VI switched from using GlobalFoundries 14 nm manufacturing to TSMC’s 7 nm process. Also, using a much smaller dye, Vega II was able to double the amount of HBM2 when compared to the RX Vega 64 line up with a total of 16 GB of HBM2.
Just a few short months later, AMD released both the Radeon RX 5700 and the Radeon RX 5700 XT to great reviews. The RX 5700 and RX 5700 XT were AMD’s first GPU on their all-new RDNA or Radeon DNA architecture. Along with its all-new RDNA architecture, AMD also introduced the world to its very long-awaited Navi GPU. But, if there is one thing we as enthusiasts love more than all-new graphics cards, its all-new graphics cards with custom coolers. When it comes to custom cooled AMD graphics cards, one name comes to mind, Sapphire.
The front of the box has the Sapphire logo and the Sapphire Pulse branding on the top left-hand corner. On the top right, it mentions the 8 GB of GDDR6 memory the Pulse RX 5700 XT has as well as the card being PCIe 4.0 compatible. Near the middle, there is an HDMI logo and an overclock badge. This lets you know this is a factory overclocked GPU. Just below the HDMI logo is the AMD logo followed by the Radeon RX 5700 XT branding. Along the bottom, there is mention of some of the key features of the 5700 XT. These features include the 7 nm manufacturing process, Fidelity FX, Freesync 2 HDR, and AMD’s new DNA architecture.
On the back, we again see the AMD logo as well as the Radeon RX 5700 XT branding. To the right are the Sapphire logo and Pulse branding. The back of the box has a fair amount of information on the Pulse RX 5700 XT. For starters, the back of the box is where you’ll find not only product specifications but also key features of the card itself. You can also find the minimum system requirements on the back of the box.
Internally, there is a plain brown box that is lined with soft foam. The card itself is encased in the soft foam and wrapped in an anti-static bag. The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT comes packed with a quick start guide and warranty information.
A Closer Look at the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT
The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is from AMD’s second generation of 7 nm graphics processors and uses AMD’s RDNA architecture. The Pulse RX 5700 XT has a total of 2560 stream processors. The base clock speed of the Pulse RX 5700 XT is 1670 MHz. The card has a game clock speed of 1815 MHz and a boost clock speed of up to 1925 MHz. However, according to GPU-Z, our sample boosted as high as 2090 MHz. Unlike the Radeon VII card, the Pulse 5700 XT uses 8 GB of GDDR6 memory running on a 256-bit bus with an effective memory clock speed of 14 Gbps.
The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is a rather small card for having a custom cooler. The card measures 10″ long by 4.75″ wide by 1.75″ tall. So there should be little to no issue fitting the Pulse RX 5700 XT in really any system. The design on the backplate looking like a heart monitor you’d see in a hospital. Makes sense giving its name, the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT. The backplate provides extra support to help prevent the PCB from bending due to sagging. The backplate is black and gray with red accents and red and white lettering. The Sapphire Pulse logo is set to the side in between the BIOS switch and the 8 + 6 pin connectors. The backplate is also vented to help dissipate heat.
The Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT is a dual fan card with two 90 mm fans each with 9 blades. Each blade has grooves on them to help direct the airflow in a specific direction. The blade design allows the fans to run about 10% quieter. Each fan has two ball bearings. Dual ball bearing fans have about an 85% longer lifespan when compared to traditional sleeve bearing fans. I very much like the silver mesh design on the front of the card. It’s reminiscent of the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW.
At the very front of the card is the I/O bracket. The I/O is a more traditional I/O and consists of three DisplayPort 1.4 ports and a single HDMI 2.1 port. The HDMI port can output a max resolution of 4096 x 2160@ 60 HZ. Each DisplayPort 1.4 port can output a max resolution of 5120 x 2880 also @ 60 Hz. The four ports are in one straight line and above, the bracket is vented to allow for better airflow. On the opposite end of the card, the shroud that covers the cooler is open-ended to again, allow for better airflow.
Like all other cards, the bottom edge has the standard PCIe express connector. However, unlike most other cards, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is a PCIe 4.0 card as opposed to PCIe 3.0 like previous generation AMD and Nvidia cards. Looking along the bottom of the card, you can see some of the heat pipes that make up part of the cooler on the Pulse RX 5700 XT. To the far right, you can see the there is a small 4-pin LED header for the LED lights on the side of the shroud.
On the top edge, we find the Sapphire logo that is illuminated by the LED lights behind the logo. to the right of the logo, you see the rest of the heat pipes that run through the fins on the cooler. The longest heat pipe on this side of the card wraps in front of the 8-pin and 6-pin power connectors that power the card from the power supply.
The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is a dual bios card. This can be very helpful feature to have. The default BIOS is in position number one, or to the right. In this bios, the base clock speed of the Pulse RX 5700 XT is 1670 MHz. The card has a game clock speed of 1815 MHz and a boost clock speed of up to 1925 MHz. The second BIOS is the “Silent Mode” BIOS. This lowers the base clock speed to 1605 MHz, the game clock speed to 1755 MHz and the boost clock speed to 1905 MHz and the memory clock speed stays the same. This can be especially useful if say a bios get corrupted.
A Closer Look at the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT: Internals
For GPU reviews, we always tare the card apart to see the internal layout as well as how the cooler is constructed. I’ll have to say the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT has a couple of very innovative designs to it. Sapphire cards, in general, are designed with excellent and robust VRM and memory cooling. There is a separate memory cooling plate equipped with heat sinks dedicated to the memory and mosfets. There is even a thermal pad on the pack of the 12 layer PCB that covers the backside of the mosfets.
The heat sink in the case of the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT is completely separate from the fans. Either side of the heat sink has several different heights so it can fit together with the PCB and memory heat sink. This allows for just about every component that produces heat to make contact with the heat sink to ensure optimal heat dissipation.
The Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT has a quick disconnect fan feature that I absolutely love. If you end up having an issue that required the fans to be replaced, all you have to do is disconnect the shroud with the two fans and send only that part back. It’s a very innovative feature that I wish more cards had.
The large copper base plate makes contact with all five heat pipes that weave between the aluminum heat fins that make up the rather thick heat sink on the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT.
The Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT is sporting a 12 layer PCB design delivers stable, reliable, and steady performance, The 12 layer PCB also helps to lower the PCB temperature and eliminate background component noise. The Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT is designed with 7+1+2 Phase Digital Power Phase specifically for GPU and memory and to help get the best clock speed possible out of your Sapphire Pulse graphics card.
The actual GPU Dye on the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT measures 331 mm squared. This is much smaller than the 495 mm squared GPU on the Radeon VII gpu. The Memory modules on the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT are made by Micron. They are marked with the FBGA Code D9WCW. The Part number associated with that specific FBGA code is MT61K256M32JE-14. For more on this specific Micron sku, click here: https://www.micron.com/products/graphics-memory/gddr6/part-catalog/mt61k256m32je-14
Test System and Testing Procedures
All testing was done with both the CPU (8700k) and GPU at their stock settings. For the I7 8700k, it was left at its stock speed of 3.7 GHz. However, this particular chip usually boosts between 4.4 and 4.5 GHz. Ambient temperature is kept as close to 20°c (68°f) as possible. When the system was first turned on, it sat idles for about 30 minutes or so before any benchmarks were run or results recorded. We waited in between each benchmark no less than 30 minutes to give the system time to cool down a bit.
All games were tested at their highest presets except for one. All games were tested in 1920 x 1080, 2560 x 1440 and 3840 x 2160. The games we tested for this review were Battlefield V, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Far Cry 5, Final Fantasy XV, Ghost Recon; Wildlands, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of War and The Witcher 3. For synthetic benchmarks, we used the following; 3DMARK Time Spy, 3DMARK Firestrike, Unigine Superposition, VRMARK Orange Room, VRMARK Cyan Room, and VRMARK Blue Room. Lastly, we tested Furmark with the 1080p, 1440p and 2160p presets.
A quick side note. The reference RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 were both tested on previous drivers. They were not tested separately for this review. Rather, we included the results from our initial 5700 XT and 5700 review. This is just to give you a rough idea of how reference cards stack up against the Pulse RX 5700 XT. Also, both the Radeon VII, or Vega 2 and the Pulse 5700 XT were tested on AMD’s latest drivers. That being Adrenaline 19.7.5. This was a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro with all drivers and software on the latest versions and all up to date.
The hardware used in this review is the usual hardware that’s on my test bench, the hardware is not on my normal test bench. Usually, I use the Praxis Wetbench from Primochill. However, I recently switched my standard test bench to the Thermaltake P5. Not the same case but, both are open-air cases. The I7-8700k used in this review is water cooled on a custom loop and the GPU used its stock air cooler. The bloxk is the EK Velocity waterblock. There is a single 360 x 60 mm EK radiator in the loop and a 280 ml reservoir and a D5 pump.
||Product Name||Provided By|
|Processor||Intel Core I7-8700k||Intel|
|Motherboard||Z90 AORUS Pro||Gigabyte|
|Memory||32 GB Patriot Viper Steel DDR4 3866 MHz CAS 16||Patriot|
|Drive||Crucial P1 500 GB NVMe M.2 SSD||Crucial|
|Video Card||Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT||Sapphire|
|Monitor||LG 27UL500-W 27″ 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz||Retail Purchase|
|Case||Thermaltake Core P5||Retail Purchase|
|Power Supply||1600 Watt EVGA Super Nova Ps 80+ Platinum Power Supply||EVGA|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates|
Sapphire has an overclocking utility call TriXX. This Utility allows you to not only overclock your Sapphire graphics card, but also to monitor your hardware as well.
I’d say the best feature of the TriXX software is the ability to reduce the rendering quality of your games, allowing you to run your games at higher frame rates. By lowering the resolution scale in the TriXX software, you can achieve up to a 22% performance increase in 3DMARK and up to a 15% increase in performance in many popular games. Radeon Image Sharpening also gives you a better image with very little impact on your game. The chart below will give you an idea of the performance boost to expect. This can be achieved by adjusting the resolution scale on 3840 x 2160 to 90%, or 3456 x 1944. Then enabling Radeon Image Sharpening.
Battlefield V is a first-person shooter EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield V is the latest games in the Battlefield series. Battlefield V takes place during World War 2. It has both a single-player and an online portion. For this review, we tested part of Battlefield V single-player, War Stories. The section that was tested was the second act of the Nordlys War Story. You play a young woman who is part of the Norwegian resistance whose mission it is to save her mother and help destroy a key component the Germans need to complete their atomic bomb.
In Battlefield V, there really wasn’t a clear winner. In 1080p, the Pulse RX 5700 XT came out the winner with an average frame rate of 155 FPS. Next was the Vega 2 with an average of 150 followed by the reference 5700 XT with 136 FPS and last was the reference RX 5700 with an average of 128 FPS. In 1440p, it was more the same with the Pulse averaging 127 FPS, the Vega 2 averaged 111 FPS. I was surprised at how far behind the reference cards were with the 5700 XT averaging 99 FPS and the 5700 with an average of 69. In 4k, the Vega 2 came out on top with an average of 68 fps. Next was our Pulse 5700 XT with 64 FPS. Then the reference 5700 XT with an average of 56 FPS and last was the 5700 with an average of 52 FPS in 4k.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an action role-playing game with first-person shooter and stealth mechanics that released in 2016. Set two years after Human Revolution in 2029, the world is divided between normal humans and those with advanced, controversial artificial organs called augmentations. You take up the role of Adam Jensen, a double agent for the hacker group Juggernaut Collective, who are equipped with the latest and most advanced augmentation technology. This game is beautiful and still very demanding on your system. The section benchmarked was near the beginning of the game, after the tutorial.
In Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the reference 5700 XT did best with an average of 100 fps. Next was the Vega 2 with an average of 97 fps followed by out Pulse 5700 XT with an average of 94 and the reference 5700 with an average of 91 fps. In 1440p, the reference 5700 XT and the Vega 2 were dead even with an average of 690 fps. Next was the Pulse 5700 XT with an average of 67 FPS and the 5700 was last with an average of 63 fps. In 4k, the Pulse 5700 XT and the Vega 2 tied for first with an average of 37 FPS. The reference 5700 XT was within margin of error with 36 fps and the 5700 was last with an average of 33 fps.
Far Cry 5 is the latest in the far cry series. It takes place in the fictional Hope County Montana. You play the role of the un-named deputy who’s sent to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of the dangerous Edens Gate Cult. However, things do not go as planned and you spend the game trapped in Hope County attempting to take out Joseph and the rest of his family as they attempt to take over the entire county. Far Cry 5 was released in 2018. Ubisoft has developed a beautiful open world with amazing visuals. However, the game is very demanding on even the most powerful systems. This game was tested with the in-game benchmark, as well as near the beginning of the game when you first leave the bunker owned by Dutch as you attempt to clear his island of cult members.
In Far Cry, at 1080p resolution, the Pulse 5700 XT came out on top with an average of 134 FPS. Next was the reference 5700 XT with 129 fps followed by the Vega 2 tied with the reference 5700 with an average of 120. The Pulse again came out ahead of the pack with an average of 117 fps in 1440p resolution. The Vega 2 came in second with an average of 107 fps at 1440p. Next was the reference 5700 XT with an average of 99 fps and again the 5700 was last with an average of 88 fps. At 4k resolution on Far Cry 5, the Pulse 5700 XT was again the winner with an average of 63 FPS. The Vega 2 was second again with an average of 60 fps. Next was the reference 5700 XT with an average of 52 fps and the 5700 was last with an average of 47 fps in 4k.
Final Fantasy XV
Fans of the Final Fantasy series waited well over a decade for this game to release. Final Fantasy XV is an open-world action role-playing game. You play as the main protagonist Noctis Lucis Caelum during his journey across the world of Eos. Final Fantasy XV was developed and published by Square Enix as part of the long-running Final Fantasy series that first started on the original NES back in the late 1980s. The section that was benchmarked was the first section near the start of the game, where there was actual combat.
All four cards performed similarly in Final Fantasy XV. The Pulse came out on top again in 1080p with an average of 113 FPS. Next the RX 5700 and the Vega 2 tied with an average of 107 FPS. To my surprise, the reference 5700 XT came in last with an average of 105. However, I feel this results may have been skewed a bit due to the extremely low minimum of zero fps. In 1440p, the reference 5700 XT came in first with an average of 79 fps followed by the Vega 2 card with an average of 77 fps. The Pulse was right behind the Vega 2 with an average of 76 fps and the 5700 was last with 75 fps. The reference 5700 XT was again first in 4k with an average of 47 FPS. Next was the Vega 2 with an average of 46 FPS in 4k. The Pulse 5700 XT came in third with an average of 44 FPS in 4k and the 5700 was last with an average of 42 fps in 4k.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is not only a mouthful to say but it is an excellent card closer to the budget side of things. At launch, the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT has an MSRP of $409. However, the Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 XT offers performance between the RTX 2070 and RTX 2080. Just at a far lower price. The MSRP of the Pulse RX 5700 XT puts the card just below the RTX 2060 Super, but with far better performance. In many of the games we tested, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT outperformed even the RX Vega 2. The Vega 2 is priced at a much higher price point at its launch when compared to the $409 MSRP of the Pulse RX 5700 XT. In fact, in all eight games we tested, the Pulse RX 5700 XT managed to stay above 30 FPS in 4k and even above 60 FPS in 4k on a few of the games. Features such as the Radeon Image Sharpening can boost your performance even higher. However, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is more than capable of playing modern games at 1440p @ 60 FPS or even 4k @ 30 FPS with little to no issues.
I do like the simple, yet attractive design on the shroud on the Pulse RX 5700 XT. The backplate on the Pulse RX 5700 XT is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it also serves a purpose helping to dissipate heat. I wouldn’t say this card revolutionized how graphics cards are cooled. While running FurMark, The Pulse RX 5700 XT hit a max temp of 77°c. However, the in-game temperature hovered right around 69°c. This was with the fans at their stock settings of 40% fan speed. Running at 50% fan speed, the card rand at a whisper-quiet 40 decibels. When the fans speed was cranked up to 100%, the did get a bit loud, around 60 decibels. Keep in mind, this is on an open-air case. However, running the fans at 100% dropped the GPU temperature to around 60°c in-game.
Overall, I was not only pleased by the performance of the Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT, but also surprised as well. Not that I thought the card was going to be a bad card by any means. However, I wasn’t expecting it to perform as well as it did. In many cases, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT vastly outperformed its reference counterpart and even beat out the Radeon Vega II in a few games. The performance of the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT puts it right up there with the RTX 2070. Just at a lower price point. So putting aside the squabbling between team red and team green, which I’ll admit can be difficult for me personally, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is an excellent card performance-wise, at an excellent price point. Especially if you can catch the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT on sale, below the MSRP of $409.99. In conclusion, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 XT is a great option for anyone looking to either set up a new build or upgrade an older card. The Pulse RX 5700 XT offers great performance without breaking the bank.