AMD’s release of the new-ish Radeon RX 500 series gives us a chance to tackle a topic that isn’t covered often here at PCWorld: The effectiveness and design of custom designs by different graphics cards makers.
While AMD and Nvidia create the graphics processors used in every Radeon and GeForce video card, respectively, the companies that actually sell graphics cards—like Asus, Sapphire, EVGA, XFX, Visiontek—et cetera—put their own spin on things by customizing the hardware with bespoke cooling solutions, factory overclocks, and the quality of internal components. Those “personal touches” can potentially create vast differences in thermals and gaming performance between two custom graphics cards built around the same GPU.
Enter the Asus Strix RX 580 Gaming Top OC Edition (whew), which at $300 on Newegg, is the priciest custom Radeon RX 580 around. But as luck would have it, the highly tailored Asus card rocks the same 8GB memory capacity and default 1,411MHz clock speed as the $250 Sapphire RX 580 Nitro+ we reviewed just last week—giving us a stellar opportunity to compare the extensive customizations made by both companies.
Radeon RX 580 models with 8GB of memory start at $230. Can the Strix’s optimizations justify its whopping $70 premium? Let’s dig in.
Meet the Asus Strix 580 Gaming Top OC
If you’re looking for an overview of the Radeon RX 580’s capabilities, be sure to check out PCWorld’s Sapphire RX 580 Nitro+ review, where we dive into the nitty-gritty details. For this review we’re focusing on the Strix’s extensive customizations and performance.
And Asus sure piled those customizations on thick. You witness the result the moment you pull the extra-long, 2.5-slot-width Strix 580 Top OC from the box. It’s massive, especially for a graphics card with a mainstream price.
That’s because the Top OC sports Asus’s full-fat, three-fan Strix design, rather than relying on dual fans like the Nitro+ (and most RX 580 variants). Those Wing-Blade fans feature IP5X-rated dust protection and shut down completely when the GPU isn’t under load. They’re also compatible with Asus FanConnect II, a nifty feature that connects to your case fans via a pair of 4-pin fan connectors on the side of the card. Those system fans then keep tabs on your GPU and CPU temperatures and automatically adjust speeds to keep the hotter component running cool.
The trio of fans sit atop a beefy heatsink that runs the length of the card. It features Asus’s MaxContact technology, which lays a massive nickel-plated copper plate directly over the GPU itself. There’s also a separate PCB contact plate that draws heat away from the memory and into the heatsink. The Strix 580 Top OC also packs a 7+1 power phase configuration built using Asus’s Super Alloy Power II components.
A hefty metal backplate protects the rear of this stunning, all-black card—a good thing, as the extra rigidity helps compensate for the Strix 580 Top OC’s gargantuan size. You don’t want your card to start to sag over time. The backplate features an RGB LED version of the Strix logo, matched by a glowing Republic of Gamers logo on the edge of the card. Both play nice with the Aura Sync lighting on Asus motherboards, and can be configured using the company’s Aura RGB software. (Asus also offers GPU Tweak II software that can be used to tinker with the Strix 580 Top OC’s clock and fan speeds.)
Asus includes two DisplayPorts, a pair of HDMI ports, and a DVI-I connection. The pair of HDMI ports should come in handy for folks who want to use the RX 580 for virtual reality, as VR headsets rely on that connection. Power’s handled by a single 8-pin connector.
All in all, the Strix RX 580 Top OC is gorgeous, gigantic, and loaded with premium features. Asus is clearly aiming for the top of the heap here. But does that massive cooler result in something special? Let’s take it to the test bench.
Next page: System configuration, benchmarks begin