Power draw, thermals, and noise
We also tested the Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700 XT using 3DMark’s highly respected Fire Strike synthetic benchmark. Fire Strike runs at 1080p, Fire Strike Extreme runs at 1440p, and Fire Strike Ultra runs at 4K resolution. All render the same scene, but with more intense graphical effects as you move up the scale, so that Extreme and Ultra flavors stress GPUs even more. We record the graphics score to eliminate variance from the CPU.
Fire Strike performance doesn’t seem to correlate with real-world games performance very strongly anymore, as these results would put it roughly in line with the much more powerful $700 GeForce RTX 2080 Super—which it definitely isn’t. We’ll probably switch to another synthetic benchmark soon.
We test power draw by looping the F1 2018 benchmark for about 20 minutes after we’ve benchmarked everything else and noting the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter. The initial part of the race, where all competing cars are onscreen simultaneously, tends to be the most demanding portion.
The overclocked, triple-fan, RGB illuminated Sapphire Nitro+ draws more power than the reference Radeon RX 5700 XT, as you’d expect. But AMD’s new Navi GPUs are significantly more power efficient than previous Radeon chips, and they’re now competitive with Nvidia’s vaunted power efficiency. Comparing the Nitro+ with the slightly higher clocked XFX Thicc II Ultra shows how hard it is to squeeze more performance out of Navi, though. The XFX is barely faster than the Nitro+ in games—just a few frames here and there—but the Thicc II Ultra sucks down a lot more power despite having one less fan and no RGB lighting whatsoever.
We test thermals by leaving either AMD’s Wattman (for Radeon GPUs) or EVGA’s Precision X1 (for GeForce GPUs) open during the F1 2018 five-lap power draw test, noting the highest maximum temperature (in Celsius) at the end.
The Sapphire Nitro+ is cool as a cucumber and quiet as a mouse, even in its default high-performance configuration. No complaints whatsoever. Sapphire’s card provides a much better quality of life than the reference RX 5700 XT’s hot, loud blower-style cooler. The faster clock speeds bite the XFX Thicc II Ultra yet again, as it runs hotter and louder in order to tame Navi at higher frequencies. Its dual fans spin between 2,100rpm and 2,300rpm under load. The Nitro+’s trio of fans never top 1,800rpm and still manage to keep it 5 degrees cooler. Sapphire found the sweet spot, it seems.
Next page: Should you buy the Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 5700?