Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 4GB Video Card Review

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Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 4GB Arrives At $219

The Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 480 4GB video card is finally here! Forget the woes of the AMD Radeon RX 480 reference design as this custom card could possibly solve all the GPU cooler and power concerns may had. The Nitro Radeon RX 480 solves the high temperature and loud noise levels by featuring a large GPU cooler with three copper heatpipes and dual fans. The board designers then placed an 8-pin PCIe power connector instead of a 6-pin to ensure the Polaris GPU on the RX 480 is getting all the power it needs and then some. At $20 more than the reference design ($199) it looks like Sapphire’s Nitro Radeon RX 480 was a God send and could be the Radeon RX 480 to own.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RXX 480

When shopping for an AMD Radeon RX 480 graphics card you’ll find that there are 4GB and 8GB versions available and that core and memory clocks on the 4GB cards will vary between manufactures. The AMD Radeon RX 480 8GB reference design was clocked at 1266MHz boost with 8Gbps memory speeds while the AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB reference card featured the same core clock, but uses 7Gbps or higher memory. This means it is up to AMD’s board partners to set the clock speeds. On the Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 4GB it is factory overclocked to 1306MHz on the core and 7.5Gbps on the memory. The Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 8GB is clocked at 1342MHz on the core and 8Gbps on the memory. Be sure to take a close look at the clock speeds if you have your mind set on the RX 480! Those are of course the default ‘Nitro Boost’ clock speeds, but you can switch to ‘silent’ mode and then both card runs at 1266MHz.

 

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX480 Retail Box

The model that we’ll be looking at today is the Sapphire Radeon RX 480 4GB that is priced at $219, whereas the Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 8GB is priced at $269.

 

The Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 4GB is a decently sized card that measures in at 240mm x 120mm x 42mm (L x W x H), so at just 9.5-inches in length it should fit in the majority of desktop PCs. Along the top edge of the card the Sapphire logo that features 1customizable RGB lighting thanks to ‘Nitro Glow’ lighting technology. The card uses Sapphire’s popular Dual-X GPU cooler design that continues to be updated as time goes on.

 

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX480 Video Card

You can even change the colors of the LED, for your own customized design. This can be controlled via software using the latest version of SAPPHIRE’s Overclocking Utility TriXX 3.0, or through hardware by pressing the red button on the back of the Nitro RX 480 card.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card 8-pin power connector

One of the biggest selling features of the Sapphire Nitro RX 480 is the 8-pin PCIe power connector that is located on the end of the card. You can also see one of the 4-pin fan headers of the 95mm cooling fans. Sapphire recommends a 500W or greater power supply for your gaming system with this 150W TDP video card model.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Backpate

The Sapphire Nitro RX 480 comes with a full coverage black metal back plate to help protect the components on the back of the card and to add rigidity to the card to keep it from looking saggy on the far side of the PCIe x16 slot interface. It also helps keep your card cool as Sapphire did place a thermal pad behind the VRM components, so this should help dissipate some heat away from the hotter parts of the card. Notice that top edge of the backplate has holes cut in it. This is part of the ‘Nitro Free Flow’ system that allows hot air to escape through these vents.

Nitro RX 480 vBIOS Switch

On the back of the Nitro RX 480 you’ll also be able to change the LED mode settings with a push button switch or vBIOS versions as this card ships with two BIOS versions. The LED mode switch will let you can choose from a set of six different modes including Sapphire blue, rainbow, PCB Temperature indicator, fan speed indicator, custom (set in TRIXX 3.0 software) or off.

Nothing is said on the landing page of this model about what specifics on the dual BIOS mode, but we were able to talk with Ed from Sapphire USA and he told us that the 2nd BIOS (the one closest to the IO panel) has a tighter fan profile and power profile that has been tweaked to better maintain power.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card display connectors

Sapphire went with two DisplayPort 1.4 outputs, two HDMI 2.0b and a Dual-Link DVI-D connector when it comes to video outputs. The HDMI 2.0 port does support 4K (up to 4096×2160) @ 60Hz! Sapphire does not include any DVI to VGA adapters or SLI bridges in the accessory bundle with this card, so just a friendly heads up there. We aren’t going to bother showing you the box or retail bundle as you just get a quick start guide and a driver disc (who really loads drivers from a CD-ROM these days anyway?). Notice that the card is higher than most as the fan shroud extends above the bracket and the dual-slot cards overall height is 120mm.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Heatsink

Here is a closer look at the heatsink Sapphire is using on the Nitro RX 480 and you can tell it’s massive compared to the small factory solution. This heatsink has several heatpipes and the cooler also makes contact with the power components, so it should greatly help the thermal performance of the card. The two larger heatpipes are 10mm thick! The Sapphire Nitro RX 480 4GB model that we are testing has a default temperature target of 75C and a semi-passive fan that doesn’t kick on until the temperature reached 52C.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 GPU Cooler

The Sapphire Nitro RX 480 can be used with SAPPHIRE’s Overclocking Utility TriXX 3.0 for full control of the cards fans settings and temperature targets, so be sure to download that if you wanted to really dial in the card. The utility also allows you to manually adjust clock speeds, voltages, fan speeds, LED colors, and more.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Fan

The graphics card cooler uses two 95 mm brushless cooling fans that feature dust-repelling dual ball bearings. The airfoil section blades help provide the airflow needed to keep this Polaris based GPU cool with lower noise levels versus smaller standard fans. The Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 480 utilized ‘quick connect’ fan technology that allows you to remove one screw and then the fan can be lifted out at an angle away from the connection pins. This allows you to easily remove and clean the fans, but more importantly if a fan were to ever fail you could just get a replacement fan in the mail instead of an entire new card.

Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 Fan

We removed the fans and found that Sapphire is using Champion DC Brushless CF1015H12D model fans that are made in China are the factory fans.

Sapphire RX 480 Nitro PCB

Our Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 480 4GB video card is based on a pre-production design. We know this as it has a 6-phase power system for the GPU and we have been told by Sapphire that the retail cards will only have a 5-phase power system. One of the phases is supposedly disabled in the vBIOS, but we don’t know how to check that and if this will impact our power numbers or overclocking results.

Now that we have the basics out of the way we can take a look at the test system and get to the benchmarks!

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  • jhon

    hello can you post your wattman settings i have the same card but idk what settings are good or bad with this card

  • ninjaduck

    A very interesting point is that Sapphire launched a website for the fan exchange. I’m already waiting a week to get a reply, but they got a site now :D.

    http://www.sapphiretech.de/fanxchange/de/index.html

  • Charles

    I know that this is an older review but my scores on my MSI Gaming X RX480 4GB edition in Firestrike are higher that you show for the Nitro here. Maybe the new drivers? I get a total score on Firestrike of 11,033 on an i7 2600k @ 4.2Ghz. My GPU score is 13,528. More in line with the GTX 1060 and 980.

    • datguy

      Yeah the 16.11.5 boosted performance a lot on the rx cards

      • datguy

        16.11.5 drivers*

  • Bensonix

    WTF 352 Watts? that’s 100watts more than GTX 1060. for a card thats slower than 1060 that’s kinda fucked up if you think about it.

  • Bopeep

    All future AMD cards are factory overclocked 🙁

  • I got this card (4GB version) can i flash it to 8GB ? because this is a non-reference card that’s why i’m asking, i knew most of reference RX 480 4GB with Samsung memory can be flashed to unlock full 8 GB GDDR5

  • Daniel

    Hi!
    I still don’t estimate, what graphics card I should buy. I don’t know if I should buy new AMD graphics RX480 Nitro+ which have good responses in gaming (8GB version) or any of NVIDIA card, because I read on a discusion from 2015 the AMD graphics (R9 390) still haven’t drivers for Fallout 4 and have any troubles with some effects in the game. I just want the best enjoyment of this game (Fallout 4)
    Thank you in advance for your answer.

  • munkeychips

    FYI AMD cards don’t use SLI bridges and HDMI 2.0b supports 4k @ 60.
    Check your facts.
    http://www.hdmi.org/manufacturer/hdmi_2_0/

  • Henry

    “Sapphire does not include any DVI to VGA adapters or -SLI bridges- in the accessory bundle with this card.” AMD cards don’t use Nvidias’ SLI bridges or even Crossfire bridges since the 290x.

  • BIGOLDKIE

    Excellent review, covers everything!

  • Coach

    I just bought this card (8gb, high clocked version -I think it’s 1342, have to look again) I stewed over this for a long time. I got a good deal on Newegg along with the BF1 discount I’ll likely use soon. I was so tempted to go to the GTX 1070, but other monetary needs pushed me back to the 1060 vs 480 fight. We can argue the points of each all day, but for the games I play, the better future-proofing, I went with AMD.

  • Walter Nikolaou

    Should I replace my dead 290x with this one?

  • Hazli Subakir

    Hi. I have a question. Is it possible to use a Vga monitor with nitro rx480 8gb using an active dvi or hdmi converter? As why I’m still using a vga monitor is that I’m upgrading my system one at a time so a new monitor is kinda impossible atm. Thanks and sorry if this question has already been asked.

  • Ali Husain

    Where was the GTX 1060 on page 6 Fire Mark Extreme?

  • Gezo

    I was super hyped for the Nitro but I’m glad I got a 1060 after all.

    • Ali Husain

      This is the 4GB version, the 8GB version has better specs and more performance though, and apparently overclocks to 1400+ easily, at the point to where it annihilates its competitors

      • Brian

        Funny, people talk about RX 480s at 1400+ MHz, yet there is absolutely no data about any 480 anywhere breaking 1380.

        It MAY if it is a nearly perfect chip, hit 1400 +/- 35 MHz, but even then it still is nowhere close to “annihilating” the competition – it would be barely keeping its head above water.

        Bought a Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 980 Ti foe $355 on eBay, have it running 1503 core, 8.2 GHz effective VRAM – THAT annihilates anything near its price.

        • Ali Husain

          When the first results came for the RX480 Nitro+ 8GB, they had a factory OC version, and a Nitro that was further overclocked (this one was at 1420 MHz) And was shown beating the Gaming X (even when this one was overclocked, I think by +150 MHz) Unfortunately, I can’t find a link, I searched, but to no avail.

  • Víctor Marino

    Hi Nathan.

    Thanks a lot for your in-depth review. It’s really helping me make up my mind with regards to this card.

    I’m currently torn between the excellent EVGA 1060 SC (that you also reviewed) and the Sapphire RX480 Nitro 8GB, as both will have pretty much the same retail price. As it turns out… you’re one of the few people on the planet who have tested both! 🙂 So hopefully you can solve my doubt below?

    I have the Fractal Design Node 304 mini-ITX case, which means there’s not a lot of space for air to move inside. But it does have 2 small fans on the front (pulling air inside from top & bottom grids) and a big one on the back (as exhaust). So in practice, I’ve never run into any temperature issues so far and I’m extremely happy with the case.

    It also has a large side-grid to allow the GPU to pull cool air from the outside as you can see here:

    http://www.fractal-design.com/media/edbb1123-afb6-4179-a5b2-f974f38c53ba

    Right now I’m still rocking an MSI R6950 Twin Frozr III from 2011 (27cm long), and it never goes past 75ºC when gaming. But it’s not a great comparison because it does indeed get a bit loud under load, and it also doesn’t have a 0dB mode.

    So… my question is: do you think the Nitro would realistically be able to sustain a 0dB operation mode on idle inside the Node 304 case? I can’t really tell if your open air system resembles my case better (due to reduced airflow) or worse (as my case DOES have airflow) than other reviews using full-sized ATX towers?

    Also: do you think the 2-fan design on the Nitro could be better suited for my case than 1-fan when gaming, due to it using the full length of the side-grid to pull cool air inside the case? Or do you think the benefits of the second fan would be totally negated by the cooler and more efficient operation of the EVGA 1060 SC? (as well as less clutter due to the card being half the size…)

    On paper I was leaning more towards the RX480 this time around as I like to keep my cards for 3-4 years, so future proofing is important to me. DX12, Vulkan and 8GB of VRAM were strong selling points, as well as AMD’s track record of improving their cards a lot overtime via driver updates. I also really like the idea of being able to take out the fans for periodic cleaning, which will not be possible with the EVGA card.

    However, in practice it seems the EVGA SC card will actually be able to run much cooler, probably be silent 90% of the time my PC is on, and run quieter when gaming too… whereas the Nitro looks like it would be one noisy son of a gun especially when not gaming, turning the fans on and off all the time while I’m just web browsing or something.

    I was just wondering what your opinion is, based on the feeling you got when you reviewed both cards?

    Thanks a sorry for the long comment!

  • aryacebe

    Is it safe using PSU Bronze 80+ 450watts wih this card?

    • Carl Pilkingtion

      As long as you arent using any CPU that consumes more than 200 watts (talking about the FX-9590) and aren’t crossfiring and not heavily overclocking you should be alright

      • Nathan Kirsch

        yeah, that is on the borderline of being okay. Like Carl said as long as you are using a big power hungry CPU and lots of drives and fans you should be okay.

  • Edward Crisler

    Clarify a couple of points.. The issue with the fan replacement is due to the new system not yet being fully implemented. The system will allow for the direct fan replacements without shipping cards off.
    Concerning the Power Phase, the cards will be 5 phase. While the sample Nathan had was a 6 phase model the card was only using 5 phase during operation, the 6th phase was disabled in BIOS. A few early cards were built with the 6 phase before the switch over in final build.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Okay, glad to hear it was disabled I was wondering how that will impact power consumption or overclocking. Are the 8GB cards using all 6 phases?

      Also, do you know when the fan system will begin? As you saw when I contacted the support team they said I needed to return the entire card and would not be able to get just a fan.

      • Edward Crisler

        I was told that the new service solutions are being rolled out. I do not have a set date yet but if someone has an issue and does not get the correct service they can reach to me and I will help get it resolved.

        All of the cards are using 5 phase power.

  • khanmein

    y 4gb variant come with hynix? while 8gb come with samsung? damn fishy~

    • Nathan Kirsch

      because the 4GB version uses less expensive 7Gbps memory while the 8GB version uses more expensive and faster 8Gbps memory.

  • Tharsys

    At least, Legit Reviews did not add the results of the OC with liquid nitrogen for NVidia cards 😉

  • John Deadcorn

    Nice review! I was extremely impressed with my Sapphire Nitro 380X. I jumped around from a few different Radeon partners for a long time but I’m sticking with Sapphire now.

    Also, near the beginning of the article it says the RX 480 is Pascal instead of Polaris, haha.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Duh… Way to get my P’s mixed up 🙂

      • John K

        When can we buy these? And did you happen to look at how many chips are on the pcb? 😉

        • Nathan Kirsch

          They are available now! Links are in the article to buy at Newegg/Amazon. How many chips? Are you talking memory or power phases? This card has all 6 power phases and I just found out yesterday that the retail cards only have 5. Not sure how that will impact power and overclocking.