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Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5600 XT review: Punching above its class

Make sure you get that new BIOS, though.

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Our test system

Our dedicated graphics card test system is packed with some of the fastest complementary components available to put any potential performance bottlenecks squarely on the GPU. Most of the hardware was provided by the manufacturers, but we purchased the cooler and storage ourselves.

  • Intel Core i7-8700K processor ($350 on Amazon)
  • EVGA CLC 240 closed-loop liquid cooler ($120 on Amazon)
  • Asus Maximus X Hero motherboard ($395 on Amazon)
  • 64GB HyperX Predator RGB DDR4/2933 ($420 on Amazon)
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply ($230 on Amazon)
  • Corsair Crystal 570X RGB case, with front and top panels removed and an extra rear fan installed for improved airflow ($130 on Amazon)
  • 2x 500GB Samsung 860 EVO SSDs ($78 each on Amazon)

We’re comparing the $290 Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5600 XT against its key Nvidia rivals: The $200 GeForce GTX 1660, $230 GTX 1660 Super, $280 GTX 1660 Ti, and $350 GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition (though Nvidia dropped the 2060 Founders Edition price to $300 just ahead of AMD’s launch). Like the Radeon RX 5600 XT, Nvidia’s GTX 16-series GPUs lack reference versions, so we’re using overclocked customs models for these tests. We’re also comparing AMD’s GPU against its Navi-based siblings, the $180 Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5500 XT and $350 Radeon RX 5700 reference edition.

This review marks the introduction of several new games to our testing suite, though some titles from last year’s lineup remain. Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the highest possible graphics presets unless otherwise noted, with VSync, frame rate caps, real-time ray tracing or CLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled, and we’ve enabled temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their limits. We run each benchmark at least three times and list the average result for each test.

We tested the Sapphire Radeon RX 5600 XT using its default Performance BIOS, rather than its secondary Silent BIOS that increases efficiency and lowers fan speeds at the cost of performance. We’ve included performance results for the lower-clocked Performance BIOS that will be installed on some launch stock for the Sapphire Pulse, as well as (much better) results for the upgraded BIOS that will be available for users to download on day one, and come standard going forward.

AMD says the Radeon RX 5600 XT targets ultimate 1080p performance, but it’s also good enough for some 1440p gaming, so we’ve included those results as well.

Gaming performance benchmarks

Metro Exodus

One of the best games of 2019, Metro Exodus is one of the best-looking games around, too. The latest version of the 4A Engine provides incredibly luscious, ultra-detailed visuals, with one of the most stunning real-time ray tracing implementations released yet. We test in DirectX 12 mode, with ray tracing and DLSS disabled.

metro exodus Brad Chacos/IDG

Borderlands 3

Borderlands is back! Gearbox’s game defaults to DX12, so we do as well, which gives us a glimpse at the ultra-popular Unreal Engine 4’s performance—though this game’s implementation leans heavily in AMD’s favor.

borderlands 3 Brad Chacos/IDG

Division 2

The Division 2 is one of the best looter-shooters ever created. The luscious visuals generated by Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine make it even easier to get lost in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. The built-in benchmark cycles through four “zones” to test an array of environments, and we test with the DirectX 12 renderer enabled.

division 2 Brad Chacos/IDG

Next page: Gaming benchmarks continue

At a Glance
  • The AMD Radeon RX 5600 XT delivers outstanding 1080p gaming, knocking out the GeForce GTX 1660 Ti thanks to a last-minute BIOS upgrade. The need to install that upgrade manually and price cuts from rival Nvidia cards takes off some of its shine, though.

    Pros

    • Excellent 1080p gaming performance
    • Fast GDDR6 VRAM, PCIe 4.0 support
    • Faster BIOS unlocks much better performance
    • Sapphire Pulse has great features for the price
    • Trixx Boost software uses smart downscaling for FPS gains
    • Very quiet

    Cons

    • Have to manually install critical performance-boosting BIOS
    • No real-time ray tracing capabilities
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