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SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Review

Price: $669

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Introduction:

Now that the partner cards have shipped and are a known commodity, it's time to look at the second RX Vega 56 card OCC has received. For the past 10 years, we have been looking at products from Sapphire that have, truth be told, done pretty well by comparison. The first Vega 56 card I looked at was a pretty strong performer in its own right. So how will this NITRO+ RX Vega 56 Limited Edition card from Sapphire do by comparison? Only testing will tell.

Most of the early release images of a partner RX Vega 56 turned out to be this card with a strong LED features set and massive Vapor Chamber 3-slot cooler to tame the thermals that seem to come with AMD's Vega silicon. What Sapphire brings to the table with this card is a specific set of features that make it unique, from the TriXX Nitro Glow controlled LED effects to the inclusion of Turbine-X.

Priced at $669, this card is a bit more pricey than the PowerColor card I just looked at, but does include the added points of difference. Let's dig a little deeper.

SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Closer Look:

Sapphire's packaging has always been gaming-related, with a series of characters over the years taking center stage on the front panel. This time we get an armor-clad robot. Sapphire touts many of the features on the front of the box, from this card's Limited Edition status to the Turbine X feature and the use of 8GB of HBM2 memory. The back side digs ever deeper into the onion to list the minimum specs, AMD specific features, and a further listing of the Sapphire specific parts that make this card a Limited Edition. These features include not only the aforementioned Turbine X, but the Tri-X Fans, Black Diamond Chokes, Nitro Quick Connect Dual Ball bearing fans, and Intelligent fan controls. There is a lot to cover on the back side.

The outer wrapper is what brings you to the brand on a shelf, but the insides hold the card during transit to you. Sapphire continues to use a foam enclosure to keep the card safe. No small feat with the weight of this card. An added accessory for the end user is a video card support bracket to keep the card from putting tension on the PCIe slot on your motherboard. Many motherboard manufacturers are adding steel cladding to reinforce the slots now, so this bracket only helps the situation.




From the front, you don't get a sense of how well this card is built, but it is robust with the Tri-X fan package to the Vapor Chamber cooler and robust back plate. If you look closely at the card you will notice that the fans on the outside turn counterclockwise, while the center smaller fan turns clockwise to balance the airflow through the pair of heat sinks. The back side has a robust backplate that supports the PCB and cooler so you do not end up with broken traces on the PCB the first time you move the chassis with the card installed.

Visible from the side of the case, the NITRO logo on the back of the card lights up when the system is powered up. The clear space around the Tri-X fans is where you get the rest of the Nitro Glow controlled LED visual. Measuring 310(L)X 133(W)X 54 (H) mm the card is a three-slot GPU solution. At just over 12 inches, most chassis will accommodate this card, including my Node 304.  You will need a motherboard with at least a 16x PCIe 2.0 or better slot to use this card. The side view gives you an idea of just how robust the Vapor Chamber cooling is on this card. Much like a lot of designs, Sapphire is using a dual fin array design to maximize cooling performance.





Display connectivity on the Sapphire NITRO+ Radeon RX Vega 56 Limited Edition 8GB HBM2 consists of a pair of HDMI 2.0b ports and a pair of HDR-ready DisplayPort 1.4 ports that support up to four displays. Using this configuration, the card supports a maximum resolution of 5K using DisplayPort and 4K using the HDMI ports. The I/O panel features the Sapphire "S" subtly and allows for airflow to exit the shroud of the card. The majority of the thermal load on this card does get dumped into the chassis. This no longer presents an issue as it has in the past. However, if you are using a low noise build you will want to use some larger fans that could be connected to the card using Sapphire's Turbine-X feature.

The back end of the card is open to allow airflow through the shroud to exit the card keeping the thermals in check. If you notice, the backplate does connect to the shroud and the PCB.



CrossFireX configurations are supported on the RX Vega series by way of way of AMD's XDMA technology. No longer using a CrossFire bridge connection, the inter-GPU communication is routed through the PCIe bus. In the space normally occupied by the CrossFireX bridge connections are one of the two Turbine-X Fan headers that allow you to hook up chassis fans to the card. The Dual BIOS switch sits right behind this fan header.

Knowing that power consumption is an issue and then adding the additional circuitry for powering and controlling the chassis fans with a built-in standalone fan controller, Sapphire went ahead and took away any concerns about low power. It did this by installing a trio of 8-pin PCIe power connections to supply up to 450W to the card. Go big or go home as they say! Sapphire is recommending a power supply with a rating of 750W for systems running this card.

The back end of the card has the second Turbine-X fan header. The heat sink fin array is notched out to make fitting the fan connection to the cards PCB a non-issue. By using five onboard thermal sensors, the standalone fan controller can increase fan speed and cooling performance as the card heats up or the inverse by slowing the fans down when the thermal load is not there. A pretty cool feature, although with current motherboard technology able to do the same thing, it's past its prime adding expense to the package. If you are running an older board without PWM fan controls you can surely take advantage of this option.



The LED visuals are a big part of the package on the NITRO+ RX Vega 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 card. From the Sapphire NITRO+ logo on the back side of the card to the LED assemblies on the front of the shroud, it's what really drives the looks. The rest is just functionality. To create your own RGB light show, Sapphire has its TriXX Nitro Glow software utility. With it, you can use up to five different modes, including Rainbow and Temperature mode. Alternatively, you can just turn the LEDs off if they become a distraction.



The cooling package that Sapphire brings to the table starts with the Tri-X dual ball bearing fans. A trio of Champion DC Brushless fans are used to provide the airflow through the Vapor Chamber cooling solution that makes a return on this card. The outer 92mm fans turn counterclockwise, while the smaller 80mm fan in the center turns clockwise to balance the airflow through the dual fin array heat pipe interconnected cooling package.

Sapphire's fans are a quick change design that let you swap a fan with just the removal of a single screw. The contacts slip into a housing and lock into place, making the switch quick and simple. I'm not sure if the NITRO LED fans used on the RX 580 will work, but it would create a nice visual. While the fans are the main visual indicator, the heat sink package is hidden up under the shroud. Sapphire is using a Vapor-X Chamber over the Vega 10 core and HBM memory. This thermal load is then pushed through to eight heat pipes that run to the dual fin arrays. Sapphire is using three big 8mm heat pipes in concert with five 6mm heat pipes to carry the load. After looking at my test results, it's easy to say the package works.  



AMD's Vega 10 core is the base for this card. This variant of the 14nm Vega 10 architecture is a trimmed down version of the full implementation of the core with only 3584 shading units, 224 texture units, and 64 ROPs under the 484 mm² 5th Gen GCN die. A total of 8GB of high speed HBM2 memory is used running through a 2048-bit memory bus. The baseline core clock speed on this card 1305MHz with a boost clock of up to 1572MHz, while the 8GB of HBM2 memory runs at 800MHz out of the box.

Packed with a robust PCB, cooling solution, and a Black Diamond Choke-equipped VRM, let's see if Sapphire's over-the-top build can deliver best in class performance.

  1. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2: Introduction & Closer Look
  2. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2: Specifications & Features
  3. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: Setup & Overclocking
  4. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: Fallout 4, Battlefield 1, Ghost Recon Wildlands
  5. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: Tom Clancy's The Division, Hitman (2016)
  6. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: The Witcher III, Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation, Destiny 2
  7. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: DOOM (2016), Watch Dogs 2
  8. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: For Honor, 3DMark, VRMark
  9. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Testing: Temperatures & Power Consumption
  10. SAPPHIRE NITRO+ Radeon RX VEGA 56 Limited Edition 8G HBM2 Conclusion:
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