At the end of last year, AMD updated its lineup by introducing a new video card in the middle price segment. The Radeon RX 590 is a new model based on the familiar Polaris GPU, but the move to a finer process and serious overclocking provided a nice performance boost over past solutions. We will get acquainted with the new product on the example of the Sapphire Nitro + Special Edition video card, test it at nominal and overclocked, compare it with the Radeon RX 580 and GeForce GTX 1060.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The Radeon RX 590 is based on the Polaris 30 processor based on the fourth generation of the GCN architecture. According to its characteristics, the GPU is identical to the previous versions of this chip. It consists of 36 Compute Units (CUs), with a total of 2304 stream processors, 144 texture units, and 32 ROPs. However, it is manufactured using a new 12nm FinFET process technology, while operating frequencies are increased by 15%. The base frequency of the processor is 1469 MHz with Boost up to 1545 MHz.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

For comparison, you need to recall that the Radeon RX 580 has the corresponding values ​​\u200b\u200bof 1257 MHz and 1340 MHz. At the same time, all the announced Radeon RX 590s have excellent cooling and a slight factory overclocking. Such graphics cards will easily provide maximum Boost without drawdowns, so the real difference with simple variants of the Radeon RX 580 can be higher than 15%. If we compare the new product with the simplest versions of the Radeon RX 480, then the gap will be very large. According to AMD, the peak performance of the new graphics card is 7.1 TFLOPS, which is 39% higher than the Radeon RX 480. Impressive progress for an accelerator based on identical GPUs.

Video adapter Radeon RX 590 Radeon RX 580 Radeon RX 480
Core Polaris 30 Polaris 20 Polaris
Number of transistors, million pieces 5700 5700 5700
Process technology, nm 12 14 14
Core area, sq. mm 232 232 232
Number of stream processors 2304 2304 2304
Number of texture blocks 144 144 144
Number of render units 32 32 32
Core frequency (Base-Boost), MHz 1469–1545 1257–1340 1120–1266
Peak performance, TFLOPS 7,1 6,17 5,1
Memory bus, bit 256 256 256
Memory type GDDR5 GDDR5 GDDR5
Memory frequency, MHz 8000 8000 8000
Memory size, MB 8192 8192/4096 8192/4096
Supported version of DirectX 12 12 12
Interface PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0
Power, W 225 185 150

Curiously, the Radeon RX 590 still runs 8GHz GDDR5 memory like the older models. The amount of memory is 8 GB and, probably, we will not see cut-down versions of 4 GB in this series.

A serious increase in frequencies has led to an increase in power consumption. The RX 590 is claimed to draw 225W. This also increases the requirements for cooling, but as experience with Sapphire Nitro + will show, video cards do not differ much in terms of temperature and noise characteristics from previous models.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 8G Special Edition

There are no reference versions of the Radeon RX 590, so AMD partners immediately introduced products of their own design with powerful cooling. Among the first was the company Sapphire, which released a new product in the Nitro + Special Edition. This video adapter is supplied in a box typical for Sapphire. The front side lists the key features of this product, including dual BIOS, backlight, intelligent fan control, and more.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The video card is made in the recognizable Sapphire design, which is inherent in other models of this manufacturer. Cover with pseudo-perforation, but in blue design, typical for video cards of the Special Edition line.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The length of the Nitro + Radeon RX 590 reaches 25 cm. The cooler traditionally occupies two expansion slots and uses two large fans.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The back side is covered by a large metal plate with slots above the board’s hot spots.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

Large thick heat pipes peek out from the side. There is an illuminated Sapphire logo on the side of the case.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

In the corner there are two power connectors — six and eight pins.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

There is a small BIOS switch closer to the back panel. One firmware offers recommended frequencies, the other switches the Sapphire Nitro + into an accelerated mode.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

There are five video output connectors on the rear panel: two DisplayPort, two HDMI and one DVI.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

Let’s take a look under the «armor» of the video card. By removing the plate, you can find an additional plate in the area above the power unit. Through this plate and a thermal pad, heat is removed from the hot zone of the board to the amplifying plate, which really participates in cooling, and not just has a protective function, as is the case in video adapters from other manufacturers. This approach is used in all products of the Nitro + series.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The board is covered with a massive heatsink with four heat pipes — the central ones with a diameter of 8 mm, the outer ones with a standard diameter of 6 mm.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

It is worth noting that exactly the same cooling is used by the Sapphire Nitro + Radeon RX 580.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The fan shroud is screwed directly onto the board. It can be easily removed without completely disassembling the device, which will be convenient if you decide to clean the cooler from dust after a long period of operation. Fans and illuminated side logo are connected separately. The fans themselves have large blades, and the impeller diameter is 95 mm, so we can talk about using 100 mm versions. Special ball bearing ensures long life. Zero DB Cooling technology makes the graphics card silent in 2D mode with fine control and fan shutdown at low load.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

We did not carry out a complete analysis so as not to damage the warranty seals, so we will use the photos from the manufacturer below.

The heatsink is identical to the one used in the Nitro+ Radeon RX 580. It has a copper base to contact the GPU. There is a large aluminum platform around, which is in contact with the memory chips. On the side there is a contact pad for heat removal from the power elements of the supply circuit.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The PCB also uses the Sapphire Nitro+ RX 580 design. High-quality components are soldered, in particular, high-life polymer capacitors and branded ribbed chokes.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

GPU queried by the sixth phase.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

The factory settings provide for a processor frequency of up to 1560 MHz with memory frequencies of 2100 (8400) MHz. This is the main mode, but switching to an additional BIOS allows you to activate the frequency formula 1545/8000 MHz.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

We decided to compare the temperature and noise characteristics with both BIOSes. Testing was carried out on an open stand at an indoor temperature of 23 °C. For the load, the looped Final Fantasy XV Windows Edition benchmark was launched at maximum quality in Full HD. At minimum frequencies with this mode, the peak temperature reached 77 ° C, the fan speed was about 1300 rpm (up to 1400 rpm at peak).

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

In standard mode at frequencies of 1560/8400 MHz, the same test warmed up to the same 77 ° C, but the average fan speed was already closer to 1400 rpm. When switching Final Fantasy XV to 4K resolution, the fans speed up to 1600 rpm. Also at the maximum resolution, for the first time, the instability of the Boost frequency appears, there are drawdowns below the maximum value. However, no one will use 4K on such a video card, and in Full HD it will provide stable 1560 MHz without drawdowns.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

If we talk about noise parameters, then the speed of the fans is highly dependent on each specific application. It probably uses complex fan control algorithms that depend not only on the temperature of the GPU, but also on the heating of other components. For example, tests in Shadow of the Tomb Raider at 1080p heated the GPU weaker than Final Fantasy XV, but the fan speed aspired to 1700 rpm.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

Now let’s talk about overclocking. To do this, you can use a wide range of utilities, since all specialized programs are compatible with the Radeon RX 590. It is definitely worth noting the native Sapphire TriXX utility, which at the same time allows you to control the backlight of the video card. The WattMan application from AMD Radeon Settings provides ample opportunities. Here you can adjust voltages for different Boost values, flexible temperature limit settings and threshold values ​​for the operating range of fans are available.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

When overclocking, we limited ourselves to the standard voltage, the experience of past Polaris video cards shows that there is no practical benefit from increasing the voltage. After experiments, the final value was 1635 MHz for the core. The memory was able to work without failures at an effective frequency of 9200 MHz. To maintain stability, the fan speed was fixed at 2300 rpm, which is due to the high noise. However, this does not negate the possibility of fine tuning and selection of higher frequencies with a more optimal fan operation mode, when an acceptable noise level can be achieved. GPU temperatures in Final Fantasy XV and Shadow of the Tomb Raider did not exceed 65-66 °C.

Sapphire Nitro+ Radeon RX 590 Special Edition

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