Cooling, Noise, and Power
Typically comparing overall performance numbers between two cards with the same GPU isn’t all that exciting, this time around though the Sapphire card really did outperform the similarly clocked XFX RX 470. So I was especially curious to take a look at this batch of testing to see if we might be able to pinpoint why. Our cooling, noise, and power testing is where we see the differences in cards from manufacture to manufacture. We can see if one card is pulling more power, better or worse cooling performance, and also just how much noise you can expect as well. To start off my testing I put the Sapphire RX 470 4GB Nitro through our power test. This is where we monitor overall wattage of our testbench with a Kill-A-Watt and loop Valley Benchmark, documenting the peak wattage pulled. With the XFX RX 470, I was concerned because it was within only a few watts of the 150 TDP RX 480 while the RX 470 has a TDP of 120 watts. Sapphire completely blew past that though and pulled 35 more watts than the reference RX 480. When I spoke with Sapphire about this I was told they wanted to make sure their card was rock solid at their overclock without underclocking and they did this with a heavy voltage increase. Well, we know it worked. The case is clearly not power efficient at all, but it was fast for an RX 470. They did upgrade the 6-pin for an 8-pin power unlike XFX, so the extra power isn’t coming from the PCI slot.
Next, I tested the dual fan setups noise output. This test isn’t anything like a real world test. I test using a decibel meter 4 inches away from the fans on an open air test bench, In a normal case, you would most likely hardly hear any of the cards tested except at 100% fan speed. This test does help us compare the difference between cards, no matter how small. Here the dual fans of the Nitro cooler were a little loud at 100% fan speed but still a touch better than the XFX 470. At 50% fan speed, however, the Sapphire card was louder. I think this is because of the shroud design that ends up pushing more out the ends of the card than most aftermarket coolers. That limitation does create aa little more wind resistance and can especially be seen in the blower design of the reference RX 480.
My last test was testing the 470 Nitro’s cooling performance. I do this by looping Heaven Benchmark over and over until the temperature levels out. I test once with the fan settings set to their out of the box settings to get an idea of normal performance with any stock fan profiles, then I test again with the fans turn to 100% to see the true cooling capabilities of the cooler. At stock settings the Sapphire card came in warmer than the XFX card and higher than any of the other aftermarket cooler cards I have tested. With the fans turned up those numbers did drop about 20 degrees right next to the XFX 470. This shows the cooler does still have room in it. Considering the high wattage numbers I’m not shocked to see the Sapphire card running a little warmer. Especially when we saw there still seems to be a little room inside the fan shroud being unused. It does still perform better than any of the reference blower coolers. That isn’t bad considering a lot of the warm air that the Nitro cooler put out ended up being pushed out the back due to the covered top design. It might not officially be a blower design, but I think the Nitro cooler is the closest you will get to it.