Overall and Final Verdict
With price reductions for the RX 7900 XT just recently announced I can’t think of a better time for us to dive in and take a closer look at Sapphire’s RX 7900 XT Pulse. Their Pulse lineup sits in between the reference design and their Nitro+ lineup at the high end of things. This means that like with the reference card designs the Pulse is a little more budget focused and also doesn’t have a huge cooler that isn’t going to fit in some cases but unlike the reference design it does have an overclock and Sapphire hasn’t left the cooling alone as well. The 7900 XT Pulse has a triple fan cooler that is similar in size to the higher-end cards of a few years ago which means easier fitment and their design is almost entirely blacked out with just a few red accents and of course the branding up on the top edge. It also stands out in the market because it has ZERO RGB lighting. I have been known to like lighting from time to time, but normally on the middle of the range cards, we end up seeing lighting just being used to backlit branding which is boring and never really adds anything to the card. The blacked-out theme the Pulse has works well without the lighting and I think it’s a good choice here. It also shows that Sapphire's focus is on the performance and for that, the Pulse did stand out. While it only had a small overclock, combined with improved cooling and a more aggressive power profile it ended up being 2%-3% faster than the reference design in just about all of our tests. On a card that already performs well, the 7900 XT handled everything I threw at it, especially 1080p and 1440p where at times the CPU was the limitation. But even at 4K none of our in-game tests were anything less than 60 FPS and with more than half over 120 FPS.
The increased power profile did mean that in our efficiency tests the Pulse came in under the reference card but that was to be expected. It also pulls more power as well in all of our different power tests. The cooling performance was middle of the range and it was clear the fan profile was tuned to run quiet which it did very well. There was a lot of headroom left in the fans but when you crank them all the way up things did get noisy so it isn’t something I would recommend. Beyond that, like with the other 7900 XT’s the Pulse has the older standard PCIe power connections for power, not the new 12VHPWR connection that some of the Nvidia cards come with which means you don’t need to worry about an upgrade to ATX 3.0 just yet. It also has a nice blacked-out aluminum backplate that shows the build quality focus that Sapphire gave the Pulse and you also get a metal anti-sag bracket as well if needed. For display connections, the 7900 XT Pulse does have an unusual layout with two HDMI and two DisplayPort connections. I didn’t put this in the pros or cons because really for some the extra HDMI will be a big pro but for others not having three matching DisplayPorts for a triple monitor setup could be a con.
As far as pricing goes, the 7900 XT Pulse originally had an MSRP of $999.99 but with the new lower price it has dropped down to $869.99. There are some RX 7900 XTs down at 799.99 and a lot of the reference 7900 XTs are listed at $840-$850. So the 7900 XT Pulse is still a little expensive, but given its performance, compared to the reference cards it isn’t too far off. AMD also currently has the game bundle which gets you The Last of Us Part 1 to go with the card which helps with the value.
Live Pricing: HERE