Pro Slightly better cooling results than some other RX 480 cards
The cooler of the Nitro+ OC performs well and better than a reference RX 480. Under idle - despite the semi-passive cooling system - maximum temperature recorded in this test was 29°C, which is one degree lower than a standard RX 480. In a full-load test, a target of 75° C was set in the drivers. The Nitro+ card is able to maintain this temperature without an issue at 74 degrees C, while a reference RX 480 heats up even further at 83° C.
Pro Factory overclock provides noticeable performance increase
The 8% increases in both clock speed and boost speeds that have been applied to the Nitro+ RX 480 card results in a slight, but noticeable performance increase. In 3D Mark Fire Strike for example, a reference RX 480 scores 12245 points while this Sapphire card achieves a score of 13298, an 8.5% performance increase.
In Ashes of the Singularity at 1080p, the Sapphire Nitro+ achieves an average FPS of 49.3 compared to a reference card with 43.6 average frames per second (+ 13%). In Dirt Rally, also tested at 1080p resolution, the Nitro+ OC 8 GB achieves an average of 85 FPS compared to the reference card's 75 FPS, a 13.33% improvement. A slight performance boost can also be seen in Grand Theft Auto V, with 75 average FPS versus 72 frames per second for the reference RX 480 (+ 4.2%).
Pro 8-pin power connector allows for plenty of headroom
A reference RX 480 is equipped with a 6-pin power connector, but the power limit of the 6-pin connector has proven to be an issue for the RX 480 cards, as the total power consumption is sometimes higher than specified. The Nitro+ uses an 8-pin connector to help solve this issue. Although an 8-pin connector requires more power than a 6-pin connector, this effectively eliminates all concerns about the RX 480's power consumption and distribution and allows plenty of headroom for overclocking the card even further.
Pro BIOS switch is located on the card
The Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480 has two built-in BIOS settings: one for a more silent operation and a boost mode. You could adjust the GPU settings to achieve similar results in the drivers and additional software, but there's a handy physical switch located on the graphics card itself which makes for an effortless switch.
Pro Uses a semi-passive cooling solution for silent operation in idle
When the Nitro+ RX 480 OC has a temperature lower than 60° C, the fans of the cooler will not spin up because they're semi-passive. This allows for essentially silent operation when the card isn't working hard and doesn't need to be cooled.
Pro Fans stay off when idling, keeping the card super quiet
The Dual-X cooling system uses 2 95mm fans which are accompanied by an array of heatpipes. The heatpipes alone work well enough so that the fans can stay off until an internal temperature of 52 Celsius is reached - at which point the fans will kick on.
Pro Features some adjustable RGB lightning
On the top of the card, the Sapphire logo is outfitted with a couple of RGB LED's that are configurable via Sapphire's software. This allows you to customize the look of the graphics card, which can be useful if your setup is built with a specific color scheme in mind. You can also choose to disable these LED's entirely.
Pro Fans can easily be removed and replaced
The fans that are placed on the Nitro+'s cooler are easily replaceable. You just have to unscrew a single screw and the fan will pop out of the cooler. This makes it a lot easier to clean the graphics card and get rid of dust, but it also allows you to replace them in an instant in case a fan is faulty.
Con Produces the same amount of noise as a reference RX 480 under load
Although Sapphire has equipped this Nitro+ graphics card with their own cooler and claims a "10% lower noise production", there is no noticeable improvement under full load. As seen in this graph, the maximum sound production of the Nitro+ OC (measured while running Furmark) is 35.2 decibels (A). While this is fairly quiet, it is the exact same amount of noise produced by a reference RX 480. Testing was done at the 75° Celsius temperature setting.
Con Very warm idle temperatures
This Nitro+ RX 480 card idles around 50 degrees Celsius which is much higher than other cards. While nowhere near a dangerous temperature, this means that the fans will be spinning more often than other RX 480s, thus producing more noise than alternative options. However, it should be mentioned that for as long as the temperatures are below 52 degrees Celsius, the fans won't start spinning.