Sometimes it’s best to keep things simple.

So, far we have tested The Radeon RX 6600 XT, the $550 Asus ROG Strix, and the $419 XFX Speedster Merc 308 graphics cards. They represent the apex of their respective manufacturers’ ranges, with heavy-duty fans and flashy frills like dual-BIOS switches and dazzling lights. And, yeah, both designs were impressive.

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On the other hand, Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT, Priced at $399takes the opposite approach, trimming the fat to focus entirely on offering strong performance and decent cooling at a fair price. (At least in principle, because the catastrophic GPU scarcity causes graphics card prices to spike the moment they hit shop shelves.)

But don’t be fooled by it. Despite its lack of flashy hardware, the Sapphire Pulse outperforms the more expensive Radeon RX 6600 XT variants in our benchmark tests—and it’s all down to software. Sapphire has spent years perfecting its “Trixx Boost” function, which combines minor image upsampling with AMD’s Radeon Image Sharpening technology for incredible performance gains. Trixx enables good 1440p performance in games that other Radeon RX 6600 XT models struggle with by adding enough additional frames to the Pulse.

Yes, the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT’s hardware is only part of the tale. Let’s get started.

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT: Design, Features & Specs

See our original Radeon RX 6600 XT review for a more detailed look at the card’s setup. If you’re a chip nerd, it’s well worth your time. AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture aids the Radeon RX 6600 XT to consume less power and achieve faster clock speed. However, technical details about how this GPU’s Infinity Cache was implemented—along with a small memory bus—mean it’s better suited for ultra-fast 1080p Gaming than stepping up to 1440p. (At least for now, Sapphire’s Trixx Boost technology makes this less accurate for the Pulse.)

We’ll include a chart below showing how the Radeon RX 6600 XT’s major characteristics compare to the $279 Radeon RX 5600 XT and $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT from the last generation. They’re good analogies since, while the new card has the same lineage as the 5600 XT, it also costs more than the 5700 XT.

Apart from one crucial spec: clock speeds, the Pulse doesn’t alter much in comparison. Sapphire increased the standard Game Clock from 2,359MHz to 2,382MHz. It’s a slight boost over the 2,428MHz found in the more expensive 6600 XT models, but as you’ll see in our benchmarks, they all perform nearly identically in their stock configurations. Sapphire also needed to give its $450 Nitro+ step-up some breathing room.

Sapphire also left the Nitro+ with all of the flashy added features. The Pulse RX 6600 XT has a simple black design with red Pulse and Radeon branding but no RGB LED swappable fan or dual-BIOS switch. However, don’t confuse simplicity for ugly; the simplistic look should work well in most gaming PCs. An aluminum backplate atop the graphics card keeps everything neat, and the black plastic shroud has some mild texturing to make it more appealing.

The Pulse isn’t big on the heavy metal, but it isn’t light on the cooling either. A standard-sized heatsink supports the GPU and other key components, and it works with Sapphire’s “hybrid fan design,” which we first saw in the Nitro+ Radeon RX 6800 XT.

The new hybrid fan blades combine the best features of both axial and blower-style fans, increasing airflow and air pressure while reducing noise. The Pulse’s two fans are each equipped with nine shallows, swooping blades, compared to twelve on the Nitro. Cutouts aid airflow through the heatsink in the backplate.

It’s simple yet effective, and it’s a staple of the Pulse series. Sapphire’s card runs almost silently while maintaining cool temps, comparable to the excellent custom cooler seen on XFX’s competitor Merc 308 Radeon RX 6600 XT. It’s more impressive to realize that the XFX has a massive, long cooler while the Pulse is only a hair over two slots thick. It’s all good.

Like other RX 6000-series GPUs, XFX’s version of the RX 6600 XT supports all of RDNA 2’s features:

  • FidelityFX Super Resolution 
  • AV1 video decoding
  • real-time ray tracing capabilities
  • Smart Access Memory to boost performance
  • DirectX 12 Ultimate goodies
  • improved version of Radeon Boost that wraps in Variable Rate Shading
  • Radeon Anti-Lag across all major DX APIs

With those multiple BIOS profiles, you can configure the card to your heart’s content with AMD’s powerful Radeon Settings app, which contains both manual and automated performance tweaking settings.

Sapphire’s own unique software solution brings a lot more to the table.

Pulse RX 6600 XT supports Trixx Boost.

The Pulse RX 6600 XT, like other Sapphire graphics cards from the RDNA period, benefits from Trixx Boost. This clever feature boosts frame rates by combining tiny picture downsampling with AMD’s outstanding Radeon Image Sharpening technology.

It’s similar to the notion behind Nvidia’s DLSS and AMD’s new Fidelity FX Super Resolution features: render at a lower resolution to enhance frame rates, then use clever software to clean out the associated visual artifacts.

Instead, it enables numerous current technologies to use difficult manual techniques to operate together under a simple interface. Simplicity is its secret sauce.

sapphire pulse radeon rx 6600 xt seedpc banner

Sapphire’s software’s Trixx Boost tab.

Trixx Boost also works with any DirectX 9, DX11, DX12, or Vulkan game, whereas Nvidia DLSS works with a few dozen titles and AMD’s infant FSR only works with ten. All but the most obscure PC games are covered by this.

To use Boost, you’ll need to install Sapphire’s Trixx software suite (which, depending on your GPU, includes features like hardware monitoring and fan health checks). Trixx Boost and AMD’s Radeon Boost, despite their similar-sounding names, are two entirely different technologies with very different use cases, but both require contemporary Radeon GPUs. You can even combine the two.

Trixx Boost generates custom display resolutions for your display, which you can scale down in 5-percent increments down to 50%. You get a speed boost when you render at a lower resolution percentage. Therefore using 80 percent on the scaling slider is faster than using 90 percent of your original resolution. (However, the performance boost varies from game to game.) You can also use AMD’s Radeon Image Sharpening function to lessen the shimmering that comes with operating at lower-than-native resolutions—and you should since it improves image quality significantly.

Sapphire’s utility will tell you that your screen could flicker, and then it will.

However, experiment with the resolution slider, especially at the 1080p resolution, the Radeon RX 6600 XT excels. Trixx Boost uses a custom resolution of 85 percent of the native screen output by default. When partnered with RIS, it works well at higher pixel-density 1440p and 4K resolutions, but I found it too harsh at 1080p. Because of the decreased resolution, further reduction leads to shimmering and occasionally janky edges, which are particularly noticeable in motion at 85 percent. (This isn’t simply a Trixx Boost problem; DLSS and FSR have similar issues at 1080p resolution, but not at greater fidelity.)

For 1080p Gaming, I found it far more enjoyable to increase the sliding resolution to 90% of the screen resolution. Therefore those are the settings we’ll utilize in our test findings today. (I also kept the 1440p scaling at 90% for the sake of simplicity, but I think the resolution looks great at 85 percent scaling.) 

It isn’t flawless; depending on the settings, you may observe some visual abnormalities in select scenarios, such as subtle shimmering on narrow stairs in motion or weak blurriness in static menu panels. At 90% scaling, though, those diversions were few and far between, and the increased performance afforded by Trixx Boost made the occasional graininess worthwhile. You can always quit utilizing it if you disagree with it.

For 1080p Gaming, 

I found it far more enjoyable to raise the sliding resolution to 90% of the screen resolution. Therefore those are the settings we’ll utilize in our test findings today. (I also kept the 1440p scaling at 90% for the sake of simplicity, but I think the resolution looks great at 85 percent scaling.) 

It isn’t flawless; depending on the settings, you may observe some visual abnormalities in select scenarios, such as subtle shimmering on narrow stairs in motion or weak blurriness in static menu panels. At 90% scaling, though, those diversions were few and far between, and the increased performance afforded by Trixx Boost made the occasional graininess worthwhile. You can always quit utilizing it if you disagree with it.

This screenshot shows a custom resolution made with Sapphire’s Trixx Boost software.

Finally, to use Trixx Boost, you must manually pick the custom resolution in-game. 1080p or 1440p that you are accustomed to is not enough. 

Instead, go to the game’s graphics or display options menu, and select Boost’s resolution developed at the scaling percentage you specified. As shown in the picture above, the Trixx Boost tab in Sapphire’s software displays the precise custom resolution when you create it. If you forget the specifics, you can refer back to it.

Let’s get going with benchmarking!

Our Test Rig

Our AMD Ryzen 5000-series test rig can assess the impact of PCIe 4.0 compatibility on contemporary GPUs, as well as AMD Smart Access Memory and Nvidia Resizable BAR performance improvements (both based on the same PCIe standard). We’re now testing it on an open bench with AMD’s Wraith Max air cooler; in the future, AMD will add an NZXT Kraken liquid cooler to the mix. 

  • AMD Ryzen 5900X, factory settings
  • AMD Wraith Max cooler
  • 1TB SK Hynix Gold S31 SSD
  • EVGA 1200W SuperNova P2 power supply
  • Memory: 32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo DDR4 3800
  • MSI Godlike X570 motherboard

Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT for $399 competes against the $279 Radeon RX 5600 XT, $350 Radeon RX 5700, and $400 Radeon RX 5700 XT, as well as Asus’s $550 ROG Strix RX 6600 XT and $419 XFX Speedster Merc 308 Radeon RX 6600 XT.

Because this card is in the same price bracket as the Ti variants, we’ve included results for the reference $330 EVGA RTX 3060 XC Black Gaming as well as EVGA’s terrifying GeForce RTX 3060 Ti FTW3 Ultra. Of course, these projected prices are a fraction of what you’ll pay in the real world for these GPUs right now, but they allow you to evaluate graphics cards the way they originally intended to get reviewed.

We tested a variety of games, including different genres, engines, vendor sponsorships (Intel, NVIDIA, and AMD), and graphics APIs (Vulkan, DirectX 11, and DX12). Unless otherwise stated, each game gets evaluated using its in-game benchmark with VSync, real-time ray tracing, frame rate caps or DLSS effects, and FreeSync/G-Sync disabled. And any other vendor-specific technologies such as FidelityFX tools or Nvidia Reflex. 

We’ve activated temporal anti-aliasing (TAA) to push these cards to their maximum. Each benchmark is done at least three times, with the average result shown for each test.

We’ve also included benchmark results with Trixx Boost active at 90% scaling of the native stated resolutions, combined with Radeon Image Sharpening, as described in the previous section. We don’t do that with Nvidia DLSS or AMD’s FSR, but Trixx Boost works in almost every game, and it’s worth showcasing what it can achieve, mainly because of the Radeon RX 6600 XT’s setup can cause it to struggle at 1440p resolution. Trixx Boost can be beneficial in this situation.

For a more in-depth discussion of the GPU’s technical prowess and capabilities, see our original Radeon RX 6600 XT review. Until the end of the review, we’ll display the data without remark. Keep an eye on the outcomes of the Trixx Boost.

Benchmarks for gaming performance

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion was the first game released on next-generation consoles. Ubisoft enhanced the Disrupt engine with cutting-edge features, including real-time ray tracing and Nvidia’s DLSS. We turn off those effects for our test, but Legion is still a demanding game, even with the optional high-resolution texture pack loaded. Even at 1440p, the game uses more than 8GB of RAM. Oof.

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yes, PlayStation exclusives are now available on the PC. Horizon Zero Dawn, empowered by the Decima engine from Guerrilla Games, is also used in Death Stranding.

Gears Tactics

Gears Tactics takes the XCOM-like genre and gives its brutal, fast-paced spin. We enjoy including a tactics-style game in our benchmarking suite because this Unreal Engine 4-powered game was created from the bottom up for DirectX 12. Even better, PC snobs will appreciate the game’s visual settings. More games should spend as much time as this one explains what all of these visual knobs imply.

You can’t use the presets to evaluate Gears Tactics since it automatically scales to operate best on your installed hardware. Thus “Ultra” on one graphics card can load different settings than “Ultra” on another. You can manually adjust all parameters to their maximum possible settings.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Wolfenstein: Youngblood is more enjoyable when played collaboratively with a friend, but it’s a bold experiment—and a technological showpiece. Youngblood runs on the Vulkan API and supports a variety of cutting-edge technologies, including ray tracing, DLSS 2.0, HDR, GPU culling, asynchronous computation, and Nvidia’s Content Adaptive Shading. The game has a built-in benchmark with two settings; we tested Riverside.

Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus, one of the finest games of 2019, is also one of the best-looking games out there. With one of the most impressive real-time ray tracing implementations published to date, the current version of the 4A Engine produces extraordinarily lush, ultra-detailed images. As you’ll see below, the game’s Extreme graphics option can burn even the most potent current hardware, yet the game’s Ultra and High presets still look beautiful at far higher frame rates.

Ray tracing, Hairworks, and DLSS are disabled in DirectX 12 mode.

Borderlands 3

Borderlands has returned! Because Gearbox’s game defaults to DX12, we’ve done the same. It provides us a look at the performance of the wildly popular Unreal Engine 4 in a classic shooter. The game works best on AMD hardware.

Strange Brigade

Strange Brigade is a cooperative third-person shooter in which a group of adventurers must fight their way through swarms of legendary foes. It’s a technological showpiece, with features like HDR support and the option to toggle asynchronous computing on and off. It’s based using the next-gen Vulkan and DirectX 12 technologies. Rebellion’s Azure engine powers it. We do our tests with the Vulkan renderer, which is significantly quicker than DX12.

Total War: Troy

Before going on sale, Troy, the next installment in the popular Total War series, was given out for free on the Epic Games Store for the first 24 hours, selling over 7.5 million copies. Total War: Troy is a turn-based strategy game developed on a modified version of the Total War: Warhammer 2 engine, and it looks excellent on DX11. We put the fighting benchmark to the test.

F1 2020

F1 2020 is a joy to play, with a plethora of graphics and benchmarking choices that make it a far more dependable (and enjoyable) alternative than the Forza series. Developers built the game on the latest version of Codemasters’ buttery-smooth Ego game engine, which supports DX12 and Nvidia’s DLSS. With clear skies and DLSS turned off, we tried two circuits on the Australia course.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

The reboot trilogy’s last chapter, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, is still breathtaking two years later. Square Enix designed this game for DX12, and we recommend DX11 only if you have outdated hardware or Windows 7. Thus we tested it on DX12. Shadow of the Tomb Raider gets powered by an improved version of the Foundation engine, which originally powered Rise of the Tomb Raider and contains real-time ray tracing and DLSS.

Rainbow Six Siege

Rainbow Six Siege continues to top the Steam rankings years after its initial release, and Ubisoft continues to support it with regular updates and events. Over the years, the creators have put a lot of effort into the game’s AnvilNext engine, finally releasing a Vulkan version that we tested. The game’s render scaling is reduced by default to enhance frame rates, but we increased it to 100% to test native rendering performance on graphics cards. Even so, frame rates are skyrocketing.

Noise, thermals, and power draw

After we’ve benchmarked everything else, we evaluate power draw by repeating the F1 2020 benchmark at 4K for roughly 20 minutes and recording the highest reading on our Watts Up Pro meter, which monitors the power consumption of our whole test system. The first stage of the race, when all competing vehicles are onscreen simultaneously, is usually the most difficult.

It’s not a worst-case scenario; it’s a GPU-bound game running at a GPU-bound resolution to see how well the graphics card performs while it’s working hard. You can experience increased total system power consumption by playing a game that also hammers the CPU. Take this as a warning.

The Sapphire Pulse does nothing to detract from the Radeon RX 6600 XT’s excellent power efficiency.

We evaluate thermals by running the F1 2020 power draw test with GPU-Z open and recording the maximum temperature at the conclusion.

Despite its lower price and smaller cooler, the Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT manages to keep up with the XFX Merc 308’s fantastic low temps and almost silent operation. It’s not even close to being an affordable cooler. The Asus ROG Strix achieves astonishingly low temperatures by increasing fan speeds, which makes it less enjoyable to play with than the Sapphire and XFX variants.

Is the Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT a good buy?

Most people should avoid buying a graphics card right now, as I stated in my first Radeon RX 6600 XT review. While we are experiencing a global chip scarcity, prices continue to skyrocket. In a vacuum, spending $400 on a graphics card carefully calibrated for 1080p Gaming—high refresh-rate 1080p Gaming, maybe, but still 1080p Gaming—seems insane. (Trixx Boost, on the other hand, helps to soften the blow.) That’s especially true since the significantly faster GeForce RTX 3060 Ti costs only $20 more than the 6600 XT’s basic price of $379. That would undoubtedly be the superior option in a rational society.

However, we are still living in fascinating times. Despite nominally being a $330 GPU, the GeForce RTX 3060 that the Radeon RX 6600 XT card easily outperforms is retailing for $700 or more when you can find it. On eBay, the RTX 3060 Ti is now going for $800 to $1,000. Worse, AMD’s new product was selling for $600-plus on resale sites only hours after it was released, making even the too-high $379 price seem like a bargain.

All of this is to say. If you can avoid this generation, you should avoid it. Take a look at Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Hopefully, everything will settle down soon.

The Radeon RX 6600 XT gives incredible 1080p performance on high-refresh-rate displays if you have to upgrade right now. Because of its memory configuration, that’s the optimal use case for this GPU, which slows down a little when you switch to a higher 1440p resolution.

The Sapphire Pulse’s excellent Trixx Boost software picks up the slack and boosts the 6600 XT’s already-amazing 1080p performance to new heights. This feature is still a game-changer for Sapphire since it can achieve 60 frames per second in games that rivals can’t at 1440p. I’m surprised no other corporation has yet to plagiarise it. When you combine Trixx with a surprisingly decent cooler, performance on par with far more costly 6600 XT versions, and a nominal (if fake) $20 premium, Sapphire has created a winning combination. Sometimes it’s preferable to keep things simple.

We can’t offer this GPU an Editors’ Choice award or a better score since $400 for a 1080p GPU is still a poor investment. If MSRPs were accurate, the GeForce RTX 3060 Ti would be the obvious choice. But none of it matters if you’re looking to upgrade your graphics card right now. You get the best you can. And, budget be damned, if you’re searching for a decent no-frills graphics card to power your kick-ass high-refresh-rate 1080p display, go no further. The Radeon RX 6600 XT is the Sapphire Pulse. I’d get a 1080p graphics card if I had this much money to spend, and I’d make sure to enable Trixx Boost.

Verdict

The Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 6600 XT is a simplistic graphics card that focuses on superb cooling and high performance, backed by a powerful software function called Trixx Boost. If you can afford to pay high GPU costs, it’s a wonderful 1080p gaming alternative.

RATINGS

4/5

PROS

  • Superb Color And Brightness
  • Outstanding HDR Rendering
  • Reasonable Price For the Visual Quality.

CONS

  • For a 1080p card, the MSRP is quite absurd.
  • There are no additional features such as a BIOS switch or RGB lighting.
  • Because of the Memory configuration, 1440p performance isn’t as spectacular (but Trixx Boost helps)
  • Ray-tracing performance lags below Nvidia’s.

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Seedpc's founder and chief editor. Working as an IT Professional And Freelance Content Writer Since 2012.

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