Sapphire Pulse Radeon RX 5700 review: A stunning value supercharged by clever software tricks

Nine. Dollars.

Credit: Brad Chacos/IDG

Trixx Boost: Slightly lower resolution, much faster performance

Sapphire’s releasing an updated version of its Trixx overclocking and monitoring software to accompany their new generation of Radeon graphics cards, revolving around an awesome new feature dubbed “Trixx Boost.” The new version of Trixx isn’t expected to be available until early September, as Sapphire’s putting the finishing touches on it, but the core Boost functionality was provided to reviewers for testing.

I love it.

Trixx Boost essentially creates new display resolutions that you can select in-game, slightly less pixel-packed than the most common gaming resolutions: 4K, 1440p, and 1080p. The small dip in overall resolution greatly enhances gaming frame rates. Sapphire’s tool allows you to activate AMD’s superb new Radeon Image Sharpening technology to restore what little visual fidelity is lost at virtually no performance impact. The final image is virtually indistinguishable from rendering at native resolution, but it runs at higher speeds.

screenshot 18 Brad Chacos/IDG

Screenshot of an early prototype version of Sapphire's Trixx Boost functionality. 

Sapphire says Trixx Boost should work with older GPUs as well, though only the Radeon RX 5700 series currently supports Radeon Image Sharpening. RIS also only works in DX9, DX12, and Vulkan games—crucially, DX11 (a.k.a. the most commonly used game renderer) isn’t supported yet. Testing Trixx Boost in Far Cry: New Dawn, a DX11 game, shows next to no visual impact. Boost is the real star here; RIS is just the cherry on top when it’s available.

Entering the Boost tab of Trixx reveals the tool’s straightforward settings. You use a slider to determine at what percentage of the original resolution you want the Boost resolutions created. By default, it was set to 85 percent, which I used for testing. You then decide which common gaming resolutions you want Boost variants for—you could create just one for your most-used resolution or enable the whole 4K/1440p/1080p stack—and choose whether to enable Radeon Image Sharpening. Once you’re done, click Apply. Your screen will flash and flicker for a few seconds while the Pulse GPU creates the new resolutions.

screenshot 17 Brad Chacos/IDG

Screenshot of Far Cry: New Dawn showing a custom resolution created using Sapphire's Trixx Boost software. 

All that’s left to do after that is to select the new Boost resolution manually in your games. As you can see in the image above, with Trixx Boost to 85 percent, it created a display resolution of 3264x1836 to use as an alternative to the standard 3840x2160 “4K” resolution. Both the standard resolutions as well as the Boost resolutions appear as options, so be sure to select the correct one to get Boost’s advantages.

What an advantage it is. Here are the performance results running the following games at 1440p (the Radeon RX 5700’s sweet spot) at standard 1440p resolution; at the Boost-created 2304x1296 resolution; and finally, at the Boost-created resolution with a mild overclock quickly created by AMD’s Radeon Wattman tool applied, to show what’s possible with under five minutes of menu tinkering. The core clock was boosted to 1,830MHz, and the memory clock to 930MHz.

Just look at these results!

trixx d2 Brad Chacos/IDG
trixx grw Brad Chacos/IDG
trixx fcnd Brad Chacos/IDG

For comparison, Nvidia’s $350 GeForce RTX 2060 Founders Edition hit 45.6 frames per second in Ghost Recon: Wildlands at 1440p; 78 fps in Far Cry; and 55 fps in Division 2. The Sapphire Pulse RX 5700 far exceeds those speeds with Trixx Boost enabled, especially after the quick and dirty auto-overclock. With Boost and the overclock in place, these results actually rival those of the $500 GeForce RTX 2070 Super, and pushes Far Cry into a CPU bottleneck. Hot damn. Plus, because Trixx Boost renders games at a slightly lower resolution than standard, it doesn’t result in increased energy draw or higher temperatures. (That’s obviously not true if you overclock the GPU as well.)

These tricks aren’t unique, to be clear. You can create custom resolutions for the same effect using other software options. But few people outside of enthusiasts ever bother with those more hardcore tools. Trixx Boost makes it so quick, easy, and painless to achieve noticeably faster speeds with minimal visual impact, it’s a joy. This is a big feather in Sapphire’s cap.

That’s not to say Trixx Boost is perfect. I’d like to see widescreen resolution options rolled in as well, and for Sapphire to integrate Radeon Wattman’s one-click auto-overclocking into Trixx as well for a noob-friendly performance boost. (The software supports overclocking, but only in manual form, which requires more trial-and-error and time.) But this is a stellar first step, a smart spin on the industry’s newfound infatuation with upscaling for more performance. I suspect other GPU makers may find “inspiration” from Trixx Boost soon.

Next page: Power, thermals, and synthetics

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Brad Chacos

Brad Chacos

PC World (US online)
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