Sapphire Nitro RX 460 OC review: A classy, capable low-cost graphics card

But that fanciness comes at a price.

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Credit: Brad Chacos
At a Glance
  • Nitro RX 460 OC

    PCWorld Rating
    $132.99 MSRP $149.99
    View
    on Amazon

    Sapphire's custom model delivers thoughtful touches you don't normally find in budget graphics cards, but 4GB versions of the Radeon RX 460 simply cost too much.

One of the PC’s greatest glories is its open ecosystem. While Apple’s Macs lock you into specific designs with limited (if any!) hardware options, there’s a wealth of options available for every single component that slots into your PCs.

That gives PC gamers tremendous flexibility. Want to splurge on an overclocked EVGA GTX 1080 FTW ($680 on Newegg) and crank all the graphics settings to 11 at high resolutions? You got it! Looking for a more modestly priced card that chews through 1080p games with aplomb? The Radeon RX 480 ($200 on Newegg) has you covered. But not everybody needs a $600 graphics card, or heck, even a $200 graphics card. That’s where AMD’s affordable Radeon RX 460 comes in.

The Radeon RX 460 was built as a step-up from integrated graphics, rife with cutting-edge features and enough oomph to play insanely popular e-sports games in excess of 100 frames per second with high graphics settings. It can even play traditional games at console-esque settings, passing 30 fps at 1080p on High settings in most games, or nearing the hallowed 60 fps if you bump details down to Medium. There’s a reason the Radeon RX 460 is PCWorld’s pick for the best budget graphics card.

But you already know all that, because we’ve already reviewed XFX’s 4GB Radeon RX 460 ($150 on Newegg). The PC’s boundless flexibility gets even more granular, though—AMD’s partners can all release versions of the Radeon RX 460 based on their own custom designs. Sapphire just sent over a tricked-out Nitro RX 460 OC ($140 on Newegg) to challenge XFX’s own customized version.

Can Sapphire’s unique spin on the RX 460 rival XFX’s despite its lower price? Let’s see.

Further reading: Every Radeon RX 460 you can buy

Meet the Sapphire Nitro RX 460

Before we dive into Sapphire’s tweaks, here’s a quick refresher on the modest reference specifications for the Radeon RX 460.

amd radeon rx 460 reference specs

Both 2GB and 4GB version of the Radeon RX 460 are available. The Sapphire Nitro RX 460 OC packs the roomier 4GB capacity, just like the XFX model we previously reviewed. Sapphire also offers a lower-cost 2GB version of the Radeon RX 460 ($120 on Newegg), but it doesn’t include the company’s Nitro cooling system.

Nor does it pack the same level of overclocking. The Sapphire Nitro RX 460 pushes its core clock up to 1,250MHz out of the box, a 50MHz improvement that—in conjunction with the higher memory capacity—required Sapphire to add a 6-pin power connector to the card. Unlike some RX 460 models, you won’t be able to power this through your motherboard alone. The memory speed sticks to reference specs.

The card’s design is anything but stock, however. Sapphire’s 4GB RX 460 utilizes a modified version of the new-look Nitro cooler and design that first appeared in the stellar Sapphire Nitro+ RX 480. The front of the card is identical, with a pock-marked grey shroud that manages to look sophisticated despite being plastic. Its dual fans can shut off completely when you’re not gaming or performing another graphics-intensive task.

dsc01013 Brad Chacos

The edge of the card also appears identical at first glance, but the Sapphire logo on the RX 460 doesn’t light up.

dsc01014 Brad Chacos

Instead, Sapphire added a Nitro logo to the back of the RX 460, which looks yellow when your PC is off, but thanks to a blue backlight, pulses green while your system’s running. It’s a nifty touch, and one you don’t see often in budget graphics cards. You’ll find single DVD-D, HDMI 2.0b, and DisplayPort 1.4 connections on the card’s bracket.

Sapphire’s pulled the same nifty trick with the Nitro RX 460 as it did with the Nitro+ RX 480: The company engineered the cooling solution to allow the card to maintain its 1,250MHz overclock all the time while you’re gaming, rather than scaling clock speeds up and down on the fly like most graphics cards do. That lets the Sapphire Nitro RX 460 squeeze out as much performance as possible at all times.

sapphire 460 stable mhz

Click on any image in this article to enlarge it.

Check out the rock-solid orange clock speed line in the histogram above, which was recorded using AMD’s Radeon WattMan tool during a Far Cry Primal run. That’s impressive.

As a Polaris-based graphics card, the Sapphire Nitro RX 460 also delivers features like Frame Rate Target Control, H.265 encoding and decoding, the in-driver Radeon WattMan overclocking tool, FreeSync monitor support, high-dynamic range video support, and dedicated asynchronous shader hardware that can improve performance in next-gen, “close to the metal” DirectX 12 and Vulkan gaming APIs. The Nitro RX 460 also supports H.264 video encoding at up to 120 fps at 1080p resolution, which should appeal to folks who stream their e-sports adventures on Twitch.

Next page: System configuration and performance tests

At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating
    $132.99 MSRP $149.99
    View
    on Amazon

    Sapphire's custom model delivers thoughtful touches you don't normally find in budget graphics cards, but 4GB versions of the Radeon RX 460 simply cost too much.

    Pros

    • Thoughtful design
    • Overclock speed stays rock-solid during gameplay
    • Supports a wide-range of cutting-edge technologies

    Cons

    • All Radeon Rx 460 models with 4GB of memory aren't priced compellingly
    • Rock-solid overclock requires slightly more power and heat.
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