Sapphire 290x review: Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC 4 GB Review

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB Review

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It’s no surprise that Sapphire is bringing an 8GB version of the Radeon R9 290X to market. The company showed off its 8GB Vapor-X and Toxic-branded prototypes of the Radeon R9 290X back in January at CES. If anything, we’re surprised it took this long to get here.

Better late than never, though. Today Sapphire introduces its Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB card, a factory overclocked model with twice the amount of RAM found on the reference 290X that was released just over one year ago. A lot has changed in that year, but most importantly Nvidia has launched the similarly-performing $330 GeForce GTX 970, pushing the Radeon R9 290X’s original $550 MSRP down to the same range. From a marketing perspective the timing is right for Sapphire to release a 290X with twice the video memory, at a time when the Radeon R9 290X can use an edge against the tough Nvidia competitor.

Having said that, savvy PC enthusiasts know that more RAM doesn’t equal more performance in the vast majority of situations. It does allow gamers to select high-resolution texture sets without a penalty, though, and it can make a noticeable difference in some game titles at very high resolutions such as 2560×1440 and beyond. In an age where 4K monitors are becoming more common, 8GB of graphics memory has never been more apropos.

One look at the Vapor-X tells you that the company is serious about high-quality materials and good design. The full-height 122mm (4 3/4″) PCB is a respectable 280mm (11″) long, with the fan shroud extending to 298mm (11 5/8″). It takes up slightly more space than two PCIe slots, with the cooler about 49mm (1 15/16″) wide. At 1.27 kg (2 lb 13 oz), it’s no lightweight, either.

Sapphire’s Vapor-X comes with a 1030 MHz core clock (30 MHz higher than the reference spec), but the memory runs at an impressive 1375 MHz, 125 MHz more than the standard 1250 MHz clock. As we mentioned, the Vapor-X carries 8 GB of the stuff, of course. Sapphire claims to have developed a new VRM engine with digital power control and a 10-phase power delivery system, which you can see on the back of the card. The two thin slits between each bank of five VRMs illuminate during operation, too.

The aluminum fins pull heat away from the cooling block and vapor chamber via two 8mm and two 6mm copper pipes. Three 90mm fans are present, but when the temperature is low only the center fan will spin, reducing its noise footprint. We’re not sure why, but users have the option to force all three fans on all the time via a switch on the side of the card.

Two 8-pin power inputs indicate an available 300 Watts of power in addition to what’s provided by the PCIe slot. This is beefier than the reference model’s 6-plus-8-pin configuration, and should provide extra oomph for overclockers. The card’s BIOS allows for an impressive 50% increase in the power target, by the way. The extra RAM will probably draw noticeably more power than the reference model, which is something we’ll look at in our tests.  

Sapphire includes an illuminated Dual BIOS switch that allows the user to select either legacy or UEFI compatibility modes, which also allows a ROM flash without the worry of bricking the card. You won’t see any CrossFire bridges here, since the Radeon R9 290 series doesn’t require them.

The Sapphire logo on the top of the card illuminates blue when the card is cool, and changes from yellow to red as the temperature increases under load. It’s not especially useful, but it’s a fun bling feature.

The Vapor-X R9 290X is equipped with a DisplayPort, a full sized HDMI, and two dual-link DVI-D outputs. Triple monitor Eyefinity setups do not require active adapters as they used to on Radeon cards.

The well-appointed bundle includes a 6′ HDMI cable, two dual-molex-to-8-pin PCIe power adapters, manual, registration card, driver CD, case sticker, DVI-to-VGA adapter, and mini-DisplayPort-to-DisplayPort adapters. A thin mousepad is also included, a value-add that Sapphire now includes with many of its graphics cards.

That’s a good look at the hardware. Now let’s see what it can do.

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A Double Helping Of Ram

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Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review

Written by

Matthew Lambert

March 11, 2014 | 10:00

Tags: #custom-cooler #dogecoin #factory-overclock #graphics-card #hashrate #hawaii #r9-290x #radeon #tri-x

Companies: #amd #sapphire

1 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review2 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Test Setup3 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Battlefield 4 Performance4 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — BioShock Infinite Performance5 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Crysis 3 Performance6 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Skyrim Performance7 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Unigine Valley 1. 0 Benchmark8 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Power and Thermals9 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Overclocking10 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Performance Analysis and Conclusion

Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC 4GB Review

Manufacturer: Sapphire
UK price (as reviewed):
£429.06 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed):$631.99 (ex Tax)

The stock R9 290-series cards all well known for running hot and loud. However, our recent look at the Asus Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC demonstrated that cooling the chips effectively is certainly possible. This brings the added benefit of the GPUs being able to run more consistently at the specified frequency, as stock cards have a tendency to fluctuate and downclock when they get too hot. Today we’re looking at the fully enabled R9 290X, this time in a card from Sapphire. At £430, it carries a £30 premium over stock models and is also £70 more than a standard Nvidia GTX 780 offering.

Click to enlarge

If you need the full rundown on the R9 290X you can see our original review here, but essentially it’s AMD’s fully enabled 28nm Hawaii GPU with 6.2bn transistors and a 438mm2 die size. It contains 44 Compute Units split between four Shader Engines for a total of 2,816 stream processors and 176 texture units, while at the back end are 64 ROPs. The memory is 512-bit courtesy of eight memory controllers, which are paired with 4GB of GDDR5. As a GCN product it’s compatible with Mantle, and a TrueAudio processor is also onboard.

In Sapphire’s card here, the R9 290X GPU is clocked to 1,040MHz. This is a fairly low 4 percent gain over stock speeds, but hopefully the larger cooler will enable higher overclocks. The GDDR5 is set to 5.2GHz, which is again a 4 percent increase, though that’s still a decent offering as Hawaii’s memory bus is typically quite sensitive to overclocking. At this speed, memory bandwidth increases from 320GB/sec to 332. 8GB/sec

Click to enlarge

Sapphire has stuck with the reference video outputs, so there’s no DVI-I port and thus no support for older VGA panels. You also won’t find any CrossFire connectors as for R9 290-series cards this is managed via the PCI-E lanes. Thanks to the cooler, the card is a hefty 302mm long, and it’s described as 2.2 slots wide. Annoyingly, this means it interferes if you’re trying to install another expansion card in the third slot of your motherboard. Despite the size, there’s no stabilising backplate as we saw on Asus’s R9 290 DirectCU II OC, but we did not notice any bending with the card installed.

Click to enlarge

The Tri-X cooler features a trio of 85mm fans with 9 blades each that push air down over the large heatsink apparatus below, which extends the full length of the card. The three fans are controlled by the PCB’s single fan header, so there’s no independent speed adjustment, and the open metal shroud means that hot air will be deposited back into your case, so a good case exhaust system is in order. A copper baseplate for the GPU is connected to five heat pipes within the main heatsink; two of these loop back on themselves while the remaining three extend out into the secondary heatsink to the side. With densely packed fins in both heatsinks there’s plenty of surface area for heat dissipation. The heatsink also draws heat away from the memory chips and MOSFETs via thermal pads and an aluminium plate that’s soldered to the fins at various points.

Click to enlarge

Sapphire has stuck with the reference PCB rather than using any custom circuitry. As such, the card uses the standard 5+1 phase power layout accompanied by a 6-pin/8-pin PCI-E power connection combination. The BIOS switch has been carried over too but we found it to have no effect on the card’s software settings. The SK Hynix memory chips have the part number H5GQ2h34AFR-R0C, and given that they are clocked to 5.2GHz it’s safe to assume they are the 1. 5V variety which are rated for a maximum of 6GHz.

Click to enlarge

Supplied with the card is a dual molex to 8-pin PCI-E power adaptor, a molex to 6-pin PCI-E power adaptor and a 1.8m HDMI cable. The card also carries a standard two year warranty.


  • Graphics processor AMD Radeon R9 290X, 1,040MHz
  • Pipeline 2,816 stream processors, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 4GB GDDR5, 5.6GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 358.4GB/sec, 512-bit interface
  • Compatibility Direct X 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, Mantle
  • Outputs/Inputs 2 x Dual Link DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Power connections 2 x 8-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 302mm long, triple-slot
  • Warranty Two years

1 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review2 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Test Setup3 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Battlefield 4 Performance4 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — BioShock Infinite Performance5 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Crysis 3 Performance6 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Skyrim Performance7 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Unigine Valley 1. 0 Benchmark8 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Power and Thermals9 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Overclocking10 — Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review — Performance Analysis and Conclusion

Review and testing of the video card Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X


  • Introduction
  • Packing and contents
  • Design and features of the video card
  • Test stand
  • Standard frequencies and overclocking
  • Conclusion


Lately, video adapters with non-reference cooling systems based on the AMD Hawaii graphics processor are finally entering the market. Why are they so expected? First of all, it is this GPU that can show performance comparable to NVIDIA’s advanced solutions. But this result came at a high price. After all, the technological process has not changed, and the crystal turned out to be even larger than Tahiti, and it is obvious that the processor came out hot. nine0021

With the introduction of the first graphics cards with a basic PCB design and a different cooling system, it remains to be hoped that lower temperatures will not lead to higher noise levels. At first glance, the problem is not unsolvable. Why not take a ready-made cooling system for Tahiti and put it on a new GPU? Yes, such a simple method lies on the surface, but it is worth remembering that the heat dissipation has increased and the reserve provided for in the design of the cooler may simply not be enough. As a result, the product will constantly overheat or operate at reduced frequencies. Both the first and the second are in no way suitable for a productive accelerator. nine0021

A new cooler is needed, but should follow the already beaten path when developing it. You can take existing developments as a basis and use them when creating a new heat removal system. For example, a turbine is installed on the reference video adapter. It is noisy and not very efficient, but despite these two big drawbacks, it has a significant plus — it throws hot air out of the case. But when video card manufacturers replace stock CO, they often turn to multi-fan solutions. As a rule, such cooling systems drive air around the case and heat the rest of the system components in it. But their efficiency and noise characteristics are better. nine0021

Sapphire is famous for its outstanding experiments in the field of heat dissipation from AMD GPUs, collaborating with them not only in the field of video cards, but also in other areas. Therefore, no one doubted that this manufacturer would promptly present its version of the Radeon R9 290X. And since the product belongs to the top class, the cost of a mistake is high. Need to create a cool and quiet Radeon R9 290X model. Is it really possible? We will find out after testing the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X video card. nine0021

Packaging and contents


The box is not very compact and slightly wider than the video card itself. But in height and thickness, she recouped.

Uses the concept of a Russian matryoshka: a colorful glossy wrapper is on top, inside is a cardboard box, and inside is another one for accessories.

Sapphire has moved away from images of militant girls in the background in a modern design. nine0021

Now some robots have replaced them. Perhaps the company decided to focus on the new generation, which is more interested in all sorts of «androids», and therefore each series has its own unique character.

In this case, one of them is looking at us from the box and can easily be confused with a character from the Toxic series. In addition to it, there was a place for various inserts: with the manufacturer’s logo, with the name of the model, with a description of the main advantages of the product and an indication of the amount and type of memory used. Above there are two stickers indicating the presence of an HDMI cable in the standard delivery and factory overclocking of the device. nine0021

Some information about the product is given on the back of the package.

The emblem of the proprietary Tri-X cooling system, whose name is consonant with the name of the proprietary overclocking utility TriXX, can be noted from the new. In fact, the phrase Triple Fan explains everything. On the right in English is a text that describes the advantages of the new model. And among the list of achievements in the field of three-dimensional graphics of the new AMD R9 290X accelerator, you can find several lines dedicated to the original CO. nine0021

Inside is a normal cardboard box.

A polyethylene foam sheet is placed on top to cover the interior.

Beneath it is a frame made of the same material, in which the video card is sandwiched in an antistatic bag with air elements. After removing it, you can find a hidden space in which another flat cardboard box with the delivery set is hiding.


Among the media, you can find the following.

  • Installation instructions;
  • Registration card;
  • Card with contacts of the manufacturer and representation in Germany.
  • CD with software and drivers;
  • Body sticker.

A The list of accessories includes:

  • One 8-pin PCI-e to 2x Molex power adapter; nine0006
  • One 6-pin PCI-e to 1x Molex power adapter;
  • HDMI to HDMI cable 1.8 m.

Really, only an HDMI cable can come in handy in everyday life. The remaining adapters are necessary for the kit, but there is little point in them. It is hard to imagine that a potential buyer, knowing about the appetites of the Sapphire model, will connect it to an old or weak power supply.