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Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review

Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review

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stanford gsb essay It is hard to believe that the R9-290X has been around for over a year now, but it has. Back in October 2013 AMD and their partners like Sapphire launched a wide range of cards based on the new GPU to significant success and recently Sapphire launched a new 8GB variant of the card which we cover today in our Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review. This is the second article in a series which see’s us completely refresh our test suite to include the likes of Assassins Creed Unity and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare.

Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review – Packaging and Bundle

phd thesis service oriented architecture sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-box

page Sapphire stick with familiar packaging for their latest Radeon, going with a blue colour scheme and noting some key points on the box such as the cards overclocked status, Tri-X cooler and free HDMI cable. Speaking of bundled items the 290X also arrives with power cables, a compact mouse pad, product documentation and a driver/software disc. We also recommend that you visit the Sapphire Select Club website and register the card as Sapphire often have great offers in place. For example at the moment anyone who buys a R7 series card from them gets a discount on their Adobe Photography Bundle subscription.

Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review – The Card

how do i get my homework done faster sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-front sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-back

page We mentioned above the use of a Tri-X cooler here and that means the presence of three dust resistant 90mm fans (aerofoil blades) and five copper heatpipes (1x10mm, 2x8mm, 2x6mm) along with a bunch of aluminium fins. The Vapor-X branding also lets us know that the cooler makes use of a vapour chamber on the GPU to maximise cooling performance and it is good to see the use of a chunky metal backplate on the card, both from an aesthetic point of view and from a PCB stability angle. Sapphire also note the use of enhanced power circuity on this model. They note this as being Digital Power control with a new “Aero10” VRM section delivering 10-phase power with high power Direct-FET technology to the GPU, memory and control circuitry. Sapphires Black Diamond chokes(black ferrite cooler) also make an appearance while offering enhanced efficiency and solid electrolyte capacitors are used throughout to improve reliability over standard designs. Finally for this section Sapphire state that the  FET cooler resembles the appearance of a high performance engine.

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Turning to the top of the card we find that it is a little wider than 2 slots, that the card doesn’t need a bridge for CrossFire and that the memory also features a heatsink. There is also a dual BIOS button with legacy mode or new UEFI compatibility and along at the end of the card we also find an enhanced feature, a small fan control switch. When set to on the card will turn off two fans at low load, minimising noise and then as required spin them back on to keep the card cool when gaming etc.

sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-outputs P1040973

Round at the outputs Sapphire offer DisplayPort, HDMI, and dual DVI. These allow us to configure settings such as multi screen 5760×1080 or 4K in addition to 3D and standards like 1920×1080. We also note the card has an LED section at the top which changes colour depending on the load/heat of the GPU. Power inputs on this card are dual 8pin and these sit on the top edge of the PCB, assisting the PCIe slot in providing the required 275w or so of power.

sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-gpuz

For the key specifications Sapphire use a core peaking at 1030MHz and 8GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory running at 1375MHz (5500MHz). The Hawaii GPU is used here and for the Stream processors that means a 2816 “core” design and our memory bus is 512-bit. PCIe 3.0, DirectX 12 and DirectCompute are all supported on this card as is acceleration of high definition content and the card can output 7.1 audio over HDMI including DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. AMDs TrueAudio is also present, as is Mantle compatibility.

sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-trixx2 sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-trixx1

Various methods of overclocking are compatible with the new 8Gb card and one of those is offered by Sapphire themselves, called Trixx. It is a nice simple control panel which allows us to see basic info on the card, tweak the fan profiles and change the clocks/power. In our manual overclocking we were able to hit 1100Mhz on the core and 1460MHz on the memory.

Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review – Conclusion

Starting with the build quality and design of Sapphires latest Vapor-X card we have a product which immediately impresses. It is by no means compact, so bear that in mind when building your system, but it is built to a high standard. From the enhanced components used in the power circuitry, to the high performance cooler and on to other aspects such as the high quality backplate. We like the selection of outputs used by Sapphire too, this card uses the ideal mix, and nice extra features such as the fan mode controller and temperature based LED are a bonus.

Pricing wise the card retails for around £60 more than the standard model which seems fair and like it we get a 2-year warranty as well as the option for free games including Alien Isolation. Civilisation Beyond Earth is also included.

Looking to performance, out of the box and before we even consider the extra memory we have a card which is faster than the reference card thanks to the factory overclock. When we then compare the 8GB card to an equally clocked 290X OC we find the new Sapphire model to be a touch faster at 1920×1080 with the gap expanding in some scenarios to a few frames per second at 4K resolutions. Thermal performance was also good and we found the card to be a decent manual overclocker too which is always nice to have.

Summary: Good build quality and pretty much the highest spec 290X available. A worthy winner of our Gold Award.

Available in the UK from Overclockers.

Gold Award

Sapphire R9-290X 8gb Vapor-X OC Review – Performance

Here are a selection of display quality examples from the games we have tested in this review, Assassins Creed Unity, Alien Isolation, Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, DOTA2 and F1 2014. All look exceptional on the Vapor-X 8gb.

sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-ai sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-acu sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-codaw

sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-dota2 sapphire-r9-290x-8gb-vapor-x-oc-review-f1-2014

Sapphire Radeon R9-290X Vapor-X 8GB OC
NVIDIA GTX 980
Zotac GTX 970 AMP! Edition
R9-290X OC

Intel Core i7-5960X
Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2800
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB
Corsair AX1500i Antec Kuhler 1250

Installed on a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench

Intel Wireless AC 7260
Razer DeathAdder
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate
ASUS 120Hz/3D Display

Windows 8.1 64-bit
AMD Drivers: 14.11 Beta 2
NVIDIA Driver 344.75
Assassins Creed Unity
Alien Isolation
Call of Duty Advanced Warfare
DOTA 2
F1 2014
3DMark

The test system was built from scratch, a format of the hard drive was performed (NTFS) and then Windows 8.1 was installed. Following the completion of the installation, the video drivers were installed. All windows updates were then installed as were the latest builds of the benchmarking tools. Finally, the hard drives were de-fragmented (where appropriate). For each test, the video drivers were set to default quality/optimizations (unless otherwise stated).

Good Benchmarking Practice

Where possible, each benchmark was performed three times and the median result for each resolution/setting is shown in the tables that will follow. All applications had their latest patches applied and all hardware features the latest BIOS/Firmware.

1920×1080 + Thermals and Power

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4K

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Stuart Davidson

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