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Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review

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.
Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review
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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

Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review
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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.

Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review
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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.

Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review
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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 H5GQ2H24AFR-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.

Sapphire Radeon R9 290X Tri-X OC Review
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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.

Specifications

  • 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