Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Review – So let’s get to the meat of it. Is the R9 390 a rehashed core? Well, yes, kind of. It’s the same Hawaii core that was featured in the R9 290 nearly two years ago. It has the same number of streaming cores at 2,560, the same GDDR5 memory and the same number of transistors littering the GCN GPU. Understandably then, you’re probably wondering why you should bother purchasing one of these cards. Good question.
For a card that uses more power with just a slight overclock over the reference card, it certainly doesn’t make much sense to upgrade if you already have an R9 290. Unless of course you’re after that 8GB memory figure. In which case by all means, it might be worth your time. Laughably though, there are people out there who have managed to flash their R9 290s to 390s, using the latest R9 300 series BIOS, most likely to AMD’s disapproving frowns.
So, who should be looking at this card then? Well, if you’re still sat on a Tahiti core, or a 600 series card from Nvidia, this is definitely a suitable solution to your graphical woes. It’s fantastic for gaming at 1440p, and thanks to Sapphire’s Nitro implementation (because apparently nitrous oxide cards are a thing), this card overclocks above and beyond anything we really expected.
In our testing, we found that with games such as Witcher 3, Shadow of Mordor and Project Cars, our R9 390 was regularly only around 10-15fps behind AMD’s flagship Fury X. Purely thanks to the Nitro’s ability to aggressively overclock, no doubt. That may still seem like a big disparity between the two, but there’s something you might want to take into consideration – the Nitro is currently half the price of the Fury X. How interesting are those figures sounding now?
Faster than a Fury X?
So, the obvious solution here would be to run two of these bad boys in CrossFire – the same performance as a single Fury X with twice as much memory, for the same cost. Say what you like about HBM – yes, it’s revolutionary – but it’s just not there yet. And with DirectX 12 merging dedicated graphics card memory together, you’d be looking at a setup containing four times the memory of a single Fury X card for the same price – 16GB to be exact. An insane solution, to say the least.
Sapphire’s Nitro Tri-X fan design is a fantastic cooling solution, providing dissipation for that massive heatsink with one 10mm heatpipe, two 8mm heatpipes and two 6mm heatpipes. You get the picture. It’s well cared for. The card also has a (rather terrifying in our opinion) 0db fan feature, meaning that if you’re not gaming, those fans aren’t spinning – ideal if you’re often working from home. Even so, it’s not exactly a noisy cooler when it does spin up. Even in Furmark’s GPU stress tests we only hit 69°C, with the fans spinning at around 65 per cent capacity.
What would’ve been nice to see on the Nitro is a backplate, but then Sapphire presumably reserves those specifically for its 390X iteration and beyond. Understandable, but it would’ve certainly helped transform this GPU into the lustrous black beauty it so righteously deserves to be. Otherwise, we have no bones to pick with Sapphire’s offering. Yes, it’s a rebrand, but it still performs admirably. When it comes to bang-foryour- buck performance, it’s on a par with AMD’s Fury X, if not better.
- Great value (£260)
- Fantastic cooling solutions
- Very clean
- More memory
- CrossFire potential
- It’s the same core
- Needs a backplate
- Not ready for 4K
Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Specifications
- GPU AMD Hawaii
- Stream processors 2,560
- Texture units 176
- ROPs 60
- Transistors 6.2 billion
- Memory capacity 8,192MB 6GHz GDDR5
- TDP 275W
- 3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI,
- 1x DVI-I