The R9 290x was a pretty successful card in some regards for AMD; it does have its negative points but, on the whole, everything was pretty good! Fast forward 18 months and we have yet another iteration of the Hawaii XT AMD clad cored graphical predator; this time with a twist. Everyone knows when the R9 290x released in October 2013 with their reference coolers, it was without a shadow of a doubt one of the worst launches I can remember from a graphics card; attributed to the huge heat, thermal throttling when under load and of course the insane power consumption. AIB partners eventually fixed this with various iterations of custom coolers which alleviated the heat issues and, of course, the dreaded thermal throttling; not to start a witch hunt but AMD really dropped the ball with those reference coolers.
Today’s review, however, isn’t just a review on an AMD R9 290x, but a special one from Sapphire which features a whopping and incredible 8GB of VRAM; more specifically, the Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X 8GB. Although this is essentially an 8GB version of the previous 4GB model, manufacturers are still tweaking and trying to improve a near 2-year-old piece of technology which is a little disappointing on the whole but in retrospective, AMD are giving users what they want; MORE VRAM!
So what is the Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X 8GB got going for it? Well taking a closer look at it, Sapphire have a downright gorgeous looking card right here; look at this beauty. Not to follow regular trends such as red and black, Sapphire have gone with yellowy orange trim similar to their Toxic range which proved to be a massive hit with consumers and users; sometimes a small difference can be a big thing and change can be good, or bad! In this case, however, with me the change is of course good.
Connection wise we have 2 x DVI ports, 1 x HDMI port and 1 x DisplayPort which allow this card to support the latest 4K HD resolutions; multi-monitor setups are also a viable option with this card through AMD’s Eyefinity technology.
The Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X 8GB card utilises 3 fans hence the Tri-X moniker; this is to provide optimal cooling performance to the pretty toast AMD Hawaii XT chip which has taken a punt; hopefully today’s review will show the potential of Sapphires Tri-X cooling system. The fans themselves have a black bladed design with a Tri-X sticker in the middle of each; black and orange themed which is a big like from me for obvious reasons!
One thing Sapphire have really dropped the ball with is not including a back plate as standard; too many graphics cards manufacturers these days focus on making the coolers look fantastic but ignore the part that most people will see in a regular PC case; the PCB of the card. Add a nice Sapphire themed Tri-X back plate to this card and you have the easiest design award decision I would have potentially given in 2015 so far; thus it was not meant to be. Aside from the lack of a back plate, the R9 290x Tri-X 8GB card at least uses a fully black PCB which is 10x better than a pale cheap looking blue one seen on some other cards such as HIS models etc.
One thing that I feel should be noted, is the card is 12” in total length but as you can see here, the cooler slightly overhangs the end of the PCB included quite a big portion of the heat sink; could Sapphire have made the card smaller by condensing their cooler? Probably but I don’t care too much as it looks great so here is hoping it backs its big mouth up and performs well too.
The 290x is a monster in terms of power needed and power consumption and the inclusion of 2 x 8pin PCI-e power connectors is a testament to this. Sapphire state that you will require a recommended wattage of around 750w, but I say no, a good 600w will be more than ample, even when paired with a pretty power hungry CPU!
So as we can see, the Sapphire Tri-X looks great and although it’s missing a vital component to making it look “amazing” (the back plate), but this still looks like a solid card to me. Obviously doubling the “standard” 4GB VRAM to 8GB of VRAM is going to make people’s jaws drop, especially the elitist members of the community who like to e-peen their way through life, this card has a bigger use than just for gaming; 8GB is a sizable chunk for photo/video heavy editing too. Let’s take a look at the official specifications and then see what the Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X 8GB card is made of…