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Sapphire R9 290 Vapor-X OC Review


HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Feb 26, 2007


After taking a brief hiatus to upgrade the test system and the programs we use, it’s only fitting that our graphics card reviews return with one of the most-anticipated R9 290’s to be released: Sapphire’s Vapor-X. It proved to be the fastest R9 290 we’ve tested to date which isn’t a surprise considering the comparably pedestrian approaches previous cards have taken. With that being said, this is an extremely impressive card from literally every standpoint.

The Vapor-X’s performance metrics were exactly what we’ve come to expect from an R9 290 that’s had its core pre-overclocked to 1030MHz. It trades blows against a reference R9 290X that’s operating in Uber mode and pulls ahead of NVIDIA’s GTX 780. The memory overclock is impressive but we can see why many board partners simply avoid it; it amounts to nothing more than window dressing since there’s ample bandwidth provided by the reference design’s 5Gbps modules.

Backstopping those frequencies is Sapphire’s legendary vapor chamber technology and its purpose-built Vapor-X heatsink. With it, the R9 290’s temperatures remain well in check, clock speeds are balanced and acoustics are among the quietest we’ve seen. The Intelligent Fan Control also brings something unique to the table by either sacrificing idle temperatures for the ultimate low noise solution or keeping RPMs up on all fans for a more balanced approach. We preferred IFC enabled since all fans engage the second the card detects a continual GPU load so the maximum temperatures between the two modes ended up being identical.

While the R9 290 Vapor-X doesn’t have the finely binned core of its Toxic sibling, it still receive top tier cores that are a cut above those which make their way into Sapphire’s lower end SKUs. This approach allowed the Vapor-X to achieve some truly ridiculous (and stable!) speeds during the overclocking tests. With a bit of voltage this beast was purring along gracefully at high frequencies, nearly matching the average performance from the significantly more expensive GTX 780 Ti. The memory didn’t fare quite as well but even when operating at these frequencies the core is hardly starved of bandwidth.

The Vapor-X is a premium, somewhat limited edition product for Sapphire and that’s a fact you’ll be reminded of when shopping for one. At $500 this isn’t an inexpensive graphics card regardless of the current stabilization f AMD GPU pricing though the inclusion of three free games does lessen the sting a bit. Granted, there are less expensive alternatives out there (the Tri-X OC is one) but if you want the best of the best in its category, look no further than Sapphire’s R9 290 Vapor-X.

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