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SAPPHIRE Tri-X Radeon R9 390X 8GB Video Card Review

Now that AMD's Radeon R9 390X cat is out of the bag, we see what SAPPHIRE can do with the Radeon R9 390X 8GB Tri-X video card, which looks super sleek.

@anthony256
Published Fri, Jun 19 2015 8:53 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 88%Manufacturer: Sapphire Tech

Introduction, Quick Specs and Availability & Price

SAPPHIRE is one of the biggest partners of AMD when it comes to video cards, so it's no surprise they have a kick ass Radeon R9 390X out of the gate. SAPPHIRE has worked closely with AMD for a number of years, with a gigantic range of video cards based on AMD's GPUs.

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VIEW GALLERY - 54 IMAGES

The latest flagship video card from SAPPHIRE is their new Tri-X R9 390X, an AMD Hawaii-based GPU video card. SAPPHIRE has slapped 8GB of GDDR5 onto the card, so we've used SAPPHIRE's Tri-X R9 290X with 8GB to compare the new Tri-X R9 390X against. This will give you the best example of the performance of SAPPHIRE's new video card, and whether it's something you should upgrade to, or buy.

Quick Specs

The Radeon R9 390X is virtually identical to the Radeon R9 290X that it is essentially a rebranding of the old product. AMD has pushed the VRAM up to 8GB on the 390X however, as well as tweaking the GPU and RAM clocks.

SAPPHIRE has its Tri-X R9 390X clocked slower than the MSI Radeon R9 390X Gaming 8G we tested before this, with the GPU clocked at 1055MHz (versus 1100MHz on the MSI card) and the 8GB of GDDR5 is clocked at 6GHz (1500MHz x 4). This provides the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X with 384GB/sec of memory bandwidth over its 512-bit bus.

The Radeon R9 390X still features the same 2816 stream processors, 76 TMUs, 64 ROPs and 28nm process carried over from the R9 290X. The card is ready for DirectX 12, has support for AMD's FreeSync, EyeFinity and LiquidVR technologies. Note that the Radeon R9 390X, while it is a brand new card, only supports DirectX 12. NVIDIA has support for DirectX 12.1 in all of its 900 series, including the GeForce GTX 980, GTX 980 Ti, and Titan X.

Availability & Price

AMD is pricing the Radeon R9 390X with 8GB of VRAM at around $399-$429 depending on the brand. You'll find some retailers pricing them higher than $429, but be sure to shop around before clicking the buy button. This means you're paying around a $100 premium for the 390X with 8GB of RAM, compared to the 290X with 4GB of RAM which you can find for $329 or so.

Packaging & Detailed Look

The Packaging

SAPPHIRE has used its signature orange and black theme on the box of the Tri-X R9 390X, with a robot showing off his incredible huge guns and chest in the center of the box.

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The front of the box, as we were describing above. In the top right, we see it is powered by the GCN 1.1 architecture, and has support for AMD's Mantle API. In the bottom left, we have 8GB of RAM, 4K gaming support, and the Tri-X triple-fan cooler.

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The back of the box is filled with information on the card, but the biggest thing to take away from here that I haven't seen any others talk about is that SAPPHIRE went away from the reference R9 390X design, offering up 3 x DisplayPort outputs, 1 x HDMI and 1 x DVI. This means you can do triple 4K gaming from the single card, which kicks ass.

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Inside, the Tri-X R9 390X is protected with a great big box and some packaging on top to keep it nice and safe.

Detailed Look

Oh, SAPPHIRE - thank you so much for tweaking the look of your card, it is the best looking R9 390X I have in my lab right now. It's downright gorgeous with its orange and black theme, with the trim at the top being tweaked just about perfectly.

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The front of the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X, with its triple-fan cooler and beautiful styling.

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And again, but this time up close and personal with that beautiful trim.

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The back of the card, without a back plate in sight.

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The top of the Tri-X R9 390X, where we can see that styling once again, and the two 8-pin PCIe power connectors to power the card. I look forward to seeing how far we can push the card when the overclocking begins.

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And again, this time we're closer to the two 8-pin PCIe power connectors.

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Here we have a dual BIOS button, and a great aluminum fin array that we have in detail.

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The bottom of the card, and its huge heat sink array.

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The end of the card, where we can see three heat pipes peeking through.

Card Specifications & Cooling Setup

Card Specifications

The AMD Radeon R9 390X is nothing really new, it's a rebranding of the Radeon R9 290X with the same Hawaii-based GPU that was released in October 2013. What AMD has done with it, is a couple of tweaks here and there, which we've compared an R9 290X 8GB card in our benchmarks specifically.

We have a 28nm-based Hawaii GPU with 2816 stream processors, 64 ROPs, and 176 TMUs. AMD has kept the 512-bit wide memory bus, and SAPPHIRE has set the 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 6GHz. This provides a performance benefit of around 5-10% on average when compared to the older R9 290X.

Cooling Setup

SAPPHIRE has used its triple-fan Tri-X cooling technology with three 80mm cooling fans keeping the Tri-X R9 390X cool. SAPPHIRE has achieved some engineering finesse with the product, so it doesn't just perform great, it also looks beautiful, too.

SAPPHIRE has used the latest version of its Tri-X cooler, something that now includes dual ball bearings in each of the three fans, as well as an enhanced Intelligent Fan Control, which will turn the fans off when they're not needed for a completely silent card. SAPPHIRE has also used its impressive Black Diamond chokes, which will provide the Tri-X R9 390X 8GB with excellent performance with increased reliability.

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Starting at the front of the card, we can see the three 80mm fans that make up the Tri-X cooling. Underneath and behind the middle fan, we can see the three heat pipes and two large, but separate heat sinks that are keeping the entire GPU, VRAM and VRMs cool.

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Another look at the Tri-X R9 390X, where you can see the separation of the heat sinks: two separate heat sinks keeping two parts of the card cool.

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A closer look at the heat sink that is keeping the VRMs nice and cool, something that the Radeon R9 Fury X won't have to worry about thanks to it being powered by High Bandwidth Memory (HBM).

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To the left, we have the aluminum fin array that keeps the GPU itself cool, while a vapor chambered contact plate fills out the rest of the card.

Testing Method & Test System Configuration

Testing Method

I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers. I've found this is one of the best ways to provide the most realistic performance numbers, as it involves actual gameplay in a large server that really strains most setups.

For now, I'm going to be using the same suite of benchmarks I've been using on my Tweakipedia articles, which uses a mix of synthetic benchmarks with Futuremark's 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. After that, we have a bunch of titles with built-in benchmarks (which does not represent actual in-game performance) but they are repeatable for you at home to gauge the performance of your PC or GPU.

Over time, I will be adding in new benchmarks and a new section that will concentrate solely on real-time gaming benchmarks. This will take more time per review, as I'll have to invest time into actually physically playing the games, but it'll be worth it in the long run. For now, let's get right into the synthetic benchmarks and see how this ASUS GeForce GTX 980 Matrix Platinum performs.

Test System Configuration

We only recently built our new X99-powered system, something you can read about here. As for the detailed specifications, this is what we're running:

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  • CPU: Intel Core i7 5820K processor w/Corsair H110 cooler
  • Motherboard: GIGABYTE X99 Gaming G1 Wi-Fi
  • RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance 2666MHz DDR4
  • Storage: 240GB SanDisk Extreme II and 480GB SanDisk Extreme II
  • Chassis: Lian Li T60 Pit Stop
  • PSU: Corsair AX1200i digital PSU
  • Software: Windows 7 Ultimate x64
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We're running the system at stock CPU speeds, which will provide more of a 'real-world' feel to our benchmarks. Sure, this isn't an i7-5960X at 5GHz, but what person is going to team up an incredibly expensive CPU with a mid-range GPU? Not many.

Our GPU tests are changing, shifting toward more of a real-world feel. But don't worry, we will be doing some crazy balls-to-the-wall tests that will see serious overclocks, Extreme Edition processors, and much more in the coming months. For the most part, we will be doing more real-world testing by teaming up the right processor with the right GPU in its price category.

Benchmarks - Synthetic

3DMark Fire Strike - 1080p

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3DMark Fire Strike Extreme - 1440p

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3DMark Fire Strike Ultra - 4K

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Heaven - 1080p

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Heaven - 1440p

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Heaven - 4K

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We're kicking off our synthetic benchmarks with 3DMark and its 1080p run of Fire Strike, with the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB seeing a 10% increase in performance over the 290X. Jumping up to 1440p, the 390X is 14% better than the 290X, while at 4K the 390X is 12% faster than the 290X.

Heaven performance is better on the 390X, with a 4FPS increase at 1080p representing a 5% increase. At 1440p, Heaven is slightly faster on the 390X by 3FPS, while at 4K we have a performance increase of a not-so-whopping 1FPS.

Benchmarks - 1080p

Battlefield 4

This is one game that we did differently, as it does not feature a built-in benchmarking feature. When it comes to Battlefield 4, there are countless ways you can benchmark it. Some find a spot in the single player campaign which is easily repeatable, and use that. For our testing, we've chosen to use a 64-player online multiplayer server for real-time performance statistics.

We joined a 64-player map and played for five minutes using FRAPS, pulling our minimum/average and maximum FPS. We did this for each test, we run the game for 5 minutes at 1080p/1440p and 4K two times each. One time with Medium settings, and another with a custom Ultra preset (disabling AA). It's time consuming, but it gives us a perfect look into true real-world performance.

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And again, this time with the Ultra preset.

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Benchmarks - 1440p

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Benchmarks - 4K

Battlefield 4

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Grand Theft Auto V

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GRID Autosport

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Metro: Last Light

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

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Thief

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Tomb Raider

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BioShock Infinite

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You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.

Performance Summary

How Does the MSI Radeon R9 390X Gaming 8G?

AMD provided me with a new driver for the testing of the Radeon R9 390X, which meant I had to use the public 15.15 driver for the R9 290X testing. I ran the 290X testing once again, refreshing our benchmark results to give a better indication of performance today, instead of from a driver from months and months ago now.

We will be tweaking our results in the future, once a driver is out that works with both cards - but this shouldn't change performance too much. We would estimate it would change things by a single digit (less than 10%) at most.

Performance at 1080p

Battlefield 4 performance at 1080p isn't much different between the 290X and 390X, but as we shift into games like GRID: Autosport and Shadow of Mordor, the 390X becomes 5-10% faster. Thief and Tomb Raider see the same type of performance increase.

Performance at 1440p

We see a slight increase in performance over the 290X with the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB in Battlefield 4, while GRID: Autosport slips a little, but Metro: Last Light is 2FPS faster than the 290X from SAPPHIRE.

Shadow of Mordor sees a decent increase, while Thief and Tomb Raider are both faster on the 390X, which is expected. Grand Theft Auto V performance on the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB is improved, with a 6FPS increase over the 290X.

Performance at 4K

This is where I love to write about the Radeon R9 390X, is at 4K, but does the new SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB offer anything more than the Tri-X R9 290X 8GB at 4K? Starting with Battlefield 4, one would think they're the same card. Our tests showed that there are only a few frames per second between them at 4K.

Metro: Last Light and Shadow of Mordor both see performance increases of around 5-10%, while Thief and Tomb Raider excel, especially Tomb Raider which jumps from 61FPS on the 290X to 76FPS on the 390X.

Overclocking, Software, Power Consumption and Sound Testing

Overclocking - Let's See How Far We Can Go

We didn't have much time with our SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB, so we don't have overclocking results to share with the world right now. Instead, what we're going to do is follow this up with an overclocking roundup of the cards we have here in the labs from SAPPHIRE, MSI and HIS.

Software - TRIXX to the Rescue

SAPPHIRE's impressive TRIXX Tweak Utility gives you a great handle on your Radeon R9 390X. You have a full suite of information, overclocking control, fan control, and settings to play around with.

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It's like blending the worlds of the super-useful GPU-z and software OC into one glorious bundle, wrapped up as the TRIXX software.

Power Consumption

Because AMD hasn't used a new architecture in the Radeon R9 390X, we're looking at the same power consumption that the Radeon R9 290X used. Under our Battlefield 4 testing at 2560x1440, the SAPPHIRE Radeon Tri-X R9 390X 8GB along with our entire test bed PC used 440W of power.

This is a huge number, and something you should take into consideration. NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture really comes into play here, with the GTX 980 only consuming 280-320W depending on the card.

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Sound Testing

The SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB was silent for most of our testing, apart from when we manually turned the fan up to 100%. Of course, this is going to make the card louder, but for overclockers and enthusiasts who want to push their new Hawaii-based card to the limit, you'll have to put up with the noise.

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What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB.

What's Hot

A New Release From AMD!: After over 18 months of no new single GPU releases from AMD, this is a new product. It might be a rebrand, but the Red Team is back in action with the Radeon R9 390X.

SAPPHIRE's Slick New Style: With SAPPHIRE only making AMD Radeon-based video cards, they have had to wait over 18 months to release a product based on something 'new'. While the Radeon R9 390X isn't exactly a new architecture, it gave SAPPHIRE the chance to do something different.

3 x DisplayPort Outputs: SAPPHIRE has used three DisplayPort outputs on the Tri-X R9 390X 8GB which is just great, it really is. Our other Radeon R9 390X cards have the same old display configuration, but SAPPHIRE wins our hearts with the Tri-X R9 390X 8GB.

10% More Performance Over 290X: The Radeon R9 390X was never meant to be the new flagship GPU, as that's Fiji's job with the Fury and Fury X cards. But, the 390X is around 10% faster on average, over the 290X, which isn't bad. The Radeon R9 290X is still a fast card by today's standards, so the 390X is just a fine tuning of the Hawaii architecture.

What's Not

AMD Has Essentially Rebranded The Radeon R9 290X: We don't get much more performance than the Radeon R9 290X, and this is a hard thing. It's not bad, but it's not great. It lets consumers decide to leave upgrading their 290X, and grab the Fury or Fury X instead.

$100+ Premium Over 290X 4GB: This is something you have to decide for yourself, but I don't think a $100+ premium over the Radeon R9 290X with 4GB is worth paying for. 8GB is only used in a handful of games, something we addressed in a VRAM consumption article last week.

Nothing Really New: The Radeon R9 390X doesn't offer anything new, apart from the 8GB framebuffer. We have support for LiquidVR, FreeSync and all of that jazz, but the Fiji-based Fury cards is where the excitement is.

Final Thoughts

My final 'What's Hot/What's Not' section of the SAPPHIRE Tri-X R9 390X 8GB review is very similar to the MSI Radeon R9 390X Gaming 8G that I wrote yesterday, because both of these cards are just so similar. At the end of the day, they're both Radeon R9 390X cards, with the big difference being their cooling setups and SAPPHIRE's unique approach to display outputs with 3 x DisplayPort outputs.

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What SAPPHIRE has done here refreshed its already impressive Tri-X R9 290X 8GB with the Tri-X R9 390X 8GB, and refreshed the styling which is something that I have really enjoyed with the card.

Performance wise, you're getting a card that is more than capable of providing an excellent experience at 1080p and 1440p, while moving up to 4K we saw 60FPS+ in most of our games (which we run at Medium/High settings). 4K 60FPS for under $450 is great, especially if you're a fan of AMD.

SAPPHIRE fans will be jumping at the Tri-X R9 390X 8GB, and with two of these in CrossFire, you're in for a huge amount of fun. But where to from here? I can't wait to see what SAPPHIRE has in plan for the world with the Radeon R9 Fury cards... oh boy.

TweakTown award
Performance (overclocking, power)80%
Quality (build, design, cooling)95%
General Features (display outputs, etc)95%
Bundle, Packaging & Software90%
Value for Money80%
Overall88%

The Bottom Line: SAPPHIRE differentiates itself from the competition by offering up not only a great looking AMD Radeon R9 390X based video card, but display connectivity that isn't stuck in 2013. Good work, SAPPHIRE.

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Anthony is a long time PC enthusiast with a passion of hate for games built around consoles. FPS gaming since the pre-Quake days, where you were insulted if you used a mouse to aim, he has been addicted to gaming and hardware ever since. Working in IT retail for 10 years gave him great experience with custom-built PCs. His addiction to GPU tech is unwavering.

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