We have waited a long time to get our hands on a custom cooled R9 290 and our first findings courtesy of Sapphire today are very positive indeed.
The Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC ships with one of the best coolers that money can buy – The Tri-X has already proven itself with several other cards, including the fantastic R9 280X Toxic Edition, which we reviewed back in October.
The adoption of massive 10mm heatpipes has really worked wonders for cooling performance. When gaming, the reference R9 290 holds at 95c, and this overclocked Sapphire Tri-X version at only 68c. Yes, that is an improvement of a staggering 27c under load. The Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC doesn’t thermally throttle either which can help under certain situations.
The Tri-X cooler also highlights how woefully inadequate the AMD reference cooler is, regardless of spin tactics on launch day. The AMD launch would have been better received if the R&D team had spent more time designing a capable, quiet cooling solution for these very powerful graphics cards.
The Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC excels at both 1600p and Ultra HD 4K resolutions with the latest Direct X 11 games. Our testing has highlighted that it is battling head to head with the MSI GTX780 Lightning, one of the best video cards we have tested to date.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ultra HD 4K monitors will see increased sales in 2014 as prices drop and Direct X 11 games take better advantage of higher resolution textures and graphical quality. In regards to deskspace, it also makes much more sense – after all it is only a very small percentage of PC gamers who can fit three 24 inch or 30 inch screens onto a desk.
While overclocking potential will vary between cards, our particular sample for review was stable at 1,110mhz, or an additional 11% on the core. This enhanced performance of the Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC to within 500 points of the £600 Palit Jetstream GTX780 Ti at reference clocks. A phenomenal result.
At today’s pricing, a reference cooled Sapphire R9 290 can be bought for £335.99 inc vat. We would expect this overclocked Tri-X version to ship with a modest premium, between £360-£380 inc vat. At this price and with the out of the box overclock and superior thermal curve, it really seems like a no-brainer to us. This is the R9 290 we have all been waiting for.
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- Fantastic cooler (27c better than AMD reference cooler).
- relatively quiet under load.
- 10+% headroom on core.
- exceptional pricing compared to Nvidia’s GTX780 Ti.
- no thermal throttling.
- 4GB of GDDR5.
- At the price, it is hard to find fault.