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Sapphire R9 390 Nitro 8GB (Rev 2 w/ backplate)

Rating: 9.0.

On July 1st we reviewed one of the first Sapphire R9 390 Nitro cards out of the factory. Sapphire since updated the card, adding a back plate and increasing the clock speeds – and today we present a follow up review of this enhanced model which is available from UK retailers for £269.99 inc vat. We also test the hardware with the latest AMD Crimson drivers and compare against a myriad of other models from AMD and NVIDIA partners.

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The Sapphire R9 390 Nitro 8GB is a triple fan solution with a newly fitted backplate, understated in appearance yet exceptionally well built. We look at the card in more detail on the next page of the review.

Out of all the current range of AMD hardware, I firmly believe the R9 390 is the best card they sell. When overclocked it is often faster than the high end R9 390X with enough money left over to get your family a nice Christmas hamper.

GPU R9 390X R9 290X R9 390 R9 290 R9 380X R9 380 R9 285 Fury X Fury
Launch June 2015 Oct 2013 June 2015 Nov 2013 Nov 2015 June 2015 Sep 2014 June 2015 June 2015
DX Support 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12 12
Process (nm) 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28 28
Processors 2816 2816 2560 2560 2048 1792 1792 4096 3584
Texture Units 176 176 160 160 128 112 112 256 224
ROP’s 64 64 64 64 32 32 32 64 64
Boost CPU Clock 1050 1000 1000 947 970 970 918 1050 1000
Memory Clock 6000 5000 6000 5000 5700 5700 5500 500 500
Memory Bus (bits) 512 512 512 512 256 256 256 4096 4096
Max Bandwidth (GB/s) 384 320 384 320 182.4 182.4 176 512 512
Memory Size (MB) 8192 4096 8192 4096 4096 4096 2048 4096 4096
Transistors (mn) 6200 6200 6200 6200 5000 5000 5000 8900 8900
TDP (watts) 275 290 275 275 190 190 190 275 275

The 300 series launch around 18 months after the 200 series has meant that AMD have been able to enhance the ASIC design by implementing microcode enhancements and the manufacturing processes have improved. We can consider the 390 an ‘improved 290’ – with the added bonus of double the memory – an increase from 4GB to 8GB.

In reality Sapphire were releasing 8GB cards before AMD made the ‘official’ move but that is why they have always been considered the most important of all of AMD’s partners – they tend to push the envelope before anyone else.

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Maintaining our performance graphs has been a full time job in Q4 – Nvidia and AMD have been hard at work updating their drivers in recent weeks. In this review we test with AMD’s Crimson 15.11.1 driver and the Nvidia 359.06 WHQL driver.

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