Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Tri-X OC Video Card Review

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Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Overclock Edition

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Full View

The Radeon R9 290 GPU came out in November 2013, making it almost 6 months old, and while it isn’t the top of the line model it still has some impressive specifications.  Powered by a single 28nm AMD Hawaii GPU, it features 2560 Stream processors running at 947MHz, and 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 5000MHz.  Sapphire has taken those specifications and boosted them a little with their Overclocked edition.  The Stream processors are running at 1030MHz, and the 4GB GDDR5 memory has been clocked to 5600MHz. Sapphire doesn’t stop there, they have also added their Tri-X Cooling which features three fans rather than the standard two fans, and their Vapor-X technology to their Vapor-X R9 290 Overclocked which is currently available as part number 11227-04-40G for $499.99 shipped; a 2 year warranty is included at that price.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Front

The front of the Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 has three 90mm fans on the front of the card, with 9 blades on each fan.  The fan shroud is black and blue which really makes the card stand out.  On the fan shroud there are channels which will help the air to flow out the back of the case rather than into the case.  The overall dimensions of the Vapor-X R9 290 is 12 x 4.5 x 1.85 inches (L x W x H), making this a rather long card.  In addition, the thickness of the card at 1.85 inches will require the user of 2.5 PCI-E slots rather than just taking up 2.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Top

Taking a look at the top edge of the video card there are several interesting features.  On the far left side there is a little Sapphire logo button that switches between the Legacy and UEFI BIOS support; it ships in Legacy BIOS mode.  Pressing the button activates the UEFI BIOS, providing support for Secure Boot and a faster boot time through UEFI.  The button lights up in blue in UEFI mode.  Looking beyond the button, we can see the large heatsink cooling fins used to cool the GPU, there are five heatpipes being used to distribute the heat, a large 10mm, two 8mm and two 6mm.  On the far right are the power connectors and the Sapphire logo, which lights up in three colors to indicate the temperature.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Power

The power requirements of the Vapor-X 290 OC is for a 750W power supply.  This power is transferred to the card by two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors.  The Sapphire logo can be seen here, when it lights up, the color indicates the temperature of the card, Blue (0 to 60C), Yellow (60 to 80C) and Red (80C or higher).  This has a tolerance of +/- 5C, so it is just a helpful way of getting an idea of the temperature, utilizing other tools is required to get a more accurate temperature.  Where the back heat shield meets the PCB there is some thermal sealant coming out the top of the card, while not a major issue it can get a little messy for those that are extremely particular.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Video

At the end of the card we have the usual display connectors; two dual-link DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort 1.2.  The DVI-D connectors support a resolution up to 2560×1600, while the HDMI and DisplayPort supports 4096×2160.  In addition, the HDMI and DisplayPort connectors will provide a 7.1 lossless audio stream, and 3D support.  Finally, the DP connector supports Multi-Stream, allowing the user to connect up to four monitors from the single DP 1.2 connector.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Back

The back of the video card is pretty plain since it is covered by the Vapor-X heat shield.  Other than the top edge, this is probably the side the most users will see, even if it wasn’t the Vapor-X model, this is a great way to finish a high end video card giving it a sleek backplate.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Switch

On the back of the card is a tiny switch that controls the integrated fan controller.  When the switch is set to off, all three fans operate under the same speed; however, when it is in the on position, the outside fans will only run when the GPU temperature is over 60C.  This reduces the noise level created by the three fans.

Features and Specifications:

Vapor-X Technology

SAPPHIRE’s innovative Vapor-X cooling technology allows products to run not only cooler but also much quieter.  A Vapor-X product means a virtually silent gaming experience and more headroom to explore performance tweaking!

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Vendor

Dual BIOS (Legacy and UEFI) Support

This product supports both Legacy and UEFI BIOS. By factory default, the card itself is under Legacy mode.  By pressing the button with SAPPHIRE logo, UEFI mode will be easily enabled.

Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 UEFI

Display Support supports up to 3 display monitor(s) without DisplayPort
4 x Maximum Display Monitor(s) support
Output 1 x HDMI (with 3D)
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
2 x Dual-Link DVI-D
GPU 1030 MHz Core Clock
28 nm Chip
2560 x Stream Processors
Video Memory 4096 MB Size
512 -bit GDDR5
5600 MHz Effective
Dimension 305(L)X 114(W)X 47(H) mm Size.
2.5 x slot
Software Driver CD
Accessory 8-PIN to 4 PIN x2 Power Cable
HDMI 1.4a high speed 1.8 meter cable(Full Retail SKU only)
Warranty  2 year warranty

Let’s take a quick look at the retail packaging and accessories before starting some benchmarks.

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  • nocturnal2048 .

    I have this exact card and in my system it idles at 37c so 45c-51c seems a bit high
    but it all depends on the region you live in and the temps there in…

  • iknowthetruth

    I ran a the full test on Cloud Gate (max settings) 1080p and wtf I have a Sapphire R9 290 Vapor-X OC and everything was running fine till it hit the last test which is the physics test and it got AVG 18.08 fps and 28.6fps high

    Everything else did awesome graphics score is 19845, Graphics Score 68409, Physics Score 5695 (WTF), Graphics test 1 290.72, Graphics test 2 304.46. Either the card has crappy physics handling or the demo is poorly optimized.

    The temp never went past 64c which is really good imho.

    • Matti Alexander Christensen

      your physics is handled by the cpu then.

      • Andrew

        How do I handle it with the GPU then if it’s just CPU?

  • wezlypipz

    This is just a really bad review.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      why ids that?

      • Andrew



    this is a monster. G-Force was overtaking.

  • taco

    People considering the 290 would also be looking at its direct competitior, the 780. Astonishing that card was not included in the review. Agree with previous poster, FAIL.

  • DJEleven

    It’s cheaper to go with a custom water loop

  • Kushan Dodanwala


    If you are doing a review of a custom cooling solution, you should be comparing it to the reference + other custom cooling solutions. Not to a bunch of cards that wouldn’t even be on the radar of a potential buyer.

    Absolutely useless review.

    • koyomi k

      agreed. wow, 7950 all the way to a friggin 560ti? wow.

      • Nathan Kirsch

        It’s what the review had available to him to test against. We’ve reviewed many Hawaii based cards here on Legit Reviews, so if you want to see how a 290 compares to just super high-end current cards take a look at one of those –

        • Matti Alexander Christensen

          sorry for bursting your bubble, but the temp and noise parts of a review are only usable if: they’re done in the same test system, in the same location, in the same ambient temperature, under the same ventilation conditions, and are of comparable cards.
          if you have comparable cards tested under the same conditions, and they just arent in this review, then you’re slacking, if you have comparable cards tested under different conditions, then they arent usable in relation to this review.

        • Nathan Kirsch

          Which is why we test everything in the same system, with the same ambient temperatures and in the exact room and spot that all the cards have been tested.

        • Matti Alexander Christensen

          well then, all your results from comparable cards could be added to the comparison chart.

    • Nathan Kirsch

      Not all of our reviewers have a ton of video cards to test from. We were just trying to spread out the love and give some of those that do reviews a chance to try out some video cards. People assume we get to keep all the cards we review, but we don’t. Sapphire does loaner cards, so this was tested for a couple weeks and sent on to the next site. That causes an issue as we can’t re-test the card in the future and build up a stockpile of cards to test from.

      • Matti Alexander Christensen

        but you could test in identical cases, with identical cooling, in a room with doors and windows closed, at the same temperatures.
        even without aircon, all it requires is the cheapest non restrictive case on the market, a few cheap fans, and a thermometer. even if the reviewer doesnt have aircon he can wait till mid day when it heats up, or nighttime when it cools down. that way the results of all your video card tests could be transferable between reviewers.

  • cvr

    Idle temperatures 45/51°C seem very high compared to the other 290 Vapor-X tests I’ve read (31/36°C). Also this test environment is a bit strange. Who would play in a room at 17°C?

    Apart from that, very nice card. I ll wait for a small price drop before I get one though.

  • sog

    Nice card and nice overclock well done. Thinking of getting a r9 290 there’s some good deals floating around. Now that the mining thing has fallen off.

  • Ponypony

    Thanks for the great review, and for putting it against older cards, like the 7870 (my card).