The Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 is factory overclocked from the reference configuration of 947MHz to 1030MHz which will help it perform better than reference R9 290’s. However, the overclocking doesn’t stop there, we were able to get an additional 10% performance by doing a very simple overclock using Sapphire TriXX software. With an overclock of 1135MHz it appears to perform closer to a stock 290X but for less money. In addition, while the 10% overclock isn’t bad, it could technically be overclocked more (up to 1185MHz), however with greatly diminishing returns and severe graphic glitches.
The cooling solution on the Vapor-X R9 290 is very efficient, during our testing the room was kept cool, and the card did not overheat, reaching a maximum temperature of 73C and VRM temperature of 60C; both temperatures are really good for being pushed to 100% utilization for over 30 minutes. Of course at that temperature, the fans were running at 40% speed, and could easily be recognized above the other components in the system, but the fans did their job, along with the Vapor-X system, and kept the card cool.
While the benchmarks do not include any other current enthusiast grade video card and the R7950 is a couple of years old, it does show the difference in performance that an upgrade might provide. When it was released the R7950 was a rather expensive graphics card and would have been priced around the same as the R9 290. For those that have stuck with a card for a couple of years, now is the time to consider an upgrade.
As for the power requirements, Sapphire recommends a 750W power supply, however in monitoring power usage, the entire test system pulled less than 400W at the factory overclock, and less than 450W with further overclocking. Just make sure whatever power supply you are using is a good quality unit with a strong 12V PCI-E rails, and you should be just fine.
The Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Overclocked edition graphics card is available under part number 11227-04-40G for $499.99 shipped, with a 2 year warranty. At that price, it is one of the more expensive R9 290’s on the market (but certainly not the most expensive). It can be worth the extra money with the factory overclock settings, potential for huge boost in performance through additional overclocking and the Sapphire cooling features. In a temperature controlled environment, the card never got above 73C, so overheating and throttling doesn’t appear to be a huge concern on this custom card.
Legit Bottom Line: The Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 graphics card looks great with the Tri-XX fans and Vapor-X cooling solution, it would be a great option to those wanting to get a modern enthusiast level graphics card for under $500.