Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB & Nitro R9 380 4GB Video Card Review

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Sapphire Nitro 380 and 390 Video Cards Review

AMD decided to do a refresh of their graphics chips, rather than a complete overhaul. This has been widely publicized for sometime now that there is little to no difference in performance between the previous generation GPU and the “new” generation.  So, what is Sapphire doing with the latest AMD GPU?  They are taking this as an opportunity to introduce us to a new line of graphics cards called, Nitro. Sapphire Nitro Gaming Series cards are geared towards the average gamer, who is focused on getting the biggest bang for their buck but still wants to get a graphics card with top of the line features. With this new line, they are focusing on giving the average gamer what they want, high quality components, high performance, reliability and acceptable noise level.

Sapphire Nitro Gaming Series

Here is what Sapphire has to Say about the Nitro Gaming Series of AMD Radeon graphics cards.

“The SAPPHIRE NITRO series boasts a range of features previously reserved for high-end cards, including long-life capacitors and award-winning Black Diamond Chokes, as well as new versions of our award-winning cooling solutions. Its elegant contours with purposeful black and gunmetal finish have been designed to suit any build. And the latest graphics architecture from AMD ensures fast, reliable gaming, performance tuned for any level of gaming. So whatever kind of gamer you are, the SAPPHIRE NITRO series offers you the maximum gaming experience for your budget.”


The two Sapphire Nitro R300 series graphics cards that we are looking at today are the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB and the Sapphire Nitro R9 380 4GB. These cards are basically updates of the AMD Radeon R9 285 and AMD Radeon R9 290 that have been on the market for some time. In the chart below we compared the Sapphire Nitro R9 380 4GB to the Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R9 285 2GB and then the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB to the  Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290 4GB.

Dual-X 285 Nitro 380 Tri-X 290 Nitro 390
Microarchitecture  Tonga  Tonga Hawaii Hawaii
Manufacturing Process 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
Transistors 5000M 5000M 6200M 6200M
Stream Processors 1792 1792 2560 2560
Core Clock 965MHz 985MHz 957MHz 1010MHz
ROPs  32 / 112  32 / 112 64 / 160 64 / 160
Memory 2048MB 4096MB 4096MB 8192MB
GDDR5 Memory Clock 1375Mhz 1450Mhz 1350MHz 1500MHz
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 512-bit 512-bit
Memory Bandwidth 179.2GB/s 185.6GB/s 345.6GB/s 384GB/s
Typical Board Power (TDP)  <200W 225W <300W 375W
Warranty 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years 2 Years
Launch Price $214.99 $219.99 $259.99 $329.99


As you can see the stuff under the hood of the GPU remains the same, but process enhancements during GPU manufacturing has allowed AMD and their board partners to increase the clock speed of the GPU and memory while not increasing the TDP of the board (Sapphire didn’t give exact TDP’s for the R9 200 series cards). The memory has been doubled from the original amount the the cards launched, which is one of the biggest changes on the new Radeon R9 300 series of cards. You can find a Sapphire Radeon R9 290 with 8GB of memory on it today, but the all the Radeon R9 390 cards come with that amount. The price on the cards have gone up, but most of that is due to extra memory cost.



One of the first changes Sapphire made with the Nitro series, is that there will be only one card in the series for each step.  If you want an AMD Radeon R9 390 graphics card, there is only one Nitro 390.  Of course, there are other Sapphire 390 cards available with different features, but if you want a great AMD 390 card without focusing on the extras, the Nitro series is your choice.  Finally, the Nitro 300 series brings a new way to select a graphics card, with Sapphire rating system that should take the guess work out of which graphics card is better (ie a rating of 4 is better than 3).

With the Nitro series, Sapphire is taking away flashy colors. For this reason, each of the graphics cards in the Nitro 300 series will look very similar.  They will have a black fan shroud with grey highlights.  The high quality components that has gone into the Nitro series includes Sapphires Black Diamond chokes, long life capacitors, dual ball bearing fans and an enhanced Intelligent Fan control system.


In addition to the new Nitro graphics cards, Sapphire has launched a new community website for enthusiasts and gamers.  Sapphire Nation will serve as a hub for Sapphire’s promotions, social media campaigns, news and reviews by fellow gamers.  They already have a good amount of content available for you to take a look at, with much more planned.

Let’s take a quick look at the new Sapphire Nitro cards and then get to doing some performance testing.

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  • 姫佐恵

    The NVidia/Intel Circle Jerk is at Noon Tomorrow. Same goes to all the other people that refuse to research the R9 300 series cards and actually learn the real information on them rather than post generic BS stories about how there is near zero differences from the 200 series. The 200 series dont even come close to 300 series. 300 Series Run DX 12 and Vulkan. A 280 or 290 will never be able to such thing, they lack the architecture.

  • Joel

    54 degrees Celsius at 100% load? If so, what were the fan speeds? Everyone else seems to be getting high 60’s low 70’s…

    • drake1988

      You should check what this diagram rly is showing :D.
      Instead of 54° you should read it as 54Watt and its for the complete system, not the gpu only.

      • Sai

        r u fricking stupid it says temperature in Celsius and dou have common sense, 54 watts for the entire system r u out of our mind

    • Vicken Boghossian

      Yea im shocked too how they got that low. I just got mine with an ambient of 25C and i just changed the thermal paste to noctua so far i got 61-62C. Once my room cools down (no ac in my appartment) at 21C i should be at 57-58C. Thats with a custom fan curve at 60C its at 50% fan. Above 60% they def get audible. My guess is they tested this in a very cool room, and my guess is the water cooler for the CPU helps a ton, that case must have no heat inside it from a cpu cooler.

      • Steven Kean

        Take a look at the fan speed on the 390, it was running very high even at 30% it was at 3800RPM. As for the audible portion, in the Sound Testing section, I mentioned how loud the 390 is, and that I don’t think the IFC was working correctly on the sample. My guess is that without the IFC working right, the fan speed was jacked WAY up causing the temperatures to be lower than expected. I did try to adjust the fan speed, but it was either off, 3800RPM or slightly faster at 100%. I see the noise chart isn’t showing up for some reason though.

        • Vicken Boghossian

          For me 3800rpm is 100% fan speed and i can agree that it sounds like a jet taking off haha. But your Sapphire Tri-x is also a lot lower then most reviews ive read. I absolutely love my r9 390 though. Overclocked at 1100/1600 im at about 66C. Stock clocks of the new Nitro at 1040/1500 it peaks at 61-62C with the fan at 50%. Its even lower when i use Vsync usually stays well below 60C. Its shocked cuz thats about the temp my 7850 used to stay it haha.

        • 姫佐恵

          Nitro TriXX out of box OC’d. They will decimate even the highest overclocked 290X. In Fact, the TriXX Nitro out of box is running the same clocks as the 390X while 100USD cheaper. Not bad. Plus all of the Direct X 12 and Vulkan on top of that.. Sapphire has pretty much nailed the efficiency of this 390 OC card.

  • Alexandria Jeans

    Hopefully they preform better then they look which isn’t quite that good. Looks like it has a police checker design pretty lame to be honest. also why the hell is it underclocked 5mhz less then base clock of the 380 in general what was it to achieve exactly?

  • Maxime Litteri

    not working for me, games crash immediatly 🙁

  • AMDerpIDIA

    When will reviewers learn to include overclocked gaming benchmarks?

    • Alexandria Jeans

      Because not everyone that values the warranty and longevity of their video card overclocks.

      • AMDerpIDIA

        Fair point. However, I think we all can agree that most of this audience overclocks. It is free performance, and can have a huge impact on performance.

      • Al Bacione

        Warranty, at least on my Gigabyte R9270x, covers OC, cause they’re selling an OC product,u should OC it under warranty terms. It doesnt make sense you wont OC an OCable Gpu to prevent warranty issues, just because warranty asumes it

      • 姫佐恵

        it doesnt void warranty when overclocking. That is why there are dedicated OC models already setup from factory. Unlike 10 years ago, there are too many protections preventing any failure due to overclocking, that is why it doesnt void warranties anymore.

  • Brian Blair

    It’s looking like AMD is trying to pretend these new cards have better performance when all they did was overclock old cards!

    • Jordan Pedeferri

      Load of rubbish

    • Jordan Pedeferri

      This is a refresh, not a rebrand.

      • 姫佐恵

        and honestly, one can hardly call it a refresh. There is just a ton of changes beyond that basics most people know of. Especially the DX 12 and Vulkan capability, which no 290 will ever be able to accomplish. 290’s are older technology and will not get updates like the 300 series will because they cant run the same code.

    • 姫佐恵

      Yea, show me ANY 280/290 card that can run Direct X 12 and Vulkan for starters. Show me a 8GB VRAM. Oh yeah, by the way, The NVidia/Intel Circle Jerk is at Noon Tomorrow. Same goes to all the other people that refuse to research the R9 300 series cards and actually learn the real information on them rather than post generic BS opinions about how there is zero difference from the 200 series.

  • Kim Mark Lewis

    HDMI 1.X or 2.0? That matters to many people like me.

    • Guest

      HDMI 1.4(a)

    • swing84

      The only thing HDMI 2.0 is useful for is 4K, and the vast majority of gamers use lower resolution monitors, so they will not be affected, still, I would like to have seen HDMI 2.0 on this card, even if 4K gaming will be best on the Fury X, Fury and GTX 980 Ti

      • 姫佐恵

        and even at 4K, v1.4 is adequate unless your running a 25 or 30 meter HDMI cable. v2.0 is actually only performance valid for 5K resolutions.

  • Mr Ink 5000

    ok, what i done get is, how can a card come in 2GB or 4BG versions
    do the restrict 2GB on the 2 GB models?

    • swing84

      God help us. I hope this is not a typical American high school graduate trying to speak …

      • Mr Ink 5000

        Thanks for your comment. It said a lot more about you than it did me.

        • Sh Prishtina

          No actually it said everything about you.

        • Mr Ink 5000

          Thanks for ya contribution pal.

          Both of you have had really interesting things to say about a 4 day old comment.

          Instead of taking an opportunity to help someone understand, you thought it looked good to just be insulting.

          Good day.

        • Mr.S

          You people are beyond obnoxious and moronic, its clear that the r9 200 series will be lacking many new features that are supported in the 300 series, unless you already own a higher end card which wasn’t worth buying back then anyway. It does suck on AMD’s part but there is much more to look at then just what it seems to be.