All the way back in March, it was rumored that Sapphire would be building an R9 290X card with 8 GB of memory, rather than 4 GB, although that card never made it to the market. When we spoke to AMD and Sapphire at an event in Amsterdam last month, we were told that 8 GB variants of the R9 290X were cancelled and that they wouldn't be coming. Now, it seems that's all changed, as 8 GB R9 290X cards are starting to pop up here and there.
OverclockersUK has listed two versions of an 8 GB R9 290X graphics card from Sapphire – a reference version and a Vapor-X variant, which comes with a very high-end cooler that uses three fans, a large aluminum fin array, heatpipes, and most notably, a vapor chamber.
They are available for preorder and will ship in November. They are notably more expensive than standard 4 GB R9 290X cards, costing £359.99 and £389.99, respectively. After removing VAT this translates to about $480 USD for the reference card and $520 USD for the custom Vapor-X variant.
There is also an 8 GB R9 290X from PowerColor listed on OCUK. VideoCardz.com has also posted an image of an 8 GB R9 290X card from MSI.
On top of that, a spokesman from AMD confirmed that 8 GB cards will be arriving anytime now.
Of course, this does raise a question: who needs 8 GB of graphics memory? Well, if you're running games on a single 1080p or 1440p display, chances are you won't notice a difference. Bump that up to 4K, though, or multi-monitor gaming with high-resolution textures, and there may suddenly be a use for it. It'll also help with multi-GPU configurations powering the aforementioned massive screen real estate.
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The 980 isn't miles ahead of the 290X in performance so this is an excellent comeback until the 300 series is completed.
The reason for the increased VRAM has nothing to do with needing a larger frame buffer. For some time now, games have been using VRAM more than just a frame buffer. You can see this in games like watchdogs. Even at 4k, you would not need 8Gb of VRAM. It has to do with the fact that VRAM is now being used as storage instead of just RAM. This trend is going to increase, as the consoles used a unified system memory structure and ported games will want to use VRAM.
I guess the speed difference has become negligible? Or maybe since more computational tasks are occurring on the GPU it wouldn't really matter anyway?
Also I guess when I spoke of large frame buffer requirements I mainly thought of Shadow of Mordor which has a minimum frame buffer requirement of 3GB which makes any card with less than 3GB unusable at 4K.