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Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8G D5 Review

With all of the focus on AMD’s Fury and its HBM, there isn't much attention being paid to the more affordable Radeon R9 390. Is it possible that we missed a gem?

Noise, Temperature & Power

Noise

The graph represents measurements taken two inches from the card's I/O bracket. You might consider these numbers to be rather quiet, but to my ears they seemed much louder. My suspicions were confirmed when I moved the meter next to the fans instead. Two inches away from them, my instrument returned a much different result.

Directly behind the card, the meter registered 43 dB(A). That's not particularly loud, but this isn't the quietest card we've tested, either. The reading taken in front of the fans is quite a bit louder, registering 51 dB(A). That's after 10 minutes of game play; at idle, the card is completely silent since its fans don't spin at all.

Temperature

Temperature measurements are taken over 10 minutes using GPU-Z in a 25-degree room. As you can see, the Tri-X cooler mounted to the R9 390 keeps AMD's Hawaii GPU cooler than the R9 Fury, despite having fewer heat pipes than the Fury.

Sapphire’s R9 390 Nitro peaked at 70 degrees after almost eight minutes in Battlefield 4. This was in an open test bench with no fans, though. In a case with proper circulation, the temperature probably wouldn't reach as high. 

Power

The power consumption test that I perform takes measurements at three different times. Power draw is measured while the system is idle, at the end of a 10-minute Battlefield 4 run before quitting and while FurMark is being run.

Sapphire’s Radeon R9 390 Nitro is far from an energy efficient graphics card. At idle, it pulls 16.7W, even though its fans aren’t usually spinning. Gaming is where you'll really see the big power numbers though. It draws as much as 255W in Battlefield 4, which is nearly 85W more than the similarly-priced GTX 970 and 70W more than the comparatively powerful GTX 980. For some reason, FurMark affects AMD's GPUs more than Nvidia's. The R9 390 Nitro needs as much as 323.3W in this test.

  • Jeffs0418
    :sarcastic: How about an updated hierarchy chart?
    Reply
  • youcanDUit
    great review. i have a question about AMD and project vulkan. do AMD cards benefit from vulkan, like they do (did) from project mantle with the GCN1.1+? also it was said that implementing different multi card setup on DX 12 is harder than anticipated, is project vulkan capable of such feat?
    Reply
  • uglyduckling81
    It's good to see competition so close. It does beg the question as to why hardware several years old is still leading the charge.
    Both companies seem to be in a bit of a pit. Hopefully the new manufacturing node size will gets things going again.
    I am pretty happy with my GTX970 though. It's a nice card.
    Reply
  • Taintedskittles
    I m so torn between getting a 390 or gtx970. (1st world problems)

    If amd gvr were as good as shadowplay it wouldn't be a contest. But shadowplay is only a 1-2 fps hit compared amd gvr 10-20fps loss. The gtx 970 uses about 100w less than the 390 under load. But the 390 has better specs on paper & seems more future proof. Plus I m worried I'd be stretching my 650w psu with the 390.
    sigh.....
    note: using hd7870, Ive tried out gvr & its horrible, currently using dxtory & obs.
    Reply
  • VaporX
    Tainted, GVR options abound that great features. I have used OBS with some really neat overlay options and Raptr has a solid set of features as well.

    As for the PSU, you should be just fine. I run a Nitro 390 on my demo rig and do so with a 450 watt PSU and no issues. In fact at gaming load I have not yet seen the computer push over 400 watts total power load.

    Under typical gaming loads the 390 pulls about 80 watts more power. Our cooling solution means this is not a heat issue as we easily handle any heat generated by the card. 80 watts equates to nothing in power usage over typical gaming sessions. Assuming 8 hours per day, every day it would mean a difference at the end of the year of about $25 in extra electric charges.
    Reply
  • vertexx
    It's time for an updated "Best GPUs for the $$"
    Reply
  • Daniel Ladishew
    Why is the 980 missing from so many of these charts? There should be a 3rd party OC 980 (not the reference) in every chart if your really wanting to compare price/performance across these options. Is this on purpose to make the 390 look better or a lack of comprehensive testing?
    Reply
  • MrVic87
    I've been holding out a while to upgrade my GTX 760. Truthfully, I've been patiently waiting to see what Nvidia is going to come up with to counter the AMD 300 cards. Each article I've read, each video benchmark I've watched, just shows the same result, the 390/390x cards outperforms the 970/980! Not by much but it's noteworthy. I guess my money is truly going for the red brand this time around.
    Reply
  • kiniku
    I've been holding out a while to upgrade my GTX 760. Truthfully, I've been patiently waiting to see what Nvidia is going to come up with to counter the AMD 300 cards. Each article I've read, each video benchmark I've watched, just shows the same result, the 390/390x cards outperforms the 970/980! Not by much but it's noteworthy. I guess my money is truly going for the red brand this time around.

    "Not by much but noteworthy." LOL How does that work? But sure if you'd like your rig having to draw and dispense 100+ watts of internal heat for 3-5 more noteworthy FPS then knock yourself out.
    Reply
  • plasmastorm
    Got myself an MSI 390 to replace my evga 660ti 3gb. Holy poo what an upgrade !

    Was running stupidly hot at 84c for a week but then noticed that was due to the game, Mech warrior online using dx 11 which has known issues on a lot of cards, not just AMD.

    More than happy with it and happily clocks to 1720 core with an 83% asic
    Reply