Skip to main content

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?

Conclusion

After recently reviewing Sapphire’s R9 Fury Tri-X, I’m not sure what I was expecting out of the R9 390 Nitro. This card comes in at a much lower price point, yet offers more GDDR5 memory. Needless to say, I was eager to see what it could do.

After running my tests, I realized I underestimated what a 390 could do. Priced to compete with Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970, I expected to see approximately the same level of performance. But I was surprised at the numbers it actually achieved. The R9 290X, which is technically a higher-tier card, wasn’t even in the same ballpark at higher resolutions. The 390 walked all over my GTX 970 sample, and consistently traded blows with the GTX 980. In many cases, it was right on the heels of Sapphire’s much more expensive Radeon R9 Fury Tri-X.

Curiously, while running tests in 1080p, the card didn’t perform as consistently. At that resolution, the R9 390 is a perfect match for the GTX 970. But it really stretches its legs at 1440p. Sapphire gives this card a performance rating of 4, which it considers ideal for 1080p. I would say it’s better suited for delivering more pixels than that.

In the end, I was blown away by this card. I really like the Fury Tri-X, and I said so in my review. But had I tested the 390 Nitro first, I would have come to a different conclusion. Sapphire’s Radeon R9 390 Nitro is a tremendous value for the money, making it difficult to justify higher-priced boards. One of these is perfect for resolutions up to 2560x1440; you'd need two to approach 4K.

Considering that the performance gap between the GeForce GTX 970 and this Radeon R9 390 is bigger than the gap between the 390 and our Radeon R9 Fury, Sapphire's solution earns an easy recommendation.

MORE: Best Graphics Cards For The MoneyMORE: All Graphics Articles

MORE: Graphics Cards in the Forum

Kevin Carbotte is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering Graphics.

Follow Tom's Hardware on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

  • 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