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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?

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At first glance, Sapphire’s Nitro R9 390 8G D5 looks similar to the Fury Tri-X I reviewed recently. It features a similar shape and size. In fact, it also employs a Tri-X cooler without the added colors. The Nitro edition card features a much subtler black color scheme with grey and silver accents, which will be easier to match with other components.

The card's heat sink extends nearly an inch past the back of the PCB, and features five copper heat pipes passing through vertical aluminum fins. Two of the heat pipes are 6mm, two are 8mm and the one going through the center out the back is 10mm. Each pipe starts at the copper contact plate and comes out of the fins under the central fan. The two 6mm pipes loop back through the fins over the GPU, while the remaining three carry on to the rear section of fins. Sapphire claims this setup creates up to 300W of cooling capacity. 

To cool off the fins and the heat pipes, Sapphire includes three 90mm dual ball-bearing fans. The company says its dual bearing design is made to keep dust out and ensure a long lifetime. Sapphire also implements Intelligent Fan Control II, which allows individual fans to stop spinning, cutting down on noise when extra airflow isn't needed.

Unlike the Fury that Sapphire sent us, the R9 390's PCB is rather long. Not counting its bracket, the circuit board measures 10.5 inches (267mm) long. When you count the shroud's full length, though, it's 12 inches (395mm) long without the bracket. Or, add 15mm to count the bracket. At the thickest point (from shroud to rear screw), the R9 390 Nitro measures 45mm. It would be a tight squeeze to fit two of these side by side.

The board itself comes equipped with 16K-hour capacitors that use high-polymer aluminum. According to Sapphire, these caps offer superior lifespan over standard aluminum caps. Sapphire also uses what it calls Black Diamond Chokes, which the company claims are 10% cooler and 25% more power efficient than normal chokes.

Along the top edge of the card, you’ll find a pair of eight-pin power connectors. AMD did away with its CrossFire connectors, instead sending multi-GPU data across the PCIe bus. Instead, you'll find a BIOS selection switch along the top edge.

By default, the card comes with its legacy BIOS enabled, but pressing the button switches it to the digitally-signed UEFI. In that mode, boot and resume times should be quicker.

You get several video output options. Similar to the way Nvidia's newest cards are arranged, Sapphire’s Radeon R9 390 Nitro Overclocked exposes three DisplayPort connections, a single DVI-I port and HDMI. The card can output through as many as four of its connectors simultaneously.

Sapphire’s packaging keeps the card safe while still showing it off through a small plastic window in the box. Because of this, the card isn't in an anti-static bag. It is, however, contained in soft foam on all sides, protecting it from impact. Inside the box, Sapphire includes an HDMI cable along with a driver disc and case badge. You’ll also find a quick-start guide and a pamphlet about Sapphire products.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.