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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?

Our Verdict

Sapphire’s Radeon R9 390 Nitro offers a tremendous value for the money. It operates very quietly and has performance that outpaces the competition. The Tri-X cooler keeps the GPU at a reasonable temperature and having 8GB of memory means you’ll have room for the high resolution textures sure to be found in future games.

For

  • Sapphire Radeon R9 390

Against

  • Power Consumption – Very Large

Introduction

Back in June, we tested most of AMD’s 300-series cards. We were sent samples of the R9 390X, R9 380 and R7 370, but we didn’t have an R9 390. Sapphire helped fill that gap for us by sending its Nitro R9 390 8G D5, an overclocked Radeon R9 390.

Much like the rest of AMD’s Radeon 300 series, the R9 390 isn’t based on a new GPU. It is a refresh of the R9 290 with some purported manufacturing refinements and configuration changes. The processor formerly known as Hawaii is built on the previous generation's 28nm node, featuring 2560 shaders running at 1010MHz (in this overclocked trim), along with 64 ROP and 160 texture units. 

AMD sticks with an aggregate 512-bit memory bus, though the capacity of this card is double most other R9 290 variants. Sporting 8GB of GDDR5, the R9 390 is the most affordable option to offer that much memory. Of course, it's only worth chasing a card with 8GB if the board is fast enough to drive the high resolutions and detail settings capable of pushing beyond the bounds of 4GB.

The Radeon R9 390 is based on AMD’s GCN architecture, which is shared by all of the company’s current graphics products. It supports the same features as the other Hawaii-based cards, such as DirectX 12 in Windows 10 and TrueAudio to accelerate optimized games. The R9 390 supports AMD FreeSync and resolutions up to Ultra HD. These cards also support AMD’s LiquidVR, which enables features like asynchronous shaders and direct-to-display VR HMD support.

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  • 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