Sapphire's Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB: The More, The Merrier?

4K Gains And 1080p Parity

Now that we've seen all the individual tests, let's have a look at the aggregate results. Keep in mind that these results don't reflect the Mantle code path for Thief because there is no way to record detailed frame rate data while using that API. Remember that the Radeon R9 290X 4GB was set to the same clock rates as the factory-overclocked Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290X in order to highlight the difference between 4GB and 8GB of onboard memory. Also note that EVGA's GeForce GTX 970 is factory overclocked as well, to keep the comparison meaningful.

Let's first consider Sapphire's Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB vs. the Radeon R9 290X 4GB card. Performance is nearly identical at 1080p, but when the resolution is raised to 3840x2160 (4K), the Sapphire option gains a 14% performance increase. Compared to a stock-clocked Radeon R9 290X 4GB card, the difference would be even more impressive. In general I tell graphics card buyers that the amount of RAM is overrated as a graphics card attribute, and that's still true. But if you plan on playing games at triple-monitor or 4K resolutions, 8GB of onboard graphics memory becomes far more compelling. Based on this comparison alone, Sapphire's Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB card looks like a good idea for high-resolution duty.

However, we also have to weigh the GeForce GTX 970 option. While it's true that the EVGA Superclocked sample we tested for this article has a much higher core overclock compared to the Sapphire (115 MHz vs 30 MHz, respectively), factory-overclocked GeForce 970 cards tend to have higher GPU clock rates on average compared to their Radeon counterparts. Despite this, Sapphire's Vapor-X 8GB card did best the GeForce, on average, at 4K. But the margin isn't as impressive. At 1080p, where the GPU boost helps the most, the Radeon lost ground by a larger margin.

Of course, the key factor we haven't talked about yet is the price. Sapphire's MSRP for the Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB is $430. Compare that to a factory-overclocked 4GB Radeon R9 290X or GeForce GTX 970 in the $350 range, and the 8GB option is not as appealing as it could be. Sure, there's a decent amount of breathing room next to the $580 GeForce GTX 980. But unless you really need that extra RAM and can't live with the lower detail and texture settings you'll need to accept in order to play with a 4GB card at 4K, the cheaper options aren't bad. Note, too, that some of the games we tested don't even have options for true MSAA anymore, opting instead for processing-intensive FXAA.

On the other side of the coin, Sapphire's Vapor-X R9 290X 8GB is probably the best sub-$550 card you can buy for gaming on a 4K monitor. Another application we haven't touched on is GPU compute applications where a lot of RAM is required. Compared to a $1600 FirePro with 12GB, Sapphire's $430 8GB card looks like  cost efficient option. Aside from these special-case scenarios, though, most gamers with a 2560x1440 or 1920x1080 monitor will be served just as well by a 4GB GeForce GTX 970. 4K monitor owners have more to think about.

  • sigmar666
    what about 2560x1440? is there any difference?
  • Janithdalw
    Very narrow difference in FPS between the R9 290X 8GB and R9 290X 4GB. The R9 290X 4GB is more than enough. More VRAM doesn't make much difference. I think Nvidia also released an 8GB version of the GTX 980. I would like to see how much FPS can the GTX 980 renders on 4K resolution. I guess even the GTX 980 8GB won't reach 60 FPS on 4k resolution.
  • bryanlarsen
    All the games you're testing are FPS games or have FPS style graphics. Why not also test other style of games, games that people are more likely to play at 4K? Civilization: Beyond Earth, for example.
  • JeanLuc
    I'm not sure if I agree entirely with the conclusion. For me this is a win for the Saphire Vapour X 290x over a reference 290x (that's been overclocked to match the card it's going up against) rather then then a victory for 8gb over 4gb. The reason I say this is although the 290x is sound piece of tech reference coolers AMD choose to stick on the 290x are really poor and cause cards to throttle underload.

    If 4Gb's wasn't enough then I would have expected to have seen the minimum fps nose dive, falling behind by 10% to 15% suggests the card wasn't boosting or was holding the clocks back to keep it from overheating. The only other explanation might be the choice of VRAM providers i.e some use Hynix others use Elpida and sometimes Samsung.
  • firefoxx04
    stopped reading at "Sapphire is not considered a high end brand".

    What are they supposed to do? They sell the best AMD has to offer with some of the best coolers on the market.
  • Wisecracker
    Not sure what difference it would ultimately make, but I suspect the sweet spot is 5760x1080 until 4K enters the mainstream (if ever). Good to know 4K will play, but Eyefinity is the logical path forward despite the push from 'early adopters' wanting 4k

    Impressive Noise and Temps -- even if compared to the craptastic reference design. At first look though, does not look to be much of a change from OEM 'aftermarket' coolers on the 290X.

  • firefoxx04
    No crossfire test? Umm.. the card by its self can barely manage 4k and thats when you beat the settings down far enough to where 8GB is no longer needed.

    VRAM in crossfire is not 'doubled' when two cards are used so to compensate you need to have cards with more vram in the first place. Big oversight imo. Mine as well not even test the card by its self when we know 9 times out of 10 4GB is more than enough.
  • jdon
    Psst.... The paragraph describing the outputs says 280 instead of 290X...

    Thanks, fixed!
  • airborn824
    Were is SoM with ultra textures in 1440p? that is the whole point of this card. compare 4gb models at 1080p the 8GB is for higher rez and eyefinity set ups. sometimes my bias is just is so obvious. I like both companies i just dont like how much digging i have to do to find truth.
  • Thaisnang
    4K revolution in PCMasterRace is rising.