Temperature, Noise And Power
Let's begin with a look at how Sapphire's Vapor-X cooler compares with the 290X reference model and EVGA'a Superclocked GeForce GTX 970:
Sapphire wins the day here, shaming the Radeon R9 290X reference cooler and even besting the overclocked GeForce GTX 970. This is no small feat considering that the Vapor-X draws the most power of all three options, as we'll see in the charts below.
But before we go to power, let's examine the noise generated by these products. Note that we start the chart at 30 dB, which corresponds to practical silence.
Sapphire takes the lead here again with the quietest result both at idle and under load. You can see why we aren't proponents for the reference Radeon R9 290X cooler. EVGA's superclocked GeForce GTX 970 does fairly well here.
Now it's time to check the final attribute in the Temperature, Noise, and power triangle. Note that we begin the chart at 85 Watts, approximately what the system pulls without the graphics card. How much more juice does the Vapor-X's 8GB of RAM require?
Under load, Sapphire's Vapor-X 8GB card pulls 33 Watts more than the reference card. That's not terrible when you consider that we ran these three tests at the factory settings, so the reference Radeon R9 290X wasn't overclocked. Still, that extra RAM clearly requires a little more electricity from the wall. Of course, this makes the Vapor-X's cooler all the more impressive for being the quietest and coolest in the bunch.
On the other hand, Nvidia's Maxwell chip has an undeniable advantage here, requiring 67 Watts less under load. If power efficiency is important to you, it's hard to ignore the GeForce option.