Sapphire Nitro 8Gb Radeon R9 390 Graphics Card Review

Disclosure: Sapphire Nitro 8Gb R9 390 graphics card was provided by the great people over at AMD & GAP Marketing for the purpose of review… Unfortunately I can’t keep the card.

Manufacturer: AMD
Release Date: Out Now
Price: USD$459.89 (Source: Newegg.com)

Sapphire have put out a new beefy graphics card for high end gaming. Since I recently upgraded my entire PC with AMD parts, it seems fitting to see how this 8 gigabyte beast works with my 8 core 4Gb processor and all the other things that are in this rig. (You can read the full run down and review here). Is this monster of a GPU worth the high price for your gaming needs or is it just a fancy way to increase numbers with some shiny new tech?

Now the first thing I’ll point out about this huge chuck of metal and plastic is that it does take up A LOT of room. The Sapphire Nitro 8Gb R9 390 (Referenced as the “Sapphire Nitro” from here on out to save time) is a 3 cooling fan card, meaning it’s going to take up lots of room. The case in my PC is the Coolermaster Storm Trooper, one of the largest non-custom cases on the market; and as you can see from the image below, I could barely fit the whole card into the case without bunching all the cables at one end.

Look at how much room this thing takes up!

Look at how much room this thing takes up!

As it is with most tech things, this graphics card needs to run well with 3 basic things, so let’s jump right into the testing phase. Now before we begin, I’ll point out that this card does have the ability to work across the Eyefinity multi-monitor system, a Liquid VR support function, and 4K resolution… All of which I couldn’t test out due to having a LED monitor/TV combo running, no VR headset due to eye problems, and no 4K monitor because I’m still poor. So while i’m not taking full advantage of the card in those terms, I’m doing it for the normal things I do.

Test 1: World of Warcraft
Now World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most used games on my system. I play this game daily and with any other MMO or online game, you need those extra frames to make sure you don’t die on some stupid thing that you couldn’t see. Now what I want in the game is 60 frames per second (FPS) with a minimum of 30 FPS when it comes to raiding in order for things to run smoothly.

Normally, I have the graphics settings set to the preset “normal”, which is the middle ground setting and produces the smoothest outcome. Now the Sapphire Nitro works with the “normal” preset easily and even pushes the FPS a bit higher than my old Sapphire R9 290X does. But when I push the 8Gb to the highest preset, known as “Ultra”, the game drops frames into the single digit territory, something that my old card does too. So I’m wondering if it’s less to do with the power of the card, and more to do with WoW either not working with AMD cards properly (There are a few nVidia specific options in the graphics settings) or the game is just not optimised to work with extremely high end graphics cards. 

Test 2: Video Processing
While I don’t do as many video reviews for my YouTube channel or The Outerhaven anymore, I still do a lot of video processing for prowrestling companies here in Australia. The editing process is still the same. Adding music to video, transitions and all that. Usually a 5 minute video would take 5-7 minutes to render and process with my Sapphire R9 270X GPU; but with the Sapphire Nitro, the render and processing time was down to 2 minutes. Amazing to see the videos finished in 720p within the time it takes to garb a glass of water.

Test 3: Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark
Now we get to look at some raw data. I don’t play Final Fantasy XIV on PC, but i find the benchmark program to be an interesting way to get some basic stats about how the game would work with the video card.

Card: Sapphire Nitro 8Gb R9 390 Card: Sapphire 2Gb R9 290X
Score: 10549 Score: 7430
Average Frame Rate: 95.409 Average Frame Rate: 61.148
Performance: Extremely High
-Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.
Performance: Extremely High
-Easily capable of running the game on the highest settings.
Loading Times by Scene
Scene #1 – 2.841 sec
Scene #2 – 10.524 sec
Scene #3 – 5.587 sec
Scene #4 – 5.109 sec
Scene #5 – 4.890 sec
Scene #6 – 2.877 sec
Loading Times by Scene
Scene #1 – 5.678 sec
Scene #2 – 15.566 sec
Scene #3 – 6.477 sec
Scene #4 – 7.677 sec
Scene #5 – 6.842 sec
Scene #6 – 4.826 sec
Total Loading Time – 31.830 sec Total Loading Time – 47.068 sec
 

As you can see in the table above, the Sapphire Nitro blows the R9 290X out of the water. Sure, the scene load times are reduced by anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds, but as you can see at the end, it all adds up. That’s a lot of load time saved while bringing the average FPS up by a whole 34 frames. This means a smoother play when you’re running around grinding all those levels or trying to dodge a boss attack in a raid. Personally I’m just blown away by the leap in graphic card technology in just 2 years.

The card in all it's glory

The card in all it’s glory

Now the card is excellent, there’s no doubt about that; but that’s to be expected with 8Gb of GDDR5 ram to play with and a PC that is designed to work extremely well with AMD parts. While the issues with World of Warcraft are weird to me, it’s something that I can overlook since it preformed so well with the other tests and some other games too. Video processing time was also down which is a GREAT thing. However I feel that since I’m not a gamer who is into VR or feels the need to have a 4K monitor, or 3 monitors side by side, that I’m just wasting this amazing piece of tech.

Review Summary

The card you want, but not the card you need

The final thing I’ll say is that unless you really need the full 8Gb of power to play your game, and to be honest not many games have a 8Gb minimum reqirement, this is more about having the latest biggest numbers… Unless you’re looking to get into 4K gaming or VR games, in which case I would probably recommend this card without a doubt. For gaming as it is right now, you could get the 4Gb version of this same card and still have a good experience using it.

Overall
5

About The Author

Karl Smart
Senior Editor / Reviewer

The main "Australian arm" of The Outerhaven. Karl primarily spends time playing and reviewing video games while taking time to occasionally review the latest movie or piece of gaming technology.