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::>Graphics cards > 2014 > 08 > Sapphire R9 290 4GB GDDR5

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Republish review

12-08-2014


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SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 graphics card review and testing

Many manufacturers have already released graphics accelerators based on AMD Radeon R9 290 which are equipped with a proprietary cooling system. However, models with reference cooling system are still available. This is SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 which will be examined in this article.

Can the cooler developed by engineers of AMD effectively cope with the heat release of the GPU? On this question will be learned and revealed during today’s review.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

The specs:

Model

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Graphics core

AMD Radeon R9 290 (Hawaii PRO)

Q-ty of universal shader CPUs

2560

Microarchitecture

AMD GCN

Supported API and technologies

DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, AMD Mantle, AMD Eyefinity 2.0, AMD App Acceleration, AMD HD3D, AMD CrossFireX, AMD Avivo HD, AMD Stream, AMD PowerPlay, AMD ZeroCore, AMD PowerTune, AMD TrueAudio

Graphics core frequency, MHz

947

Nominal memory frequency (effective), MHz

1250 (5000)

Memory capacity, GB

4

Memory type

GDDR5

Memory bus, bit

512

Type of inner interface

PCI Express 3.0 x16

Max resolution

DisplayPort – up to 4096 x 2160

HDMI – up to 4096 x 2160

Dual-link DVI-D – up to 2560 x 1600

Screening  interfaces

2 х Dual-link DVI-D

1 х HDMI

1 х DisplayPort

Minimal capacity of power unit, W

-

Dimensions taken from official website (according measurements in own test lab) , mm

277 х 104 x 35 (290 x 112)

Drivers

Drivers can be downloaded here: SAPPHIRE or GPU

Producer website

SAPPHIRE Technology

As it was expected, this card is not only equipped with a reference cooling system, but also has a reference frequency circuit without the use of any factory overclocking. On the one hand, it brings the cost of new item to the recommended value. On the other, all the overclocking is passed to the user.

Package and content

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Carton box SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 is brightly decorated with mostly red colors. The central element of the front side is the image of the robot. At the bottom there are some of the key characteristics:

  • microarchitecture AMD GCN;
  • HDMI port and its 1.8-meter cable;
  • 4 GB of GDDR5-memory with a 512-bit bus;
  • the capability to run games on monitors with a resolution of 4K Ultra HD.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

On the reverse side of the package you can find  an additional description of the capabilities that are available to this graphics accelerator:

  • AMD HD3D technology for 3D-video playback and games on compatible monitors and television sets;
  • technology AMD Eyefinity designed to create a multi-screen configurations (up to six displays);
  • HDMI port supports multichannel audio transmission;
  • proprietary software for overclocking and monitoring (SAPPHIRE TriXX).

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Inside the box there is a foam form that has the same contours of the graphics card and it fixes securely. Together with anti-static bag this design significantly enhances the protection of the device during transportation and storage.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Supplied set of SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 includes the following components:

  • adapter from two Molex-connector to 8-pin PCIe;
  • adapter from Molex-connector to 6-pin PCIe;
  • sticker on the computer case;
  • brief instructions for assembly;
  • CD with software and drivers.

Due to the fact that all the connectors of graphics accelerator are digital, the connection of an analog monitor even using the adapter DVI↔D-Sub is not provided. Since we have tested presale version of graphics card, the set of supply did not include HDMI cable (selling version will have this item).

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Set of ports of the supplied product is the following:

  • 2 х Dual-link DVI-D;
  • 1 х HDMI;
  • 1 х DisplayPort.

HDMI and DisplayPort sockets can support the displaying the image with resolution 4K Ultra HD (4096 x 2160). It is available to simultaneously connect up to six displays in AMD Eyefinity mode, using the DisplayPort interface and special adapters or up to four monitors or televisions using all connectors of interface board.

Design and circuitry

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 is made on a black textolite. Its PCB height is 112 mm. In the center is a graphics chip which is equipped with a protective metal frame for safe installation and removal of the cooling system.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

The power subsystem of graphics card is based on the reference 7-phase scheme: five phases are designed for the GPU, one for memory and one for the PLL.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

It uses qualitative low-profile chips International Rectifier IR6894, which are characterized by high resistance to high temperature. Chip International Rectifier 3567B is applied as the controller. It has modes «Overclocking» and «Gaming», as well as automatic switching of active phases.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

For power supply in addition to slot PCI Express 3.0 x16 there are two additional PCIe sockets: 6-pin and 8-pin. The connection and disconnection is quite convenient.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

At the top of the printed circuit board is a small switch that changes the scheme of the cooling system operation. This influences the maximum speed of the turbine at total load.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

On the reverse side of the board you can find few elements of the power subsystem, as well as metal frame that protects it against deformation during cooling system installation.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

The base of SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 is graphics chip AMD Hawaii PRO. It is produced according 28-nm technology process and includes the 2560 unified shader processors, 160 texture units and 64 rasterization blocks. Depending on the load and heating the clock frequency of the graphics core is dynamically changed and its peak is 947 MHz.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Memory card is collected using sixteen chips ELPIDA W2032BBBG-6A-F with capacity 256MB each, which corresponds to the total volume of 4 GB. In accordance with the recommendations of AMD, their frequency is reduced from the nominal 6000 MHz to 5000 MHz. Data exchange between memory and the GPU is carried out via a 512-bit bus the capacity of which is 320 GB/s.

Cooling system

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

SAPPHIRE R9 290 is equipped with 4GB GDDR5 reference cooling system which is developed by AMD engineers. It occupies two slots for expansion cards. Graphics accelerator with installed cooling system has a length of 290 mm and a height of 112 mm (measured in our lab).

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Under the plastic cover we found massive radiator and red 78 mm turbine fan. Its task is to blow the air through the radiator fins blowing it out through the frame of the interface board of a PC case. As a result we achieve the effect that even very hot graphics core does not increase the temperature of the other components of the computer. Traditionally, graphics cards with a turbine cooling system are well suited for the creation of bunch Multi-GPU, because even the minimum distance between them in the system case does not lead to a significant drop in the efficiency of the heat sink.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

GPU contacts with the copper vapor chamber through a thin layer of thermal paste. Through special thermal pads all memory chips and transistors of power subsystem are in contact with metal base.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Monitoring of the sensors was carried out using a utility MSI Afterburner 3.0.1. During long maximum loads and automatic regulation the turbine operated at 50% of its maximum speed, which corresponds to 2631 rpm. The level of produced noise was average and it was noticeable with prolonged use. At the same time the GPU temperature was quite high (94°C), and therefore forced reduction of the frequency of blades rotation in order to reduce the noise level is not possible (graphics core starts to drop the frequency due to overheating).

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

Under the maximum turbine rotation speed (5232 rpm), the GPU temperature was dropped to 73°C. As for the noise, it was very loud. It can be stated that this mode for everyday use is not suitable.

SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5

In idle mode the cooler noise was reduced to “below the average” level (1067 rpm) and GPU temperature did not exceed 49°С.

In general we can say that reference cooling system of SAPPHIRE R9 290 4GB GDDR5 is quite noisy and hardly copes with its task in automatic mode.


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