Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB Graphics Card Review

/ 3 years ago

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The AMD Rx 300 range has been the source of many arguments and rumours in recent months, based on the rebadging that AMD are set to re-introduce and high bandwidth memory which is poised to revolutionise the future of graphics cards. From what we already know, AMD are planning on re-introducing slightly modified versions of the current range of cards with a new higher range of ‘Fury’ branded cards based on the new Fiji GPU and includes HBM.

The card we have in today is the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB. The Nitro range is a new addition to the line-up, bringing amazing cooling technologies to a wider range of graphics cards. It features a modified cooling design from the previous generation Tri-X cut down to just two fans. It features twin 100mm fans which are actively controlled to give the best cooling and audible experience, even setting them into a passive mode when under light load. The Nitro range is set to take the enthusiast world by storm, by “…cramming in everything you need (and left out everything you don’t)…” With the 300 range, we see a new era of gaming with the mainstream introduction of DX12 support, liquid VR (headset required) and AMD free sync technology which rivals NVIDIA G-SYNC.

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Let’s find out if Sapphire has pushed this card to its limits to outshine its predecessor in today’s review.


The Nitro series is a new range to Sapphire. The boxes are more robust than previous boxes, offering more protection and a sneak peak at the card itself through a small window.

box acc

The cooling shroud is a new design for the Rx 300 series, based on the Tri-X cooling solution, it is more box-like than the previous Tri-X coolers.


The back of the card looks unfinished, Sapphire really need to consider adding a backplate to more of the graphics cards to really finish off the look.


Here you can see how much longer the shroud and heatsink is compared to the PCB. The subtle Sapphire logo gives this card a high-end look without being untasteful. The card is powered by twin 8-pin PCI power cables.


A slightly different arrangement of ports, 1x DVi, 1x HDMI and 3x DisplayPort.


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32 Responses to “Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB Graphics Card Review”
  1. Etienne Boutet boucher says:

    well they perform better than before but not enough to make me say “OMG i need this !” i will stick with my idea of getting a gtx 970

  2. RD says:

    The non-X getting this close to the GTX-980? WOW…I know what my next brand will be…not nvidia.

  3. nem says:

    Again AMD WIN

    Whining is Whinign

    Dominic Toreto

    • Markosz says:

      And now imagine if it wasn’t just a re-brand… It could have been GCN 1.2 and this would be just perfect.
      Anyway, since no better options are available I plan to buy this.

  4. grumpytrooper says:

    Oh dear, so this brand new card cant even really beat a card that was released in September of last year. I know that this isn’t the “X” version but the plain 980 is the same as the non X version of AMD whilst the X versions are the equivalent of the Ti versions of Nvidia cards .

    I am now very curious to see what the Fury cards will do against the Titan X and 980 Ti, hopefully the fury will do very well which will force Nvidia to drop their prices a little bit.

    • Rikki Wright says:

      Apologies on the GTA charts being a different colour (min / avg frames), this was an issue with the chart software and has now been rectified for future reviews.

      In reference to your other points:
      When testing, some benchmark software gives FPS in different results; i.e. Hitman gives average FPS to 1 decimal place, while GTA can present up to 3 decimal places. When this information is entered into our chart making software, it keeps all of the information to what is entered, but only presents the whole number on the actual chart. This is why (EDIT 3) two cards seem to have the same FPS, but one bar is longer than the other; or (EDIT 2) two cards have seemingly the same AVG FPS, but one card has a much lower/ higher MIN FPS.

      I have personally modified the graphs to incorporate more decimal places, however it looks cluttered and would prove more difficult to quickly read over.

      • grumpytrooper says:

        Thank you for your reply, it is all much clearer to me now. Decimal places make perfect sense for bar length as we all know that .99 will appear to be longer than .01, why that didn’t occur to me at the time I’ll never know. After reading your reply I also messed about with adding decimal places to one of your graphs and I agree it did look overly cluttered and removed the “quick glance” option – which is what I do before the indepth read.

        I apologise if it came across as just being picky but I really trust your reviews and if I notice discrepancies of any kind it makes me doubt my choice. Personally, I blame the medication, and in future will leave article writing to those that know what they are talking about.

    • Cenarl says:

      You should look at MSRPs and try again.

    • Christopher Lennon says:

      You’re wrong, the 390 is made to compete against the 970, as the 390 costs $330 and the 970 costs $350. The 390x is made to compete with the 980, as the 390x is $425 and the 980 is $500+. As you can see, the 390 is clearly the winner vs the 970 and even challenges the 980, which is very impressive considering the 390 is $170 cheaper than the 980 and $20 cheaper than the 970. The 980Ti is made to compete vs the Fury X, while the Fury (non)X lands between the 980 and the 980Ti.

      • grumpytrooper says:

        the 390 has 8GB of Vram compared to the other cards having 4/3.5 GB of Vram. Also with the boost enabled it doesn’t make the impact it should. AMD annoy the hell out of me sometimes because they always seem to just miss out on top slot, even with their new cards the Fury X, those cards are only pulling around 10 fps over the 390’s whilst Nvidia have a difference of around 20 fps between the 980 and the 980 Ti. Amd are also failing on drivers, How is it that Nvidia can release a new driver everytime a new AAA game comes out but AMD only do driver updates around 4 or 5 times per year.

        Please don’t interpret this as Nvidia fanboyism, I really want AMD to step up their game, I am tired of one company having the monopoly over the GPU scene it is bad for us consumers as it allows that company to get away with ridiculous pricing. The way I see it is that if I am going to buy a new GPU that is a significant investment so I am going to want the best I can afford, and given the selection available today that choice is simply a GTX 908 Ti (I won’t buy dual chipped cards as SLI/Crossfire is nowhere near good enough at the moment in my opinion).

        AMD are capable of so much more, look at the breakthroughs they make, an example would be HBM – they were the first to employ that tech into a gpu, look at Freesync again another blinding piece of tech, Mantle should have been a revolutionary API – what happened ? Gah it’s so frustrating. Amd CPU’s run so cool even with just a stock heatsinc and fan (my 8350 idled at 18°C – it has watercooling now) whilst my other CPU an i5 3570K idles at around 28°C with water cooling, why cant AMD employ whatever process that they use in their CPU’s into their GPU’s making use less power and therefore produce less heat (I know the recent cooling AMD have been using is pretty great and keeps the temps down very well – demonstrating that they are more than capable of solving their own problems).
        I own various products from various companies so I like to think I am a fairly neutral buyer btu unless something amazing happens next year my next GPU upgrade is going to be Nvidia again.

        • Z0nne says:

          Like the other guy said this card is the best at the 300$ bracket, better than the 970 and it’s puny 3.5GB vram for 50$ more. Get your head out of your ass, if you compare it to a 600$
          card of course the 390 will loose.

  5. Can you help me? I’m testing this card, i got 2xfullHD monitors, but, vsr can’t go over 3200×1800, is that normal? i can’t test on 4k this way…

  6. Michael V says:

    What settings is GTA 5 running at?

  7. JohnnyBftw says:

    I own an R9 290 VaporX at 1100/1500 (core/memory) and debating whether I should get another one and Crossfire or sell it and get two of these r9 390s to run a 3440×1440 LG 34UM95 monitor. Opinions? I will be playing WoWS, Star Citizen and War Thunder mostly.

    • tuxinator says:

      Honestly i would wait for the next gen, they will be far better for 4k gaming

    • Z0nne says:

      Wow if you crossfire those beasts it will be hotter than Hades inside your case and require
      like a 1000watts power supply. The 290 is still a great card you can wait to upgrade or sell it
      and get a 390 8GBs

      • JohnnyBftw says:

        Alrdy got a second 290 and its awesome.
        My PSU is 1000W and I do have insane airflow in my PC case to handle the heat.
        I ended up getting a 4K monitor and now I enjoy GTA V, War Thunder, Armored Warfare and any title that is multiGPU optimised. Can’t wait to see Fallout 4!

  8. Indra Emc says:

    For HD 7950 owner, i think R9 390 (or 390X) are my next GPU, i want to go Nvidia but here in Indonesia even GTX 970 cost $100 more than AMD competitor (R9 390)

  9. omnisemantic1 says:

    There seems to be quite the variety in samples of Nitro 390. I set this on 1100 core (90MHz OC) and 1600 mem and forgot about it – has been working like a charm ever since ^^

  10. Z0nne says:

    the 390 is the perfect card to beat the 970. AMD took advantage of the 3.5 vram debacle and slapped 8GBs in. Not only that but it’s a cheaper card and with the massive amount of Vram it would go perfectly with Occulus rift or SLI for 4K

    People keep talking about power consumption for me this is a non issue because modern cards at idle barely draw
    anything. Most even turn off the fans when not gaming.

  11. Andrei says:

    had ordered a MSI 970 and cancelled the order once I saw this card .. got the nitro R9 390 .. as far as games go I have no issues with it .. but man it has a lot of problems with its drivers .. I get a lot of driver crashing, while browsing I get black screen followed by the card keeping its core clock at max speed . I really hope they will fix all these issues soon because I am starting to regret not getting the 970 ..

    • Lucas Towers says:

      I see some reviews that says you only need install the drivers from the CD. 2 Months later, how is your GPU?

      • Andrei says:

        since the last driver update I have no more issues, everything works really well and with every new driver update the 3dmark scores get better

        • Lucas Towers says:

          Are you using crimson? What are you temps idle and gaming? (Sorry for much asking, i’m planning to buy it soon and i read a lot of comments about the driver issue)

          • Andrei says:

            yes I am .. now it is sitting at 38 degrees celcius since I got the card the max I’ve seen is 73 after 4-5 hours of gaming . since the crimson I’ve had no more issues works great .. the card performs really well, I think it is a better choice over a 970 at least at this price point

          • Sachin Lakshminarayana says:

            DUDE EVEN I BROUGHT THIS CARD IT PERFORMS WELL THE PRICE PER PERFORMANCE RATIO IS AWESOME .AND SINCE THEY GIVE 3 FANS U CAN RAISE YOUR FAN SPEED TO 60 5 and then play which maintains the temperature below 70 degrees and one thing u made a good choice buying R9 390 bcz of DX 12. and it also has got 8 gb dude and its a future proof dont worry but 970 aint future proof

  12. sregginkcuf says:

    390 is really destroying the 970 at this price range, especially where i’m from amd products are wayy cheaper compared to intel and nvidia it’s like im stealing amd hardware here, no joke.

  13. Christobalde says:

    Ok, let’s buy two of them 🙂

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