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Sapphire helps AMD strike back at Nvidia with blazing new graphics card

Nvidia won the first battle of the 2014 flagship video card war, but AMD is looking to retaliate where it counts — during the holiday season.

Team Red has graphics and mainboard products manufacturer Sapphire in its corner, and its latest AMD-based graphics card is a whopper. As the name suggests, the R9 290X Vapor-X OC is based off AMD’s newest chip, the Radeon R9 290X. But a series of improvements, upgrades, and optimizations make it a heavyweight contender for Nvidia’s current crown jewel, the GTX 980.

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On paper, that is. Because until taking the Vapor-X for a spin ourselves, we won’t jump to conclusions. What we know for sure is the standard R9 290X is no match for the GTX 980. Meanwhile, this overclocked, improved Sapphire product could well give similar Nvidia-powered GPUs a run for their money.

An “industry-leading” 8GB frame buffer is what AMD and Sapphire rely on the most for radical performance boosts. Unlike all other R9 290X graphics cards around, this one boasts 8GB GDDR5 memory running at 1,375 MHz, plus 1,030 MHz core clock speed. It’s worth noting Nvidia and its partners are yet to come out with an 8GB-supporting GTX 980, the franchise so far clocking out at just 4 gigs. The RAM expansion by itself doesn’t a decent powerhouse make, which is why Sapphire takes extra care of cooling —  in an equally whopping way.

Vapor-X technology sees a vapor chamber placed between the GPU and the heatsink and cooler’s base, thus facilitating the dispatch of heat towards the cooler, not the actual GPU. Sounds simple, yet extremely efficient, and the Tri-X structure uses five heatpipes and three fans to keep everything nice and cool.

It’s quiet, too, particularly when not running power-demanding applications. Too often, powerful graphics chips have powerful fans that make a powerful raquet — permanently. Say you’re minding your business and checking out an HD movie. Sapphire’s Intelligent Fan Control enters the equation, and shuts down two of the three system fans.

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Universally compatible with UEFI and legacy systems, the R9 290X Vapor-X card is also equipped with HDMI, a pair of Dual-Link DVI-D and a DisplayPort 1.2 connector. It can be hooked up to 4K displays and support high-end graphics without a glitch, and can juggle between three Eyefinity monitors with stereo 3D and the works.

Clearly, it’s Nvidia’s move now, although Sapphire is all sorts of secretive about pricing. The company also says the R9 290X 8GB Vapor-X “is shipping now,” but we can’t seem to find it at the company’s e-tail and retail partners. We’ll be sure to update this article as soon as we know more. Stay tuned.