Podcast #351 - More AMD Fiji Leaks, Rumors on GTX 980 Ti and a great $99 portable DAC!

Subject: Editorial | May 28, 2015 - 01:22 PM |
Tagged: X99, video, sapphire, r9 285, podcast, nvidia, GTX 980 Ti, gigabyte, Fiji, DAC, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #351 - 05/28/2015

Join us this week as we discuss AMD Fiji Leaks, rumors on GTX 980 Ti, a great $99 portable DAC, and more!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano and Sebastian Peak

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Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Big Things, Small Packages

Sapphire isn’t a brand we have covered in a while, so it is nice to see a new and interesting product drop on our door.  Sapphire was a relative unknown until around the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro days.  This was around the time when ATI decided that they did not want to be so vertically integrated, so allowed other companies to start buying their chips and making their own cards.  This was done to provide a bit of stability for ATI pricing, as they didn’t have to worry about a volatile component market that could cause their margins to plummet.  By selling just the chips to partners, ATI could more adequately control margins on their own product while allowing their partners to make their own deals and component choices for the finished card.

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ATI had very limited graphics card production of their own, so they often would farm out production to second sources.  One of these sources ended up turning into Sapphire.  When ATI finally allowed other partners to produce and brand their own ATI based products, Sapphire already had a leg up on the competition by being a large producer already of ATI products.  They soon controlled a good portion of the marketplace by their contacts, pricing, and close relationship with ATI.

Since this time ATI has been bought up by AMD and they no longer produce any ATI branded cards.  Going vertical when it come to producing their own chips and video cards was obviously a bad idea, we can look back at 3dfx and their attempt at vertical integration and how that ended for the company.  AMD obviously produces an initial reference version of their cards and coolers, but allows their partners to sell the “sticker” version and then develop their own designs.  This has worked very well for both NVIDIA and AMD, and it has allowed their partners to further differentiate their product from the competition.

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Sapphire usually does a bang up job on packaging the graphics card. Oh look, a mousepad!

Sapphire is not as big of a player as they used to be, but they are still one of the primary partners of AMD.  It would not surprise me in the least if they still produced the reference designs for AMD and then distributed those products to other partners.  Sapphire is known for building a very good quality card and their cooling solutions have been well received as well.  The company does have some stiff competition from the likes of Asus, MSI, and others for this particular market.  Unlike those two particular companies, Sapphire obviously does not make any NVIDIA based boards.  This has been a blessing and a curse, depending on what the cycle is looking like between AMD and NVIDIA and who has dominance in any particular marketplace.

Click here to read the entire Sapphire R9 285 ITX OC Review!

To boldy go where no 290X has gone before?

Subject: Graphics Cards | August 13, 2014 - 06:11 PM |
Tagged: factory overclocked, sapphire, R9 290X, Vapor-X R9 290X TRI-X OC

As far as factory overclocks go, the 1080MHz core and 5.64GHz RAM on the new Sapphire Vapor-X 290X is impressive and takes the prize for the highest factory overclock on this card [H]ard|OCP has seen yet.  That didn't stop them from pushing it to 1180MHz and 5.9GHz after a little work which is even more impressive.  At both the factory and manual overclocks the card handily beat the reference model and the manually overclocked benchmarks could meet or beat the overclocked MSI GTX 780 Ti GAMING 3G OC card.  The speed is not the only good feature, Intelligent Fan Control keeps two of the three fans from spinning when the GPU is under 60C which vastly reduces the noise produced by this card.  It is currently selling for $646, lower than the $710 that the GeForce is currently selling for as well.

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"We take a look at the SAPPHIRE Vapor-X R9 290X TRI-X OC video card which has the highest factory overclock we've ever encountered on any AMD R9 290X video card. This video card is feature rich and very fast. We'll overclock it to the highest GPU clocks we've seen yet on R9 290X and compare it to the competition."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Sapphire Launches Factory Overclocked R9 295X2 OC Graphics Card

Subject: General Tech | May 1, 2014 - 10:57 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, factory overclocked, r9 295x2, 4k, gaming, hawaii, dual gpu

Early last month, AMD launched a new flagship dual GPU graphics card called the Radeon R9 295X2. This new card features two Hawaii-based GPUs paired with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. Since the launch, several partners have come forward with reference cards of their own. One piece of the "world's fastest graphics card" puzzle that has been missing, until now, is a vendor daring enough to take the beastly R9 295X2 and push it even further by offering up a factory overclocked edition. It looks like Sapphire is the first to attempt such a feat by offering up the factory overclocked Sapphire R9 295X2 OC.

The upcoming Sapphire card will join the existing reference design R9 295X2 and ratchets up both the GPU and memory clockspeeds. Sapphire is clocking both Hawaii GPUs at up to 1030 MHz and running the 8GB of GDDR5 memory at 5.2 GHz. These factory overclocks are modest from a numerical standpoint, but considering cards running at stock clocks of 1018 MHz for the GPU and 5.0 GHz for the memory are already pushing a 500W TDP and over the ATX PSU spec, seeing any overclock is notable.

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In all, we are looking at 5,632 stream processors (Hawaii architecture), 128 ROPs, and 352 TMUs. Each GPU uses a 512-bit bus to 4GB of graphics memory. This factory overclocked graphics horsepower rounds out to a smidgen more than 11.5 TFLOPS of single precision performance.

Sapphire is utilizing the same hybrid heatsink design as the reference cards which uses a centered fan and fin stack along with a AIO water cooler with a 120mm radiator.

Sapphire has not released pricing or availability on the overclocked model, but the stock-clocked R9 295X2 has an MSRP of $1,499. You can expect the R9 295X2 OC to come in at a premium, especially considering it is the first factory overclocked version that should hit the streets.

I'm excited to see this card come to market and push the boundaries of performance.

In the meantime, Ryan got a bit crazy with two stock R9 295X2 cards in quad crossfire and two power supplies. If you've got a few grand burning a hole in your pocket (or only wish you did), see what such a drool-worthy setup can get you in terms 4K gaming at PC Perspective!

Source: Sapphire

Sapphire Launches Low Profile R7 240 GPU For HTPCs

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 03:14 AM |
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os

Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.

The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.

Sapphire Radeon R7 240 Low Profile Graphics Card for SFF Desktops and HTPCs.jpg

This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.

The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.

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Manufacturer: Sapphire

Sapphire Triple Fan Hawaii

It was mid-December when the very first custom cooled AMD Radeon R9 290X card hit our offices in the form of the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II.  It was cooler, quieter, and faster than the reference model; this is a combination that is hard to pass up (if you could buy it yet).  More and more of these custom models, both in the R9 290 and R9 290X flavor, are filtering their way into PC Perspective. Next on the chopping block is the Sapphire Tri-X model of the R9 290X.  

Sapphire's triple fan cooler already made quite an impression on me when we tested a version of it on the R9 280X retail round up from October.  It kept the GPU cool but it was also the loudest of the retail cards tested at the time.  For the R9 290X model, Sapphire has made some tweaks to the fan speeds and the design of the cooler which makes it a better overall solution as you will soon see.

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The key tenets for any AMD R9 290/290X custom cooled card is to beat AMD's reference cooler in performance, noise, and variable clock rates.  Does Sapphire meet these goals?

The Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB

While the ASUS DirectCU II card was taller and more menacing than the reference design, the Sapphire Tri-X cooler is longer and appears to be more sleek than the competition thus far.  The bright yellow and black color scheme is both attractive and unique though it does lack the LED light that the 280X showcased.  

Sapphire has overclocked this model slightly, to 1040 MHz on the GPU clock, which puts it in good company.

  AMD Radeon R9 290X ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X
GPU Cores 2816 2816 2816
Rated Clock 1000 MHz 1050 MHz 1040 MHz
Texture Units 176 176 176
ROP Units 64 64 64
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5400 MHz 5200 MHz
Memory Interface 512-bit 512-bit 512-bit
TDP ~300 watts ~300 watts ~300 watts
Peak Compute 5.6 TFLOPS 5.6+ TFLOPS 5.6T TFLOPS
MSRP Price $549 $569 $599

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There are three fans on the Tri-X design, as the name would imply, but each are the same size unlike the smaller central fan design of the R9 280X.

Read our review of the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB Graphics Card!!

Controversy continues to erupt over AMD's new GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 27, 2013 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Ryan is not the only one who felt it necessary to investigate the reports of differing performance between retail R9 290X cards and the ones sent out for review.  Legit Reviews also ordered a retail card made by Sapphire and tested it against the card sent to them by AMD.  As with our results, ambient temperature had more effect on the frequency of the retail card than it did on the press sample with a 14% difference being common.  Legit had another idea after they noticed that while the BIOS version was the same on both cards the part numbers differed.  Find out what happened when they flashed the retail card to exactly match the press sample.

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"The AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 have been getting a ton of attention lately due to a number of reports that the retail cards are performing differently than the press cards that the media sites received. We have been following these stories for the past few weeks and finally decided to look into the situation ourselves."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Another retail card reveals the results

Since the release of the new AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 graphics cards, we have been very curious about the latest implementation of AMD's PowerTune technology and its scaling of clock frequency as a result of the thermal levels of each graphics card.  In the first article covering this topic, I addressed the questions from AMD's point of view - is this really a "configurable" GPU as AMD claims or are there issues that need to be addressed by the company? 

The biggest problems I found were in the highly variable clock speeds from game to game and from a "cold" GPU to a "hot" GPU.  This affects the way many people in the industry test and benchmark graphics cards as running a game for just a couple of minutes could result in average and reported frame rates that are much higher than what you see 10-20 minutes into gameplay.  This was rarely something that had to be dealt with before (especially on AMD graphics cards) so to many it caught them off-guard.

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Because of the new PowerTune technology, as I have discussed several times before, clock speeds are starting off quite high on the R9 290X (at or near the 1000 MHz quoted speed) and then slowly drifting down over time.

Another wrinkle occurred when Tom's Hardware reported that retail graphics cards they had seen were showing markedly lower performance than the reference samples sent to reviewers.  As a result, AMD quickly released a new driver that attempted to address the problem by normalizing to fan speeds (RPM) rather than fan voltage (percentage).  The result was consistent fan speeds on different cards and thus much closer performance.

However, with all that being said, I was still testing retail AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 cards that were PURCHASED rather than sampled, to keep tabs on the situation. 

Continue reading our article on retail variance in R9 290X clock speeds and performance!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP

Earlier this month AMD took the wraps off of a revamped and restyled family of GPUs under the Radeon R9 and R7 brands.  When I reviewed the R9 280X, essentially a lower cost version of the Radoen HD 7970 GHz Edition, I came away impressed with the package AMD was able to put together.  Though there was no new hardware to really discuss with the R9 280X, the price drop placed the cards in a very aggressive position adjacent the NVIDIA GeForce line-up (including the GeForce GTX 770 and the GTX 760). 

As a result, I fully expect the R9 280X to be a great selling GPU for those gamers with a mid-range budget of $300. 

But another of the benefits of using an existing GPU architecture is the ability for board partners to very quickly release custom built versions of the R9 280X. Companies like ASUS, MSI, and Sapphire are able to have overclocked and custom-cooled alternatives to the 3GB $300 card, almost immediately, by simply adapting the HD 7970 PCB.

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Today we are going to be reviewing a set of three different R9 280X cards: the ASUS DirectCU II, MSI Twin Frozr Gaming, and the Sapphire TOXIC. 

Continue reading our roundup of the R9 280X cards from ASUS, MSI and Sapphire!!

The custom R9's have arrived

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 10, 2013 - 03:29 PM |
Tagged: radeon, r9 270x, GCN, sapphire, toxic edition, factory overclocked

We saw the release of the reference R9s yesterday and today we get to see the custom models such as the Sapphire TOXIC R9 270X which Legit Reviews just finished benchmarking.  The TOXIC sports a 100MHz overclock on both GPU and RAM as well as a custom cooler with three fans.  While it remains a two slot GPU it is longer than the reference model and requires a full foot of clearance inside the case.  Read on to see what kind of performance boost you can expect and how much further you can push this card.

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"When it comes to discrete graphics, the $199 price point is known as the gamer’s sweet spot by both AMD and NVIDIA. This is arguably the front line in the battle for your money when it coming to gaming graphics cards. The AMD Radeon R9 270X is AMD’s offering to gamers at this competitive price point. Read on to see how it performs!"

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards