Sapphire Radeon R9 290 Vapor-X 4 GB Review 28

Sapphire Radeon R9 290 Vapor-X 4 GB Review

Performance Summary »

Fan Noise

In past years, gamers would accept everything for a little bit more performance. Nowadays, users are more aware of their graphics card's fan noise and power consumption.

In order to properly test the fan noise a card emits, we use a Bruel & Kjaer 2236 sound-level meter (~$4,000). It has the measurement range and the accuracy we are looking for.

Fan Noise Measurement Setup

The tested graphics card is installed in a system that does not emit any noise on its own, using a passive PSU, passive CPU cooler, passive cooling on the motherboard, and a solid state drive. Noise results of other cards on this page are measurements of the respective reference design.

This setup allows us to eliminate secondary noise sources and test only the video card. To be more compliant with standards like DIN 45635 (we are not claiming to be fully DIN 45635 certified), the measurement is conducted at a distance of 100 cm and 160 cm off the floor. Ambient background noise inside the room was well below 20 dBA for all measurements. Please note that the dBA scale is not linear but logarithmic. 40 dBA is not twice as loud as 20 dBA, as a 3 dBA increase results in double the sound pressure. The human hearing perception is a bit different, and it is generally accepted that a 10 dBA increase doubles the perceived sound level. 3D load noise levels are tested with a stressful game, not with Furmark.
Sapphire's R9 290 Vapor-X features a little switch that lets you pick between three- or single-fan mode in idle. As our noise testing shows, the difference is rather small as both settings are pretty quiet, with single-fan mode offering truly low noise results that will make the card nearly inaudible during production work.

Once you start gaming, the fans ramp up as all three will be active, no matter which fan mode is engaged. With noise levels of 37 dBA during gaming, the card is much quieter than the R9 290 reference design, roughly matching noise levels of competing NVIDIA cards. It's good to see that Sapphire managed to quieten down their card, but there are still much quieter options out there if you want a solid combination of low noise and high performance.

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