Sapphire Vapor-X Tri-X OC R9 280X 3GB

The Sapphire Vapor-X Tri-X OC R9 280X is the most expensive R9 280X graphics card featured in our roundup, with a retail value of $340. Still for that money Sapphire has made plenty of enhancements, which include their Vapor-X technology, Tri-X cooling, black diamond choke, full solid cap design, Dual BIOS and factory overclocking.

Sapphire has matched Gigabyte with an 1100MHz core overclock, while they left the memory at 6000MHz.

Sapphire's Tri-X cooling solution is what gives the company the confidence to push its R9 280X so far. The Tri-X cooler features three 85mm fans, each with nine blades pushing air over a very large heatsink, which extends beyond the length of the PCB. The three fans are controlled by the PCB's single fan header, so there's no independent speed adjustment.

A copper baseplate for the GPU is connected to five heat pipes within the main heatsink; two of these loop back on themselves while the remaining three extend out into the secondary heatsink to the side. With densely packed fins in both heatsinks there's plenty of surface area for heat dissipation. The heatsink also draws heat away from the memory chips and MOSFETs via thermal pads and an aluminum plate that's soldered to the fins at various points.

The Tri-X cooling solution also employs Sapphire's Vapor-X technology. Vapor Chamber Technology is based on the same principles as heatpipe technology. A liquid coolant is vaporized at a hot surface, the resulting vapor is condensed at a cold surface then the liquid is returned to the hot surface. The recirculation process is controlled by a wick system.

Sapphire Vapor-X flattens the whole system into a slim chamber which is mounted in contact with the surface of the GPU.

As impressive as the Vapor-X Tri-X cooler is, there is one drawback. As was the case with the HIS card, the Sapphire Vapor-X Tri-X OC R9 280X is excessively long at 308mm and will have compatibility issues with most mid-sized tower cases. When you consider that the Asus and MSI cards measure 265mm long, it seems like a bad idea for HIS and Sapphire to make their cards over 40mm longer. Although 4cm might not sound like a lot, it is certainly the difference between fitting a graphics card in many mid-sized cases and not being able to.

Like HIS, we find that MSI has also upgraded the Vapor-X Tri-X OC R9 280X from the standard 6-pin/8-pin PCIe power connector configuration to include a pair of 8-pin connectors for better overclocking performance.

Sapphire has also modified the outputs just as Asus did to include two dual-link DVI outputs along with HDMI and DisplayPort outputs.