PowerColor R9 290X OC Reviewccokeman -
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PowerColor R9 290X OC Testing:
Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cooldown, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.
- Monitoring with MSI Afterburner
- Unigine Heaven 4.0 1920x1080 8x AA
- 5-run sequence
- 20-minute idle duration
- Temperature measured in degrees Celsius
Working with reference cards you expect that the cooling solution is not going to be the absolute best, but a compromise between raw cooling performance over the long haul and what we all know and understand to be the noise associated with that same reference cooler. AMD has delivered a card that has a moderately sized design that is built to keep the card running at close to the design temperature of 95 °C to keep the noise level down, yet still maintain a level of performance without waking the neighbors and, more importantly, that significant other. With that in mind, this card from PowerColor uses the reference design and it stays right close to the thermal threshold at 93 °C. At idle we again see the warmest temperatures in the comparison field. In the overclocked testing we see that spinning the fan up to 100% has a minimal effect in the idle thermal characteristics, however under load we see a drastic improvement when moving more airflow through the card. Better cooling is always better in my book.
The R9 290X OC, as do all reference cards, features a pair of BIOS that use different fan and Zero Core power parameters. The Quiet BIOS (front position) is used to keep the card as quiet as possible while the rear position (Uber mode) raises the fan speed to provide the best mix of cooling and noise.
Now the downside to maxing out the fan speed is that the noise levels associated with the cooling gain is not worth the trade off. Reducing the fan speed helps with the noise but you need to get down to the 50% level to make it livable. Now you say, "who cares about the noise?", since you wear a headset while gaming so you don't hear the card! You will need to crank it up if you really ratchet up the fan speed. It's going to be a preference, but a vacuum in my case is not going to cut it any longer. Fortunately this is not a board partner problem on the reference designs. It should prove interesting once we get to non-stock boards.