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PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Review

ccokeman    -   March 17, 2014
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PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Conclusion:

When you pull this card out of the box, it has a heft to it that most cards do not. Soon enough, though, you see the reason for that by looking at the Professional Cooling System that employs a massive triple fan design over a five heat pipe, dual fin array that easily handles the thermal load generated by this factory overclocked video card. In my testing the PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ delivered the lowest load temperatures out of the three R9 290X cards I have tested. As large as the cooling solution is that was my expectation going into the review anyhow, so I am glad that assumption panned out. Panned out is putting it mildly to be honest. PowerColor's PCS+ cooling solution delivered an almost 30% improvement in cooling performance running in either silent or Uber mode when compared to a reference card. That alone is reason enough to get this card when you get down to it.

The PCS+ cooling solution is large enough to present some installation challenges if you are using a smaller chassis or use add-in cards in the slots below the primary PCIe graphics slot on your motherboard. The cooler is a three slot design and measures 10.5 inches in length. Using a triple fan solution you would think the noise from the fans would be a put off, but packed up in a chassis the fans are not really bad even at 100% fan speed. If you are using headphones then you won't know what kind of noise level you have anyhow. Set to scale automatically, the fans are barely audible outside the chassis. Low noise, check! Awesome cooling, check!

PowerColor uses a dual BIOS switch on the PCS+ that allows the use of either the quiet or performance (Uber) profile, but I found that during testing the clock speed and fan speed scaling were identical. More than likely this switch is used to ensure UEFI compatibility for Windows 8-equipped PCs.

Excellent cooling is usually going to lead to enhanced overclocking. In the case of the PowerColor R9 290X PCS+, I was able to overclock the card higher than any R9 290X I have tested to date for a truly high performing and cool running card using an AMD GPU core. It is something you do not always get from the AIBs.

R9 290X cards have been known to throttle excessively once you heat them up or pass certain voltage/current thresholds that really seem to vary from card to card. On this card from PowerColor any voltage application above +25mv or moving the power limit up from 0% would throttle the clock speeds above 1150MHz on the core. Below those thresholds everything is cool, with no throttling leading to solid performance gains from overclocking. At stock speeds there is no throttling, even after an hour of looping Unigine's Heaven 4.0 benchmark. Surely a sign the PCS+ cooling and Gold Power Kit voltage circuit is up to the task.

Currently priced at $649, PowerColor's PCS+ cooled R9 290X carries a $50 price premium over the reference cooled card. Money well spent when you get cooling improvements of 30%, increased overclocking margin, tighter voltage regulation thanks to PowerColor's Gold Power Kit, and a much better looking card. If we can get past the artificially high price points driven by the popularity of these cards with the cryptocoin miners, gamers should have a chance at joining the ownership club at a reasonable price.

 

Pros:

  • Massive cooling solution
  • Backplate
  • Overclocking margin
  • Factory overclocked
  • Load temperatures
  • Dual BIOS

 

Cons:

  • Current pricing
  • Backplate overhang

  
 

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