PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Review

ccokeman - 2014-02-15 15:42:58 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 17, 2014
Price: $649

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Introduction:

Over the years, PowerColor has started really delivering some high performance video cards that are not in the mold of the rest of the crowd. Just about every AMD partner has their own custom card with enhanced cooling and special power circuits. PowerColor currently is the only one to push a factory overclocked and liquid cooling equipped card out the door as the LCS cooling solution. Having looked at a few of these in the past I can say the cards' cores are highly binned to get the highest performing parts under the water blocks. Most recently the HD 7970 LCS showed great overclocking results that put many a card to shame.

The LCS cards are great, but the vast majority of users are going to look for an air cooled solution and that's where the PCS+, or Professional Cooling System, comes into its own. Over the past year I have seen PowerColor really expand its high performance air cooling solutions on cards like the Devil 13 and most recently the Devil R9 270X. By creating a quiet cooling solution that effectively discharges the thermal load from the cores, you get a cooler running card that lasts longer. On top of the cooling solution you get all the benefits of an all-digital 5+1+1 phase power circuit and PowerColor's own Gold Power Kit components.

Priced at $649, the R9 290X PCS+ is a factory overclocked beast that is sure to deliver the gaming FPS you need with the visual quality you want. How will it fare when compared to a couple of other R9 290X cards, as well as the best from the green team? Let's find out.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Closer Look:

The external packaging for the R9 290X PCS+ is all-black, with the PCS+ logo highlighted in metallic red across the center of the front panel. The upper right has a Win 8 UEFI ready logo, while along the bottom edge you get a few of the specifications and the GCN feature set. The back side goes into detail on the Gold Power Kit, showing that PowerColor uses a digital PWM and 5+1+1 phase power circuit using DirectFET technology. Additionally you get information on the PCS+ cooling solution with a breakaway view of the cooler. PowerColor states we should see a 24% improvement in cooling performance with a 17% reduction in noise level when compared to the reference design. Seen on a store shelf, the PCS+ logo stands out as a simple yet effective design. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right out of the sleeve the inner package is filled with a foam insert that holds the R9 290X PCS+ and the included accessory bundle. The foam is rigid enough to prevent movement, but not so rigid as to cause damage during transit. The accessory bundle is slim with only the driver and software disc, installation manual, and a 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe power adapter.

 

 

 

On paper the R9 290X PCS+ should deliver best in class cooling and FPS performance with the big factory overclock straight from PowerColor. Before we get to the performance numbers, let's look at what makes the PowerColor PCS+ tick.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Closer Look:

PowerColor's R9 290X PCS+ is built around the AMD 28nm Hawaii core packed into a custom PCB that uses the Gold Power Kit seven phase power circuit and PCS+ (Professional Cooling System) cooling solution. When you look at PowerColor's custom version of the R9 290X, you do not get the raw sexy look that we got with XFX's Double Dissipation cooled card. What you get is that unpolished in-your-face industrial look that just says raw performance. Kind of like that street sleeper that will take all the rich kids' money in those late night unsanctioned... speed tests. Not the prettiest car on the block, but damn is it fast.

To go with the rest of the form follows function goodies, the back of the PCB is covered with a backplate that features a lot of decorative cutouts along with the PowerColor logo. The backplate keeps the PCB stable with the large heat pipe-based cooler slapped on the front side, so you have less of a chance of the PCB cracking or delaminating, effectively rendering it a candidate for the scrap heap. The cooling solution is going to physically occupy up to three slots worth of space, while only actually using just a single 16x PCIe 3.0 slot. By comparison to the aforementioned XFX card, we can take a look at the differences between a two and three slot cooling solution. How that impacts cooling performance will be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Display connectivity on the PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ is standard for the R9 290X, with a pair of Dual Link DVI outputs, a single HDMI output, and a full size DisplayPort that combined can output to a quartet of displays. Using an MST hub will allow the card to output to up to six displays. On the back end of the card, one of the dual fin arrays overhangs the back of the PCB by an inch to fit that third fan into the cooling equation. PowerColor ships the PCS+ card with plugs or caps over all of the connection points, except the PCIe power sockets. You can leave these in if you are not using the ports to reduce dust intrusion onto the ports.

 

 

On the spine of the card there is added connectivity in the form of a 6-pin and an 8-pin PCIe power connections to team with the 16x PCIe slot to deliver up to 300 watts worth of power to this card. With that kind of load from the GPU alone, a power supply with a capacity of at least 750 watts is one of the system requirements for problem-free operation. Where the CrossfireX bridge connections normally reside is just bare PCB with the remnants of the pin outs for the connections labeled on the PCB.

A dual position switch is employed on the top side of the PCB and can support dual BIOS profiles. I found in my testing that when set to one side or the other there was no difference in fan speed or clock speed on the card. The maximum fan speed on both was roughly 65% under load when tested in each position. It more than likely functions to ensure Windows 8 and UEFI BIOS compatibility for improved resume and start up times.

 

 

Pulling the Professional Cooling System off the PCB is as simple as removing four screws and slowly rotating the assembly back and forth. A little heat makes this go faster by softening up the thermal tape and TIM on the core. Under the PCS+ cooling solution you can see that the Gold Power Kit seven phase digital power circuits DirectFET components are covered with large aluminum heat sinks that use airflow from the PCS cooling solution to keep the power circuit temperatures from escalating under load. The TIM application was a bit overdone on this card, but the cooling performance was spectacular just the same.

 

 

Removing the triple fan shroud from the actual heat sink allows us the opportunity to view how it is constructed as well as find out who supplies the fans used to provide the airflow through the heat sink. In this case there are a trio of 80x15mm high speed fans from Power Logic under part number PLA08015D12HH. All three PWM fans are powered from a single header on the PCB.

 

 

Stripped bare, the heat sink is an imposing part of this card. It uses a pure copper base with five copper heat pipes running to a pair of massive (for a video card) aluminum fin arrays. The heat pipe configuration consists of four 6mm heat pipes with a single large 8mm pipe that feeds into the middle of the rear fin array. The contact surface is fairly smooth for a milled part and has consistent thermal paste coverage across the core. Thick blue thermal pads are used to transfer the thermal load of the GDDR5 memory ICs to the PCS+ heat sink. It is truly large and does the job it is designed to do.

 

 

The R9 290X PCS+ is built around the 28nm Hawaii XT core. Specifications for the core include 6.2 billion transistors packed into a 438mm2 sized die, 2816 streaming processors, 176 texture units, 64 ROPs, and 4GB of GDDR5 memory running through a 512-bit bus. Overclocked from the factory, the Boost clock speed on this card comes in at 1050MHz on the core with the memory jacked up to 1350MHz, or 100MHz higher than the reference cards for added memory bandwidth. Hynix memory, part number H5GQ2H24AFR R0C, is used on this card. Rated for use at 6Gbps, this should leave some overclocking headroom on the table for bumping up bandwidth.

 

 

The hardware specs on this card from PowerColor look pretty strong, with a nice factory overclock that should drive performance up and over the reference design and closer to competing with the GTX 780 Ti.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Specifications:

Graphics Engine
RADEON R9 290X
Video Memory
4GB GDDR5
Engine Clock
1050MHz
Memory Clock
1350MHz x4 (5.4 Gbps)
Memory Interface
512bit
DirectX® Support
11.2
Bus Standard
PCIE 3.0
Standard Display Connectors
DL DVI-D/DL DVI-D/HDMI/DP
Feature Support
OpenGL
 
CrossFireX™ Technology
Support
ATI Stream Technology
Support
ATI Eyefinity Technology
Support
ATI Hypermemory Technology
Support
Display Support
VGA Output
 
DVI Output
DL DVI-D/DL DVI-D
DisplayPort
On Board
HDMI
On Board
TV Output
 
HDTV Output
 
HDCP Support
Support
Maximum Resolution
VGA
 
DVI
2560x1600
DisplayPort
4096x2160
HDMI
4096x2160
Power Specs + Board Dimensions
Board Dimensions
266.65mmx111.2mmx38mm
Minimum System Power requirement (W)
750W
Extention Power Connector
One 6-Pin and One 8-Pin PCI Express Power connectors

 

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Features:

 

 

All information courtesy of Powercolor @ http://www.powercolor.com/us/products_features.asp?id=522#Specification

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Testing of the PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustments will be made to the respective control panels during the testing to approximate the performance the end user can expect with a stock driver installation. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 334.69 drivers while AMD-based cards will be using the Catalyst 14.1 beta 6 drivers. The results generated in my testing were reached by utilizing the latest FCAT tools to illustrate the true picture of the gaming experience. To do so will require a second PC setup to capture the data stream generated by the compared video cards.

 

Testing Setup:

FCAT Capture Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

 

Of the three Hawaiian Islands cards I have tested the overclocking on, the core and memory have seemed to fall short of expectations when you are used to having cards eclipsing the 1200MHz+ barrier at will it seems. Not so with this architecture so far. Up to this point, 1100MHz and 1130MHz have been the most I could pull out of an R9 290X without inducing voltage or power limit-based clock speed throttling. Or when you get down to it, just a bunch of black screens as the driver fails. Reaching that threshold where the clock speed is consistently running at the level you set it versus where the speed actually finishes up is a difficult dance at times. By creeping up on it slowly, the R9 290X PCS+ was able to smash the levels I had reached previously at 1165MHz on the core and 1542MHz on the GDDR5 memory.

 

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine Heaven 4.0 for thirty minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were re-run until they passed a full hour of testing.

 

 

  1. Metro: Last Light
  2. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  3. BioShock Infinite
  4. Crysis 3
  5. Far Cry 3
  6. Battlefield 4
  7. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
  8. Batman: Arkham Origins
  9. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  10. 3DMark
  11. Ultra HD

 

  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the follow-up to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game, set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones, you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

Having the highest factory clock speeds of any of the R9 290X cards tested, you can see that the performance curve follows the clock speed; something I am sure will be shown through the majority of the results. The PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ delivers smooth gameplay with really tight frame time variances in this game.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the sixth installment in this franchise. Released in mid August 2013 in the US, it is published and distributed by Ubisoft. This game is built around the Unreal 2.5 game engine and uses Havok Physics. A new feature in this third-person perspective game is a new game mechanic called Killing in Motion.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

Gameplay at 1920x1080 and 5760x1080 is smooth at over 100FPS at 1920x1080 and over 55FPS at 5760x1080. The only card faster in a surround setup is the GTX 780 Ti. All cards show some oscillation of the frame times, with the maximum value reach staying below 26ms. The R9 290X seems to be more prone than the NVIDIA cards to this variance.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

BioShock Infinite, much like the first two installments of the franchise, is a first-person shooter known for its strong story and atmosphere. This third installment of the franchise no longer takes place in the underwater world of Rapture, but in the could city of Columbia. Utilizing many of the gameplay characteristics of the original games, BioShock Infinite has garnered critical acclaim. Taking the player through a maze of outdoor and indoor scenarios, the action is not constrained by territory. Developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games, this iteration uses the Unreal 3 game engine.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

In BioShock Infinite, PowerColor's R9 290X PCS+ performs close to the top of the field and is only beaten at 5760x1080 by the GTX 780 Ti. In the FCAT results we see tight frame time variances that are indicative of smooth game play. There are a few anomalies that manifest with each card.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

This third installment of the Crysis franchise, developed by Crytek and distributed by Electronic Arts, uses the CryEngine 3 game engine and requires a DirectX 11 ready video card and operating system due to its demanding graphics engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

At both 1920x1080 and 5760x1080, PowerColor's R9 290X delivers the highest FPS out of the cards tested. The higher factory clock speeds certainly help here. The frame times again are tight, delivering smooth animation despite falling just below 30FPS at 5760x1080.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Far Cry 3 is the latest iteration in the Far Cry series. Released in the US in early December 2012, it uses the Dunia 2 game engine and is published and developed by Ubisoft. This action-adventure, first-person shooter offers both single player and multi-player modes.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

In Far Cry 3, the R9 290X PCS+ delivers the highest FPS average for R9 290X cards at both 1920x1080 and 5760x1080 by a measurable margin. Frame time variances are reasonable at below 10 and 25ms based on the resolution.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Battlefield 4  is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 4 uses the Frostbite 3 game engine as a step up from the Frostbite 2 engine used in BF3. As the successor to Battlefield franchise, the graphics are improved. Following a set release cycle, Battlefield 4 was released for the PC in North America in October 2013 supporting DirectX 11 and now, after multiple patches, AMD's Mantle API.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

Running BF4 in DX11 mode the R9 290X PCS+ delivers FPS results only eclipsed by NVIDIA's big three at 1920x1080 and only by the GTX 780 Ti at 5760x1080. At 30 FPS running surround resolutions, the game play is not bad, but with the recent driver updates changing the D3D API to AMD's Mantle can improve the FPS delivered by another notch to improve gameplay.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a historical action-adventure open world video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag was released for PC in November of 2013 and uses the AnvilNext game engine. Set in the Caribbean, it follows the adventures of Edward Kenway over land and sea.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

The higher factory clock speeds on the R9 290X PCS+ from PowerColor provides the video horsepower to deliver the visuals in this game. It delivers the highest FPS out of the three R9 290X cards I have looked at. The frame time variances are not bad in this game.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Batman: Arkham Origins is the third installment of the Batman: Arkham series released in October 2013. This action-adventure game, based on DC Comics Batman super hero, was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham Origins continues to use the Unreal 3 game engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

In this iteration of the Batman series, PowerColor's PCS+ R9 290X is the top performing card by delivering the highest average FPS.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal, and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FCAT Results:

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

When you look at the results in this test, the the R9 290X PCS+ from PowerColor is the top performing AMD card. The only card to outperform it is the GTX 780 Ti, putting it in elite company. The FCAT results show how structured the benchmark is and shows little frame rate variance over time.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

3DMark: The just-released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs, to notebooks, and extreme gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a nice factory overclock, the PowerColor PCS+ is stronger than the GTX 780 Ti in the two benchmarks that are predominantly GPU limited, Fire Strike and Firestrike Extreme, at stock speeds. The decent overclock on the PCS+ R9 290X is not enough to outperform the GTX 780 Ti when the clock speeds are set to kill. Once overclocked, PowerColor's PCS+ card does score higher in these two tests than the rest of NVIDIA's product stack.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

As GPUs become more capable of pushing higher pixel densities, the use of panel supporting ever higher resolutions are hitting the market with prices dropping as better technology hits the market. Monitors supporting resolutions up to 4K are available, but can be pricey depending on the screen size you are looking for. If you look at some of the non-name branded parts you can find some tremendous bargains at the 2560x1440 resolution and even find some deals on Ultra HD televisions that can be had as low as $700. I will be running six games through the UHD testing to see just what each card will do with high settings and reduced Anti-Aliasing levels. The test setup is the same as the one used for the balance of the GPU Testing with the exception of the switch to an ASUS PQ321Q 4K capable panel. The settings used for each game can be seen in OCC's 4K testing article.

Setting up the FCAT tools to be able to measure the output signal to the display creates some challenges in measuring the raw data just due to the screen size and is more along the lines of measuring the results when running a 5760x1080 resolution. You can take a look back at our introduction to FCAT or Frame Capture Analysis Tools for a more in depth look at the technology and hardware required to pull these results. While FRAPS is a valid measurement for what it does, it does not give an accurate picture of what is actually hitting the screen. For that reason we choose to stay with FCAT as our method for capturing FPS and illustrating anomalies in performance from one manufacturer to the other. To capture the data stream going to the PQ321Q, the setup is a bit different than capturing the data at lower resolutions. Since we have a two monitor setup basically with the UHD panel, we can hook up the hardware-based capture solution as indicated below to keep the data stream at a manageable level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gaming Tests:

 

Batman: Arkham Origins:

 

 

Battlefield 4:

 

 

Crysis 3:

 

 

Far Cry 3:

 

 

Running at over 30FPS at 3840x2160 in every game save BF4 with a single video shows that the R9 290X is able to deliver playable frame rates at this resolution. Battlefield 4 seems to be the weak point, but using AMD's Mantle API you can increase FPS to reach 30+ FPS.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, with MSI 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 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 twenty minute cool down, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clearly we see just how well the PCS+ cooling solution works on the R9 290X PCS+ from PowerColor. More robust than the cooling solution used on XFX's Double Dissipation R9 290X, PowerColor's solution just cleans house, with temperature results under load that are almost 30 degrees cooler at stock speeds than the reference design. Running the fan at 100% on both the PCS+ and reference card reduces the gap, but does not eliminate it, showing the PCS+ cooling solution still is a top cooling solution.

Where you get the most from the PCS+ cooling solution is when you compare the noise levels generated by the reference card and the PCS+ card. Ultimately there is no comparison. You can choose to have a Hoover next to your head or you can go for a card that generates a little noise. Comparing the PCS+ cooling solution to the Double Dissipation cooling solution on XFX's version of the 290X is a closer comparison. XFX's card is quieter, but to do so gives up some cooling performance. Ultimately I would go with the solution that did both well and that would be the PCS+ cooling solution as tested today.

PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and loaded states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine Heaven Benchmark version 4.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A fifteen minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest power usage recorded as the final result. The idle results will be measured after fifteen minutes of inactivity on the system with the lowest recorded power usage as the final result.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At idle, the PowerColor R9 290X PCS+ is more efficient than the comparison R9 290X cards; one a reference design, one a custom design. Under load at stock speeds, the PowerColor PCS+ uses 13 watts less than the XFX card. Overclocked results are not as rosy due to varying voltage offsets needed to run the number, but in this case the PCS+ uses only two watts more than the reference version from PowerColor.

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:

 

Cons: