XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Reviewccokeman - March 13, 2014
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XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Conclusion:
AMD's Hawaiian Islands GCN 2.0 core is certainly one that is up to the task of playing today's games at high settings. However, the level at which it can play is another story. When I first looked at the R9 290X, the card would consistently throttle the clock speeds two minutes into a game when running in Quiet mode, actually decreasing FPS performance the longer you played. This was done solely to mitigate the noise problems with a blower-style cooling system and 95 °C operating temperatures. The fix was moving to Uber mode and tweaking the fan speed to keep the clock speeds consistent throughout the game. This helps, but drives up the noise from the fan. Running the blower-style fan on a reference card at higher than 60% just creates enough noise to make gaming un-enjoyable. At 100%, you may as well give up hearing anyone in the house; it's really that bad. That being said XFX has a solution to both problems.
Using two 70mm dust-free fans, XFX's proprietary Double Dissipation cooling solution delivers an 18% improvement in cooling performance over the reference cooling solution running at stock speeds. That folks, is with no noise. Bumping the voltage and clock speeds up and then spooling the fan speed up to 100%, lets the reference cooler deliver better temperatures, albeit at the cost of increased noise. Nevertheless, even at 100% fan speed, the XFX Double Dissipation design is much quieter inside the chassis. By much quieter, I mean that I find it's almost inaudible. XFX has delivered a cooling solution that works and actually looks great. The rounded design is so much more visually stimulating than the metal shrouds used on earlier Double Dissipation designs. The lit-up XFX logo just adds to the looks when used in a case where you can see the card.
XFX eliminated the dual BIOS switch on this in-house design, so you do not get a choice of running in Quiet or Uber mode. One setting works both ways due to how quiet the card runs. I found the default clock speeds to be stable through about an hour's worth of looping Unigine's Heaven 4.0 Benchmark with the settings maxed out. This means that with this card, we do not see the clock speed throttling in games like we saw with the reference card in Quiet mode, or Uber mode when the fan speed allowed temperatures to spike. Overclocking headroom and longterm reliability are improved thanks to XFX's Duratec build components, along with a PCB using 2oz copper layers. XFX's Secure Tray feature eliminates PCB delamination due to PCB flex. How many of you have cards with a large factory cooler that, when tightened down, the PCB has a bad case of the bends? XFX has it covered by securing the entire PCB to a brace that keeps the PCB straight.
Overclocking on this sample was about average based on my limited pool of R9 290X video cards, but I was still able to pull 100MHz (1100MHz) out of the core and 182MHz (1432MHz) out of the 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Not stellar, but easily worth some extra FPS capability if you spend the time to go after it. If not, you still get consistent performance running at stock speeds. I found that running any clock speeds over 1100MHz would crash to a black screen. Using more voltage than +25mv, or increasing the power limit setting above the default level, caused the card to start throttling the clock speed during gaming. Even when running a fully stable clock speed, I could induce voltage-related throttling. This limit was found much earlier than the reference design I tested and I am not sure if this is at the card or driver level.
Priced at $649 as of the date this article is published, the XFX R9 290X DD is selling for a premium (much like most AMD-based cards recently, thanks to cryptocurrency mining) over the R9 290X launch price of $549. This puts it price-wise right between the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti price points of $500 to $700. At that point, you have a tougher choice making that call. If you are looking for an R9 290X, the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation equipped card is one that addresses the short comings of the reference design and looks oh so much better doing it. It's cool, it's quiet, and it easily delivers excellent FPS with high settings.
- Great looks
- Cooling performance
- Low noise
- Easy overclocking
- Duratec components
- Double Dissipation cooling
- Low OC overhead
- Throttled early