XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Review

ccokeman - 2014-01-25 12:14:19 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: March 13, 2014
Price: $649

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Introduction:

AMD's latest silicon used on the R9 290X has delivered that uptick in performance needed for the AMD faithful. That launch was not as smooth as it could have been due to AMD trying to make the card a one-size-fits-all product. Quiet for some and balls out and noisy for the rest. The problem was that the thermal load generated by the large core could not be adequately cooled with a reference cooler running "Quiet" fan speeds. Running constantly at 95 °C led to massive throttling in games that dropped the core clock speed, and ergo FPS performance, to levels well below the advertised results. Switching to "Uber" mode helped stabilize clock speeds, but resulted in higher fan speeds. In reality, running up to 50-55% fan speed is not that objectionable, but is noticeable. Running in vacuum cleaner mode (100% fan speed) however, is a noise nightmare that most, even with headphones on, can't stand.

Fixing the noise and thermal problems are first and foremost the way to building in stable clock speeds. XFX has done just that with the introduction of its R9 290X, equipped with Double Dissipation cooling that is designed to improve both characteristics for the end user. To eliminate the noise and thermal concerns, this card from XFX is equipped with its Double Dissipation cooling system that has standout features such as Ghost Thermal, Duratec, and Hydro Cell technologies that enhance the longevity of the card through cooler-running, high-end components.

AMD cards have been a hot commodity for the cryptocurrency miners, driving prices skyward for the rest of us looking for a deal. Currently priced at $649, the XFX R9 290X is a high-end card sitting at the top of the product stack. As such, it commands a premium due to its extensive feature set and build quality. At least I see more supply that stabilizes pricing. Let's dig into how XFX improved on AMD's design.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Closer Look:

XFX does not waste a lot of money on large packaging, having one of the smallest footprint packages on the market for its product stack. Packaging costs money and increases shipping costs, so why not go with a smaller footprint when you can let the messaging and product speak for the company? The graphics on the front side of the package let you know that XFX is the company supplying the card, along with the model type, R9 290X. Further down you get some of the basic specifications, including Double Dissipation cooling, unlocked voltage, and Power Tune 2.0 Technology. On the back side, the XFX graphic theme continues and shows the feature set of the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the packaging is a two-tiered system, where the top holds the accessory bundle, while the bottom holds the video card. The packaging, while small, is robust enough to ensure that the card makes it to the end user in one piece. The accessory bundle includes not only the driver disk and a maual, but a pair of warranty cards, additional sales literature, and a pair of power adapters for use in case your power supply does not have enough native PCIe power connections.

 

 

The reference R9 290X I looked at proved to be a potent gaming card outside a few issues that initially could have been chalked up to immature drivers for the architecture. Addressing the largest problem is paramount to getting more clock speed from the GCN 2.0 Hawaii XT core. Cooling on the reference card in Quiet mode was suspect at best, with the card throttling even at stock speeds. XFX brings its Double Dissipation cooling along for the ride to eliminate this concern, so let's see just how well it does.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Closer Look:

XFX's R9 290X with Double Dissipation cooling is a departure from the reference design, with a custom cooling solution and Duratec build specifications that start with a 2oz copper PCB. Upon this base is the rest of the Duratec feature set, such as low RDS(on) mosfets and ferrite core chokes. Further components include the IP-5X dust-free fans used to keep the cooling system working for the long term. The two-slot cooling solution featuring Ghost thermal technology is actually thinner than a full two-slot cooling solution.

From the front, we see a very good looking card with rounded edges and the XFX name boldly taking up space at the back end of the card. Looking at the back, you can see evidence of the XFX Secure Tray solution. What this feature does is attaches the PCB to the entire length of the cooling solution rather than just the traditional arrangement of four spring-loaded screws holding the cooling solution onto the PCB. On cards with thin PCBs, you often see a card with a case of the "bends" that can cause cracked traces in the PCB over time. XFX mounts the PCB to the cooling solution over the entire length of the card so you don't end up with a flexi-flyer. Looking at the top and bottom views of the card show off the chrome trim around the exhaust ports.

A 16x PCIe slot is required to use this card. Using a PCIe 3.0 capable slot on a motherboard that supports it, delivers the highest possible bandwidth, but the card is backwards compatible so you can use it on your last-gen motherboard. Measuring 11.16 x 5.63 x 1.65 inches, the card will fit in most chassis on the market. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display connectivity is standard for the R9 290X, with a pair of DL-DVI-D ports, a single HDMI port, and a full-size DisplayPort 1.2 port, featuring support for resolutions of up to 4096x2160 via HDMI and the DisplayPort. A vent with the XFX logo is used to help shed some of the thermal load outside the chassis. The back end of the card does not show much except the exhaust for the card.

 

 

Power requirements from XFX state that the minimum power supply to be used with this card should be 750 watts or greater. The preferred power supply rating comes in at 850 watts. An 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connection supply the additional 225 watts worth of power needed over and above the 75 watts used through the 16x PCIe slots. CrossFire bridge connections are not used any longer with the ability to move the data through the PCIe bus. I looked all over, but this card did not have a BIOS switch to choose between Quiet and Uber modes.

 

 

The top half of the XFX R9 290X DD comes off by removing four spring-loaded screws like we find on most video cards. Using just these four screws in an X-pattern creates a situation where, without additional bracing, the PCB will bend under the load imposed by the four screws. XFX combats this with its Secure Tray solution, which secures the entire 2oz copper PCB to a brace that runs the length of the PCB. This brace doubles as the cooling solution for the GDDR5 memory and Duratec power solution. Over the Low-RDS(on) mosfets is an additional heat sink used to specifically cool the power circuit with the airflow generated by the dual fans.

 

 

 

Pulled apart, the Double Dissipation cooling solution is impressive in size and configuration. A total of seven 6mm copper heat pipes carry the thermal load from the copper contact surface to the dual fin arrays. The airflow generated by the dual fans is pushed out around the circumference of the fan shroud. The dual 70mm IP-5X dust-free fans are from FirstD and are mounted directly to the fin array. Dust-free fans have been used by most AIB partners as of late, since they provide some added insurance against fan failure. A problem that in the past has taken out a GPU core, when you realize too late that the fan has come to a sudden stop.

 

 

 

AMD's newest GPU features a Hawaii core built on TSMC's 28nm process. The Hawaii core is an improvement to AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture, equipped with up to 44 compute units, four geometry porcessors, and 1MB of shared L2 read/write cache. By using the 28nm process and packing 6.2 billion transistors into the 1.24x bigger, 438mm2 die, you have one seriously big chip. Inside the die are 2816 streaming processors, 176 texture units, 64 ROPs, and a 512-bit memory controller to increase bandwidth up to 320GB/s using the 4GB of GDDR5. The standard clock speed for the this GCN core is 1GHz, which is right where XFX is running this card. The GDDR5 memory on the XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation is rated to run at 1250MHz, or 5000MHz effective. Elpida memory ICs that are rated to run at up to 1500MHz, or 6000MHz effective, are used and should leave some meat on the bone for the enthusiast.

 

 

So far we have an awesome looking card with a stylish shroud and light-up logo that only adds to the visually impressive card. The key will be just how well does it perform in stock trim, as well as what kind of overclocking potential we can expect from this card using XFX's Duratec technology and Double Dissipation cooling.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Specifications:

General
Product Description : DD RADEON R9 290X 1000M 4GB D5 DP HDMI 2XDVI
UPC Number : 778656065550
Processor & Bus
Bus Type : PCI-E 3.0
Chipset version : Hawaii XT
GPU Bus (bit) : 512
GPU Clock : 1050 MHz
Performance Category : Performance
Stream Processors : 2816
Memory
Memory Bus : 512-bit
Memory Clock : 5.0 GHz
Memory Size : 4 GB
Memory Type : DDR5
Feature Technologies
AMD Eyefinity Technology : Y
AMD HD3D Technology : Y
AMD Hybrid Graphics Technology : Y
AMD PowerPlay Technology : Y
AMD Stream Technology : Y
Other Features
Highlight Features - 1 : Double Dissipation
Highlight Features - 2 : Unlocked Voltage
Highlight Features - 3 : Power Tune 2.0
Environmental
RoHS : Y
Display Output
Display Port ready : 1.2
Dual link Support : Y
HDMI Ready : 1.4a
Max Supported Resolution (ANALOG) : 2048 x 1536
Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL) : 2560 x 1600(DVI); 4096 x 2160(HDMI;DP)
Output - Display Port : 1
Output - DL-DVI-D : 2
Output - HDMI : 1
Physical
Card Profile : Dual
Thermal Solution : DD Fansink
Thermal Type : Dual Slot
Card Dimension (cm) : 29.5 x 14.3 x 4.2
Card Dimension (inch) : 11.16 x 5.63 x 1.65
Master Carton Dimensions (cm) : 51.5 x 33.7 x 37.1
Master Carton Dimensions (inch) : 20.28 x 13.27 x 14.61
Master Carton Weight (Kg) : 15.37 est.
Master Carton Weight (lb) : 33.88 est.
Package Dimensions (cm) : 16 x 33.6 x 9.8
Package Dimensions (inch) : 6.3 x 13.23 x 3.86
Package Weight (Kg) : 1.44 est.
Package Weight (lb) : 3.17 est.
Units/Carton : 10
Includes
6-pin to 4-pin power cable : 1
8-pin to 6-pin power cable : 1
Driver Disk Installation Guide : 1
Game Bundle : BF4 Game Bundle
Installation DVD : 1
Promotional Bundles : PSU Cross Marketing Insert
Quick Installation Guide : 1
Requirements
External Power - 6-pins : 1
External Power - 8-pins : 1
Minimum Power Supply Requirement : 750 watt
XFX Recommended Power Supply : XFX 850W PSU

 

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Features:

 

 

All information Courtesy of XFX @ http://products.xfxforce.com/en-us/Graphics_Cards/AMD_Radeon%E2%84%A2_R9_290X/R9-290X-EDBD

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Testing:

Testing of the XFX R9 290X with Double Dissipation cooling 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, set up to capture the data stream generated by the compared video cards.

 

Testing Setup:

FCAT Capture Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

 

Overclocking with a R9 290X Hawaiian Islands card has proven to be a challenge depending on the usage model for the card. Your typical tricks work on this card, as they have in previous generations. But here we also see a few twists not seen on those earlier cards. Simply adding voltage above +25mv, or an increase to the power limits, induces almost immediate throttling, throwing clock speeds into a tizzy. Once you induce the clock throttling, you really see performance drop off significantly. At stock speeds and voltages, this card stays dead on the 1000MHz core clock speed for well over thirty minutes of thermal testing. However, there is a definite line not to cross in terms of voltage and power applied.

Finally, after a few nights of watching the clock speed indicator bouncing around, I think I finally figured out the puzzle and set the clock speed on the core , memory, and voltage applied to 1100MHz core, 1500MHz memory, and +25mv on the core to push the voltage applied to 1.242v. This card does not have the Quiet/Uber switch the reference card has that seem to help crutch the card to higher clock speeds without throttling. Overall, I was able to pull 100MHz out of the core and 182MHz worth of free horsepower out of this R9 290X from XFX. These are definitely not the highest clock speeds I have ever run through a card, but seem to be par for the course with my two-card average.

 

 

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. Assasin'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

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

The slightly lower core clock speed on the XFX R9 290X DD keeps the performance level about 1FPS slower than the PowerColor R9 290X. The higher the resolution gets, the closer in performance the XFX R9 290X DD gets to the GTX 780 in this game. Frame time variances are not all that large when looking at the results in the charts. Both R9 290X cards track similarly.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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 100+FPS at 1920x1080 and 50+FPS at 5760X1080 shows that the R9 290X DD offers what appears to be smooth animation in both resolutions. Looking at the FCAT results, we see a lot of oscillation in a 7ms range from both R9 290X cards at 1920x1080 and 5760x1080.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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, the XFX R9 290X is only out-performed by the GTX 780 Ti and PowerColor R9 290X at 1920x1080, but is faster than the R9 290X at 5760x1080. The FCAT results show very small frame time variances throughout both resolutions, with a few outliers that seem to be game-driven more so than card-driven, with all the cards showing the same anomaly.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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 1920x1080, you get over 60FPS from the XFX R9 290X DD using pretty high settings in game. At 5760x1080, with the same settings, the FPS drops by half, but is on par with the best NVIDIA has to offer today. Outside of a few outliers, the frame time variances are not bad. The game plays smoothly in the sequence I run the game test.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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, XFX's R9 290X is most evenly matched with the PowerColor reference card in both resolutions. Compared to NVIDIA's offering, the XFX R9 290X is on par or better than the GTX 780 in both tests. Frame time variances stay under 10ms at 1920x180 and under 25ms at 5780x1080. While the game feels choppy when running, it is more so the right arm rhythmically swinging forward that presents the illusion.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

Most of us run BF4 using DX 11. Using that API, performance is pretty damn good at 1920x1080 with over 70FPS using the XFX R9 290X. At 5760x1080, performance is still at plus 30 FPS. Additional FPS can be generated with less aggressive settings or switching to AMD's Mantle API. The frame time curve is reasonably flat, showing smooth gameplay.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

With the settings used, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a great looking game, but it takes some video card horsepower to run the numbers. At 1920x1080, we get an almost identical performance between the XFX and PowerColor R9 290X. At 5760x1080, with this card, the only way to get above 30FPS is to use less aggressive settings.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Testing:

Batman: Arkham Origins is the third installment of the Batman: Arkham series, released in October 2013. This action-adventure game, based on the DC Comics Batman superhero, 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

 

The Batman: Arkham series has always played well with AMD video cards. That trend continues with the XFX R9 290X. The only card delivering more FPS than the XFX R9 290X DD is the higher-clocked card from PowerColor.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

The results in this tessellation-heavy benchmark puts the FPS performance of the XFX R9 290X DD between that of the GTX 780 and GTX Titan.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The XFX R9 290X DD scores lower than I think it should in the Cloud Gate testing, but definitely improves its scoring as the work load increases. Overclocking helps with the scoring, with results just lower than the PowerColor R9 290X.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Testing:

As GPUs become more capable of pushing higher pixel densities, the use of panels supporting ever higher resolutions are hitting the market with prices dropping as better technology also 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 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 essentially have a two-monitor setup 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:

 

 

In each one of these games save Battlefield 4, the XFX R9 290X DD delivers greater than 30FPS at 3840x2160, while Battlefield 4 comes in at just over 26 FPS running in DX 11 mode. Fortunately for the AMD crowd, switching to the Mantle API will easily get you over that 30FPS hump using the latest AMD drivers.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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 cooldown, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The value of an improved cooling solution is evident in the thermal results. Running the stock clock speeds at both idle and under load, XFX's Double Dissipation cooling solution delivers improvement over the reference cooler. At idle, there is a 14.5% improvement and under load I see an almost 18% improvement in thermal performance. That equates to a 6 °C reduction at idle and 16 °C reduction under load when compared to a reference-cooled card, like the comparison R9 290X.

Overclocking shows that when the fan speed is maxed out, the reference cooler is actually the better performer based purely on the thermals. That's a good thing, but when you add the noise generated to the equation, while the XFX R9 290X is 10 °C warmer, it's in another league altogether. By comparison, the Double Dissipation equipped card is quiet. Even when the fans are maxed out, the XFX R9 290X is, by definition, a quiet card.

XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results I saw in the power consumption testing show that, at stock speeds, the XFX R9 290X DD is more efficient than the reference design. Slapping some voltage to the XFX R9 290X caused the load power consumption to spike up and over the reference design, while still being more efficient at idle.

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.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: