XFX R9 390X Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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XFX R9 390X Introduction:
With all the news going around about the R9 Nano, we are getting back to the bread and butter of AMD's line up with an R9 390X from XFX. The XFX R9 390X features the company's Double Dissipation cooling system and uses its Ghost Thermal Technology 3.0 to maximize the cooling capabilities for not only the 28nm Hawaii/Grenada XT core, but for the memory and voltage control circuits. What we get with part number R9-390X-8256 is a card straight from the XFX factory built on a custom PCB using XFX's Voltage Control technology and featuring a core clock of 1050MHz on the core and 1500MHz or 6000MHz effective on the installed 8GB of GDDR5 memory.
Priced at $429 currently with a free Mad Max game code as a side bonus, the R9 390X is price competitive with NVIDIA's GTX 980. Just how the performance scales will let us know what kind of value we see at the end of the testing. Let's start with a look at what XFX is offering for your hard earned cash.
XFX R9 390X Closer Look:
XFX comes to the table with an entirely new design for the packaging, with a diamond shaped design in the background. Up front and personal is the XFX branding across the top of the front panel, mentioning that this is an AMD-based product and is an R9 390X video card. At the bottom left, you get a list of both AMD and XFX features. On the back you see the list of what is inside the package along with specifics on the AMD features.
Inside the outer sleeve is a cardboard box, no surprise there, with the XFX logo pressed into the top. Inside that, the accessory package sits on top of the bottom shell holding the XFX R9 390X. This arrangement works to ensure the card arrives safe and secure. A warranty card sits on top of the card while the accessory bundle is inside the slim box on top. In it you get the driver disc, install guide, dual 4-pin Molex to 6-pin PEG and dual 6-pin PEG to 8-pin PEG adapters if your power supply is not equipped with the power supply connections needed to run this card. It's a slim bundle, but most of us will not need an output adapter.
Slipping the card out of the box, we can take a look and see what kind of card we are getting. The front view shows the 90mm IP-5X fans used to force air through the Ghost 3.0 Double Dissipation cooling solution. Looking closely, you can see the same diamond design used on the packaging flowing into the shroud to continue the theme. As robust as the cooling solution is with seven heat pipes, XFX added an aluminum back plate that helps maintain some rigidity in the card to keep it from flexing the PCB, which can lead to broken internal traces and card failure. The side views show that the main fin array covers the majority of the PCB from front to rear on the card. In this view, you can see that as much of the PCB that is covered with the fin array, XFX still has this card set up as a dual slot cooling package. At just over 11.5 inches long, the card will fit in just about any chassis on the market, including some of the enthusiast ready mini ITX platforms.
Display connectivity consists of a pair of dual link DVI-D ports, a single HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort 1.2 port. With this configuration, you get Eyefinity using up to six panels and 4K support up to 60Hz when using the DispalyPort 1.2 port. The I/O bracket is well suited for venting the thermals from the 28nm core. The XFX logo is prominently featured here. The back end of the card is open to allow airflow out from under the Double Dissipation shroud. The shroud does extend slightly over the back end of the card, helping dump the airflow.
Power needs are supplied to the XFX R9 390X by way of a single PCIe 8-pin and a single 6-pin connection, delivering up to 300 watts to the card when you count the 75 watts coming through the PCIe slot. XFX lists the minimum power supply needed for this card as 750 watts, while XFX recommends an 850 watt power supply as the preferred size power supply. Knowing what the core and R9 290X was capable of pulling from the power supply, this should be right on the money. Thanks to the ability to transfer the data through the PCIe bus, a CrossFire bridge connection is no longer needed when running a CrossFire configuration.
Stripping the Ghost 3.0 Double Dissipation cooling solution off the PCB, you get an idea as to how XFX has implemented the solution. Right away you can tell the difference if you have looked at our XFX R9 290X review. XFX removed a portion of the main fin array to make room for the large VRM heat sinks that keep the custom circuitry cool. At first it looks like the loss of the main aluminum fin array would present some cooling challenges, but this configuration of the Ghost 3.0 design works better than the design used on the R9 290X DD card. Covering the memory ICs is a plate-style heat sink that uses the airflow through the heat sink to keep the memory from overheating and reducing the effective overclocking potential. This plate connects to the backing plate to form a rigid base that reduces PCB flex and the associated damage that can happen.
Last year's cooling solution design used a pair of 70mm IP-5X dust free fans to provide the airflow needs of the card. For the R9 390X, XFX moved up to 90mm IP-5X fans to improve airflow at a given speed and reduce the noise level of the card even further, since the 90mm fans will push more airflow at a given RPM. The shroud comes off easily with a few screws so that the fans are accessable. XFX uses a total of seven copper heat pipes running through a copper base and into the dual fin arrays. Two run forward and five run to the back of the card in a way that maximizes airflow contact over the heat pipes.
AMD's Hawaii/Grenada XT core is built on TSMC's 28nm process. This Grenada XT core is an improvement to AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture and is equipped with up to 44 compute units, four geometry processors, 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 handling the onboard 8GB of GDDR5. The standard clock speed for the previous versions of this architecture was 1GHz. However, when moving to the Grenada XT/Hawaii core, the clock speed is boosted to 1050MHz; still leaving some meat on the bone for the enthusiast. A total of 8GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory is used on the R9 390X and is rated to run at 1500MHz, or an effective 6000MHz data rate. SK Hynix is the GDDR5 memory supplier, with ICs marked H5GQ2H24AJR T2C rated to run at 2.5GHz using 1.30v.
Putting all the tech together and using this enhanced Hawaii/Grenada XT core and higher rated GDDR5 memory should allow the R9 390X to easily out shine the R9 290X it replaces.