When the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X first launched last year, they were plagued by issues of overheating and variable clock speeds. We looked at the situation several times over the course of a couple months and AMD tried to address the problem with newer drivers. These drivers did help stabilize clock speeds (and thus performance) of the reference built R9 290 and R9 290X cards but caused noise levels to increase as well.
The real solution was the release of custom cooled versions of the R9 290 and R9 290X from AMD partners like ASUS, MSI and others. The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II model for example, ran cooler, quieter and more consistently than any of the numerous reference models we had our hands on.
But what about all those buyers that are still purchasing, or have already purchased, reference style R9 290 and 290X cards? Replacing the cooler on the card is the best choice and thanks to our friends at NZXT we have a unique solution that combines standard self contained water coolers meant for CPUs with a custom built GPU bracket.
Our quick test will utilize one of the reference R9 290 cards AMD sent along at launch and two specific NZXT products. The Kraken X40 is a standard CPU self contained water cooler that sells for $100 on Amazon.com. For our purposes though we are going to team it up with the Kraken G10, a $30 GPU-specific bracket that allows you to use the X40 (and other water coolers) on the Radeon R9 290.
Inside the box of the G10 you'll find an 80mm fan, a back plate, the bracket to attach the cooler to the GPU and all necessary installation hardware. The G10 will support a wide range of GPUs, though they are targeted towards the reference designs of each:
NVIDIA : GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770, 760, Titan, 680, 670, 660Ti, 660, 580, 570, 560Ti, 560, 560SE
AMD : R9 290X, 290, 280X*, 280*, 270X, 270 HD7970*, 7950*, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 6770, 5870, 5850, 5830
That is pretty impressive but NZXT will caution you that custom designed boards may interfere.
The installation process begins by removing the original cooler which in this case just means a lot of small screws. Be careful when removing the screws on the actual heatsink retention bracket and alternate between screws to take it off evenly.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 03:38 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x
Yes, I know it is only one card. And yes I know that this could sell out in the next 10 minutes and be nothing, but I was so interested, excited and curious about this that I wanted to put together a news post. I just found a Radeon R9 290X card selling for $549 on Newegg.com. That is the normal, regular, non-inflated, expected retail price.
You can get a Powercolor AXR9 290X with 4GB of memory for $549 right now, likely only if you hurry. That same GPU on Amazon.com will cost you $676. This same card at Newegg.com has been as high as $699:
Again - this is only one card on one site, but the implications are positive. This is also a reference design card, rather than one of the superior offerings with a custom cooler. After that single card, the next lowest price is $629, followed by a couple at $649 and then more at $699. We are still waiting to hear from AMD on the issue, what its response is and if it can actually even do anything to fix it. It seems plausible, but maybe not likely, that the draw of coin mining is reached a peak (and who can blame them) and the pricing of AMD GPUs could stabilize. Maybe. It's classified.
But for now, if you want an R9 290X, Newegg.com has at least one option that makes sense.
Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, catalyst, amd
Confirming the results that Ryan and other sites have seen are the results of [H]ard|OCP's testing of two different retail R9 290X GPUs against a pair of press sample cards. Much as with Ryan's findings even using the newer Catalyst 13.11 Beta 5 driver, Quiet mode performance varies far more than Uber mode does but even Uber mode displays some differences between models. However they draw a slightly different conclusion based on their experiences, determining that the variance is not just a matter of press samples versus retail cards but a variance between any and all 290X GPUs. The complexity of this huge chip is such that the differences in manufacturing process and tolerances are to blame and some cards will simply be better than others. They also are disappointed by AMD's marketing team, citing that the key is 'With NVIDIA GTX 600 and 700 series the video cards are "running faster than advertised" and with AMD R9 290X the video card is running "slower than advertised."'
"The AMD Radeon R9 290X arrived recently with a high level of performance, and a high level of controversy. There have been reports of performance variance between Radeon R9 290X video cards. We have two purchased retail cards today with stock cooling that we will test and see if performance variances exist."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC @ Kitguru
- ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II and Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X Video Card Reviews @ Legit Reviews
- HIS R7 240 iCooler Boost Clock 2GB GDDR3 Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- NZXT Kraken G10 GPU Bracket Review @ Techgage
- EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified Motherboard Review @ Hardware Asylum
- MSI GTX 780 Ti Gaming 3 GB @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte R9 290X OC WindForce @ Kitguru
- Palit GTX 780 Ti JetStream @ Legion Hardware
Sapphire Triple Fan Hawaii
It was mid-December when the very first custom cooled AMD Radeon R9 290X card hit our offices in the form of the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II. It was cooler, quieter, and faster than the reference model; this is a combination that is hard to pass up (if you could buy it yet). More and more of these custom models, both in the R9 290 and R9 290X flavor, are filtering their way into PC Perspective. Next on the chopping block is the Sapphire Tri-X model of the R9 290X.
Sapphire's triple fan cooler already made quite an impression on me when we tested a version of it on the R9 280X retail round up from October. It kept the GPU cool but it was also the loudest of the retail cards tested at the time. For the R9 290X model, Sapphire has made some tweaks to the fan speeds and the design of the cooler which makes it a better overall solution as you will soon see.
The key tenets for any AMD R9 290/290X custom cooled card is to beat AMD's reference cooler in performance, noise, and variable clock rates. Does Sapphire meet these goals?
The Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB
While the ASUS DirectCU II card was taller and more menacing than the reference design, the Sapphire Tri-X cooler is longer and appears to be more sleek than the competition thus far. The bright yellow and black color scheme is both attractive and unique though it does lack the LED light that the 280X showcased.
Sapphire has overclocked this model slightly, to 1040 MHz on the GPU clock, which puts it in good company.
|AMD Radeon R9 290X||ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II||Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X|
|Rated Clock||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||1040 MHz|
|Memory Clock||5000 MHz||5400 MHz||5200 MHz|
|TDP||~300 watts||~300 watts||~300 watts|
|Peak Compute||5.6 TFLOPS||5.6+ TFLOPS||5.6T TFLOPS|
There are three fans on the Tri-X design, as the name would imply, but each are the same size unlike the smaller central fan design of the R9 280X.
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 30, 2013 - 02:32 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, Mantle, hawaii, BF4, battlefield 4
If you have been following the mess than has been Battlefield 4 since its release, what with the crashing on both PCs and consoles, you know that EA and DICE have decided that fixing the broken game is the number 1 priority. Gee, thanks.
While they work on that though, there is another casualty of development other than the pending DLC packs: AMD's Mantle version of the game. If you remember way back in September of 2013, along with the announcement of AMD's Hawaii GPUs, AMD and DICE promised a version of the BF4 game running on Mantle as a free update in December. If you are counting, that is just 1 more day away from being late.
Today we got this official statement from AMD:
After much consideration, the decision was made to delay the Mantle patch for Battlefield 4. AMD continues to support DICE on the public introduction of Mantle, and we are tremendously excited about the coming release for Battlefield 4! We are now targeting a January release and will have more information to share in the New Year.
Well, it's not a surprise but it sure is a bummer. One of the killer new features for AMD's GPUs was supposed to be the ability to use this new low-level API to enhance performance for PC games. As Josh stated in our initial article on the subject, "It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software. This lowers memory and CPU usage, it decreases latency, and because there are fewer “moving parts” AMD claims that they can do 9x the draw calls with Mantle as compared to DirectX. This is a significant boost in overall efficiency."
It seems that buyers of the AMD R9 series of graphics need to wait at least another month to really see what the promise of Mantle is really all about. Will the wait be worth it?
Subject: Graphics Cards | December 12, 2013 - 05:20 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, amd, radeon, hawaii, r9 290, R9 290X, bitcoin, litecoin, mining
If you already listened to this weeks PC Perspective Podcast, then feel free to disregard this post. For the rest of you - subscribe to our damned weekly podcast would you already?!?
In any event, I thought it might be interesting to extract this 6 minute discussion we had during last nights live streamed podcast about how the emergence of Litecoin mining operations is driving up prices of GPUs, particularly the compute-capable R9 290 and R9 290X Hawaii-based cards from AMD.
Check out these prices currently on Amazon!
- Radeon R9 290X - $725+
- Radeon R9 290 - $499+
- Radeon R9 280X - $429+
- GeForce GTX 770 - $409+
- GeForce GTX 780 - $509+
- GeForce GTX 780 Ti - $699+
The price of the GTX 770 is a bit higher than it should be while the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti are priced in the same range they have been for the last month or so. The same cannot be said for the AMD cards listed here - the R9 280X is selling for $130 more than its expected MSRP at a minimum but you'll see quite a few going for much higher on Amazon, Ebay (thanks TR) and others. The Radeon R9 290 has an MSRP of $399 from AMD but the lowest price we found on Amazon was $499 and anything on Newegg.com is showing at the same price, but sold out. The R9 290X is even more obnoxiously priced when you can find them.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Do you think Litecoin mining is really causing these price inflations and what does that mean for AMD, NVIDIA and the gamer?
Subject: Graphics Cards | November 27, 2013 - 04:44 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x
Ryan is not the only one who felt it necessary to investigate the reports of differing performance between retail R9 290X cards and the ones sent out for review. Legit Reviews also ordered a retail card made by Sapphire and tested it against the card sent to them by AMD. As with our results, ambient temperature had more effect on the frequency of the retail card than it did on the press sample with a 14% difference being common. Legit had another idea after they noticed that while the BIOS version was the same on both cards the part numbers differed. Find out what happened when they flashed the retail card to exactly match the press sample.
"The AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 have been getting a ton of attention lately due to a number of reports that the retail cards are performing differently than the press cards that the media sites received. We have been following these stories for the past few weeks and finally decided to look into the situation ourselves."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- HIS R9 270X IceQ X² Turbo Boost 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire Toxic Edition R9 280X Video Card Review @HiTech Legion
- ASUS R9 270 Direct CU II OC 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- Powercolor Radeon R9-270X Devil @ Bjorn3D
- AMD Radeon R9 290 Review On Linux @ Phoronix
- PowerColor Devil R9 270X 2GB @ Custom PC Review
- 2560×1600: GeForce GTX 780 Ti vs Radeon R9 290X @ Benchmark Reviews
- ASUS GTX 760 MARS @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 760 4GB Video Card Review – 2GB or 4GB of VRAM @ Legit Reviews
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti Steams Ahead On Linux @ Phoronix
- Palit GTX 780 Ti JetStream OC @ Kitguru
- EVGA GTX 780 Ti SC ACX Review @ Hardware Canucks
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN: Windows 8.1 vs. Ubuntu 13.10 @ Phoronix
Another retail card reveals the results
Since the release of the new AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 graphics cards, we have been very curious about the latest implementation of AMD's PowerTune technology and its scaling of clock frequency as a result of the thermal levels of each graphics card. In the first article covering this topic, I addressed the questions from AMD's point of view - is this really a "configurable" GPU as AMD claims or are there issues that need to be addressed by the company?
The biggest problems I found were in the highly variable clock speeds from game to game and from a "cold" GPU to a "hot" GPU. This affects the way many people in the industry test and benchmark graphics cards as running a game for just a couple of minutes could result in average and reported frame rates that are much higher than what you see 10-20 minutes into gameplay. This was rarely something that had to be dealt with before (especially on AMD graphics cards) so to many it caught them off-guard.
Because of the new PowerTune technology, as I have discussed several times before, clock speeds are starting off quite high on the R9 290X (at or near the 1000 MHz quoted speed) and then slowly drifting down over time.
Another wrinkle occurred when Tom's Hardware reported that retail graphics cards they had seen were showing markedly lower performance than the reference samples sent to reviewers. As a result, AMD quickly released a new driver that attempted to address the problem by normalizing to fan speeds (RPM) rather than fan voltage (percentage). The result was consistent fan speeds on different cards and thus much closer performance.
However, with all that being said, I was still testing retail AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 cards that were PURCHASED rather than sampled, to keep tabs on the situation.
An issue of variance
AMD just sent along an email to the press with a new driver to use for Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 testing going forward. Here is the note:
We’ve identified that there’s variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink.
The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.
The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X ‘Quiet mode’, and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z.
If you’re working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.
Great! This is good news! Except it also creates some questions.
When we first tested the R9 290X and the R9 290, we discussed the latest iteration of AMD's PowerTune technology. That feature attempts to keep clocks as high as possible under the constraints of temperature and power. I took issue with the high variability of clock speeds on our R9 290X sample, citing this graph:
I then did some digging into the variance and the claims that AMD was building a "configurable" GPU. In that article we found that there were significant performance deltas between "hot" and "cold" GPUs; we noticed that doing simple, quick benchmarks would produce certain results that were definitely not real-world in nature. At the default 40% fan speed, Crysis 3 showed 10% variance with the 290X at 2560x1440:
AMD Releases Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 Driver To Correct Performance Variance Issue of R9 290 Series Graphics Cards
Subject: Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling | November 8, 2013 - 02:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: R9 290X, powertune, hawaii, graphics drivers, gpu, GCN, catalyst 13.11 beta, amd, 290x
AMD recently launched its 290X graphics card, which is the new high-end single GPU solution using a GCN-based Hawaii architecture. The new GPU is rather large and incorporates an updated version of AMD's PowerTune technology to automatically adjust clockspeeds based on temperature and a maximum fan speed of 40%. Unfortunately, it seems that some 290X cards available at retail exhibited performance characteristics that varied from review units.
AMD has looked into the issue and released the following statement in response to the performance variances (which PC Perspective is looking into as well).
Hello, We've identified that there's variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink. The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.
The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X "Quiet mode", and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z. If you're working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.
From the AMD statement, it seems to be an issue with fan speeds from card to card causing the performance variances. With a GPU that is rated to run at up to 95C, a fan limited to 40% maximum, and dynamic clockspeeds, it is only natural that cards could perform differently, especially if case airflow is not up to par. On the other hand, the specific issue pointed out by other technology review sites (per my understanding, it was initially Tom's Hardware that reported on the retail vs review sample variance) is an issue where the 40% maximum on certain cards is not actually the RPM target that AMD intended.
AMD intended for the Radeon R9 290X's fan to run at 2200RPM (40%) in Quiet Mode and the fan on the R9 290 (which has a maximum fan speed percentage of 47%) to spin at 2650 RPM in Quiet Mode. However, some cards 40% values are not actually hitting those intended RPMs, which is causing performance differences due to cooling and PowerTune adjusting the clockspeeds accordingly.
Luckily, the issue is being worked on by AMD, and it is reportedly rectified by a driver update. The driver update ensures that the fans are actually spinning at the intended speed when set to the 40% (R9 290X) or 47% (R9 290) values in Catalyst Control Center. The new driver, which includes the fix, is version Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 and is available for download now.
If you are running a R9 290 or R9 290X in your system, you should consider updating to the latest driver to ensure you are getting the cooling (and as a result gaming) performance you are supposed to be getting.
Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 is available from the AMD website.
- AMD Radeon R9 290X Hawaii - The Configurable GPU?
- AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Review - Trip to Hawaii for $399
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the Radeon R9 290 series GPU performance variance issue as it develops.
Image credit: Ryan Shrout (PC Perspective).