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 |
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.

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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.

Also read:

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).

Source: AMD
November 8, 2013 | 06:49 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

AMD should have been more careful. As for Tom, they forgotten how to show to their readers what they found in a way that would be Objective. PC Perspective win me with the frame rating articles, Tom lost me with their article.

November 8, 2013 | 07:12 AM - Posted by razor512

What ever happened to videos being able to remain cool on stock voltage regardless of clock speed?

Video cards should not be forced to throttle when new, as this means that hey have no head room, performance starts to drop from day one as dust builds up on the heatsink. This shows a poor design or corners cut when it came to the cooling.

November 8, 2013 | 07:59 AM - Posted by MAXLD (not verified)

All this arm waving about the stock cooler is really getting out of proportion. Yes, these cars are both hot, but AMD stock coolers are usually crap anyway, and the introduction of the throttling is now an becoming an issue because of that.

But, more importantly, Techspot.com already grabbed an IceQ X2 cooler from an HIS 280X and slapped it into the R9 290, and... temps went down significantly to 76ºC on Furmark and 63ºC on Crysis3/BF4. They said nothing about the fan speed used or noise levels, but this means custom coolers will improve the temps and get rid of the need for the card to throttle so much.

Let's all wait for the custom coolers, as always, and then make the final judgement on the 290/X.

November 8, 2013 | 08:25 AM - Posted by razor512

I think the major issue is that by default the videocard is unable to maintain it's advertised performance under normal conditions, due to inadequate cooling. This is not accepted in any other industry.

If a device is advertised at a specific performance level, then as long as the device is within the operating environment temperature, the device should be able to offer the advertised performance 24/7, until other issues come up, eg excessive dust buildup.

November 8, 2013 | 10:09 AM - Posted by MAXLD (not verified)

Well, "advertised performance" is more of a shady thing to define now, unfortunately, since the clocks are referred as "up to", due all this throttling circus nowadays. Specially not great for the less informed people that buy the least expensive version they see (vanilla+stock) without even checking reviews.

No doubt AMD made a bad move, should allow/give incentive to the brands to launch cards with custom coolers at the same time from day one. Stock cooling would then be irrelevant sooner, and all this panic wouldn't exist. But it's just a matter of weeks anyway until we see them out there.

Sure, they could also spent more on the stock cooler itself, although that would be a bit useless anyway, people always go for the custom coolers for more silence and lower temps(plus, they make the card look way better), and spending more on the stock would probably raise the price of the card too, a thing that AMD tries to avoid since the price war always is the main goal and these current prices are really good.

In conclusion, whoever urgently needs a new card and doesn't want the current stock R9 290/X heat/noise levels, pay extra and buy nVidia. Otherwise, just wait a few weeks for custom coolers that will probably make things much better, and then it will certainly be the strongest bargain, specially the 290.

November 12, 2013 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Not really interested in aftermarket coolers myself because im going to be putting full cover waterblocks on my 290's. Usually a good waterblock will cut the temps down to about 30-35 c under full load. My last block cut my gpu to 3 degrees c above ambient on idle and full load was only another 2 degrees c more. Much better returns on a gpu than on any cpu block.

November 8, 2013 | 08:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yea another AMD card another driver stuff up.

November 8, 2013 | 10:52 AM - Posted by mAxius

screw the reference cards I'm waiting for the custom cards with the killer custom coolers.

November 14, 2013 | 09:55 AM - Posted by amadsilentthirst

Seems pretty obvious what happened (Occam's razor)
Despite PCPerPodcast pussyfooting around the issue, so as not to antagonise AMD.

AMD Obviously cherry picked the best performing cards (as Josh says there is a lot of variance in these wafers) and sent these ones out to all the reviewers.

To me this is disgraceful bait and switch and shows what AMD thinks of it's reviewers, and that it doesn't mind making a mockery of their reviews for the sake of a few sales.

Not that any other company with profits to make would do any better, just that this one is so obvious.

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