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Manufacturer: Sapphire

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.

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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
GPU Cores 2816 2816 2816
Rated Clock 1000 MHz 1050 MHz 1040 MHz
Texture Units 176 176 176
ROP Units 64 64 64
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5400 MHz 5200 MHz
Memory Interface 512-bit 512-bit 512-bit
TDP ~300 watts ~300 watts ~300 watts
Peak Compute 5.6 TFLOPS 5.6+ TFLOPS 5.6T TFLOPS
MSRP Price $549 $569 $599

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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.

Read our review of the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB Graphics Card!!

Custom cooled 280X's are great; custom priced ones not so much

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 31, 2013 - 03:13 PM |
Tagged: amd, asus, ASUS ROG, MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X

There is a lot to love about the ASUS ROG Matrix Platinum R9 280X, from its looks and faster and quieter performance when compared to the reference model.  Still, [H]ard|OCP doesn't recommend running the fan at 100% except in brief moments when you need to dump heat quickly as it is quite loud but 50-60% will keep you below 90C and is not very noticeable.  It overclocks very well, they hit 1270MHz core and 6.6GHz VRAM easily and noticed performance improvements when they did so, pushing past the GTX 770 occasionally.  There is one major disappointment with this card, the price is currently over 50% higher than the base 280X MSRP so you might want to hold off for a while before thinking of purchasing this card.

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"Today we take ASUS' elite R9 280X product, the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X video card, and put its advanced power phasing and board components to the test as we harshly overclock it. We compare it to an ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II. Then we will put it head to head against the overclocked SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP

AMD Mantle for Battlefield 4 Delayed into the New Year

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 30, 2013 - 02:32 PM |
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.  

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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."

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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?

Source: AMD

Another Custom Hawaii: MSI R9 290 & 290X GAMING 4G

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 24, 2013 - 04:15 AM |
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, msi

MSI just announced their two customized Hawaii GPUs. One of the two new boards will be based on the R9 290 and the other based on the R9 290X. The design is based around the Twin Frozr IV Advanced two-fan model found on previous cards.

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The specifications of the 290X version include three different modes: OC, Gaming and Silent.  The Silent mode will run at 1000 MHz which is the same clock speed as the reference models were set at.  In Gaming mode the card will run at 1030 MHz and in OC mode it will clock at 1040 MHz.  Obviously there will be some slight noise level variances between them but I am pretty sure that the difference between Gaming and OC mode is going to be negligible.  

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The R9 290 version has the same three settings, but the clock speeds are 947 MHz, 977 MHz and 1007 MHz respectively.  

As a final note: MSI's press release claims, "Available Now". It does not appear to be available on either Amazon or Newegg but NCIX claims that it is estimated to arrive February 26th, 2014 for $700. I seriously hope that there are a few typoes... maybe they meant December 26? Maybe they meant not a more-than-$100 premium?

It is, unfortunately, still a wait and see game with these custom AIBs.

Source: MSI

Some Strong AMD FirePro Results in SPECviewperf 12

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 19, 2013 - 07:23 PM |
Tagged: amd, firepro, SPECviewperf

SPECviewperf 12 is a benchmark for workstation components that attempts to measure performance expected for professional applications. It is basically synthetic but is designed to quantify how your system can handle Maya, for instance. AMD provided us with a press deck of some benchmarks they ran leading to many strong FirePro results in the entry to mid-range levels.

AMD-FirePro-Specviewperf12.png

They did not include high-end results which they justify with the quote, "[The] Vast majority of CAD and CAE users purchase entry and mid-range Professional graphics boards". That slide, itself, was titled, "Focusing Where It Matters Most". I will accept that but I assume they did the benchmarks and wonder if it would have just been better to include them.

The cards AMD compared are:

  • Quadro 410 ($105) vs FirePro V3900 ($105)
  • Quadro K600 ($160) vs FirePro V4900 ($150)
  • Quadro K2000 ($425) vs FirePro W5000 ($425)
  • Quadro K4000 ($763) vs FirePro W7000 ($750)

In each of the pairings, about as equally-priced as possible, AMD held decent lead throughout eight tests included in SPECviewperf 12. You could see the performance gap leveling off as prices begun to rise, however.

Obviously a single benchmark suite should be just one data-point when comparing two products. Still, these are pretty healthy performance numbers.

Source: AMD

Hardcoreware Reviews Intel Core i3-4340

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors | December 19, 2013 - 04:05 AM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell

In another review from around the net, Carl Nelson over at Hardcoreware tested the dual-core (4 threads) Intel Core i3-4340 based on the Haswell architecture. This processor slides into the $157 retail price point with a maximum frequency of 3.6GHz and an Intel HD 4600 iGPU clocked at 1150MHz. Obviously this is not intended as top-end performance but, of course, not everyone wants that.

hcw-core-i3-4340-review.jpg

Image Credit: Hardcoreware

One page which I found particularly interesting was the one which benchmarked Battlefield 4 rendering on the iGPU. The AMD A10 6790K (~$130) had slightly lower 99th percentile frame time (characteristic of higher performance) but slightly lower average frames per second (characteristic of lower performance). The graph of frame times shows that AMD is much more consistent than Intel. Perhaps the big blue needs a little Fame Rating? I would be curious to see what is causing the pretty noticeable (in the graph, at least) stutter. AMD's frame pacing seems to be very consistent albeit this is obviously not a Crossfire scenario.

If you are in the low-to-mid $100 price point be sure to check out his review. Also, of course, Kaveri should be coming next month so that is something to look out for.

Source: Hardcoreware
Author:
Manufacturer: ASUS

The First Custom R9 290X

It has been a crazy launch for the AMD Radeon R9 series of graphics cards.  When we first reviewed both the R9 290X and the R9 290, we came away very impressed with the GPU and the performance it provided.  Our reviews of both products resulted in awards of the Gold class.  The 290X was a new class of single GPU performance while the R9 290 nearly matched performance at a crazy $399 price tag.

But there were issues.  Big, glaring issues.  Clock speeds had a huge amount of variance depending on the game and we saw a GPU that was rated as "up to 1000 MHz" running at 899 MHz in Skyrim and 821 MHz in Bioshock Infinite.  Those are not insignificant deltas in clock rate that nearly perfectly match deltas in performance.  These speeds also changed based on the "hot" or "cold" status of the graphics card - had it warmed up and been active for 10 minutes prior to testing?  If so, the performance was measurably lower than with a "cold" GPU that was just started. 

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That issue was not necessarily a deal killer; rather, it just made us rethink how we test GPUs. The fact that many people were seeing lower performance on retail purchased cards than with the reference cards sent to press for reviews was a much bigger deal.  In our testing in November the retail card we purchased, that was using the exact same cooler as the reference model, was running 6.5% slower than we expected. 

The obvious hope was the retail cards with custom PCBs and coolers would be released from AMD partners and somehow fix this whole dilemma.  Today we see if that was correct.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II Graphics Card!!

ASUS Announced GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II Graphics Card

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 18, 2013 - 04:25 AM |
Tagged: GeForce GTX 780 Ti, DirectCU II, asus

There has not been too many custom coolers for top-end NVIDIA graphics cards as of late. Starting with the GeForce GTX 690, NVIDIA allegedly demands AIB partners stick to the reference designs for certain models. Obviously, this is a problem as it limits the innovation realized by partners when they are forced to compete on fewer metrics (although the reference designs were pretty good regardless). This is especially true because the affected models are the upper high-end where pricing is more flexible if the product is worth it.

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This is apparently not the case for the top end GTX 780 Ti. ASUS has just announced the GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II graphics card. ASUS claims this will lead to 30% cooler operating with 3x less noise. A 6% bump to performance (as measured in Battlefield 4) will accompany that cooler and quieter operation as the full GK110 GPU will boost to 1020MHz.

ASUS makes custom GPUs for both AMD and NVIDIA. Be sure to check out our review of another high-end DirectCU II card, with 100% less NVIDIA, very soon. It will definitely be a great read and maybe even an excellent podcast topic.

Source: ASUS

GeForce Experience 1.8.1 Released with Twitch Streaming

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 17, 2013 - 05:02 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, ShadowPlay, geforce experience

Another update to GeForce Experience brings another anticipated ShadowPlay feature. The ability to stream live gameplay to Twitch, hardware accelerated by Kepler, was demoed at the NVIDIA event in Montreal from late October. They showed Batman Origins streaming at 1080p 60FPS without capping or affecting the in-game output settings.

nvidia-shadowplay-twitch.png

GeForce Experience 1.8.1 finally brings that feature, in beta of course, to the general public. When set up, Alt + F8 will launch the Twitch stream and Alt + F6 will activate your webcam. Oh, by the way, one feature they kept from us (or at least me) is the ability to overlay your webcam atop your gameplay.

Nice touch NVIDIA.

Of course the upstream bandwidth requirements of video are quite high: 3.5Mbps on the top end, a more common 2Mbps happy medium, and a 0.75Mbps minimum. NVIDIA has been trying to ensure that your machine will not lag but there's nothing a GPU can do about your internet connection.

GeForce Experience 1.8.1 is available now at the GeForce website.

Author:
Manufacturer: ASUS

A slightly smaller MARS

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 was released in June of 2013.  Based on the same GK104 GPU as the GTX 680, GTX 670 and GTX 770, the GTX 760 disabled a couple more of the clusters of processor cores to offer up impressive performance levels for a lower cost than we had seen previously.  My review of the GTX 760 was very positive as NVIDIA had priced it aggressively against the competing products from AMD. 

As for ASUS, they have a storied history with the MARS brand.  Typically an over-built custom PCB with two of the highest end NVIDIA GPUs stapled together, the ASUS MARS cards have been limited edition products with a lot of cache around them.  The first MARS card was a dual GTX 285 product that was the first card to offer 4GB of memory (though 2GB per GPU of course).  The MARS II took a pair of GTX 580 GPUs and pasted them on a HUGE card and sold just 1000 of them worldwide.  It was heavy, expensive and fast; blazing fast.  But at a price of $1200+ it wasn't on the radar of most PC gamers.

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Interestingly, the MARS iteration for the GTX 680 never occurred and why that is the case is still a matter of debate.  Some point the finger at poor sales and ASUS while others think that NVIDIA restricted ASUS' engineers from being as creative as they needed to be.

Today's release of the ASUS ROG MARS 760 is a bit different - this is still a high end graphics card but it doesn't utilize the fastest single-GPU option on the market.  Instead ASUS has gone with a more reasonable design that combines a pair of GTX 760 GK104 GPUs on a single PCB with a PCI Express bridge chip between them.  The MARS 760 is significantly smaller and less power hungry than previous MARS cards but it is still able to pack a punch in the performance department as you'll soon see.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ROG MARS 760 Dual GPU Graphics Card!!