AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 23, 2013
Product Name: R9 290X
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Temperature Analysis

For all temperature testing, the cards were placed on an open test bench with a single 120mm 1200RPM fan placed ~8” away from the heatsink. The ambient temperature was kept at a constant 22°C (+/- 0.5°C). If the ambient temperatures rose above 23°C at any time throughout the test, all benchmarking was stopped..

For Idle tests, we let the system idle at the Windows 7 desktop for 15 minutes and recorded the peak temperature.

Looking at the R9 290X’s temperatures, it feels like we’re back in the days of NVIDIA’s GTX 480 which was a historically hot-running piece of silicon. There is one difference though: according to AMD these sky-high temperatures are wholly intentional since they’re trying to wring every last ounce of performance from the core. This is done through the application of PowerTune’s new algorithms and it can be completely modified by changing the card’s temperature target. Naturally, this will lead to lower performance since the core won’t have as much thermal overhead.

Even the Uber Mode, which increases fan speeds to 55% exhibits the same behavior but behind the scenes, there are some differences. First of all, switching to Uber Mode doesn’t increase the power limits, temperature target or anything else but it does allow for some extra clock speed headroom since heat is being removed from the core at a higher pace, resulting in it requiring slightly less power. This means the temperature will remain at 94°C but average frequencies will be higher in any power-bound application.

Acoustical Testing

What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, a loop of Unigine Valley is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.

There are two different ways to look at these results. Silent Mode which is louder than comparable NVIDIA cards and Uber mode which is louder than anything we’ve tested in the last 18 months or so. Either way, the R9 290X isn’t a quiet card but in Silent Mode it’s doubtful you’ll hear it over 120mm case fans.

System Power Consumption

For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Unigine Valley running on a loop while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.

With a running temperature of 94°C, a 28nm manufacturing process that isn’t known for its efficiency and a huge number of transistors, the R9 290X consumes an epic amount of power for a single core card. In fact, it chugs down some 54W more than NVIDIA’s similarly-performing TITAN, 67W more than a GTX 780 and nearly as much as a GTX 690. Yes, THAT GTX 690.

Those are both worrying metrics for anyone who values lower power consumption but we do have to remember that this is an enthusiast-centric product that’s meant to be installed in high end systems with suitable power supplies. Is that an excuse? No, but it does give some context since we don’t expect the R9 290X to be installed into mid-range systems.

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