XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Review
With the excitement surrounding custom versions of AMD’s R9 290X, the amount of time between the initial release and availability of board partner designs came as a surprise to some. It’s taken well over two months but there’s good reason for that: much like gamers have been looking for lower temperatures and reduced acoustics, actually engineering a heatsink that’s capable of delivering on those expectations is easier said than done. This is why it has taken XFX and their competition so long to release their respective solutions.
The star of this particular show is the R9 290X Double Dissipation or “DD” for short which happens to be the mid-tier card in XFX’s current R9 290X lineup. While they have a completely reference design and the higher end, overclocked and custom cooled Black Edition, the DD is equipped with stock clock speeds and the same GHOST 2 heatsink as the Black Edition.
Some of you may be looking at these specifications and wondering what’s so special about this particular card, especially in the face of competition from the likes of ASUS' R9 290X DirectCU II OC. As we mentioned in the original R9 290X review, AMD’s reference design is held back by its cooler design which causes temperatures to rise to extreme levels. This has a trickle-down effect upon clock speeds which never hit 1GHz unless the fan was working at ear-splitting speeds. XFX’s GHOST 2 meanwhile helps to keep things under tight control so the core is able to hit its maximum frequency on a more consistent basis, thus boosting in-game framerates. Unfortunately, the memory hasn’t been touched by XFX but considering there’s 4GB operating at 5Gbps, the R9 290X Double Dissipation is anything but starved for bandwidth.
One contentious point about this card and pretty much every R9 290X on the market today will be its price. XFX officially lists it at $599 or $50 more than the reference version but with the crypto currency movement in full swing, actually finding an AMD card has become exceedingly difficult. This has lead to a drastic shortage of most SKUs, particularly any one which has a custom cooler attached. Hence retailers can charge whatever they want for these cards without impacting their appeal so XFX’s R9 290X Double Dissipation currently goes for an average of $649 if you can actually find it. To put this into perspective, most custom NVIDIA GTX 780 Ti’s can be found for just $50 to $65 more and offer significantly higher performance metrics.
XFX’s R9 290X Double Dissipation boasts a unique design but we also have to remember that it also takes up a bit more room than the reference version. At 11” long we’re only talking about ½” more but in smaller cases, that extra length can make a world of difference. This is the price you have to pay with upgraded R9 290X cards since board partners needed to take all the space they could for the cooling assembly, even if that meant extending their shroud and risk some incompatibilities.
XFX’s Double Dissipation heatsink and its GHOST thermal technology has come under its fair share of criticism in the past few years for high VRM and core temperatures. However, in this iteration, XFX has addressed these issues with what’s called their “GHOST 2” design which increases airflow towards critical components, upsizes heatpipe size and adds extensive VRM cooling. All of this was accomplished without upping the acoustical footprint over previous generations.
With its clean lines, illuminated XFX logo and stealth-like exterior, I personally think this is one of the best looking heatsinks ever created. It doesn’t scream out loud like the latest ASUS, MSI and Gigabyte coolers but rather goes down the thoroughly understated route and doesn’t look like a cobbled-together industrial workhorse. Does its performance live up to the stunning exterior façade? That will be addressed in the Cooling section a bit later in this review.
There is only one drawback to XFX’s stunning design: all of those well-incorporated surfaces make accessing the R9 290X’s dual BIOS switch extremely hard. You’ll likely need a pencil or safety pin to change the default selection but, with the upgraded heatsink, there’s really no reason to switch between Silent and Uber modes. In addition, based on our testing, there’s absolutely no difference in performance, acoustics or power consumption between the two switch positions.
On the connector front, there isn’t really anything to differentiate XFX’s Double Dissipation Edition from the numerous other R9 290X’s on the market. However, they have added an XFX logo to the card’s backplate which not only looks good but it also increases exhaust airflow.
Flipping the card over reveals a custom matte black XFX PCB which boasts slightly upgraded components for increased longevity and better current delivery. None of this is visible and getting the heatsink off is a multi-stage, warranty destroying process so proceed at your own risk.
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