GIGABYTE R9 290X WindForce OC Review
AMD’s R9 290X is without a doubt one of the most popular graphics cards currently on the market. Be it crypto currency miners or gamers who want access to technologies like Mantle and TrueAudio, these GPUs have become a hot commodity. Board partners are struggling to keep pace with demand while at the same time developing and launching their own custom designs. Gigabyte’s R9 290X WindForce OC is a prime example of this; it’s a ground-up redesign on Gigabyte’s part and it carries one heck of a price premium.
Let’s start with the obvious first. In order to cut down on the rampant heat of AMD’s reference design and maximize clock speeds, this particular R9 290X is decked out with Gigabyte’s excellent WindForce 3X heatsink design. We’ve had excellent results with this in the past and this one will surely be no different.
In terms of specifications, this particular model uses higher than reference frequencies though Gigabyte has also launched a sibling card with the same design equipped with standard clock speeds. As we’ve mentioned time and again, what these custom designs bring to the table is consistency; a feature sorely lacking from AMD’s bone stock cards. Gigabyte has given this card a 40MHz core overclock while the memory remains at a default 5Gbps.
With the R9 290X WindForce OC, Gigabyte is introducing a middle-of-the-pack performer which doesn’t have the slightly higher engine frequency and substantially overclocked memory of the ASUS DirectCU II OC but doesn’t run at the XFX DD’s lower speeds either. Ironically, if you can actually find them in-stock, all of these cards are priced within spitting distance of one another at about $699USD. That’s a good $100 over MSRP but with demand reaching ridiculous highs and stock being hard to come by, retailers have begun adding substantial markups to these products.
At exactly 11” or 280mm long, the Gigabyte R9 290X WindForce OC shouldn’t have any problem fitting into the vast majority of ATX chassis. However, the upraised nameplate with its “WindForce” logo may cause issues in the close confines of certain mATX and micro ITX cases.
Widely regarded as one of the best heatsink designs on the market, the WindForce 3X is a dominating presence on this card. It consists of three 80mm fans and is capable of dissipating up to 450W of thermal output. This should be more than enough for even AMD’s hot-running R9 290X core.
Gigabyte has also included a Dual BIOS option but as far as we can tell, both settings are the same since the cooler has no trouble keeping up with the core’s heat output, negating any benefits from having Uber and Silent modes.
One of the secrets behind the WindForce’s success is what Gigabyte calls their “Triangle Cool” technology which essentially adds turbulence-reducing features to the internal fin structure. This allows airflow to quickly proceed through the fins, increasing the speed at which any built up heat is dissipated.
Gigabyte has also added two 8mm and four 6mm copper heatpipes which make direct contact with the core through an integrated copper contact plate. Naturally, the VRMs and memory get their own cooling by way of an extensive secondary heatsink. PCB flex has been taken care of with a well-integrated retention bracket running the card’s entire length.
Gigabyte hasn’t seen a need to change AMD’s default power and video output connectors. This means the card receives a pair of DVIs, an HDMI and a single DisplayPort output alongside a simple 8+6 pin power connector layout.
At first glance, there really isn’t much to distinguish Gigabyte’s card from its competitors but a closer inspection shows us some interesting differences. The card above is XFX’s R9 290X Double Dissipation and its more than obvious that the WindForce OC features heavily upgraded components. There are secondary digital VR modules at strategic locations, guaranteeing cleaner power delivery while the area directly behind the core is designed to deliver increased capacitance.
While it may not boast XFX’s awesome matte PCB, Gigabyte’s card is impressive from a hardware standpoint and this may have a positive effect upon its longevity.
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