ASUS R9 390X STRIX OC Review
AMD’s R9 390X may not exactly be a headline-grabbing card anymore but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked either. As a matter of fact it represents a perfect bridge product between the higher end Fury series and lower-performing models in the Radeon lineup. For value-focused gamers this card also happens to be in a “sweet zone” at around $399USD, making it quite affordable for the performance it brings to the table. Meanwhile, AMD’s new Radeon Crimson software has taken a much-maligned driver stack to truly next level status with significant updates to its functionality and stability.
All of this means gamers who are searching for an upgrade to keep up with the holiday season’s latest titles may be taking a closer look at what AMD is offering. One of the most likely candidates within that search with likely be ASUS R9 390X STRIX OC which happens to be, in my opinion at least, one of the better looking cards available right now.
ASUS’ take on the R9 390X is an interesting one but it isn’t necessarily unique in its capabilities. Unfortunately, it looks like AMD’s partners have constrained themselves when it comes to offering overclocked SKUs as of late. Much of that is likely due to the fact that the Hawaii-based cores on these cards have already seen their frequencies boosted from AMD’s factory leaving very little room for additional performance without potential sacrifices to longevity.
With that being said, something is better than nothing and that is what ASUS is offering: higher frequencies but not by all that much. When the card is plugged into your system, it defaults to the so-called Gaming Mode which hits a core clock of 1070MHz. Meanwhile, installing the GPU Tweak II utility moves the bar up a bit with the 1090MHz OC Mode which can be enabled with the click of a button. In all presets, the memory frequencies remain in their reference form of 6Gbps.
While this may all seem a bit disappointing, this card’s main claim to fame is the inclusion of several ASUS-exclusive technologies like Auto Extreme that utilizes a completely automated fabrication process, eliminating quality control issues and enhancing overall durability. There’s also Super Alloy II components which also enhances longevity and can boost overclocking headroom in extreme situations. Naturally, there’s a premium to pay here and the STRIX OC is a good $15 more expensive than alternatives from PowerColor and Sapphire.
The R9 390X STRIX OC is quite literally a physical copy / paste of ASUS’ R9 Fury and GTX 980 Ti we reviewed a while ago. There’s a good reason for this though: the DirectCU III cooler has more than enough thermal capacity to pull duty in all of today’s high-end cards. In this case it is actually needed though since the overclocked Hawaii-based core puts out a ridiculous amount of heat. There have even been some people complaining this card gets too hot….something we’ll put to the test a bit later.
As usual, the end result is quite stunning with the cooler sporting a black and red color scheme which happens to be a perfect companion for AMD’s architectures. Unfortunately it is quite long at about 12.25” so don’t expect it to fit into every single case on the market.
Atop that massive cooler sits a trio of wing-blade fans that turn completely off when the card is in idle or low output mode. Supposedly they are also three times quieter than the reference card (though AMD never launched the R9 390X in reference form) and also double the static pressure specifications from ASUS’ previous DirectCU II design.
Drilling a bit further into the heatsink’s overall design, as the DirectCU name suggests ASUS has engineered it with copper-based heatpipes which make direct contact with the GPU core. This is supposed to speed up heat transfer and keep temperatures cool. The quick movement of heat also requires an expansive fin array to properly dissipate that heat, hence the STRIX’s large footprint.
Speaking of heatpipes, ASUS included what they call an industry-first: a pair of 10mm heatpipes backed up by two smaller 8mm units. For those wondering, the STRIX logo on the card’s side typically glows constantly and pulses when the STRIX is overclocked.
Part of the STRIX’s extreme length is taken up by a heatsink extension that is pushed out past the PCB’s edge. This approach of taking up every available inch has long been as ASUS tradition and once again they protect this protrusion with a cantilevered backplate section.
That blackplate is a pretty extensive affair too with only a few perforations for ventilation. Past the obvious clean looks, it also includes a secondary stiffening plate to insure the PCB doesn’t sag due to the cooler’s excess weight.
Power input is handled by a pair of 8-pin connectors which are tucked away but still within reach. These feature small LEDs which glow red to advise you of an unsuccessful power connection and white when the 8-pin is properly attached.
Output connectors are pretty much pat for the course with a trio of DisplayPort 1.2, one HDMI 1.3 and a long dual link DVI.
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