AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Review

Author: SKYMTL
Date: October 23, 2013
Product Name: R9 290X
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A Closer Look at the Radeon R9 290X

With the R9 290X being the flagship of AMD’s 2014 GPU lineup, it takes the styling changes incorporated into the R9 270X and simply upsizes them. This leads to a great looking graphics card which uses a predominantly black fan shroud with some slight Radeon Red highlights. For those wondering, it is about 11.5” long so there shouldn’t be any problems getting it into a typical ATX-sized case.

Much like the R9 270X, AMD’s reference heatsink incorporates secondary intakes around the heatsink shroud’s rearmost portion. This should help the fan’s airflow potential, particularly when it’s partially blocked by another R9 290X in a close Crossfire configuration.

On the R9 290X’s side, there is a noticeable omission: no Crossfire connectors. Instead of the physical interface, AMD will be streaming multi-card signals over their new “XDMA” interface. This means AMD is using a hardware DMA engine to stream dual and triple card interactions over the PCI-E bus rather than an external connector. Not only does the new approach provide a bandwidth uplift over the previous solution but it also has the potential to improve latency. We’ll be looking into XDMA’s performance in depth at a later date.

Next to the Crossfire connector’s usual position is a dual-toggle BIOS switch that enables one of two modes: Silent of Uber. Silent, which is the position closest to the I/O plate is the default setting and features a fan speed of 40%. Uber on the other hand ups the fan speed to 55% without changing any other setting and, as we will see later, provides higher performance through AMD’s new PowerTune algorithms. Supposedly all cards from AMD and their board partners will feature these two presets.

While the R9 290X may consume more power than the outgoing HD 7970 GHz Edition, it still retains the 8+6 pin power connector layout.

Moving around to the card’s I/O connectors, there is a pair of DVI outputs (note that neither is compatible with a VGA adaptor) along with a DisplayPort with daisy chaining capabilities and an HDMI output. This meshes perfectly with AMD’s new Eyefinity groupings which allow a single card to natively support up to six displays.

While the R9 290X may use 4GB of memory, none of the modules are installed on the PCB’s rear quarters. This means the area is free of anything particularly interesting.

Removing the shroud reveals a rudimentary dual slot heatsink design which is designed to funnel the air produced by the intake fan through a chamber housing aluminum fins. This sits atop a copper vapor chamber. In our experience, this layout quickly gets overwhelmed by the core’s heat so hopefully board partners will come up with their own advanced designs before long.

Other than the copper vapor chamber which covers the core and GDDR5 memory modules, AMD has also installed a full-length secondary heatsink which covers and distributes heat from the PWM. This is a design which has carried forward from previous AMD cards and tends to be the best layout for dissipation for a blower-style cooler.

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