When we first got hold of AMD's R9 290X, we had rather mixed opinions about it. The card performed excellently and was able to compete with the, at the time, more expensive GTX 780 and at higher resolutions gave the even more pricey GTX 780 Ti a good run for its money. The 290X chip certainly contained enough power, and was reasonably priced enough to make it a great option for gamers. However, the temperatures were exceedingly high which instantly caused us panic in testing. The lack of headroom for temperatures meant we were concerned about overclocking the card, whilst the 780 and 780 Ti had no problem attaining more performance from increasing the clocks. To add to the heat issues with the 290X, the cooler attached to it was excessively loud and so we were uncomfortable recommending the reference 290X.
In short, the 290X offered great performance at a great price, but in our opinion high heat and noise levels outweighed the brilliant results it gave.
Now Gigabyte have taken their turn at adding their much loved Windforce 3 cooler onto the R9 290X. RushKit takes a look at the finished product:
Radeon R9 290X
Digital max resolution
4096 X 2160(via a single HDMI connector or DisplayPort and not supported with two DVI connectors)
Analog max resolution
2048 x 1536
DVI-D*2 / DisplayPort / HDMI
L=294mm, W=141mm, H=41mm
600W(with one 6-pin and one 8-pin external power connectors)
This is the second non-reference design R9 290X we've taken a look at, and it does seem they're being released slowly. AMD were restrictve at first over companies producing their own versions of the cards, but now constraints have been lifted, we are starting to see more and more versions of the 290X hitting the shelves. Gigabyte have a lot of experience in producing their own PCBs and coolers and from the initial looks, this is no exception to the quality that we're used to from Gigabyte.
The card comes with a 1000MHz core clock and also 4GB of vRAM, which is the same as we've seen on the reference design card. This makes the the R9 290X series a great choice if you're planning on gaming at higher resolutions since the increased amounts of vRAM are needed to cope with the extra textures and pixels on higher resolution displays. As you'd expect on higher end graphics cards, the Windforce 290X requires 6pin and 8pin PCIE connectors and Gigabyte recommends you use a minimum of a 600W power supply if running this card.
Despite producing the PCB themselves, Gigabyte have kept the reference design. This means you can expect all the features you'd normally find on non-reference cards, such as higher quality components and additional features to aid in overclocking and power delivery, but also if you did choose to watercool the card, standard R9 290X blocks will still fit. Now, we would normally suggest buying the reference card if there's any chance of watercooling in the future, but as the 290X's reference cooler performs so badly, it's great that Gigabyte give us the option to have a great performing, quiet card to run on air, and allow for the option to watercool later down the line.
The cooler itself has a 450W cooling capacity, without exceeding the standard two slots like we've seen on other coolers. This means you won't be affected by incompatibility or space issues if you intend to add a second card for AMD Crossfire. The heatsink is equiped with two 8mm, and four 6mm copper heatpipes which allow for superior cooling ability. Like the majority of Windforce coolers, this comes with three 80mm fans which do an excellent job of quietly exhausting the heat.
The R9 290X Windforce also comes with a built in switch which allows you to manually change the fan profiles from 'Silent mode' to 'Performance mode' without having to use any form of software. This is a great feature, as it allows users who prefer to just 'plug and play' their hardware to set the fans up quietly and simply.
As we've seen on other iterations of the Windforce series, the card comes with a metal bracket attached to the PCB which prevents it from bending over long periods of time. In the past on cards with heavy coolers such as this, over a few years of use, the PCBs have started to bend away at the end of the card due to the constant weight of the cooler pulling down on them. Gigabyte have put an end to this with a bracket that serves a vital purpose, and also looks good too.
We're excited to see how this card will perform in review which should follow shortly. With its high clock speeds, and ability for overclocking, whilst keeping quiet, this is sure to be something to keep an eye on if you're interested in a new high end graphics card.
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the card. You can discuss your thoughts over on the OC3D Forums.