Puget Systems print logo

https://www.pugetsystems.com

Read this article at https://www.pugetsystems.com/guides/522
Article Thumbnail

Radeon R9 290X Performance Analysis

Written on November 21, 2013 by Matt Bach
Share:


Introduction

AMD Radeon R9 290XAMD's new Radeon R9 290X is a new video card that is being heavy discussed in the enthusiast PC community as it gives performance that is close to or better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan, but at roughly half the cost. One of the features of the R9 290X is the inclusion of a hardware switch that changes the card between two fan profiles called "Quiet" and "Uber". The differences between these profiles is only evident when the GPU is under load and works by changing how the GPU keeps itself cool when it starts running hot.

In our testing, we found that these two profiles change the fan speed and core clock speed by the following rules:

Quiet Profile Uber Profile
  1. Fan ramps up to a maximum speed of 2200 RPM
  2. Once the fan hits 2200 RPM, the card throttles down the core clock speed to keep from overheating
  3. If the card throttles all the way down to 730 MHz, the Quiet profile is overridden and the fan starts ramping up above 2200 RPM. At this point, the card can clock back up somewhat, but appears to stay below ~850 MHz
  1. Fan ramps up to near maximum RPM before throttling the GPU clock
  2. Once the card hits the maximum fan RPM, the card starts throttling down the core clock speed

AMD Radeon R9 290X Quiet Uber Switch

Since the Quiet profile only ramps the fan up 2200 RPM (which on our cards is about 44%) before reducing the core clock, there is obviously going to be a performance hit in many situations if you use the Quiet profile. This has been shown in almost every R9 290X review currently published, but the most of the benchmarks show very little performance difference between the Quiet and Uber profiles. However, when we started our own testing, we saw a much larger difference. To understand what might be causing our results to vary so much from other published reviews, we decided to expand beyond our normal testing.

Test Setup

To examine the performance of the AMD Radeon R9 290X, we performed successive benchmark runs with the following hardware:

Testing Hardware
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 Deluxe
CPU: Intel Core i7 4960X 3.6GHz Six Core
CPU Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H60 CPU Cooler (Rev. 2)
Video Card: 1-2x AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
PSU: Seasonic X-1050 1050 Watt
RAM: 4x Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 4GB LoVo
Hard Drive: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
Chassis: Fractal Design Define R4 
Front and side 140mm intake fans
Top 140mm exhaust fan
AMD Radeon R9 290X Computer


We suspect that the chassis cooling is impacting our results, so in addition to comparing the Quiet and Uber fan profiles we will also be switching the chassis fans between 5v and 12v to simulate both a quieter, low airflow system and a louder, high airflow system. To see how these cards perform when cooling is not an issue, we will be also be liquid cooling the cards in order to test the R9 290X in a best-case cooling scenario. Although it shouldn't matter with the cards being liquid cooled, we will be leaving the cards on Uber mode to make sure they do not throttle the clock speed.

AMD Radeon R9 290X Liquid Cooled

Since the R9 290X is becoming increasingly popular and debated online, we wanted to get initial results out as quickly as possible. In the future, we may benchmark more titles but for right now we will only be using two benchmarks. In addition, we will only be using a single R9 290X while benchmarking at 1080p, and a pair of R9 290X cards in Crossfire for testing at 4k resolutions. 

This does mean that our results won't be 100% accurate for every game currently available, but it will still be a very good indication of how the performance of the Radeon R9 290X is affected by the overall cooling of the system in both Uber and Quiet mode. Since we are running multiple, successive benchmark runs, we will also be able to see the performance difference from when a benchmark first runs and when the system has reached full load temperatures.

The two benchmarks we will be using are Unigine Heaven Pro 4.0 and Metro: Last Light. Both are very modern benchmarks that are easy to setup for successive benchmark runs with little to no time in between each run.


Next >
Tags: Radeon, R9 290X, Quiet, Uber, Performance
EricG - Futurelooks

So I had a chance to see a reference card with a stock cooler playing a few game demos. The video card was cranking out enough noise to interfere with a casual discussion next to the system. I doubt this card was at full load mind you since it was in a high frame rate area of the game, yet the fan was maxed out.

Have you experienced the same 50+dB noise? If so, I wouldn't recommend anyone buy an R290 unless it has a GIGABYTE WindForce3X, MSI Tri-Frozr III, or ASUS DirectCU III series GPU cooler. At least those coolers can manage heat without the raging noise. Or, I suppose consumers order a system from you guys with custom liquid cooling. Are you guys still featuring Koolance cooling blocks?

Posted on 2013-11-23 00:12:49

Honestly, it didn't sound as loud as I expected with all the talk about the noise, but it certainly is louder than any other card on the market right now. I think if you have the computer under your desk and always game with headphones the noise isn't ever going to be a problem. It's just fine at idle or low load, and if you use headphones that should block our the noise while gaming.

Right now the ASUS DirectCU II is the card we are planning on using since the DirectCU series has just been great for us in the past. I know at least a couple guys here that are waiting for all the different manufacturer and third party coolers become available. And yes, we are still using Koolance blocks on our liquid cooled systems. We only got the video cards a few days ago, and one of the reasons we were able to get this done as fast as we did is because Koolance is actually right across the street from us. Makes it really easy to get parts and work with them on custom solutions.

Posted on 2013-11-23 01:28:45
Guest

I noticed that Puget Systems is pretty good at integrating the best GPU option (or any component option for that matter) available which sometimes means waiting for the right components. Your CEO and production manager always seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is consumer worthy and what is not.

That said, I didn't realize ASUS was using the DCU II cooler. I assumed since the R270/290 were so hot that they would use a bigger cooler like the rest of the AMD partners. Either way, the DCU II is pretty well proven. Still, I'm curious to see how Koolance's water blocks and your loop manages the R270/290 temperatures. Part 2?

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at Puget Systems!

Posted on 2013-11-24 19:07:59
EricG - Futurelooks

I noticed that Puget Systems is pretty good at integrating the best GPU option (or any component option for that matter) available which sometimes means waiting for the right components. Your CEO and production manager always seem to have their finger on the pulse of what is consumer worthy and what is not.

That said, I didn't realize ASUS was using the DCU II cooler. I assumed since the R270/290 were so hot that they would use a bigger cooler like the rest of the AMD partners. Either way, the DCU II is pretty well proven. Still, I'm curious to see how Koolance's water blocks and your loop manages the R270/290 temperatures. Part 2?

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at Puget Systems!

Posted on 2013-11-24 19:09:18
Angel Stewart

I'm confused about adding this card to a system. In my view, from what I have been reading, it just runs too hot. You are going to have to spend a lot more in terms of cooling to have this in your machine.

Compare this to the Titan or the 780i, and why would someone choose the 290x over one of these cards? Is the difference in performance so much better with the 290x?

Posted on 2013-11-25 22:01:01

For a brief period of time, before the GTX 780 Ti came out, the 290X was the fastest single-GPU card on the market... and at a much lower price than the Titan. It still comes in at a lower cost than the 780 Ti, but given the heat and noise issues I can't recommend it in good faith. Liquid-cooling might solve that, but with the amount of cost and complexity that adds the GTX 780 Ti is suddenly a much better value as well as being faster.

Posted on 2013-11-25 22:07:23

The 290X does run hot, but you have to remember that this is the temperature the card is designed to run at. Just like how the NVIDIA cards are designed to run around 80C, the amount of cooling you have in your chassis won't greatly affect that unless you replace the cooler itself. If you have more airflow than is needed, all that is going to happen is that the GPU fan is going to run a little slower, not that the GPU will actually run at a lower temperature. So yes, 94C is hot, but thats the temperature AMD decided was safe. Whether it is a safe temperature to run at for prolonged periods of time is something that cannot be known until we have some longer-term reliability numbers.

The main benefit of the R9 290X over the 780 Ti is simply cost. If you are on a budget and don't mind that it is louder (or you are planning on liquid cooling anyway), then it is a great value. It also tends to score a little better at high resolutions like 4k, although I'm not convinced the 4GB of video memory is going to be enough for games in a year or two.

So personally I see the R9 290X as the budget or price-conscience option, whereas the GTX 780 Ti or GTX Titan is the safer, cooler, quieter option.

Posted on 2013-11-25 22:19:01
Christian

If I understand you correctly, it means that improved airflow inside the case has reduced returns when it comes to Radeon R9 290X reference model fan speeds? I have a 290X reference card and i am currently running an open case as I thought it would help the card. But if the case temp has a limited impact on the GPU I might aswell close the case to get a little less of the noise.

Posted on 2014-04-11 19:30:29