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:


Performance - Crossfire R9 290X @ 4k

Max GPU Temperature Max GPU Fan Speed Avg. GPU Frequency Max GPU Frequency


Running two R9 290X cards in Crossfire at 4k we see some really dramatic results. The added heat of a second video card means that even in Uber mode with a side fan blowing directly onto the cards, there is a performance drop if the chassis fans are only running at 5v. It is only about a 1.75% drop in performance, but this shows that if you want to get the full performance of two R9 290X cards in Crossfire and not require headphones while gaming, liquid cooling is the way to go. Keep in mind that this is on a motherboard with two empty slots between the video cards, so the performance drop will be even larger on motherboards that stack the cards right on top of each other.

The results for the Quiet profile with the chassis fans at 5v look strange at first glance since the performance actually increases after the second run. The reason for this performance increase is actually because the cards are overheating. Yes, for the R9 290X in Quiet mode, overheating actually gives you better performance. The cause of this becomes apparent when you look at the GPU fan speed and average GPU frequency graphs. Since the GPU fan is limited to 2200 RPM when using the Quiet profile, the average frequency drops to about 750 MHz. At that average, the card is actually dropping as low as 730 MHz which "unlocks" the Quiet profile, letting the fan ramp above 2200 RPM. The weird thing is that once the fan is unlocked, the average frequency actually jumps up a bit to about 780 MHz. In other words, once the card overheats and forces an override of the fan speed limitation, you actually end up with better performance (at the cost of the louder fan speed).

Max GPU Temperature Max GPU Fan Speed Avg. GPU Frequency Max GPU Frequency


For Metro: Last Light, we actually don't see much of a performance drop using the Uber profile with the chassis fans at 5v. However, the fan speed log makes it look like the card didn't actually hit it's max thermal load in five benchmark runs, so it is very possible that with a few more runs the performance would drop a little more in that cooling configuration.

Using the Quiet profile with the chassis fans at 5v, we see very similar results to Unigine Heaven, only slightly delayed. Instead of the cards overheating after the second run, they make it all the way to the fourth run before the overheat protection kicks on and overrides the Quiet profile fan limitation.

Analysis - Crossfire R9 290X @ 4k

Just like when analyzing our single card results, there are two different ways we can use to examine our results in more detail depending on what you are interested in. The first is to compare the result from the fifth benchmark run to the result from the first benchmark run. This will show how large the potential performance difference is for each profile and cooling setup and should indicate how much of a difference there is between a review that only used a single benchmark run to a review that used multiple, sequential benchmark runs, discarding the first four or so runs.

The second way to interpret the results is to compare the fifth benchmark result (or the result once the system was fully warmed up) to the highest result we saw for that benchmark/setting regardless of the fan profile and chassis cooling. This will show what kind of performance you should expect in each cooling configuration relative to the maximum performance possible with the Radeon R9 290X.

Starting with the comparison of the fifth benchmark run to the first benchmark run, let's take a look at the performance of two R9 290X cards in Crossfire for each cooling configuration:


*Results taken from the last benchmark run before the GPU temperature forced the card to override the Quiet profile. Due to this, these results may be slightly higher than the actual minimum performance

As expected from the graphs in the previous section, the liquid cooled setup and the Uber profile with the chassis fans at 12v doesn't show much of a performance drop in either Unigine Heaven or Metro: Last Light when running two R9 290X cards in Crossfire at 4k. Unlike our single GPU 1080p results, we actually did see a performance drop using the Uber profile with the chassis fans at 5v. This drop in performance indicates that there is the possibility of online benchmarks being off by as much as 1.75-2.75% when using the Uber profile compared to what you would see in your own system if you do not have a high airflow chassis.

The Quiet profiles results are muddied by the fact that the primary card was overheating when the chassis fans were set to 5v. Given that the largest performance drop we saw in that configuration was about 13.5%, and the largest performance drop when using the Quiet profile with the chassis fans at 12v was also about 13.5%, we can reasonably assume that until the cards overheat and override the 2200 RPM limit, benchmarks published online may be off by as much as 13.5% when using the Quiet profile. This is somewhat of a worst-case scenario since our testing shows that you really shouldn't use the Quiet profile when running the R9 290X in Crossfire, but it certainly is useful to know when looking at benchmarks.


*Results taken from the last benchmark run before the GPU temperature forced the card to override the Quiet profile. Due to this, these results may be slightly higher than the actual minimum performance

As far as how much of the maximum performance you can expect from two R9 290X cards in Crossfire in either Quiet or Uber mode in a high or low airflow setup, the difference is pretty dramatic. Once the system has fully warmed up, you can expect to get full performance by using either liquid cooling or Uber mode in a high airflow system. If you do not have a high airflow system and use the Uber profile, you should expect to get about 96.5-98.4% of the maximum performance.

For the Quiet profile in a high airflow chassis, the drop in performance appears to vary greatly depending on the application. For Unigine Heaven we only saw 80.6% of the maximum performance possible, but for Metro: Last Light we saw a more reasonable result with the card running at 94.2% of the maximum possible. With the fans set to 5v, our results are muddied by the fact that the card overheated and overrode the 2200 RPM limit. Metro: Last Light ran at about 86.3%, which is better than Unigine Heaven, although we suspect that this is due to the thermal override occurring in the middle of a benchmark run rather than at the end of a run. In Unigine Heaven, however, we saw the biggest drop in performance from all our testing with the card only running at about 80.4% of what the R9 290X is capable of performing when being adequately cooled.


< Previous 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