Can Gigabyte’s take on the Radeon R9 290x correct the imperfections of the reference design?
Towards the end of last year we finally got the first true high-end GPU refresh from AMD since December 2011’s HD7970, in the form of the new GCN 1.1 based Radeon R9 290/290x. We then saw perennial rival Nvidia striking back with a fully unlocked Kepler GK110 — the Geforce GTX 780 Ti.
The two titans battled it out for the top spot in different game engines and benchmarks. As of this week, AMD users could also take advantage of the much hyped Mantle API (present in Battlefield 4 and some upcoming titles from EA) to alleviate CPU bottlenecks and potentially get a smoother visual frame rate than with the competition.
One major complaint with the reference design of AMD’s new boards, was the poor thermal efficiency and acoustics of the reference 290x blower which had to subjugate a toasty 300W TDP of the Hawaii XT core.
In a bid to keep within factory predefined parameters (95 °C temperature ceiling at a borderline tolerable fan speed), AMD’s PowerTune 2.0 algorithm will dramatically throttle the clock speed (and core voltage) downwards, somewhat resulting in a compromised visual experience. End users could switch this behaviour off by toggling the onboard “Uber” mode switch, but then get a louder fan noise during prolonged intensive GPU loading.
For some reason, the competition’s fan on the Titan and 780Ti didn’t exhibit the same thermal or noise issues (better engineering?). AMD enthusiasts had to wait nearly two months after the initial launch in October 2013 for the superior non-reference coolers from the likes of Asus, Sapphire and Gigabyte to hit the shelves.
On the card that we are reviewing today, Gigabyte deploys its in-house 450W rated WindForce triple-fan heatpipe cooler, which made its debut at Computex last year.
The I/O panel configuration remains untouched (two DVI-D Dual-Link ports and full-sized 4K capable outputs HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2).
Power input requirements is also identical (8+6 pin PCIe), along with the inclusion of an onboard switch to choose the desired fan acoustic profile.