Review: ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC
Launched in late October 2013, the Hawaii GPU allows AMD to compete with the rivalry NVIDIA’s GK110. The performance of the reference Radeon R9 290X looks promising, but it runs extremely hot and loud. Starting last two months, custom designed 290X started showing up. The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC was no exception. It is completely customized including the reengineered PCB, a stronger VRM power design, high quality components and a beefier cooler. With the exclusive DirectCU II cooling solution on board, ASUS claims that the 290X DC2OC runs up to 20% cooler with 220% the dissipation area, three times quieter and 6% faster than reference 290X. Let’s now find out if the graphics card’s performance is enough to warrant the RM2,449 fee.
Product Link: http://www.asus.com/Graphics_Cards/R9290XDC2OC4GD5/
Suggested Retail Price: RM 2,449
On paper there is no doubt that the 290X DC2OC II is indeed a monster. The graphics card offers 2816 unified shaders, 64 ROPs, 176 TMUs, and 4 GB of GDDR5 memory on a 512-bit memory bus. Besides that, this card is factory overclocked to 1050 MHz for the GPU and 1350 MHz (5400 MHz effective) for the video memory, as compared to reference R9 290 (1000 MHz/ 5000 MHz).
The graphics card comes in a black box illustrated with three claw marks on the top right corner.
The back of the box shows the features and specifications of the graphics card.
The 290X DC2OC is a dual-slot solution measuring 11.3″ x 5.8″ x 1.6” and comes with two 95 mm fans. One of the fans has a unique CoolTech design, which carries hybrid blade and bearing. This fan is capable of providing a multi-directional flow, to dissipate the heat effectively. The graphics card’s cooler come in one singular colour, which is black, but you can customize its look by using either the red or golden metal sticker kits that are included in the box.
The 290X DC2OC with red sticker kit.
The 290X DC2OC with gold sticker kit.
The R9 290X GPU chip is soldered at the middle of the graphics card. Based on AMD’s Hawaii XT, the R9 290X will support AMD’s TrueAudio, Mantle, DirectX 11.2, and bridge-free Crossfire technology using CrossFire Direct Memory Access aka XDMA.
The 290X DC2OC is equipped with the DIGI+ VRM with 8 phase Super Alloy Power to deliver a precise digital power for superior efficiency, reliability, and performance.
The memory chips are based on Elpida-BBBG GDDR5 that are said to have overclock ability not as good as the Hynix-AFR chip. It is disappointing that ASUS decided to use these memory chips on such a high end graphics card.
The graphics card draws power from 8+6 pin connectors.
There is no CrossFire connector found on the graphics card. With R9 290 Series, AMD started transferring multi-GPU data via the PCIe slot interface of the card.
Also spotted, there’s a tiny BIOS switch that allows you to toggle between two modes: “Silent” mode, which favours lower fan speed and noise, and “Performance” mode, which increases fan speed while maintaining maximum clocks. Our tests showed that there was no performance difference between these BIOSes, which is good. The only difference that we noticed were the temperatures, fan speeds and noise.
The rear I/O panel includes a pair of DVI-D ports, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort. These interfaces support up to three monitors simultaneously for Eyefinity setup.
The aluminum backplate’s unique design does add some aesthetic looks to the graphic card as well as provides extra rigidity to the PCB.
The cooler comes with a huge radiator, which is connected with five nickel-plated heatpipes so that the heat will be dissipated efficiently. ASUS utilizes the Vapor Chamber technology which is known to have a better performance than regular cooling solutions.
Included in the box is a dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCie Y-adapter, red and gold metal sticker kits, a quick setup guide and the driver/ utility CD.\
The Intel Core i7 4770K processor was overclocked to 4.625 GHz while all the graphics cards used were operating at stock clocks and stock cooler on air cooling. The 290X DC2OC was set to “Performance” mode. Ambient temperature was around 31°C throughout the benchmarks.
The settings for in-game benchmarks are listed in the table above.
Software & Tools
ASUS GPU Tweak - an overclocking tool with GPU and memory tuning, overvolting, GPU loadline calibration and VRM frequency tuning, allowing for the most extensive control and adjustment parameters for maximum overclocking potential.
ASUS GPU Tweak Streaming - allows you to share on-screen action in real-time. Add scrolling text, pictures, and webcam images to the streaming window easily.
OverClocking & Temperature
With 1.383 V, we managed to overclock the GPU clock speed to 1225 MHz from 1050 MHz. Besides that, the video memory frequency was also overclocked to 6000 MHz from 5400 MHz. These are 17% and 11% overclocks for the GPU and memory clocks, respectively. The maximum temperature hit 92°C. In the 3DMark 11 benchmark, this overclock improved the graphics score by 14%.
Thoughts & Verdicts
The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC is an improved Radeon R9 290X that minimize the shortcomings of the AMD’s latest graphics card. It is factory overclocked and equipped with ASUS’s unique DirectCU II cooling solution. The 290X DC2OC is capable of running any latest game title at high resolution such as 2560×1600 or even a 4K panel. Priced lower than the NVIDIA GTX TITAN, it outperforms the latter by a huge margin, but not NVIDIA’s latest flagship, the GTX 780 Ti.
ASUS allows you to freely customize the colour theme of the graphics card by using the included red or golden sticker kits to match your rig’s theme. The backplate does not only add some aesthetic looks to the graphics card but also prevents damage to the card during installation.
As for overclocking, we would like to see a faster factory overclocked video memory and its overclock ability could be pushed further. They could have used the Hynix-AFR or Samsung based memory chips that are proven to have excellent overclock abilities.
The 290X DC2OC has a bit of a problem; its cooler was actually designed for the larger GK110 GPU such as the GTX 780 Ti. As we can see this from the picture below, two of the copper heat pipes don’t touch the Hawaii XT GPU at all, and moreover two others make partial contact therefore result in inefficient heat dissipation. Their competing company, Sapphire managed to solve this by putting some heat pipes that have better contact with the AMD’s GPU in their Tri-X cooling solution.
If you are looking for the fastest AMD solution available in the market, then the ASUS R9 290X Direct CU II OC deserves some consideration. It is a great value if you could buy it at a lower price tag.
We would like to thank ASUS Malaysia for sending us this sample for review.
Performance/Price Value: 4/5
+ Factory overclocked on GPU and video memory
+ Good overclock ability
+ Beautiful outlook
+ Cooler’s sticker colour is customizable
+ Unique backplate provides extra protection to the PCB
- Price could be lower
- Slower than GTX 780 Ti
- Elpida memory chips have low memory overclock ability
- The fan could be loud when spinning at full speed (100%)
- BIOS switch is not clearly labeled
- No game bundle
- DirectCU II base is not designed to fit AMD GPU, causing inefficient heat dissipation
ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC received Silver Award from OCDrift.com
Disclaimer: OCDrift.com gives out our own award based on the Hardware Performance, OverClocking Ability, Innovation, and Value as determined by the reviewer
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