ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review

Manufacturer: ASUS
UK price (as reviewed):
£340.81 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $549.99 (ex Tax)

At launch, the R9 290 was well positioned on the price-performance scale, but it was let down by a basic and poor quality stock cooler that resulted in high temperatures and even higher noise output. Thankfully, custom cooled cards are now here in numbers, and we’ve got Asus’s version of the R9 290 which has been given the DirectCU II cooler treatment as well as a factory overclock and some hardware upgrades too. It’s £340 at the time of writing, which gives it a £40 premium over the standard R9 290 cards and leaves it £20 cheaper than the cheapest GTX 780 though most of these, like the R9 290X, are closer to £400.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review
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To recall, the R9 290 uses AMD’s Hawaii GPU with four Compute Units disabled. Compared to the R9 290X, it thus features reduced counts of stream processors (2,560) and texture units (160) but maintains the full set of 64 ROPs and the 512-bit memory bus paired with 4GB of GDDR5. Usually, it’s clocked at 947MHz, which represents the highest frequency the card will run at if it can do so while staying within its power, fan and thermal limits. Asus, however, has pushed the clock speed by a modest 6 percent to 1,000MHz, the same as the R9 290X. Oddly, it has also bumped the memory frequency by a ridiculously tiny amount, taking it from 1.25GHz to 1.26GHz (5.04GHz effective), for a memory bandwidth of 322.56GB/sec.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review
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As a result of the DirectCU II cooler, the card is longer than usual at 287mm and also taller than a standard PCI bracket. On the front face is a cool black and red metal shroud which leaves the heatsink exposed and will thus result in hot air being expelled into your case – good case ventilation is a must. Round the back is a lovely brushed metal backplate that’s used for stability rather than cooling, and will also look better than a bare PCB through a window.

The 6-pin and 8-pin power connections have red and green LEDs beneath them so you can easily see whether they’re correctly wired. Meanwhile the I/O panel sports the standard selection of outputs, and there’s no support for older VGA panels thanks to the use of DVI-D ports only. As usual, there’s no CrossFire connectors as the need for these has been eliminated in Hawaii cards.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review
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For this card, Asus has made use of the dual BIOS switch on the PCB, which AMD did not in its reference model. It’s positioned on the PCB edge near the rear I/O panel and two modes are available: Silent and Performance. The first is the standard R9 290 configuration with a maximum fan speed of 47 percent and a target temperature of 95°C, while the second increases the maximum fan speed to 50 percent and removes the target temperature option from the Catalyst Control Centre. Asus’s handy GPU Tweak software allows you to set fan speed manually or create your own temperature-based fan curves.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review
Click to enlarge
The DirectCU II cooler comprises two 92mm fans atop a massive heatsink. The fans connect to a single header, so their speed cannot be independently altered, and the left fan features Asus’s proprietary CoolTech design, with an inner radial blower section coupled with a standard set of outer flower fans. In case you’re not convinced as to the effectiveness of this, Asus has made a handy demonstration video (with a dubstep backing, of course). The heatsink beneath is reassuringly weighty and solid. It sports five nickel-plated copper heat pipes, three of which make direct contact with the GPU. The thickest one loops out at the top of the card, while the remaining four emerge beneath and branch out to either side of the heatsink.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review
Click to enlarge – The GPU core and memory chips (left) and the 8-phase DIGI+ VRM power components (right)
Prying the cooler off reveals the custom PCB with Elpida W2032BBBG-6A-F memory chips, which are 1.5V models rated for 6Mbps. None are directly cooled by the heatsink but they will receive airflow from the fans. Next to these is Asus’s DIGI+ VRM power circuitry, with the controller located at the far right. This is connected to a 6+2 phase layout, meaning the GPU and memory are both served by one more phase each than the reference cards. Power is calculated and delivered digitally and each of the power phase components (capacitors, chokes and MOSFETs) use Super Alloy Power technology, which means they’re hardened by a special alloy to reduce noise and improve their efficiency and lifespan. As you can see, the MOSFETs are all directly cooled by a small black heatsink too.

The card is supplied with a standard accessories pack featuring a software CD (drivers and GPU Tweak) alongside a dual 6-pin to single 8-pin PCI-E power adaptor.

Specifications

  • Graphics processor AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB, 1,000MHz
  • Pipeline 2,560 stream processors, 160 texture units, 64 ROPs
  • Memory 4GB GDDR5, 5.04GHz effective
  • Bandwidth 322.56GB/sec, 512-bit interface
  • Compatibility Direct X 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, Mantle
  • Outputs/Inputs 2 x Dual Link DVI-D, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Power connections 1 x 8-pin PCI-E, 1 x 6-pin PCI-E, top-mounted
  • Size 287mm long, dual-slot
  • Warranty Three years

How We Tested

Our GPU test rig is equipped with the multi-GPU powerhouse that is the Asus Maximus V Extreme, allowing us to run up to 4-card SLI and CrossFire with 8x PCI-E 3.0 lanes per card. The CPU is an Intel Core i5 3570K running at 4.2GHz to raise the CPU headroom, and it’s paired with 8GB of 2,400MHz Corsair Dominator DDR3. Our chassis of choice is NZXT’s Switch 810, a case big enough to house even a pair of Asus’ Ares 2 graphics cards. The Lepa G1600 1600W PSU offers more wattage and 8-pin PCI-E power connectors than we’d ever need.

Our benchmarks are a mix of custom in-game time demos and manually-played sections, using FRAPS to record the average and minimum frame rates. We strive to not only record real-world performance you will actually see, but also present the results in a manner that is easy to digest. We test at 1,920 x 1,080 (1080p), 2,560 x 1,440, 5,760 x 1,080 (AMD Eyefinity/Nvidia Surround) and 3,840 x 2,160 (4K).

Test System

  • Intel Core i5 3570K (operating at 4.2GHz – 42 x 100MHz)
  • Asus Maximus V Extreme motherboard
  • 2 x 4GB Corsair 2,400MHz DDR3 memory
  • Lepa G1600 1600W PSU
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit
  • Samsung SSD 830 256GB SSD

*ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Test Setup
Click to enlarge

AMD graphics cards

  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB (1,000MHz GPU, 5GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB (1,000MHz GPU, 5.04GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB (947MHz GPU, 5GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB (1,000MHz GPU, 6GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB (1,050MHz GPU, 5.6GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB (925MHz GPU, 5.6GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB (1,100MHz GPU, 6.5GHz memory) (Catalyst 13.12)

Nvidia graphics cards

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB (889MHz GPU, boosting to 980MHz, 7GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB (876MHz GPU, boosting to 928MHz, 7GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB (863Mhz GPU, boosting to 900MHz, 6GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB (1,046Mhz GPU, boosting to 1,085MHz, 7GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB (980Mhz GPU, boosting to 1,033MHz, 6GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB (980MHz GPU boosting to 1,033MHz, 6GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB (1,020MHz GPU boosting to 1,085MHz, 5.4GHz memory) (GeForce 334.89 WHQL)

Battlefield 4

Publisher: EA

From our Battlefield 4 review:

‘From the start to the end of the campaign you literally have no idea who’s who, why they do or don’t like each other and even what part you play in the whole thing – the latter point not being helped by the fact you’re mute throughout the whole game. You just meander from mission to mission and get on with the task set before you.

Still: who cares, right? Battlefield has long been about its multiplayer, and sure enough here, again the game truly shines. Largely it’s a continuation of what came before but there are enough extras that it feels, if not totally new, different enough to learn all over again.’

With its demanding Frostbite 3 engine, Battlefield 4 is a tough challenge for any GPU. We run the game at its highest ‘Ultra’ settings with motion blur at 50 percent and the resolution scale at 100 percent. We also manually disable MSAA at 4K, as it’s unnecessary and too demanding at this resolution. We run a 60 second benchmark on the game’s sixth campaign level, Tashgar, during the on rails section at the level’s start, and begin the recording as soon as the subtitle for the first line of dialogue appears on screen.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Battlefield 4 PerformanceClick to enlarge

Battlefield 4

1,920 x 1,080, DirectX 11, ‘Ultra’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
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90

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  • Minimum
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Battlefield 4

2,560 x 1,440, DirectX 11, ‘Ultra’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
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10

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40

50

60

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
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Battlefield 4

5,760 x 1,080, DirectX 11, ‘Ultra’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
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5

10

15

20

25

30

35

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

Battlefield 4

3,840 x 2,160, DirectX 11, ‘Ultra’ Settings, 0x AA

  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
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10

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40

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BioShock Infinite

Publisher: 2K

From our Bioshock Infinite review :

“Your character Booker’s trip to Columbia is in the interest of retrieving a girl, Elizabeth, from captivity. It’s imperative that you find her so that you can clear a pile of debts, but it’s increasingly clear as your time in columbia continues that this isn’t a simple hero’s tale. Elizabeth has the power to control “tears in reality” that are popping up all over the city.”

“It’s an adult, thoughtful and compelling work that shames many (if not most) other attempts in the medium. Bioshock Infinite is an incredibly good video game. It might be one of the best.

We use the handy in-built benchmarking tool to run a timedemo from two sections near the start of the game. However, we’ve found the game-generated results to be unreliable, so use FRAPS to record the frame rate over a 40 second sequence of gameplay during the second test. The results taken are an average of three repeated tests.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - BioShock Infinite PerformanceClick to enlarge

BioShock Infinite

1,920 x 1,080, Ultra Detail with DOF

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 260X 2GB
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25

50

75

100

125

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

BioShock Infinite

2,560 x 1,440, Ultra Detail with DOF

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
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10

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70

80

90

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
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BioShock Infinite

5,760 x 1,080, Ultra Detail with DOF

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
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10

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30

40

50

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

BioShock Infinite

3,840 x 2,160, Ultra Detail with DOF, 0x AA

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
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Crysis 3

Publisher: EA

Mixing the open-world combat of Crysis with the more tightly scripted urban jungle of Crysis 2, Crysis 3 is a smorgasbord of visual effects and polygons galore. With DirectX 11 support, high resolution textures and incredibly detailed characters models, it’s laid down the gauntlet for the next generation of consoles and games alike when it comes to gorgeous graphics

We test using the Very High detail preset and with Very High texture resolution. lens flare and motion blur are both enabled, although due to its heavy performance impact, anti-aliasing is disabled.

As explained earlier, we use a custom macro-driven 60 seconds play-through from the single player mission Red Star Rising. The 60 seconds of gameplay takes place in a large open environment heavy on water and particle effects. Each test is repeated three times, with the average result taken.

*ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Crysis 3 Performance *ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Crysis 3 Performance
Click to enlarge

Crysis 3

1,920 x 1,080, 0x AA, 16x AF, ‘Very High’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
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  • Minimum
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Crysis 3

2,560 x 1,440, 0x AA, 16x AF, ‘Very High’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
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50

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  • Minimum
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Crysis 3

5,760 x 1,080, 0x AA, 16x AF, ‘Very High’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
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  • Minimum
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Crysis 3

3,840 x 2,160, 0x AA, 16x AF, ‘Very High’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Publisher: Bethesda

From our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review:

‘It’s like watching Star Wars and genuinely thinking, ‘what about those poor Death Star construction workers?’ You’re missing the point: Skyrim is a huge and engaging world to explore and it treats you with great moments, from your first dragon encounter to finally being able to craft dwarven armour.’

We’ve updated our Skyrim benchmark to include the official high resolution texture pack, available as a free DLC. We set the game to its ‘Ultra’ setting and record a sixty second manual play through just outside the town of Whiterun during a thunderstorm. We use a section where we are able to run forward in a straight line for a minute without being attacked so the benchmark remains consistent, and use the third person camera view.

*ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Skyrim Performance *ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Skyrim Performance *ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Skyrim Performance Click to enlarge

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

5,760 x 1,080, 8x AA, 16x AF, ‘Ultra’ Settings, w/ High Res Texture Packs

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
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10

20

30

40

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60

70

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

3,840 x 2,160, 8x AA, 16x AF, ‘Ultra’ Settings, w/ High Res Texture Packs

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
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Unigine Valley 1.0 Benchmark

Publisher: Unigine

We’ve also updated our testing to include Unigine’s free Valley 1.0 benchmarking tool. It works well as a graphics benchmark as it is GPU limited and is thus incredibly taxing on the GPU whilst placing the CPU under very little stress. It should therefore be repeatable for most users running half decent systems.

We run the full benchmark at 2,560 x 1,440,with Ultra detail.

*ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Unigine Valley 1.0 Benchmark *ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Unigine Valley 1.0 Benchmark

Unigine Valley 1.0

2,560 x 1,440, 0x AA, ‘Ultra’ Quality

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
    • 3000

    • 2947

    • 2487

    • 2378

    • 2289

    • 2210

    • 2135

    • 1760

    • 1657

    • 1284

    • 1263

    • 1148

    • 981

    • 846

0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Score (higher is beter)

  • Score

Power Consumption (Idle and Gaming)

In order to get an idea of a GPU’s power draw, we run our Unigine Valley 1.0 benchmark, which is our most GPU limited test. We use a watt meter to measure the maximum total system power draw during the test, and also take an idle reading at the Windows desktop (2,560 x 1,440).

Power Consumption

Idle (Windows 7 Aero Desktop) and Load (Unigine Valley 1.0)

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
    • 100

    • 174

    • 103

    • 222

    • 103

    • 227

    • 107

    • 239

    • 107

    • 252

    • 110

    • 292

    • 106

    • 338

    • 111

    • 350

    • 108

    • 373

    • 111

    • 380

    • 106

    • 384

    • 107

    • 392

    • 114

    • 401

    • 114

    • 409

0

100

200

300

400

System Power Draw in Watts (lower is better)

  • Idle
  • Load

Thermal Performance (Idle and Gaming)

Thermal output is also measured using Unigine’s Valley 1.0 benchmark, as its DirectX 11 features will stress all parts of a modern GPU. We leave all GPU fan profiles and settings as they come and leave the benchmark running for ten minutes so that temperatures plateau. We record the peak GPU temperature using GPU-Z, and present the data as the delta T (the difference between the GPU temperature and the ambient temperature in our labs). We also take an idle reading at the Windows desktop (2,560 x 1,440).

Heat

Idle (Windows 7 Aero Desktop) and Load (Unigine Valley 1.0)

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 2GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
    • 5

    • 41

    • 9

    • 41

    • 8

    • 50

    • 12

    • 50

    • 10

    • 55

    • 8

    • 56

    • 7

    • 57

    • 10

    • 59

    • 14

    • 59

    • 9

    • 61

    • 19

    • 72

    • 19

    • 72

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

70

80

Delta T in °C (lower is better)

  • Idle
  • Load

*As we do not have stock samples of the AMD Radeon R9 280X or AMD Radeon R9 270 they are not included in the thermal performance graphs

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC – Overclocking

We used Asus’s free GPU Tweak software to overclock the R9 290 DirectCU II. As well as clock speeds, you can also adjust the GPU voltage of this card, though not that of the memory.

Our initial overclock of 1,150MHz proved too much, and the card buckled under load almost immediately. However, we then used GPU Tweak to lock the core voltage. With the clock speed at 1,150MHz this forced the voltage up from 1.25V to 1.343V, and this allowed the card to remain stable. We were able to reach slightly higher clock speeds, but the card proved unstable after a lengthy stress test, so left it at 1,150MHz, which is still a solid 15 percent boost (21 percent over stock speeds).

The memory wasn’t quite as responsive, but we still managed to go from 1.26GHz to 1.35GHz (5.4GHz effective), a 7 percent increase. As the Elpida memory chips used are each rated for 6GHz effective speeds, we can safely assume that the point of failure here was the memory system of the GPU.

Overclocking – Battlefield 4

2,560 x 1,440, DirectX 11, ‘Ultra’ Settings

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB (OC)
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
    • 43

    • 54

    • 42

    • 51

    • 40

    • 48

    • 38

    • 46

    • 38

    • 45

    • 37

    • 45

    • 30

    • 37

0

10

20

30

40

50

60

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

Overclocking – Crysis 3

2,560 x 1,440, 0x AA, 16x AF, ‘Very High’ Settings

  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan Black 6GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
    • 40

    • 47

    • 39

    • 47

    • 38

    • 46

    • 36

    • 43

    • 34

    • 42

    • 34

    • 41

    • 33

    • 41

0

10

20

30

40

50

Frames Per Second

  • Minimum
  • Average

Overclocking – Unigine Valley 1.0

2,560 x 1,440, 0x AA, ‘Ultra’ Quality

  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB (OC)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB
  • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC 4GB
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 2GB
    • 2947

    • 2600

    • 2487

    • 2378

    • 2289

    • 2210

    • 2135

0

500

1000

1500

2000

2500

3000

Score (higher is beter)

  • Score

Performance Analysis

In both Battlefield 4 and BioShock Infinite, the Asus card is typically only 1 or 2 fps faster than the vanilla R9 290, though it does only have a 6 percent overclock so this is understandable. Over three screens and at 4K, there’s essentially zero improvement. Even so, in Battlefield 4 its performance is very close to that of the GTX 780, a card which it manages to overtake at higher resolutions. However, Nvidia’s card pulls away in the BioShock tests, most notably at 5,760 x 1,080 where it sustains 32fps compared to this card’s 27fps.

In Crysis 3 the Asus R9 290 is very strong, and its overclock just allows to overtake the GTX 780 on single screen tests. It’s also faster using Eyefinity and at 4K, though no single card is yet powerful enough to remain playable in these tests. Meanwhile, in Skyrim, we only ran the higher resolution tests, which this card has no problem with, and again performance is nearly identical to that of the GTX 780.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Performance Analysis and Conclusion
Click to enlarge
Unigine Valley is a benchmark that favours Nvidia hardware, so it’s no surprise to see the GTX 780 come out on top, here by 9 percent. The card’s overclock does give it a 4 percent lead on the R9 290.

Despite the higher clock speeds, power consumption in our test is actually a little less than the stock R9 290. Asus’s claims about the efficiency of its power hardware thus appear to be valid, as the card consumes a little less but does a little more. It does, however, still consume more power than the GTX 780, which is often the faster card.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Performance Analysis and Conclusion
Click to enlarge
The temperature results are likely to be of most interest to potential buyers, and here the Asus card excels. During the stress test, the card stayed at its 1,000MHz clock speed without fluctuation, and the fan speed, despite being set to a maximum of 50 percent (Performance mode), plateaued at 42 percent, which was audible but no louder than the rest of the test system’s fans. Meanwhile, the temperature remained at a delta T of just 50°C, a whole 22°C less than the stock cooler, which is also far louder. Even though the card still has a target temperature of 95°C, Asus’s fan profiles appear to override this and prevent the card from getting this hot. This means there’s plenty of leeway to cap fan speeds even more to further reduce noise, provided you’re happy with a hotter card. All in all though, the DirectCU II cooler is a fantastic addition to the R9 290 GPU.

ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II OC Review - Performance Analysis and Conclusion
Click to enlarge
The overclocked results are also pleasing. In Battlefield 4 it surpasses the R9 290X thanks to an 11 percent improvement, and even gets very close to the GTX 780 Ti’s performance. In Crysis 3, it does even better. Its minimum frame rate goes from 34fps to 40fps, a whopping 18 percent boost that also sees it overtake the GTX Titan Black. Performance in Unigine Valley also increases by 14 percent. The downside is that power rockets upwards – we saw a maximum reading of 490W in our stress test compared to 392W using Asus’s default settings. Temperature and noise also increase – we saw a 12°C core temperature increase, while the fans ended up spinning at 50 percent (the most permitted by Asus’s Performance mode BIOS setting). Fan noise at 50 percent is louder but still not uncomfortable, and you could run the card a little quieter since the temperature was still 10°C less than the maximum 95°C.

Conclusion

The design of the reference models for the R9 290 series makes for one of the most compelling arguments we’ve seen to invest in a card with custom cooling, and this particular card is a fine example of engineering a great alternative. From the PCB components to the large, sturdy heatsink and the metal shroud and backplate, this card oozes quality. At its default speeds it’s already excellent, and although the modest overclocks mean that performance gains are fairly minimal compared to stock, it is far superior in the noise and heat department and even manages to consume a little less power too. However, it also overclocks well and makes ground on higher end Nvidia cards that are much more expensive. How much of this is down to pot luck and how much is as a result of improved power components and cooling is hard to tell, but it’s an improvement over the standard R9 290 nonetheless. At £340, it’s priced well against the GTX 780, and the card’s quality more than justifies its 13 percent price premium over stock models.

SOURCE:http://www.bit-tech.net/hardware/graphics/2014/03/03/asus-radeon-r9-290-directcu-ii-oc-review/1