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Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC Review (1600p, Ultra HD 4K)

Rating: 8.0.

Today we look at the latest card from Asus – the R9 290 Direct CU II, which ships with a custom cooler and out of the box clock enhancements. Can this card compete with solutions from Sapphire and Gigabyte which we have reviewed in the last month?
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The Asus R9 290 features a version of their Direct CU II dual fan cooler, versions of which we have reviewed on other Asus cards in the past.

Asus have overclocked their R9 Direct CU II OC from reference speeds of 947mhz to 1,000mhz and they have also given their GDDR5 memory a little tweak, from 1,250mhz (5Gbps effective) to 1,260mhz (5.04Gbps effective).

Specification:-

  • GPU: Hawaii Pro
  • Litecoin Hash Rate: 800-950
  • Stream Processors: 2560
  • ROPS: 64
  • Core Speed: 1000MHz
  • Memory Speed: 5040Mhz
  • Memory interface: 512-Bit
  • Memory capacity: 4096MB GDDR5
  • PCI-Express X16 lane required
  • 600W or greater PSU required
  • Power Connectors: 8-pin + 6-pin required
  • Display Outputs: 2x Dual Link DVI, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort
  • Warranty: 3yr


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Asus seem to have been using this particular ‘red claw’ box artwork forever. Along the bottom of the box are a list of key specifications and an image of the Direct CU II cooler.
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Not an extensive bundle inside – just a software disc, speed setup guide, and power converter cable.
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A very heavy card, thanks to the metal construction and backplate.
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The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC takes power from a single 6 pin and 8 pin power connector. Same as the reference design.
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The card has a DVI-I, DVI-D, full sized HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.

R9 Series graphics cards can now support up to three HDMI/DVI displays for use with AMD Eyefinity technology. A set of displays which support identical timings is required to enable this feature. The display clocks and timing for this feature are configured at boot time.

As such, display hot‐plugging is not supported for the third HDMI/DVI connection. A reboot is required to enable three HDMI/DVI displays.

There is no Crossfire connector on the R9 290. The 290 and 290x offer Bridgeless Crossfire capabilities.
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Above, the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC disassembled. Asus are using Elpida memory which some feel is lower grade than equivalent GDDR5 Hynix. Regardless of how you look at it, the memory on these cards is certified to run at the respective speeds and we haven’t ran into any issues before during testing. We spoke with other AMD partners, and they told us that the 2013 Hynix fire has meant sourcing memory from other factories has been critical.

It has been brought to our attention by several readers that ASUS have transplanted this specific Direct CU II cooler from their GTX780 range of hardware. Asus have not confirmed this, however we can see by the thermal paste footprint in the images that while there are five direct touch copper heatpipes, only 3 of them are making direct contact with the AMD R9 GPU core. That said, the outer two heatpipes will be working a little via heat transference with the others.
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An overview of the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC, clocked at 1GHZ. The Hawaii GPU is built on the 28nm process and the card comprises 6.2 billion transistors. The R9 290 has 64 ROPS, 160 texture units and 2,560 Stream processors. The 4GB of GDDR5 memory runs at 1,260mhz (5.04Gbps effective) and is connected via a wide 512 bit memory interface.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit Kitguru.net as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.
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Today we slot the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC into a series of tests we have ran on other cards. We are using the latest AMD Catalyst 13.11 beta driver and the Nvidia ForceWare 334.67 beta driver.
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We are using one of our brand new test rigs supplied by PCSPECIALIST and built to our specifications. If you want to read more about this, or are interested in buying the same Kitguru Test Rig, check out our article with links on this page.
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We are featuring results today with an Apple 30 inch Cinema HD Display at 2560×1600 resolution and an Asus PQ321QE Ultra HD 4K screen running at 4K 3840 x 2160 resolution.

Room ambient was held at 23c throughout testing.

Comparison cards:
Gigabyte R9 290 WindForce OC (1,040mhz / 1,250mhz memory)
Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC (1,050mhz / 1,350mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC (1,040mhz core / 1,300mhz memory)
Gigabyte R9 290X OC WindForce (1,040mhz core / 1,250mhz memory)
AMD R9 290X (1000mhz core / 1,250mhz memory)
AMD R9 290
(947mhz core / 1,250mhz memory)
Palit JetStream GTX780 Ti OC
(980mhz core / 1,750mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX780 Ti
(876mhz core / 1,750mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX Titan
(837mhz core / 1,502mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX780 (863mhz core / 1,502mhz memory)
MSI GTX780 Lightning (980mhz core / 1,502mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC Edition (1000mhz / 1300 mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition (1,150mhz core / 1,600mhz memory)
Palit GTX770 OC (1046mhz core / 1753mhz memory)

Software:
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Unigine Valley Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
3DMark
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
FurMark

Games:

Sleeping Dogs
Total War: Rome 2
Dirt Showdown
Tomb Raider
Metro Last Light
GRID 2
Splinter Cell Blacklist
Batman Arkham Origins
Battlefield 4

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset.

A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.

Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.

Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:

  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures

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We use the settings shown above at 2560×1600.
unigine heaven

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The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC averages 50.9 frames per second at 1600p.

Valley Benchmark is a new GPU stress-testing tool from the developers of the very popular and highly acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. The forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains amazes with its scale from a bird’s-eye view and is extremely detailed down to every leaf and flower petal. This non-synthetic benchmark powered by the state-of-the art UNIGINE Engine showcases a comprehensive set of cutting-edge graphics technologies with a dynamic environment and fully interactive modes available to the end user.
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We test with the settings above both at 2560×1600.
unigine valley

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The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC scores well in this benchmark, averaging almost 62 frames per second.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.
3dmark vantage

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The score of 45,419 points is a good indicator that the card is very capable with older Direct X 10 titles.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
3dmark11

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The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC scores well, only around 100 points behind the reference clocked GTX780 Ti.
3DMark is an essential tool used by millions of gamers, hundreds of hardware review sites and many of the world’s leading manufacturers to measure PC gaming performance.

Futuremark say “Use it to test your PC’s limits and measure the impact of overclocking and tweaking your system. Search our massive results database and see how your PC compares or just admire the graphics and wonder why all PC games don’t look this good.

To get more out of your PC, put 3DMark in your PC.”
3dmark

3dmark
The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC is very closely matched against the reference clocked GTX Titan, scoring 10,475 points.Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today. To test the cards we used a 2560×1600 resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occlusion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on.
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Smooth frame rates, holding an average of 76 and dropping to 46 in the most intensive sections of the game.
Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today.
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To test the cards we used a ULTRA HD 4K resolution (3840×2160) with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on.
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Extremely demanding at Ultra HD 4k resolution, dropping a couple of times below 25 frames per second.
Sleeping Dogs started development as an original title, but was announced in 2009 as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third installment and a reboot of the True Crime series.As a result of the game’s high development budget and delays, it was canceled by Activision Blizzard in 2011. Six months later, it was announced that Square Enix had picked up the publishing rights to the game, but the game was renamed Sleeping Dogs in 2012 since Square Enix did not purchase the True Crime name rights.
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This game is still a system killer at these maximised settings. We test at 2560×1600.
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The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC holds a frame rate of 25 or greater at all times.Sleeping Dogs started development as an original title, but was announced in 2009 as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third installment and a reboot of the True Crime series.As a result of the game’s high development budget and delays, it was canceled by Activision Blizzard in 2011. Six months later, it was announced that Square Enix had picked up the publishing rights to the game, but the game was renamed Sleeping Dogs in 2012 since Square Enix did not purchase the True Crime name rights.
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We used the ‘HIGH’ graphics level setting at 4K- 3840×2160. This uses a mixture of high and extreme graphics settings, detailed above.
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With the reduced image quality settings, we can get this Direct X 11 engine playable at Ultra HD 4k, holding above 25 frames per second at all times.
Total War ROME 2 is the eighth stand alone game in the Total War series, it is the successor to the successful Rome: Total War title. The Warscape Engine powers the visuals of the game and the new unit cameras will allow players to focus on individual soldiers on the battlefield, which in itself may contain thousands of combatants at a time. Creative Assembly has stated that they wish to bring out the more human side of war this way, with soldiers reacting with horror as their comrades get killed around them and officers inspiring their men with heroic speeches before siege towers hit the walls of the enemy city. This will be realised using facial animations for individual units, adding a feel of horror and realism to the battles.
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We test with the ULTRA profile at 2560×1600. Details shown in the screenshots above.
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A smooth experience throughout, holding at an average of 57 frames per second.
Total War ROME 2 is the eighth stand alone game in the Total War series, it is the successor to the successful Rome: Total War title. The Warscape Engine powers the visuals of the game and the new unit cameras will allow players to focus on individual soldiers on the battlefield, which in itself may contain thousands of combatants at a time. Creative Assembly has stated that they wish to bring out the more human side of war this way, with soldiers reacting with horror as their comrades get killed around them and officers inspiring their men with heroic speeches before siege towers hit the walls of the enemy city. This will be realised using facial animations for individual units, adding a feel of horror and realism to the battles.
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We test at 4K – 3840×2160 with the Very High Preset selected, as shown in the screenshots above.
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A smooth experience at Ultra HD 4K, averaging over 40 frames per second.
Dirt Showdown is the latest title in the franchise from Codemasters, based around the famous Colin McRae racing game series, although it no longer uses his name, since he passed away in 2007.
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Today we test the hardware at 2560×1600 with the Ultra profile and 8 x MSAA.
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Performance is excellent – hovering close to an average of 60 frames per second.
Dirt Showdown is the latest title in the franchise from Codemasters, based around the famous Colin McRae racing game series, although it no longer uses his name, since he passed away in 2007.
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Today we test with the ULTRA profile, at 4K 3840×2160 resolution and with 8 times Anti Aliasing.
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Smooth frame rates at Ultra HD 4k resolution, holding around 40 or better at all times.
After a delayed release from late 2012 to March 2013, the game received much anticipation and hype. Tomb Raider received much acclaim from critics, who praised the graphics, the gameplay and Camilla Luddington’s performance as Lara with many critics agreeing that the game is a solid and much needed reboot of the franchise. Much criticism went to the addition of the multiplayer which many felt was unnecessary. Tomb Raider went on to sell one million copies in forty-eight hours of its release, and has sold 3.4 million copies worldwide so far.
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We use the ULTIMATE profile shown above and test at 2560×1600.

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This is a great looking game, especially at 1600p. No problems powering the engine at all.
After a delayed release from late 2012 to March 2013, the game received much anticipation and hype. Tomb Raider received much acclaim from critics, who praised the graphics, the gameplay and Camilla Luddington’s performance as Lara with many critics agreeing that the game is a solid and much needed reboot of the franchise. Much criticism went to the addition of the multiplayer which many felt was unnecessary. Tomb Raider went on to sell one million copies in forty-eight hours of its release, and has sold 3.4 million copies worldwide so far.
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We test at 4K 3840×2160 resolution with the ULTRA profile setting enabled – details in the images above.
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tomb raider 4k
Even at Ultra HD 4k resolutions, the hardware is able to maintain a 30+ frame rate.
Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. 4A Games’ proprietary 4A Engine is capable of rendering breathtaking vistas, such as those showing the ruined remnants of Moscow, as well as immersive indoor areas that play with light and shadow, creating hauntingly beautiful scenes akin to those from modern-day photos of Pripyat’s abandoned factories and schools.
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We test this game with the built in benchmark with very high quality settings at 1920×1080 – details shown in the image above.
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A very demanding benchmark – however we see the overclocked R9 290 cards putting in a good showing, right beside the reference 290X solutions.
Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. 4A Games’ proprietary 4A Engine is capable of rendering breathtaking vistas, such as those showing the ruined remnants of Moscow, as well as immersive indoor areas that play with light and shadow, creating hauntingly beautiful scenes akin to those from modern-day photos of Pripyat’s abandoned factories and schools.
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We test this game with the built in benchmark, with the settings detailed above. Direct X 11 mode, Quality is set at medium, 16 AF, normal Motion blur, Tessellation Normal, Advanced PhysX disabled and SSAA disabled.
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metro last light 4k
The performance falls in with what we would expect, averaging around 50 frames per second.
Grid 2 is the sequel to the racing video game Race Driver: Grid. It was developed and published by Codemasters. The game includes numerous real world locations such as Paris, numerous United States locations, and many more, and also includes motor vehicles spanning four decades. In addition, it includes a new handling system that developer Codemasters has dubbed ‘TrueFeel’, which aims to hit a sweet spot between realism and accessibility.
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We test at 2560×1600 with the Ultra image quality preset, as shown above. 8x MSAA was enabled to improve image quality.
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Strong results, averaging 78 frames per second.
Grid 2 is the sequel to the racing video game Race Driver: Grid. It was developed and published by Codemasters. The game includes numerous real world locations such as Paris, numerous United States locations, and many more, and also includes motor vehicles spanning four decades. In addition, it includes a new handling system that developer Codemasters has dubbed ‘TrueFeel’, which aims to hit a sweet spot between realism and accessibility.
grid2_avx 2013-10-28 14-14-02-74grid2_avx 2013-10-28 14-14-05-05
We select 4K 3840×2160 resolution and enabled the ULTRA profile with 8 times anti aliasing, as shown in the screenshots above.
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grid 2 4k
Excellent performance at Ultra HD 4K resolution, averaging 50 frames per second.
Splinter Cell Blacklist is the sixth installment in the series. The game begins with Sam Fisher and his old friend Victor Coste who are about to depart from Andersen AFB in Guam when an unknown enemy force destroys the entire base. Assisted by hacker specialist Charlie Cole, Sam and Vic manage to escape, although Vic is injured after protecting Sam from a grenade. Soon after, a terrorist group calling itself “The Engineers” assumes responsibility for the attack and announce that it was the first of a deadly countdown of escalating attacks (called “The Blacklist”) on United States assets, declaring that they will halt the attacks only after the U.S. government accomplish the demand of calling back all American troops deployed abroad.
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We test with a series of high image quality settings as shown above and with 4x MSAA and 16 x Anisotropic filtering enabled.
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The frame rate never drops below 49 frames per second.
Splinter Cell Blacklist is the sixth installment in the series. The game begins with Sam Fisher and his old friend Victor Coste who are about to depart from Andersen AFB in Guam when an unknown enemy force destroys the entire base. Assisted by hacker specialist Charlie Cole, Sam and Vic manage to escape, although Vic is injured after protecting Sam from a grenade. Soon after, a terrorist group calling itself “The Engineers” assumes responsibility for the attack and announce that it was the first of a deadly countdown of escalating attacks (called “The Blacklist”) on United States assets, declaring that they will halt the attacks only after the U.S. government accomplish the demand of calling back all American troops deployed abroad.
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We selected 4K – 3840×2160 resolution and the ‘High’ Graphics quality preset. Screenshots shown above.
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splinter cell blacklist 4k

The frame rates are well in excess of 30 at all times, and overall game play is smooth at Ultra HD 4k resolution.
Batman Arkham Origins moved development away from series creators Rocksteady Studios, and is written by Corey May and Dooma Wendschuh. The game’s main storyline is set five years before that of 2009′s Batman: Arkham Asylum and follows a younger and less refined Batman who has a bounty placed on his head by crime lord Black Mask, drawing eight of the world’s greatest assassins to Gotham City on Christmas Eve. The game is presented from the third-person perspective with a primary focus on Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets that can be used in both combat and exploration. Arkham Origins is the first game in the series to feature multiplayer gameplay.
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We test at Ultra HD 4K with a mixture of high image quality settings and 2 MSAA, shown above.
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batman arkham origins
One of the best looking games at Ultra HD 4k and while ideally paired up with an overclocked GTX780 Ti JetStream, it still runs well on the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC.Battlefield 4 (also known as BF4) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE (DICE) and published by Electronic Arts. The game is a sequel to 2011′s Battlefield 3. Battlefield 4 is built on the new Frostbite 3 engine. The new Frostbite engine enables more realistic environments with higher resolution textures and particle effects. A new “networked water” system is also being introduced, allowing all players in the game to see the same wave at the same time.Tessellation has also been overhauled.
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We test at Ultra HD 4K with the high image quality profile, shown above.
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bf4
Smooth frame rates, although very close to the borderline, dropping below 30 on a couple of occasions.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes.

Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.
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load
The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC peaks at 84c under Furmark load, and 78c when gaming.
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We noticed a readout at 119c when running Furmark. We never include Furmark results as ‘real world’ indicators however and when gaming this temperature dropped to 110c.

We spoke to ASUS about this just before going to publication and their engineering team said that the placement of the VRM sensor is in a different location on their 290’s, but the VRM’s are being cooled well within specifications.
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We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with almost completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.

We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation. Ambient noise in the room measures close to the limits of our sound meter at 28dBa. It isn’t a real world situation to be measuring with a case panel off only a few centimeters away from a video card.

Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.

KitGuru noise guide

10dBA – Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refridgerator
50dBA – Normal Conversation
60dBA – Laughter
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA – City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA – Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA – MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA – Orchestra
120dBA – Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA – Threshold of Pain
140dBA – Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA – Instant Perforation of eardrum
acoustics performance
The dual fan Direct CU II isn’t the quietest cooler we have experienced, spinning up significantly when under load. It is identical to the 290X version which we tested several weeks ago.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and the synthetic stress test Furmark and record both results.
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Power consumption falls in line with other overclocked 290 solutions we have tested in recent months.
To overclock today, we used the dedicated overclocking tools within the latest version of AMD’s Catalyst Control Center. We also tested with Asus GPU Tweak, but the end results were identical.
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Taking the power limit settings any further than 20% didn’t help any further. The core could be overclocked by 10% before the R9 290 Direct CU II OC would hardlock. There was minimal headroom via the GDDR5 memory, topping out at around 5%.

Increasing the maximum fan speed past 60% helped to ensure that the core clock held constantly at our overclocked speeds. This does add a little extra noise, but we would imagine that the audience determined to push clocks to the limit won’t be too bothered.
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At the maximum manually tweaked speeds, the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC overtakes some of the R9 290X solutions, slotting in behind the Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC, which scores around 100 points more.
AMD lovers had to wait months to get their hands on custom R9 290/X solutions, but their patience has been rewarded with a wealth of partner cards made available in 2014.

The Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC is undoubtedly an excellent graphics card, able to power the latest games at 1600p and Ultra HD 4K resolutions. Frame rate prowess is almost identical to the Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X OC Edition … not a shocker considering they are running at the same 1,000mhz core clock. Sapphire have however overclocked their GDDR5 a little higher – to 1,300mhz, while Asus have settled for 1,260mhz, a miniscule 10mhz overclock on AMD’s reference design.

The fastest R9 290 we have tested to this point comes from Gigabyte. Their R9 290 WindForce OC ships with an enhanced core clock of 1,040mhz, pushing frame rate performance a little ahead of the Asus and Sapphire solutions.

In previous years we have always rated the Asus Direct CU II cooler, but we now feel Asus are lagging behind the competiton. While Gigabyte and Sapphire have adopted high grade triple fan coolers, Asus have decided to stay true to their smaller dual fan layout.

Asus need to head back to the drawing board and release an upgraded triple fan Direct CU III version on upcoming models. The benefits of a good triple fan cooler are that each fan can spin slower with a greater combined air flow, simultaneously reducing noise levels.

Interestingly, the Direct CU II cooler on this specific card is equipped with 5 direct touch heatpipes, 2 of which actually don’t make direct contact with AMD’s Hawaii core. We have heard from several sources that this cooler has been adopted from the ASUS GTX780 range, which would explain the core contact size differences. You can see this on page 2 of our review today.

While we mentioned some high VRM temperatures on the thermal dynamics page of our review, we didn’t experience any instability during testing, and we were able to overclock the core on this card by 10%, to 1,100mhz. We had to raise the default fan settings a little to help with cooling, but the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC did overclock to the same levels as both Sapphire and Gigabyte solutions. ASUS did explain the (supposed) high VRM temperatures and you can read this on the Thermal Dynamics page in this review.

Right now you can buy the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC from Overclockers UK for £389,99 inc vat. We would still choose the Sapphire R9 290 Tri-X Edition however, it is priced the same as the Asus board we reviewed today, and the Tri-X cooling system is markedly superior to the competing products from Gigabyte and ASUS.

You can discuss on our Facebook page, over HERE.

Pros:

  • excellent performance.
  • 10% overclocking headroom.

Cons:

  • Sapphire Tri-X cooler is the market leader.
  • A new triple fan design would help ASUS.

Kitguru says: We like the Asus R9 290 Direct CU II OC, but we do feel Sapphire and Gigabyte solutions offer more for the same money.
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