It has been a very interesting couple of months in the graphics card sector. Since late November we have seen some of the finest gaming solutions ever to grace our labs, such as the Palit GTX 780 Ti JetStream OC and the Sapphire R9 290x Tri-X OC.
The Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC is another formidable card to add to the list. Out of the box it is the fastest single AMD GPU solution we have tested. Asus have pushed the core memory speeds from 1,000mhz to 1,050mhz and the memory speeds from 1,250mhz to 1,350mhz. This may not seem like a substantial increase, but the R9 290X is a very hot running card and overclocking headroom seems rather limited.
All three modified R9 290x cards that we have reviewed so far have positive traits, and slight weaknesses. The Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC is overall, the best of the bunch – adopting monster 10mm heatpipes into a state of the art triple fan cooling solution. Load temperatures while gaming hold at 68c, which is easily best in class. Negatively, out of the box, it isn’t the quietest solution we have tested. If you want the lowest possible temperatures however, then this is the card to get.
The Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce solution is very quiet, however it ships in a low state of overclock and the GDDR5 memory runs at reference speeds. It is also the hottest running, although some adjustments to the fan configuration can shift the balance between noise and cooling performance. If you value the lowest possible noise emissions however then this triple fan cooling solution is the partner card to get.
The Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC which we reviewed today is supplied in the highest state of overclock and subsequently it is the fastest single GPU AMD partner board that we have tested to date. This in itself is noteworthy – we like it when a company pushes the technology to the limits.
We have always admired the Asus Direct CU cooling systems, there was a time when they were the market leader. Cooler designs have moved forward remarkably in the last 6 months however and competitors such as Gigabyte and Sapphire have created cutting edge triple fan cooling solutions. The Asus R9 290X Direct CU II is the only custom card we have reviewed equipped with only two fans. Subsequently these fans have to work quite hard, and they generate a modest level of noise under load.
Obviously in the world of technology, adding ‘more’ or simply increasing numbers doesn’t always directly translate into a better product. The issue for ASUS is that both Sapphire and Gigabyte have clearly spent a lot of time designing their cooling solutions either to reduce noise as much as possible (Gigabyte) or to enhance cooling performance as much as possible (Sapphire). We certainly wouldn’t say the ASUS Direct CU II is a bad cooler, but in Q1 2014 it is beginning to look a little outclassed.
If you are in the market for the fastest AMD solution available, then the Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC deserves some serious consideration. Out of the box it is able to outperform all of the other partner cards we have tested. Right now it is available on pre-order from Overclockers UK for £499.99 inc vat. This is around £100 less than partner modified GTX780 Ti graphics cards.
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- Fastest single GPU AMD card we have tested.
- built like a tank.
- Faces a lot of competition from Sapphire and Gigabyte.
- Direct CU cooler would benefit from the addition of another fan.