Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Power, Heat, And Efficiency

PowerColor LCS AXR9 290X: Water Makes Hawaii Comfortable
By

In today’s test, the liquid cooling system was powered by the platform, pulling around 12 W continuously (18 W at most). Hot cards consume more energy, and that helps explain why the LCS AXR9 290X uses less power, even with the extra cooling parts added to system load.

With AMD’s target temperature of 94 °C, full-load temperatures don’t mean much for air-cooled cards. This chart only indicates an ambient temperature of 18.5 to 19.4 degrees, where I’ve already noted the 18-19 °C temperature as a potential consistency issue.

Temperatures for the liquid-cooled card are exceptionally low. And PowerColor's solution, on its own, pulls around 30 W less as a result (though it gives some of that efficiency back to power the pump).

Now that AMD is overriding the Quiet firmware settings in its driver, it makes less sense that the air-cooled card would still run faster using the Uber firmware (particularly since the Uber setting merely allows faster fan speeds). Even more testing suggested that the source of the added performance was a 0.5° drop in room temperature! It's almost impossible to maintain a workspace with a tighter thermal tolerance, and it's pretty telling that these Hawaii-based boards are so sensitive.

The only performance gains that do make clear sense happen to the LCS AXR9 290X. It always runs cool enough to maintain AMD's peak clock rate ceiling, and rarely encounters a taxing enough load to trigger throttling. Shipping with its BIOS selector set to AMD’s default for air-cooled boards, the PowerColor card picks up a 60 MHz-higher core clock and 100 MHz-faster memory after enabling Uber mode.

Posting greater performance and lower power consumption, the liquid-cooled LCS AXR9 290X naturally achieves better energy efficiency. The reference-class Radeon R9 290X is so inconsistent (in both power and performance measurements) that I no longer wish to use it for any testing purposes, at least at its default fan settings. The only way to make the stock card perform consistently is to push its fan fast enough to maintain consistent clock rates. Of course, then it no longer behaves the way it shipped out from the factory.

Ask a Category Expert

Create a new thread in the Reviews comments forum about this subject

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 41 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
  • 6 Hide
    AMD Radeon , March 5, 2014 12:47 AM
    really? $800?
    $100++ from GTX 780 Ti
    http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#sort=a7&qq=1&c=153
  • 5 Hide
    Crashman , March 5, 2014 1:12 AM
    Quote:
    really? $800?that's more than $150 from Asus DCU IIhttp://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#c=146&sort=a7


    It has a $150 cooler (including the back plate, etc).

    Of course Asus has a special cooler too. But Asus had the opportunity to drop its price, and the 290x has indeed dropped by $50 to $100 in the past two weeks. Supply is catching up with demand.

    Unfortunately for PowerColor, its LCS 290X has been out-of-stock for more than two weeks. So they get stuck with prices that are at least two weeks old, at least until someone gets new inventory and lowers their price.

    Sucks to be them, they should have restocked their sellers more quickly :) 
    Quote:
    really? $800?
    $100++ from GTX 780 Ti
    http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#sort=a7&qq=1&c=153
    But it's still cheaper than a water-cooled 780 Ti :) 
  • 0 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 5, 2014 1:13 AM
    Great review Tom!

    Did you happen to notice any variability under load for your core speed while overclocked on the LCS card?
    I have a Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290X that is rock solid at its stock 1040MHz, but that starts bouncing the core clock all around when any core overclocking is applied.
    With my quiet fan curve, load temps top out around 85°C; well below AMD's specified throttle point of 95°C.
    If your liquid cooled cards are solid at 1200MHz, I am curious if Power Tune starts to throttle in a less severe way after going above 70- or 80°C.
  • 0 Hide
    AMD Radeon , March 5, 2014 1:18 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    really? $800?that's more than $150 from Asus DCU IIhttp://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#c=146&sort=a7
    It has a $150 cooler (including the back plate, etc).Of course Asus has a special cooler too. But Asus had the opportunity to drop its price, and the 290x has indeed dropped by $50 to $100 in the past two weeks. Supply is catching up with demand.Unfortunately for PowerColor, its LCS 290X has been out-of-stock for more than two weeks. So they get stuck with prices that are at least two weeks old, at least until someone gets new inventory and lowers their price.Sucks to be them, they should have restocked their sellers more quickly :) 
    Thanks for the explanation, very good review overall :) btw sorry I edited my comment before you posted
  • 0 Hide
    TheDane , March 5, 2014 1:18 AM
    Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X is (very) silent, cheaper, doesn't required a W/C setup, and installation is much easier. Also the LCS card here requires a wide case due to its height!
  • 1 Hide
    Crashman , March 5, 2014 1:34 AM
    Quote:
    Great review Tom!Did you happen to notice any variability under load for your core speed while overclocked on the LCS card?I have a Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290X that is rock solid at its stock 1040MHz, but that starts bouncing the core clock all around when any core overclocking is applied.With my quiet fan curve, load temps top out around 85°C; well below AMD's specified throttle point of 95°C.If your liquid cooled cards are solid at 1200MHz, I am curious if Power Tune starts to throttle in a less severe way after going above 70- or 80°C.
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.
    Quote:
    Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X is (very) silent, cheaper,
    ...and toasts your CPU. Please read the first page of this review, thanks!
  • 0 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 5, 2014 1:46 AM
    Quote:
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.

    Odd, this happens with a +50% power limit and tested with the Metro Last Light benchmark :/ 
    Thanks for confirming that your test card was not throttling; back to troubleshooting my setup!
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 5, 2014 2:00 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.

    Odd, this happens with a +50% power limit and tested with the Metro Last Light benchmark :/ 
    Thanks for confirming that your test card was not throttling; back to troubleshooting my setup!
    Remember that the LCS test card runs cooler than an air-cooled card, and that lower temperatures significantly lower power consumption :) 
  • 0 Hide
    outlw6669 , March 5, 2014 2:07 AM
    Quote:
    Remember that the LCS test card runs cooler than an air-cooled card, and that lower temperatures significantly lower power consumption :) 


    Good point; I will have to retest with a cooler fan curve.
    Not sure if this will be the issue though as even a 20MHz bump to the core, and +50% power limit added to this, causes throttling with under 85°C temps.

    Thanks for the thoughts!
  • 0 Hide
    ddpruitt , March 5, 2014 5:30 AM
    Quote:
    As air temperatures climbed into the 20s (Celsius) inside the case
    Actually with a low room temp it'll still affect results quite a bit. I can push higher clocks in the winter with a lower room temp than in the summer (and forget it when we hit 40C, no OCing unless the Air's cranked up all the way). You might want to retest once you're able to heat up the office to see how the temps are affected (both on the air cooled and water cooled setups).
  • -1 Hide
    Computer Ed , March 5, 2014 5:48 AM
    Quote:
    [
    Quote:
    Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X is (very) silent, cheaper,
    ...and toasts your CPU. Please read the first page of this review, thanks!
    No where in this or ANY article have I seen a reference to the use of an open GPU cooler "toasting" a CPU. The truth is in various builds I have seen no real advantage to the blower cooler over the open GPU cooler. Blower coolers are usually nosier and while they can evacuate heat from a case they are less efficient at cooling. Perhaps if you are using a very small build with next to no air flow this would matter but anyone building with a 290 series is likely experienced and is building with good air flow making this a none issue.
  • 0 Hide
    Vistouf , March 5, 2014 6:51 AM
    On page 12, I find your graphics confusing. Where does the Value indicator come from? How is it calculated?
  • 0 Hide
    Joshua Carter , March 5, 2014 8:44 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Remember that the LCS test card runs cooler than an air-cooled card, and that lower temperatures significantly lower power consumption :) 


    Good point; I will have to retest with a cooler fan curve.
    Not sure if this will be the issue though as even a 20MHz bump to the core, and +50% power limit added to this, causes throttling with under 85°C temps.

    Thanks for the thoughts!


    The card will throttle at the specified level of power consumption and/or temperature. The point at which they throttle is configurable-- If you have the card set to target 80°C or 75°C then it will throttle to maintain that temp as much as possible, while keeping in mind the power limits you've set in Powertune.

  • 0 Hide
    c123456 , March 5, 2014 9:25 AM
    Seeing the price of this makes me realize how good of a deal I got with the Cryovenom R9 290 at $550. It has the exact same water block and back plate.
  • -6 Hide
    CaptainTom , March 5, 2014 9:33 AM
    I am so tired of this "These cards are crazy overpriced!" comments. Is the 290X overpriced? YES! Should it cost less than the 780 Ti which is only 7% stronger at the cost of less VRAM? HELL NO! If the 290X should cost $550, the 780 Ti should as well. Oh and don't get me started on how ridiculous it is that some people think the 780 (Non Ti) should cost MORE than the 290... LOL ok...
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 5, 2014 9:57 AM
    Quote:
    On page 12, I find your graphics confusing. Where does the Value indicator come from? How is it calculated?
    Performance Gained% / Price Increased %
    That's easy to figure out for just the cards (Graphics performance gained / graphics price increased) For the system, there is System Performance Gained / System Price Increased.

    making this chart more complicated on this occasion is that the LC card needs a liquid cooler, which increases the system price by $180. So the system price structure compares [LC card + cooling system + baseline system] to [air-cooled card + baseline system].

  • 1 Hide
    Shankovich , March 5, 2014 10:36 AM
    ^Blame the miners....
  • 0 Hide
    clonazepam , March 5, 2014 11:21 AM
    Well i was hoping to hit the OC page and see some 1300 mhz clock speed but I guess you can't have everything. EKWB are machined very well, but I might have popped it off to check the TIM.

    I'm sitting here looking at a pile of flow plates for my own EK WBs, so I'm wondering which one the manufacturer decided to go with.
  • 0 Hide
    QuietPC , March 5, 2014 12:58 PM
    My recent experience with Power Color has left me avoiding them. I bought a 7870 Myst late last year only to have the fan speed so high and loud with the temp 92C I contacted them and asked to RMA. They agreed, I paid to ship the card to them, the finally got around to testing it and agreed and then waited 3 weeks to replace it. The card I got back is hitting 89C with high fan and speed which makes it agonizing to use.I contacted PC again and they said they tested it and that the one they sent it fine. I'm going to force the issue but the only thing I can do at this stage is share my experience with others and suggest you/they stay away from PC products.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , March 5, 2014 1:35 PM
    Quote:
    Well i was hoping to hit the OC page and see some 1300 mhz clock speed but I guess you can't have everything. EKWB are machined very well, but I might have popped it off to check the TIM.

    I'm sitting here looking at a pile of flow plates for my own EK WBs, so I'm wondering which one the manufacturer decided to go with.
    Can't blame temperatures for this one, it stayed cool throughout the test.

Display more comments