Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Temperatures And Noise

Does Radeon R9 290X Behave Any Differently In A Closed Case?
By

Temperatures

The temperatures you see in the graph below show that partner boards run quite a bit cooler than AMD's reference design. In fact, Sapphire's offering even matches one of our favorite GeForce GTX 780 cards from Gigabyte. As it turns out, the Hawaii-based flagship is perfectly capable of running well in a closed case, so long as it's cooled properly.

Let's get into the results themselves. Each of these boards is tested for 20 minutes using Metro: Last Light at its highest settings.

Asus' R9 290X DirectCU II OC fares the worst, even though its 84-85 °C temperature is still bearable. The Tri-X OC Radeon R9 290X shows that Hawaii can run quite a bit cooler, though, topping out at 72 °C. Sapphire's result is particularly impressive. In our closed case test, the Tri-X registers 1-2 °C lower than in the open-air chassis. The Asus card's temperature, on the other hand, increases nine degrees from our measurement using the exposed bench system. And what's up with Gigabyte's R9 290X Windforce OC? With a reading of 83-84 °C in the closed case, that's just under Asus' board. But it's still one degree lower than our open case result. Apparently, Quiet Mode was taken too literally; a slightly faster fan would have probably been acceptable.

It turns out that the Asus and Gigabyte cards suffer the same problem. Instead of a solid base drawing heat away from the GPU, both employ evidently unfavorable direct-contact heat pipes. The tapered surfaces don't make sufficient contact with the GPU, especially the two outer pipes that essentially do nothing. A vapor chamber or massive sink would have been much more useful.

Then again, that's what you get when you recycle the same cooling found on Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 for reasons of economics. Cheers, accountants!

Card
Open Case
Microcool Banchetto 101
Closed Chassis
Asus R9 290X DirectCU II OC
76 °C
84-85 °C
Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC
73 °C
70-72 °C
Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce OC
84 °C
83 °C
Gigabyte GTX 780 Windforce OC
67 °C
68-69 °C

What do these thermal measurements tell us? A well-designed case won't necessarily impose higher temperatures on your graphics card, even if its GPU is notoriously hot and it employs axial fans that recirculates heat. The key appears to be a thermal solution optimized for the application, and not something tacked on as an afterthought.

Noise

Our acoustic measurements come from recordings using a calibrated studio microphone. It's oriented diagonally from top-left to bottom-right, pointing towards the upper-left case edge. That should roughly correspond to a gamer's seated position, 50 cm away. We keep the previously-mentioned Metro: Last Light gaming loop running.

Card
Open Case
Microcool Banchetto 101
Closed Chassis
Asus R9 290X DirectCU II OC
42.3 dB(A)
47.3 dB(A)
Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X OC
40.9 dB(A)
43.8 dB(A)
Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce OC
41.9 dB(A)
45.8 dB(A)
Gigabyte GTX 780 Windforce OC
39.5 dB(A)
43.6 dB(A)

Even though each board's behavior is fairly consistent in and out of our test chassis (except for Asus' model), this comes at the cost of slightly higher background noise. Components mounted inside the case, with a passive graphics card installed, generate background noise of 36.7 dB(A), so our measurements are the sum of those two sound sources. With this in mind, acoustics are certainly better than AMD's reference effort, but could still be quieter. This applies to Gigabyte's GeForce board as well, to a lesser degree.

Ask a Category Expert

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

Example: Notebook, Android, SSD hard drive

Display all 72 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 12 Hide
    bemused_fred , January 9, 2014 1:56 AM
    Ahhh, finally: R9-290x cards with consistent performance and bearable accoustics.
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    solix , January 9, 2014 1:50 AM
    This surprises me a bit after Tom's 280x roundup where the Asus DCII really came out nicely with regards to both acoustics and temps conceding in clocks to the faster but louder toxic card. Obviously this is a different chip with different properties, but fundamentally you'd expect mostly similar results with respect to TDP.
  • 12 Hide
    bemused_fred , January 9, 2014 1:56 AM
    Ahhh, finally: R9-290x cards with consistent performance and bearable accoustics.
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , January 9, 2014 2:00 AM
    OK so the reason why this card is not performing through the roof :p owerTune is keeping thermals AND power consumption in check.Now for a nice overclock to negate that effect and the 290 and 290x will perform through the roof.Wish I could afford one now... :( 
  • 2 Hide
    solix , January 9, 2014 2:15 AM
    To my point, and sorry for the double post:http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-r9-280x-third-party-round-up,3655.htmlPage 12This operates on the assertion that the Toxic cooler for the 280x is quite similar to the 290x Tri-x, but that is conjecture. I'm sure there are subtle differences (though maybe those make all the difference in the case of the 290x).Page 6Subjectively the Asus sounds quietest to me in terms of the kind of noise it produces.Page 4,5Toxic is a good 8db louder as measured (and almost the loudest) but middle of the pack in relation to all the cards with regards to temps, and slightly cooler in temps than DCII and windforce by a few degrees.Page 2The Toxic is about 7% higher in clocks.The differences in the 290x are much more pronounced with the DCII and windforce losing in both aspects of temperature and noise. The open bench tests were more similar to the 280x tests which I assume were open bench, but the DCII and WF still came out ahead in terms of noise even in that test. Sapphire must really have reworked their Toxic cooler or this is a new design we didn't see on the 280x cards.
  • 3 Hide
    sx57 , January 9, 2014 2:24 AM
    I expected much more from asus. Very good article.
  • -2 Hide
    sx57 , January 9, 2014 2:34 AM
    I expected much more from asus. Very good article.
  • 0 Hide
    west7 , January 9, 2014 2:51 AM
    i think it should be included vrm temps in the article well i have hd7950 vapor-x the it have the worst vrm cooling i've seen temps in gaming is around 80°C on stock clocks(950/1250) and i'm getting this temps on very cooled case (cm haf912 with tree fans 2x200mm 1x140mm) so it will be very nice if you add vrm temps in your next review
  • 0 Hide
    de5_Roy , January 9, 2014 4:34 AM
    is that an optical illusion or the gigabyte gtx 780 card is about to succumb to gravity... the asus card seems to be bending a bit as well...
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , January 9, 2014 4:49 AM
    Good article. I have also found from experience that good case airflow (i.e. well thought out directional airflow - not miscellaneous fans all over the place) can be much better at facilitating GPU cooling performance than open (and stagnant) air.MSI has IMO the best cooler out there in its Gaming series - I think they've struck the best balance of price, cooling performance & noise reduction of any card with this generation. I hope to see one in the round-up.On the CLC, do you have that setup pulling air into the case or exhausting out?
  • 4 Hide
    sunshine240sx , January 9, 2014 4:58 AM
    Where can I get a "Gigabyte GTX 290X"?
  • 0 Hide
    chesteracorgi , January 9, 2014 5:26 AM
    A computer case has two essential functions: housing the components and cooling them. The design of radial fans forcing airflow through a small aperture in the rear of the case is inherently less efficient (like pissing through a pinhole with the concomitant splash-back) than venting heat to the case interior. A well designed case will properly vent the heat and provide a good environment for the computer, a poorly designed case will trap heat and prematurely burn through components.I stress tested a GTX 470 with a shroud and radial fan and it ran about 20 C hotter than the (very same) GPU with a (dual axial fan) Zalman 2000 F under identical conditions in a Corsair 600 T case. Shame on AMD (and ASUS) for their design and the laziness of Gigabyte for being cheap.
  • 4 Hide
    Yuka , January 9, 2014 5:26 AM
    Well, Sapphire doing an excellent work again. Although, they do have 3 fans for cooling, compared to 2 for Asus.Still, both make great purchases I'd say.Cheers!
  • 0 Hide
    _Vass , January 9, 2014 5:45 AM
    windforce gtx 290x lel. you made a mistake there sir :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Amdlova , January 9, 2014 5:51 AM
    the heat is on! remember when some one fry a egg on geforce now is time to AMD
  • 0 Hide
    elbert , January 9, 2014 6:07 AM
    This should have been expected. Sapphire has 10 years in the video card business over the other 2. Wonder how Sapphire would do against XFX?
  • 1 Hide
    wussupi83 , January 9, 2014 6:09 AM
    Igor , I have to be honest, I think you did excellent due diligence for the article and compiled very good test results for us, thank you. However, reading the article gave me a really strong sense that you personally don't like the 290 series. I felt that was a little out of Tom's normal down-the-middle stance on reviews that has kept me a consistent almost-daily reader here for over a decade. Anyway, that's just my opinion. Thanks again for the great information.
  • 1 Hide
    ddpruitt , January 9, 2014 6:09 AM
    The 1ms power consumption numbers look reasonable, albeit powertune shouldn't use such a fine setting to adjust clocks and fan speed. It would be interesting to overlay frame completion times with the high res power graph to see if anything else is going on there.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , January 9, 2014 7:38 AM
    Quote:
    This surprises me a bit after Tom's 280x roundup where the Asus DCII really came out nicely with regards to both acoustics and temps conceding in clocks to the faster but louder toxic card. Obviously this is a different chip with different properties, but fundamentally you'd expect mostly similar results with respect to TDP.
    I have both of these cards. The Sapphire is a tremendously better built, better packaged card. At 100% fan speed, the Asus card isn't so much quieter as it is just a different tone. I actually prefer the Toxic. That said, I also paid >$100 more for the toxic card than I did the asus card.
  • 0 Hide
    Chetou , January 9, 2014 7:45 AM
    Why Quiet mode? I can't think of anyone buying these cards and not running them to their fullest potential.
  • -1 Hide
    heydan , January 9, 2014 7:52 AM
    You put Gigabyte "GTX" 290X Windforce OC by the way
Display more comments