Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

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

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

We're in the process of testing Radeon R9 290X cards from AMD's board partners, and were curious how they all fare in a closed chassis. Corsair's deluxe Obsidian 900D offers lots of airflow, so we dusted off a more mainstream $80 case to test with.

We received plenty of feedback about our work with AMD's Radeon R9 290X in an open test bed, despite careful attention to maintaining constant room temperatures. After following up with some measurements in Corsair's well-ventilated Obsidian 900D, I found that some cards fared even better inside an enclosure than out. Eager for more information, I sought out a mainstream chassis to continue the collection of data.

I picked Enermax's Fulmo ST, which isn't available from Newegg right now, but does show up elsewhere under $100. That seemed like a good price on a practical mid-tower case. Realism was the goal, so I avoided big towers and some of the excessively cheap solutions that show up in our System Builder Marathon (I tend to think if you're buying an expensive graphics card, you're probably putting it into a nice chassis). 

In order to create more of a cooling challenge, I used an overclocked AMD FX-8350 running at 4.4 GHz with a closed-loop liquid cooler and fan running at a constant 800 RPM. Using this set-up, the path warm air from the graphics card would normally take is largely blocked. Adding a second 800 RPM exhaust fan in the back of the case helps with circulation, though.

The platform's fan control was set as conservatively as possible, spinning the coolers around 600 RPM. This configuration should give us an idea of whether AMD's latest is viable in smaller enclosures (or not).

All of the cards are set to Quiet Mode, since the third-party cooling solutions do a much better job of maintaining clock rates than AMD's reference effort.

CPU
AMD FX-8350 (Piledriver) Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
Cooling
Corsair H100i, 2 x 120 mm Fans (800 RPM)
Motherboard
Asus Sabertooth FX990 Rev. 2.0
RAM
2 x 4 GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866
Storage
Adata Premier Pro SP900
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB
Case
Enermax Fulmo ST
Power Supply
Enermax Revolution X't 530 W, 80 PLUS Gold
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers
AMD Catalyst 13.12
GeForce 331.82
Benchmarks
Metro: Last Light
Bioshock Infinite
Battlefield 4 (Single-Player)
Crysis 3 (DirectX 11)

Reference card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Windforce OC

Asus R9 290X DirectCU II

Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce OC

Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X

Let's take a look at how these cards perform in tight confinement.

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