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Can We Fix The Variance Ourselves?

The Cause Of And Fix For Radeon R9 290X And 290 Inconsistency
By , Igor Wallossek

The next step was to start fiddling with the Catalyst Control Center’s OverDrive applet to see if we could manually dial in equivalent fan speeds and solve the issue ourselves. On Asus’ card, a 43% maximum duty cycle got us as close as possible to AMD’s press board. Sapphire’s R9 290X needed a 42% override to get there. The outcome isn’t exact, but with 1% granularity in AMD’s driver, it’s impossible to get any closer.

The press and Asus cards are almost identical, but Sapphire’s fan is spinning about 30 RPM quicker. In theory, that only means it should perform better than AMD’s sample, if anything.

Asus’ R9 290X comes off of its 727 MHz floor with an extra 200 RPM of fan speed to help clock rates. Its new average is 792 MHz. Adding 100 RPM to Sapphire’s ceiling also helps, increasing that board’s average from 809 to 852 MHz. But neither retail-purchased product is able to catch the card we first received from AMD, which averages 917 MHz.

Even when we bring the retail cards up to the press board’s fan speed (and beyond), they are not as fast. In fact, our press board is still more than 11% quicker than Asus Radeon R9 290X. It’s 7% faster than Sapphire’s.

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Top Comments
  • 18 Hide
    itzsnypah , November 7, 2013 11:05 PM
    Quote:
    This kind of thing is why I use msi afterburner. Just set your own fan curve.


    That is not how powertune works.

    It's: Get Hot -> Get loud -> Drop clocks -> Get as loud as necessary to keep GPU from melting.

    So having a 'custom' fan curve does nigh nothing.

    E: I wonder what would happen if you fed the card hot air. What happens when you're at 100% fan speed and still pushing 96c+? Does it shut down, clock down even more or melt?
  • 16 Hide
    tttttc , November 7, 2013 10:39 PM
    I never understand why ANYONE will buy the reference design cards.... even for the GTX780, the aftermarket cooler is way better and quieter than the stock fan.
Other Comments
  • 1 Hide
    xiinc37 , November 7, 2013 10:37 PM
    This kind of thing is why I use msi afterburner. Just set your own fan curve.
  • 16 Hide
    tttttc , November 7, 2013 10:39 PM
    I never understand why ANYONE will buy the reference design cards.... even for the GTX780, the aftermarket cooler is way better and quieter than the stock fan.
  • 9 Hide
    eldragon0 , November 7, 2013 10:59 PM
    Thank you so much for this article, I've been waiting on a write-up of this sort. There is one thing I'd love to see. Assuming the 290 and the 290x have the same layout, is it possible for you to strap that aftermarket heatsink onto each of them and give us a comparison of both of them at retail without them being horribly throttled? I'd love nothing more than to see a 290 and a 290x head to head at full speeds !
  • 18 Hide
    itzsnypah , November 7, 2013 11:05 PM
    Quote:
    This kind of thing is why I use msi afterburner. Just set your own fan curve.


    That is not how powertune works.

    It's: Get Hot -> Get loud -> Drop clocks -> Get as loud as necessary to keep GPU from melting.

    So having a 'custom' fan curve does nigh nothing.

    E: I wonder what would happen if you fed the card hot air. What happens when you're at 100% fan speed and still pushing 96c+? Does it shut down, clock down even more or melt?
  • 5 Hide
    FormatC , November 7, 2013 11:06 PM
    Quote:
    is it possible for you to strap that aftermarket heatsink onto each of them


    It is impossible. The reason is simple: thermal clue. As I wrote in my article about the thermal grease: after the burn-in it is nearly impossible to remove the small heatsinks. The risk to destroy the card is too high. This aftermarket cooler is good and quiet but it is a real one-way ticket. You can't return ;) 

    For addition - I've done the same thing with R9 290 cards and another benchmark before AMD has changed the driver. We worked hard to detect the reason for this big variances. But it seems that the difference between the R9 290 cards is a little bit smaller.

    This was before:



  • 1 Hide
    Quaddro , November 7, 2013 11:07 PM
    Praise this card..
    Now we can see 780Ti and 780 with more reasonable price..;)

    Still waiting msi hawk version or directCu version of both of this card..hope that series will handle the heat..

    Spend $100 more just for cooler (mk-26 + 2 fans) on reference card, is not a really good option..
  • -2 Hide
    Quaddro , November 7, 2013 11:09 PM
    -double post- :D 
  • 2 Hide
    Nintendo Maniac 64 , November 7, 2013 11:11 PM
    I wonder if the rest of the performance difference now boils down to how the stock thermal paste was applied.
  • 2 Hide
    FormatC , November 7, 2013 11:15 PM
    This I've tested too. No mentionable differences. May be my cards were assembled by a very accurate robot ;) 

    The voltage is a little bit different:



    But this is not strange. Typical tolerance.
  • 7 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , November 7, 2013 11:15 PM
    I cant stand all this variable clock rate BS ever since it was introduced in nvidia and amd cards. the card throttles in the most demanding scenario's, where you need it not to throttle, so the "boost clock" speeds are just there to inflate benchmark figures without any improvement in real world performance. On my cards, i force a stable clock speed with Nvidia inspector, negating boost clock, games run more stable and predictably, the way it should be.

    p.s. the add for nail fungus you have on your page toms, nearly made me vomit. please no more nail fungus adds!!!!!!!
  • 2 Hide
    eldragon0 , November 7, 2013 11:16 PM
    Quote:
    Quote:
    is it possible for you to strap that aftermarket heatsink onto each of them


    It is impossible. The reason is simple: thermal clue. As I wrote in my article about the thermal grease: after the burn-in it is nearly impossible to remove the small heatsinks. The risk to destroy the card is too high. This aftermarket cooler is good and quiet but it is a real one-way ticket. You can't return ;) 

    For addition - I've done the same thing with R9 290 cards and another benchmark before AMD has changed the driver. We worked hard to detect the reason for this big variances. But it seems that the difference between the R9 290 cards is a little bit smaller.





    Thanks for the reply! I'm still dying to see the the 290x does when it's fully unleashed. Keep up the good work :D .
  • 7 Hide
    s3anister , November 7, 2013 11:17 PM
    Nothing wrong with the GPUs. Honestly I don't see any issue, if you buy the reference boards get a waterblock to go with it otherwise wait for the 3rd party solutions with better stock coolers.
  • 4 Hide
    natoco , November 7, 2013 11:35 PM
    Sorry i did not catch that, could not hear you over your video card fan
  • 3 Hide
    Crashman , November 7, 2013 11:41 PM
    Quote:
    I never understand why ANYONE will buy the reference design cards.... even for the GTX780, the aftermarket cooler is way better and quieter than the stock fan.
    Because to a CPU overclocker, the aftermarket cooler is crap? I just had the same style cooler on another card cause a factory-built PC overheat its CPU. As in thermal throttling. And the CPU was liquid-cooled!

    The type of cooler your praising blows heat into the case, rather than out of the case. They're just a bad design concept done right, as opposed to a good design concept that's poorly executed.
  • 5 Hide
    FormatC , November 7, 2013 11:45 PM
    My wish: a R9 290/290X with a HIS DHE cooler (IceQ) like on 7950/70
  • -3 Hide
    Quaddro , November 7, 2013 11:51 PM
    Quote:
    I never understand why ANYONE will buy the reference design cards.... even for the GTX780, the aftermarket cooler is way better and quieter than the stock fan.


    Well, reference card usually has the highest component quality..
    That means more durable and has longer life than common 3rd party cards (xfx, zotac, his, polor, and another lowly cheap brand)..

    i've still running my 4 years old 5850 reference card..overclocked to 1ghz since out of box, and cooled by mk-13..well, no issue until today, and still rock..
  • 1 Hide
    FunSurfer , November 8, 2013 12:09 AM
    R9-290/290X + reference design cooler + Mantle (extreme card taxing) + august (mid summer) + no air conditioning = KABOOM!!!
  • 0 Hide
    scrumworks , November 8, 2013 12:25 AM
    Storm in the water glass. Just because its AMD we are talking about here.
  • 5 Hide
    de5_Roy , November 8, 2013 12:33 AM
    amd needs to be anal about quality check. take a page out of intel's q.c. playbook.
    the gpu is good, the ref. cooler is bad.
    to me, the press gpu still looks like a golden sample, the clockrate remains higher than retail ones throughout...

    will different cases affect hawaii performance with ref. cooler (or aftermarket cooler, when they launch)? imagine running a centurion cpu with reference hawaii boards in cfx.... (a scorpius gaming pc).
  • 0 Hide
    beavermml , November 8, 2013 12:43 AM
    which means, whichever 3rd party that can develop a very good cooler will enable us to get more performance right?
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