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CryoVenom R9 290 Review: Water Cooling With A Warranty

Test Hardware And Benchmark Settings

Graphics guru Chris Angelini strongly recommended an upgrade from AMD’s fleshed-out Catalyst 13.12 graphics drivers used in PowerColor LCS AXR9 290X: Water Makes Hawaii Comfortable to a beta version of Catalyst 14.1. A few benchmarks revealed why, as the new driver boosted the performance of the lower-model R9 290 beyond the previous 290X results.

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-4770K (Haswell): 3.5 to 3.9 GHz, 8 MB shared L3 cache, LGA 1150 Overclocked to 4.5 GHz, 1.25 V at 100 MHz BCLK
MotherboardAsus Z87 Pro: Intel Z87 Express, UEFI 1707 (12/13/2013)
Reference GraphicsSapphire R9 290 (100362SR): 947 MHz GPU, 4 GB GDDR5-5000
RAMMushkin Redline Ridgeback 997121R 16 GB Dual-Channel Kit 2 x 8 GB XMP-2133 CAS 9-11-11-28, 1.65 V
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD256, 256 GB SSD
CPU CoolingThermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste
CaseNanoxia Deep Silence 1
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerSeasonic X760 SS-760KM: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Gold
System Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Professional RTM x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 14.1 beta 1.6

Main system components are carried over from the LCS AXR9 290X review, except for the part that matters most: a retail-purchased Sapphire Radeon R9 290 (with reference cooling) replaces the air-cooled R9 290X in this comparison of VisionTek’s CryoVenom R9 290.

Because AMD’s driver attempts to keep fan speed under 60% and underclocks the GPU when its temperature climbs to 94° Celsius, air-cooled cards are highly impacted by ambient temperature. Unfortunately, it's still super cold here, and I'm unable to keep my lab above 19 °C, which means that the air-cooled card in this comparison will consistently perform better than it would in a more typical 21 to 24 °C gaming room.

3D Game Benchmarks
Arma 3Version 1.08.113494, 30-Sec. Fraps "Infantry Showcase" Test Set 1: Standard Preset, No AA, Standard AF Test Set 2: Ultra Preset, 8x FSAA, Ultra AF
Battlefield 4Version 1.0.0.1, DirectX 11, 100-Sec. Fraps "Tashgar" Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA, 4X AF, SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset,  4X MSAA, 16X AF, HBAO
Far Cry 3V. 1.05, DirectX 11, 50-sec. Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
F1 2012Steam version, in-game benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
Metro: Last LightSteam version, Built-In Benchmark, "Frontline" SceneTest Set 1: DX11, Med Quality, 4x AF, Low Blur, No SSAA, No Tesselation, No PhysXTest Set 2: DX11, High Quality, 16x AF, Normal Blur, SSAA, Tesselation Normal, No PhysX
Tomb RaiderSteam version, Built-In Benchmark Test Set 1: High Quality Preset (8x AF, FXAA), Motion Blur, Screen Effects Test Set 2: Ultimate Quality, (16x AF,  FXAA), Tesselation, TressFX
Synthetic Benchmarks
3DMark ProfessionalVersion 1.1, SystemInfo 4.17.0.0, Fire Strike Benchmark (Extreme Off/On)
  • OttoD
    Would have loved Reference vs. Custome Aircooling vs. water, is it worth going from example Sapphire Tri-X to water? theres really no need for reference coolers in no one in there right mind will buy one of those unless its for fitting water your self.
    Reply
  • blackmagnum
    Calling DangerDen... we need help with another hot AMD!
    Reply
  • hansrotec
    Moving to water cooling with my 7970 was night and day in terms of temps and noise. worth every penny. right now im planning a cooling overhaul to drop the temp while not needing the pump to speed up as much - larger/ more rad and a new pump started with an swiftech h220 and added on an EK 7970 lightning block with a 120mm rad and small reservoirI will say while i could go back to the CPU being air cooled i could not go back to the GPU being air cooled.
    Reply
  • SchizoFrog
    Just got to love these so called 'full cover water blocks' that only cover 80% or less of a GPU card. Yes, they may cover all the necessary components on the PCB but it looks half finished and leaves the card looking ugly with the exposed components that remain and for the money you pay, would it be too much to ask to extend it to cover the full length of the GPU?
    Reply
  • tcb1005
    Do you ever have to clean out your water loop? If so, I think I would go with the air cooled.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12852347 said:
    Do you ever have to clean out your water loop? If so, I think I would go with the air cooled.
    This one has been clean for years because it contains antifreeze and has all copper parts. My mixed aluminum/copper systems were horrrrrrrible for building up crud.
    Reply
  • dgingeri
    That math seems wrong to me. Sure, the card, the water cooler, and the backplate are the right components, but since it doesn't come with an air cooler, and the water cooler is less complicated to put on, and the fact that the water cooler is more reliable due to now having a fan, it seems to me that the water cooled version should be cheaper, or at the very least the same price as an air cooled version. This is a ripoff.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12853738 said:
    That math seems wrong to me. Sure, the card, the water cooler, and the backplate are the right components, but since it doesn't come with an air cooler, and the water cooler is less complicated to put on, and the fact that the water cooler is more reliable due to now having a fan, it seems to me that the water cooled version should be cheaper, or at the very least the same price as an air cooled version. This is a ripoff.
    Thanks, but VisionTek doesn't make the cooler, they buy it. Same with the card, they buy that with the air cooler and I've never paid more than $20 for "overstock" replacement coolers on eBay.

    Go look at the price of the acrylic/nickel block and the backplate. Assume they're stockpiling the leftover air coolers at some cost and will sell them in the far future for about the cost of stockpiling them.

    Reply
  • dgingeri
    So, you're telling me they buy the cards with the air coolers pre-installed and then replace them with the waterblock? That's about the most asinine idea ever. They could easily buy the cards from an OEM supplier, like Sapphire, without the cooler and just add the water block. The air coolers are more expensive than $20, that's for sure. The copper alone is probably worth $15, just for recycle value. (I got $15 each from a copper recycler for a couple server CPU coolers I pulled from a dead server someone asked me to recycle a couple weeks ago, and those were less copper than I've seen on most GPU coolers these days. The CPU coolers were just a 1/4" plate barely bigger than the CPU socket with 1" tall thin fins soldered onto it.) A GPU cooler for an R9 290 is probably about $40-50 to the card maker, maybe $10 less than that water block. They'd save a bunch getting the card from an OEM supplier without the air cooler and installing the waterblock. If they're actually doing as you say, they're wasting tons of money, and the management should probably be fired for incompetence.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12854116 said:
    So, you're telling me they buy the cards with the air coolers pre-installed and then replace them with the waterblock? That's about the most asinine idea ever. They could easily buy the cards from an OEM supplier, like Sapphire, without the cooler and just add the water block. The air coolers are more expensive than $20, that's for sure. The copper alone is probably worth $15, just for recycle value. (I got $15 each from a copper recycler for a couple server CPU coolers I pulled from a dead server someone asked me to recycle a couple weeks ago, and those were less copper than I've seen on most GPU coolers these days. The CPU coolers were just a 1/4" plate barely bigger than the CPU socket with 1" tall thin fins soldered onto it.) A GPU cooler for an R9 290 is probably about $40-50 to the card maker, maybe $10 less than that water block. They'd save a bunch getting the card from an OEM supplier without the air cooler and installing the waterblock. If they're actually doing as you say, they're wasting tons of money, and the management should probably be fired for incompetence.
    Until recently the only way to buy cards was complete from AMD. And the cooler it came with was incredibly cheap.

    AMD recently released these to distribution by manufacturing partners, so maybe they can now get them bare. But they couldn't when these were launched, and this is a launch card. Since I don't know the full details of AMD's recent move, I cannot comment further.

    Reply