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CryoVenom R9 290 Review: Water Cooling With A Warranty

Can A Liquid-Cooled Radeon R9 290 Be Affordable?

Enthusiasts are the folks who appreciate the benefits of lower temperatures, and most of us also put high value on less noise, too. The fight between cooling performance and acoustic pollution became particularly acute in AMD’s Radeon R9 290 graphics cards. More so, even, when the company was forced to override its firmware-based fan ramp through a driver in order to deliver consistent clock rates.

Where we once saw performance variance as large as 15% from one board to the next, that “fix” still has us finding variations up to 5% caused by slight changes in room temperature.

Most of us would pay to avoid those issues, and the $400 Radeon R9 290 was supposed to be cheap enough to encourage value-minded adoption of high-end graphics hardware. But in our search for an answer to the 290’s reference cooling woes, many of us forget to ask the right question: how much would we be willing to spend on better performance and lower noise, while giving up our warranty coverage? Based on today's online prices, water block manufacturer EK thinks the answer is around $120 (add $30 for the back cover).

VisionTek does its math a little differently. On the product page of its CryoVenom R9 290, the company values your time building a water-cooled R9 290 at $100, as you also sacrifice its warranty. The marketing gets a little fuzzier as VisionTek calculates that a $120 cooler, a $30 back cover, and your $100 of time pushes the cost of a $400 Radeon R9 290 to $651.

Even if you disagree with those numbers, though, a do-it-yourself configuration with an original $400 card, the EK cooler, and the company's backplate would cost at least as much as the original $550 VisionTek CryoVenom R9 290.

Right now, some of you are probably thinking that a $550 liquid-cooled Radeon R9 290 would be one heck of a deal in a market loaded with $600 air-cooled cards, and you’d be right. Acknowledging the crazy market pricing for Hawaii-based Radeons, VisionTek admits it needs to charge more to cover cost increases on certain board components. As a result, the company recently bumped its CryoVenom up to $600 for new orders.

As of this writing, the CryoVenom R9 290 isn't available to order, though. So, there's no way for us to know if that $600 price tag is going to hold up over time. What we do know is that the cheapest R9 290s go for $550 on Newegg, so you'd still be getting $150 worth of liquid-cooling equipment and a one-year warranty at a substantial discount. But again, that's simply not something we can vouch for on a card you can't buy right now.

  • 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