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PowerColor LCS AXR9 290X: Water Makes Hawaii Comfortable

Test System And Benchmark Configuration

Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-4770K: 3.5 to 3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, LGA 1150 Overclocked to 4.50 GHz, 1.25 V at 100 MHz BCLK
MotherboardAsus Z87 Pro: Intel Z87 Express, UEFI 1707 (12/13/2013)
Reference GraphicsAsus R9290X-4GD5 Retail Boxed: 1000 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, 1.65V
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Pro MZ-7PD256, 256 GB SSD
CPU CoolingThermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste
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 13.12

CPU bottlenecks inhibit proper graphics analysis, and so we're overclocking Intel’s Core i7-4770K to 4.50 GHz to squash any platform-based limitations. Asus’ Z87-Pro gets us there easily, at low voltage, and at a low enough price to win a value award.

With CPU bottlenecks out of the way, RAM becomes the next concern. Though high-density DIMMs usually have trouble hitting aggressive data rates at reasonable timings, Mushkin’s 997121R gives us the best of all three worlds. Yes, that made it another award winner.

Liquid-cooled graphics cards require a separate pump and radiator. Swiftech’s old MCP350 pump still provides the volume and pressure needed for a high-end single device, its MCR220-QP radiator still provides an integrated reservoir to simplify our cooling loop, and a pair of its MCB-120 spacers allow the other parts to be screwed together as a hang-able external unit. Two of Swiftech’s fans complete the package.

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)
  • AMD Radeon
    really? $800?
    $100++ from GTX 780 Ti
    http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#sort=a7&qq=1&c=153
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12815459 said:
    really? $800?that's more than $150 from Asus DCU IIhttp://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#c=146&sort=a7

    It has a $150 cooler (including the back plate, etc).

    Of course Asus has a special cooler too. But Asus had the opportunity to drop its price, and the 290x has indeed dropped by $50 to $100 in the past two weeks. Supply is catching up with demand.

    Unfortunately for PowerColor, its LCS 290X has been out-of-stock for more than two weeks. So they get stuck with prices that are at least two weeks old, at least until someone gets new inventory and lowers their price.

    Sucks to be them, they should have restocked their sellers more quickly :)
    12815459 said:
    really? $800?
    $100++ from GTX 780 Ti
    http://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#sort=a7&qq=1&c=153
    But it's still cheaper than a water-cooled 780 Ti :)
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    Great review Tom!

    Did you happen to notice any variability under load for your core speed while overclocked on the LCS card?
    I have a Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290X that is rock solid at its stock 1040MHz, but that starts bouncing the core clock all around when any core overclocking is applied.
    With my quiet fan curve, load temps top out around 85°C; well below AMD's specified throttle point of 95°C.
    If your liquid cooled cards are solid at 1200MHz, I am curious if Power Tune starts to throttle in a less severe way after going above 70- or 80°C.
    Reply
  • AMD Radeon
    12815459 said:
    really? $800?that's more than $150 from Asus DCU IIhttp://pcpartpicker.com/parts/video-card/#c=146&sort=a7
    It has a $150 cooler (including the back plate, etc).Of course Asus has a special cooler too. But Asus had the opportunity to drop its price, and the 290x has indeed dropped by $50 to $100 in the past two weeks. Supply is catching up with demand.Unfortunately for PowerColor, its LCS 290X has been out-of-stock for more than two weeks. So they get stuck with prices that are at least two weeks old, at least until someone gets new inventory and lowers their price.Sucks to be them, they should have restocked their sellers more quickly :)
    Thanks for the explanation, very good review overall :)btw sorry I edited my comment before you posted
    Reply
  • TheDane
    Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X is (very) silent, cheaper, doesn't required a W/C setup, and installation is much easier. Also the LCS card here requires a wide case due to its height!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Great review Tom!Did you happen to notice any variability under load for your core speed while overclocked on the LCS card?I have a Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290X that is rock solid at its stock 1040MHz, but that starts bouncing the core clock all around when any core overclocking is applied.With my quiet fan curve, load temps top out around 85°C; well below AMD's specified throttle point of 95°C.If your liquid cooled cards are solid at 1200MHz, I am curious if Power Tune starts to throttle in a less severe way after going above 70- or 80°C.
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.
    12815581 said:
    Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X is (very) silent, cheaper,
    ...and toasts your CPU. Please read the first page of this review, thanks!
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    12815634 said:
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.
    Odd, this happens with a +50% power limit and tested with the Metro Last Light benchmark :/
    Thanks for confirming that your test card was not throttling; back to troubleshooting my setup!
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12815667 said:
    12815634 said:
    Power throttling occurs under Furmark and not much else, and can be eliminated by increasing the power threshold.
    Odd, this happens with a +50% power limit and tested with the Metro Last Light benchmark :/
    Thanks for confirming that your test card was not throttling; back to troubleshooting my setup!
    Remember that the LCS test card runs cooler than an air-cooled card, and that lower temperatures significantly lower power consumption :)
    Reply
  • outlw6669
    12815705 said:
    Remember that the LCS test card runs cooler than an air-cooled card, and that lower temperatures significantly lower power consumption :)

    Good point; I will have to retest with a cooler fan curve.
    Not sure if this will be the issue though as even a 20MHz bump to the core, and +50% power limit added to this, causes throttling with under 85°C temps.

    Thanks for the thoughts!
    Reply
  • ddpruitt
    As air temperatures climbed into the 20s (Celsius) inside the case
    Actually with a low room temp it'll still affect results quite a bit. I can push higher clocks in the winter with a lower room temp than in the summer (and forget it when we hit 40C, no OCing unless the Air's cranked up all the way). You might want to retest once you're able to heat up the office to see how the temps are affected (both on the air cooled and water cooled setups).
    Reply