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PowerColor LCS AXR9 290X: Water Makes Hawaii Comfortable

Radeon R9 290X Performance Without The Noise

Our series of Hawaii-based (Radeon R9 290 and 290X) coverage caused more than just a bit of controversy, beginning with Chris’ observations concerning noise and followed by revelations that the AMD-supplied Radeon R9 290 he received for review generated benchmark scores that couldn’t be replicated by retail parts. We eventually found that variations in fan speed at the same PWM setting were part of the problem, but that the inconsistent application of thermal paste was also an issue. Taking apart your heat sink is a good way to get your warranty voided though, and AMD eventually addressed our most pressing concerns by overriding BIOS-determined fan profiles with a new driver. Even more noise was generated by the company's reference design, and simply had to be tolerated. It could only be solved by replacing the stock cooler.

Several of AMD’s partners now offer multi-fan-cooled cards that quietly dump all of the big GPU's heat into your case without the warranty worries of a do-it-yourself upgrade. Frankly, that still sounds like a bad idea to me, since extra heat affects every other component inside your case.

PowerColor has a better solution though, and it's currently selling for $800 on Newegg.

Liquid cooling helps enthusiasts move heat away from performance-oriented components to a large radiator, with full control over airflow and noise. Typically, when you build a liquid-cooled system, it's heavier, more intricate, and, of course, at risk of a leak shorting out expensive hardware. All of that is to say, simply, open-loop coolers aren’t for everyone. But if you're confident enough in your assembly technique, PowerColor will back you up with a two-year warranty.

In addition to the custom-cooled card, anyone buying a PowerColor LCS AXR9 290X 4GBD5-WMDHG/OC gets a bundle containing two 3/8” and two 1/2" line fittings, matching hose clamps, replacement seals, a mini 6 mm Allen wrench, a six-to-eight-pin PCIe power adapter, and a Battlefield 4 redemption code.

  • 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