Closed-loop liquid cooling isn't just for the Fury X. PowerColor uses a similar setup for its Devil R9 390X 8GB, but how does the fancier thermal solution affect performance, cooling and noise?
AMD's Fiji GPU might be at the top of the company's portfolio, but it's not the only graphics processor able to benefit from a hybrid cooling solution. PowerColor's Radeon Devil R9 390X boasts twice as much memory and a similar cooler, but can its aggressive overclock keep up with AMD's entry-level HBM-equipped Fury?
In the beginning of June, AMD launched its 300-series Radeon graphics cards, rebranding the line-up with versions of past GPUs. The R9 390X is chief among the new series, and is based on the R9 290X's Hawaii XT.
Not much changed in the processor itself, but AMD renamed it Grenada XT anyway and paired it with twice as much memory. Not surprisingly, Grenada shares most specifications with its predecessor, including 2816 shader cores, 176 texture units and 64 ROPs.
The R9 390X comes equipped with 8GB of GDDR5 on an aggregate 512-bit memory bus running at 1525MHz. The result is a theoretical 390.4 GB/s of memory bandwidth, which is 70 GB/s more than the R9 290X. That extra throughput could be what makes the extra memory relevant at 4K, particularly if Hawaii's ALUs were going underutilized.
The Radeon R9 390X is built on AMD's GCN 1.1 architecture. Like the 290X, it enables DirectX 12 feature level 12_0, LiquidVR for direct-to-display VR HMD support and TrueAudio. FreeSync is supported as well, and the R9 390X can drive up to four displays at once.
PowerColor's Devil R9 390X isn't a typical 390X. Most come equipped with a large air cooler, many sporting up to three fans and several large copper heat pipes. But PowerColor took a different approach with the Devil, configuring its card with a closed-loop liquid cooler and 12cm radiator. Of course, the company recognized that AMD's GPU isn't the only thermally-sensitive component, so it added a 12cm fan on the card to blow air over the memory modules and voltage regulation circuitry.
The stylized shroud cover resembles the air intake of a high-performance sports car, and some of the angles make it appear stealth bomber-like. The shroud is made of black plastic with some aluminum accents. Unfortunately, due to its size, you won't be able to install a second card in CrossFire directly next to it; one expansion slot worth of buffer space is needed.
The card measures 11 inches (278 millimeters) long from the DVI port to the rear, and 4.75 inches (122mm) tall where the hoses exit (shroud-only). Because the Devil R9 390X measures 2.5 inches (60mm) at its widest point, three-way CrossFire would be difficult to achieve.
PowerColor covers the back of its card with a stylish aluminum plate. The back plate sticks out a little too far, making it nearly impossible to release the PCIe card latch many motherboard vendors use to secure add-in boards. It's adorned with grey and red accents, with the Devil logo in the center. If your chassis is windowed and your color scheme includes red, black or grey, this card will fit right in.
Along the top edge of the card you'll find its six- and eight-pin auxiliary power connectors. This was a bit surprising to me, given the overclocked and water-cooled nature of the board (not to mention this GPU's reputation for drawing significant current under load).
On the other end of the top edge, PowerColor integrates a BIOS selector switch. One firmware has the factory settings, while the second one has a slightly less aggressive profile that can be used as a fail-safe if an overclock goes too far.
The Devil R9 390X can drive up to four displays, though your connectivity options are limited. You get one DisplayPort connector, one HDMI output and two dual-link DVI ports. You can get 4K out of DisplayPort (at 60Hz) and HDMI (at 30Hz), but only 2560x1600 from DVI.
Graphics card vendors sometimes include value-adds to set their boards apart. Sometimes that's a free game or a bundled poster. PowerColor instead gives you a large mouse pad with its Devil R9 390X. The mat is made of a fairly thick material, and has lots of surface area. It's a practical and useful addition.