PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X Review: Cool, Quiet, And Priced Right

Solid Performance And Pricing Come Together

PowerColor's PCS+ R9 290X currently sells for $600 on Newegg. That's about $30 higher than it was a week ago. Still, though, that's a good price for an overclocked card cooled by a third-party thermal solution. The cheapest R9 290X boards also equipped with non-reference heat sinks start around $570. And the least-expensive GeForce GTX 780 Tis go for $700.

After a drastic spike up in pricing and a slow pullback, we're finally ready to start recommending the Hawaii GPU-based flagship to enthusiasts looking for high-end performance, effective cooling, conservative acoustics, and a reasonable price tag.

The success of PowerColor's PCS+ R9 290X is partly attributable to market conditions, sure. But the board is also well-built. It's fast, light (given its size), fairly quiet, and, despite the fact that there are a number of pricier 290Xes, relatively affordable. There is but one minor piece of feedback we'd give to PowerColor: the automatic fan control is a bit course, cranking up rotational speed quickly once the GPU temperature hits 72 °C (162 °F). As a result, the PCS+ R9 290X isn't able to beat MSI's R9 290X Lightning in our acoustic test.

With that said, PowerColor successfully build a Radeon R9 290X that's as large and powerful as MSI's premium competition, weighing a full pound less. Yes, there are a couple of things the company could have done better, but we're nitpicking.

Conclusion

If you are back in the market for a Radeon R9 290X, having watched their prices dip back down into sane territory, PowerColor's PCS+ R9 290X is one of our favorite choices. The card doesn't suffer any debilitating flaws, but rather offers excellent gaming performance behind an effective cooler. And speaking of heat sink design, PowerColor's fits like a glove. The implementation would be tough to beat.

As we've seen, some competing vendors built their Radeon R9 290Xes in a hurry and missed the mark. Haste makes waste, so to speak. So, it looks like the long wait for PowerColor's card was worthwhile.

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  • combine1237
    For some reason I thought the pcs+ used hynix.
  • CaptainTom
    I just want to point out that this and most 290X's beat a stock 780 Ti. The fact is both 780 Ti and the 290X are trade blows and belong on the same GPU tier. However only one does cost $150 less and come with 4GB VRAM...
  • Memnarchon
    741589 said:
    I just want to point out that this and most 290X's beat a stock 780 Ti. The fact is both 780 Ti and the 290X are trade blows and belong on the same GPU tier. However only one does cost $150 less and come with 4GB VRAM...


    Well, since you are comparing a non reference GPU, you should take also a non-reference GPU to compare.
    Tom's using Gigabyte's 780ti OC which costs the same as the reference card...

    So even the non-reference models are on a different tier as well as their reference...
  • bemused_fred
    Any chance of measurements in metric as well as imperial?
  • FormatC
    687157 said:
    Any chance of measurements in metric as well as imperial?


    Typical translation errors, the original is in metric ;)
    http://www.tomshardware.de/powercolor-r9-290x-pcs-review,testberichte-241519-3.html4

    I will clearify with Chris, that we use both in the future. Metric is worldwide more common :D
  • dave_trimble
    Surprised the benchmark graph show performance at 1080p. Aren't the 290 series kind of wasted at that resolution? I would love to see the results at 1440p or even 4k. I have a feeling the 780ti might not look quite as good in comparison at higher resolution.
  • photonboy
    A stock GTX780Ti is 7% faster at 2560x1440, and 8% faster at 1920x1080 (18 games averaged):
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/EVGA/GTX_780_Ti_SC_ACX_Cooler/26.html

    With such a HUGE difference in prices, quality, and performance on all top-end cards you really have to do your research.

    The R9-290X prices vary from $550 to $780 USD!
  • dave_trimble
    67821 said:
    A stock GTX780Ti is 7% faster at 2560x1440, and 8% faster at 1920x1080 (18 games averaged): http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/EVGA/GTX_780_Ti_SC_ACX_Cooler/26.html With such a HUGE difference in prices, quality, and performance on all top-end cards you really have to do your research. The R9-290X prices vary from $550 to $780 USD!


    Thanks for the response! I thought I had seen reviews elsewhere that showed the 290 series really closing the gap, or even surpassing the 780ti at higher resolutions, but perhaps I was remembering wrong. I recently decided to upgrade to a dual-290 setup, but if I had gone with a single card, the 780ti was at or near the top of my list (until the 290x prices came crashing down, that is).
  • That_Guy88
    So is the difference between 290x's almost entirely due to cooling (and some OC)? I have someone who wants to sell me a reference 290x for $350, but I have a gtx 770, so it would seem that I would need to buy an after market cooler as well to make it worth my while. Thoughts?
  • vertexx
    644653 said:
    So is the difference between 290x's almost entirely due to cooling (and some OC)? I have someone who wants to sell me a reference 290x for $350, but I have a gtx 770, so it would seem that I would need to buy an after market cooler as well to make it worth my while. Thoughts?

    See these articles for after-market cooling options:
    Air cooling:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/r9-290-accelero-xtreme-290,3671.html

    Liquid Cooling:
    How to:
    http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/Using-NZXT-Kraken-G10-Watercool-Radeon-R9-290
    And results:
    http://www.tomshardware.co.uk/radeon-r9-290-and-290x,review-32872.html
  • RedJaron
    If nothing else, I'm happy to see Radeon prices returning to normal.
  • Laytonoid
    Get the Sapphire R9 290 Vapor-X. This is almost exactly the same thing except that Sapphires card has a LED Sapphire logo that changes color based on heat and looks way cooler. Also, being an owner of the Vapor-X myself, I can tell you that this card has the Hynix Memory. Highly recommend. Also, the temp has never gone over 65C in my small MATX case in a room that is 71F.
  • Laytonoid
    Get the Sapphire R9 290 Vapor-X. This is almost exactly the same thing except that Sapphires card has a LED Sapphire logo that changes color based on heat and looks way cooler. Also, being an owner of the Vapor-X myself, I can tell you that this card has the Hynix Memory. Highly recommend. Also, the temp has never gone over 65C in my small MATX case in a room that is 71F.
  • Laytonoid
    Sorry. Didn't mean to double post.
  • Laytonoid
    Oh also, the Vapor-X card has the same benchmarks as a 290x in Firestrike Extreme, Valley and Heaven. I got it for 460 bucks.
  • That_Guy88
    1523324 said:
    Get the Sapphire R9 290 Vapor-X. This is almost exactly the same thing except that Sapphires card has a LED Sapphire logo that changes color based on heat and looks way cooler. Also, being an owner of the Vapor-X myself, I can tell you that this card has the Hynix Memory. Highly recommend. Also, the temp has never gone over 65C in my small MATX case in a room that is 71F.


    I was more wondering about the value of getting the 290x for $350. I could buy an after market cooler for $50-75. I'm just not sure if it is a worth while upgrade.
  • RedJaron
    These types of cards have the benefit of being factory OC'd and cooled. Generally speaking, if you swap the cooler and personally OC your card, you void the warranty. If that's a big deal for you, then the 3rd-party boards might be to your liking.

    For total upgrade worthwhileness ( is that even a word/term? ) what kind of resolution are you going for? Most of the top-end cards are complete overkill if you're not playing above 1080p. If you're not using 1440p or triple displays, I wouldn't bother going above a GTX 770 / R9 280.
  • redgarl
    After buying a pair of those, I can only recommend them. They are quiet as hell and perform incredibly.

    I am questioning Toms review about the temps. Temps on Hardwarecanucks are showing something entirely different giving the PCS+ the best temps of all the 290x cards offered. A wooping 63C... even mines have never reach up 67C...
  • redgarl
    Quote:
    I just want to point out that this and most 290X's beat a stock 780 Ti. The fact is both 780 Ti and the 290X are trade blows and belong on the same GPU tier. However only one does cost $150 less and come with 4GB VRAM...


    Not to forget the only viable 4k option right now in Crossfire.
  • Laytonoid
    Sapphire aftermarket cards = Hynix memory
  • Laytonoid
    Vapor X 290x coming soon.
  • Laytonoid
    I disagree on the the r9 290 being ever kill on 1080p. If you have a 144hz monitor you need a 290 or 290x. The difference between 280x and 290 is 10 fps in most games. I dont recommend 290x over 290.. thats a rip off. 290 is great on my 144hz. Thats the difference in fps between 780 and 780ti.. 10 fps in most games and the ti is 200+ more dollars.
  • redgarl
    1523324 said:
    I disagree on the the r9 290 being ever kill on 1080p. If you have a 144hz monitor you need a 290 or 290x. The difference between 280x and 290 is 10 fps in most games. I dont recommend 290x over 290.. thats a rip off. 290 is great on my 144hz. Thats the difference in fps between 780 and 780ti.. 10 fps in most games and the ti is 200+ more dollars.


    I don't agree with your reply, but I have a similar point of view concerning the 780 TI. The 780 TI as a single card have no reason to exist right now because other single card option can render 1440p really well. Also, if you put 2 in SLI, they are getting destroyed at QHD by two 290x that cost 300$ less. It's the most powerful single gpu card, but it is not the best option in SLI and it cost way more.

    Still, going 290x CF make sense over 290 CF at QHD.
  • eklipz330
    my bro owns the 290 pcs+ and he has hynix.