Skip to main content

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

Third-Party Cooling And An Attractive Price?

Recently, we published MSI R9 290X Lightning Review: The Right Way To Cool Hawaii. In that piece, we decided that MSI's cooling solution was among the best we've seen for AMD's Hawaii GPU; it was only a shame that the R9 290X Lightning was selling at such a steep premium. All the while, we had an eye on another graphics card that was bumping around at the bottom of Newegg's price list, and yet topped by what looked like a comparably-capable cooler: PowerColor's PCS+ AXR9 290X.

And now that we have it in our lab, we can compare both 2.5-slot boards to each other. The match-up is an exciting one, for not only is PowerColor's option $100 less expensive (Update: Actually, $150 now), but it's also significantly lighter. Can the PCS+ AXR9 290X really stand up to the flagship R9 290X Lightning for less money?

With prices on all Radeon R9 290Xes coming back down to more palatable levels, it's time to get a little more excited about the quickest Hawaii-based boards. Better still, a lot of them rectify AMD's hot, noisy reference cooler with competent third-party thermal solutions.

Technical Specs in Comparison

First, let’s take a look at this card's most important specs. Its GPU is set to a factory-overclocked ceiling of 1050 MHz. As with other Hawaii-based implementations, this number is an "up to" rating, meaning it can be made to drop if the chip doesn't get enough cooling under load. That 1050 MHz peak puts PowerColor's PCS+ in the upper-mid-range of 290X cards, though; its core and memory clock rates match Asus' R9290X-DC2OC-4GD5.

In the pages to come, we'll measure the PCS+ AXR9 290X's power consumption and determine whether its theoretical performance translates to the real world. But first, have a look at its specs:

ModelGPU Clock (MHz)Memory Clock (MHz)Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)Pixel Fillrate (GPixel/s)Texture Fillrate (GTexel/s)
Asus R9290X-DC2OC-4GD5 R9 290X DirectCU II OC10501350345.667.2184.8
Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290X10401300332.866.6183.0
Gigabyte GV-R929XOC-4GD R9 290X Windforce OC10401250320.066.6183.0
HIS R9 290X IceQ X² Turbo10601350345.667.8186.6
MSI R9 290X Gaming 4G1040125032066.6183
MSI R9 290X Lightning1080125032069.1190.1
PowerColor PCS+ R9 290X10501350345.667.2184.4
  • combine1237
    For some reason I thought the pcs+ used hynix.
    Reply
  • 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...
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    13232466 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...
    Reply
  • bemused_fred
    Any chance of measurements in metric as well as imperial?
    Reply
  • FormatC
    13232896 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
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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!
    Reply
  • dave_trimble
    13233877 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).

    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • vertexx
    13234604 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
    Reply