Assembly And Operation
Before you start down this path, read the assembly instructions carefully!
To uninstall AMD's reference heat sink and fan, you need a very small, cross-tip screwdriver. It has to be a good one. You don't want the thing's tip to round off after getting the first screw off. Keep a small container handy for the parts you take off.
Now, start by removing the reference card's shroud. It is made of plastic and attached to the cooler's frame with a number of those tiny screws. Pull the shroud off to reveal AMD's heat sink underneath, which is secured to the back of the PCB with a handful of larger screws. There are two additional screws in the slot cover, and those also have to be removed. Finally, take off the cross-shaped back plate, remembering to back the screws out in a diagonal pattern to balance pressure on the card as much as possible.
Clean the GPU's surface with isopropyl alcohol and tidy up any residual thermal grease to prepare the assembly. To avoid short circuits, apply insulating strips over the surface-mount components, since the VRM sinks are larger than they need to be and overhang.
Then, cover the heat sinks with a thin, uniform layer of thermal adhesive and let them sit for a couple of minutes. Press the sinks on top of the memory package and power circuitry, maintaining constant pressure for five to 10 seconds, and don't touch them after that. This is the last time you'll be able to make minor adjustments.
I wrote previously that you can make up for the four missing memory sinks with an accessory kit. But more important is that you don't use one of the taller sinks on the bottom-most package, since it'd touch the main cooler's frame. One workaround is to use a spare heat sink from another kit on one half of the memory module, covering the rest with tape. But in our experience, the memory temperatures didn't get high enough to necessitate such extraordinary measures.
With the heat sink installation complete, you should have something comparable to the image below. Now you need to give the glue time to cure. One hour at room temperature should be enough. A burn-in session with non-cured thermal adhesive is futile, and can actually be dangerous.
Once the adhesive is cured, place the cooler on the PCB as described in Arctic's manual. As a general rule, use hole two for cards with 52.5 mm hole spacing and the standard 2.5 mm spacers. Don't worry if this doesn't make sense; it's explained very well in the included documentation.
You should now have an aftermarket-cooled Radeon R9 290. Pop the card into your motherboard and plug it in. Then, connect the fan leads using the included 7 and 12 V adapter, choosing the setting you want based on your cooling requirements.
A Note On Fan Control
In theory, the cooler allows you to choose between PWM and a fixed voltage (for a constant fan speed). Unfortunately, AMD's Catalyst driver doesn't work like this any more. Maximum fan speed is now linked to a target temperature, and it doesn't make sense to dial in a 50 or 60 °C target just to make the fans spin faster. The Accelero is simply too effective; the driver's control mechanism means you'll hardly ever see Arctic's solution hit 20 to 25% duty cycle under load. Spinning that slowly, there isn't enough airflow to cool the card's voltage regulators sufficiently. We'll discuss this in more depth on the next page.
But at the end of the day reviewers are gonna continue to mark down cards for these silly things for whatever reason. AMD might as well just make the reference coolers at least as good as SAPPHIRE's Dual-X so that everyone shuts up...
Also, try and make your layout a standard so I don't have to keep buying after-market coolers or blocks. I can just move them from board to board.
I've proofed this construction in my Corsair Obsidian 900D and it works as described, I had to turn on my case fans but only @800-900 rpm. To test a crossfire setup I would have to destroy two cards - sorry, but this was too expensive for me. One modified card is ok, but I cant kill all my samples :D
it seems the r9-290x is pretty much identical clock for clock to the 780ti... so putting a non-reference cooler onto it is almost mandatory; because when it's not temp throttling it's pacing nvidia's $700 monster.
Also, look that, that cooler is barely spinning. You can squish more of it, that would be even more noticable in performance gains!
Are all the Vendor's cards like this? If I remember correctly Sapphire used to allow (or still does) people to take the stock cooler off to attach a waterblock without it voiding the warranty.