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Does Radeon R9 290X Behave Any Differently In A Closed Case?

What Happens When We Confine R9 290X To A Case?

We received plenty of feedback about our work with AMD's Radeon R9 290X in an open test bed, despite careful attention to maintaining constant room temperatures. After following up with some measurements in Corsair's well-ventilated Obsidian 900D, I found that some cards fared even better inside an enclosure than out. Eager for more information, I sought out a mainstream chassis to continue the collection of data.

I picked Enermax's Fulmo ST, which isn't available from Newegg right now, but does show up elsewhere under $100. That seemed like a good price on a practical mid-tower case. Realism was the goal, so I avoided big towers and some of the excessively cheap solutions that show up in our System Builder Marathon (I tend to think if you're buying an expensive graphics card, you're probably putting it into a nice chassis). 

In order to create more of a cooling challenge, I used an overclocked AMD FX-8350 running at 4.4 GHz with a closed-loop liquid cooler and fan running at a constant 800 RPM. Using this set-up, the path warm air from the graphics card would normally take is largely blocked. Adding a second 800 RPM exhaust fan in the back of the case helps with circulation, though.

The platform's fan control was set as conservatively as possible, spinning the coolers around 600 RPM. This configuration should give us an idea of whether AMD's latest is viable in smaller enclosures (or not).

All of the cards are set to Quiet Mode, since the third-party cooling solutions do a much better job of maintaining clock rates than AMD's reference effort.

CPUAMD FX-8350 (Piledriver) Overclocked to 4.4 GHz
CoolingCorsair H100i, 2 x 120 mm Fans (800 RPM)
MotherboardAsus Sabertooth FX990 Rev. 2.0
RAM2 x 4 GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866
StorageAdata Premier Pro SP900Western Digital Caviar Blue 1 TB
CaseEnermax Fulmo ST
Power SupplyEnermax Revolution X't 530 W, 80 PLUS Gold
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate x64
DriversAMD Catalyst 13.12GeForce 331.82
BenchmarksMetro: Last LightBioshock InfiniteBattlefield 4 (Single-Player)Crysis 3 (DirectX 11)

Reference card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 Windforce OC

Asus R9 290X DirectCU II

Gigabyte R9 290X Windforce OC

Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X

Let's take a look at how these cards perform in tight confinement.