Tuning Radeon R9 290X: Replace The Thermal Paste For More Efficiency

Answering Those Questions With Real Data

Our measurements allow us to provide some clear answers to the initial questions based on power consumption and performance values taken from three successive test loops.

What do you gain from replacing the thermal compound?

So long as you choose a good thermal compound and do the job correctly, replacing AMD's stock stuff can really pay off. The biggest problem with this is that you void the manufacturer's warranty in the process.

Does improving cooling performance help the card run at a higher efficiency level?

The answer is clearly yes, it does. Particularly when you see what the Radeon R9 290X can do during its first run through a benchmark, and then compare that to the third run, you have to wonder how the company can willingly throw away a good chunk of performance by using its reference cooler.

You need a set of small Phillips-head screwdrivers to remove the Radeon R9 290X's cooler, since AMD uses two different screw sizes. Tweezers could prove helpful for removing excess thermal paste from the GPU. And don’t forget to keep a cleaning solution handy to prep the die before applying your improved thermal compound of choice.

We recommend Gelid’s GC-Extreme and Cooler Master’s X1 Extreme Fusion. Both are easy to apply and not electrically conductive. If you're brave enough to tackle this mod on your own, bearing in mind the possible consequences, we wish you success and fun. The operation certainly pays off.

  • Benthon
    Pretty disappointed to see the surface was so beat up, but still great to see what a little thermal paste upgrade can do.
  • Mottamort
    Great article again, Tom's has released some really informative articles the past few months, keep it up!
  • ginjaninja7
    Well we wil have to see how the GPU performs with Gigabyte's own Cooling system. :-)
  • Crashman
    11962019 said:
    Well we wil have to see how the GPU performs with Gigabyte's own Cooling system. :-)
    I like blower coolers when they work right, but I can guarantee that no company will produce a 290 with a top-end blower. These companies are just too lame to come up with anything like that. They'll go with triple-fan solutions to appease users who don't care about all the heat that rises up to their CPUs, or simply don't know any better. And Nvidia will remain the only supplier of cards with top-end blower coolers.

  • s3anister
    "The biggest problem with this is that you void the manufacturer's warranty in the process. "

    Yeah, no thanks. The stock TIM should be the best solution already and the fact that it's not is crap either way. If you add in the fact that you need to replace the TIM to get decent results it's total bs.
  • Zeh
    It's clear that AMD, maybe nVidia and their partners aswell, have a lot to learn from TomsH when it comes to details.
    The cost savings they would get by deliberately choosing not to do a finishing pass during their machining process, aswell as the badly applied and poor quality thermal grease would SURELY NOT make sense on a flagship aiming to be the best single gpu on the market.

    @AMD: Details matter. Especially the low cost, effective ones.
    @Crashman: Do you prefer blower type coolers? Correct me if I'm wrong, but dont they trade acoustic performance for getting rid of hot air?
  • faster23rd
    Wow, beating even the 780 ti with that kind of margins and with just (well, it does void the warranty) a change of thermal paste! Goes to show what kind of beast Hawaii is, and it really is up to the board manufacturers now.
  • XyzyxRd
    The condition of the contact point for the GPU is completely unacceptable on a $500 plus card. Under normal handling this sort of damage should never occur. I've run both AMD and Nvidia cards and this sort of disclosure will make me think twice before seriously considering an AMD card for future builds.
  • valuial
    To fix the problem, break your warranty ... yeah, good idea.
  • rwinches
    Ok but how did the board perform with the new paste and not in quiet mode?
    Because even if it offended your sensitive ears would it have an effect on reaching the 94C limit?