Reference Radeon R9 290(X) graphics cards run warm, we all know that. They are designed to warm up to a temperature of 95 C and stay there, hitting a fan speed limit and playing with the core clocks in order to keep thermals at that level. Unfortunately, there is a report on the web that MSI’s Radeon R9 290X Lightning has a bug when running with Catalyst 14.3 Beta drivers – namely that the side fans on the cooler don’t spin up and that it can result in damaging the card -- at least, so says a report that is floating around the internet. We think it is (partially) bogus.
Igor Wallossek from Tom’s Hardware DE, who just reviewed this graphics card, tested the card with the Catalyst 14.2 and 14.3 drivers, and neither of them showed any negative symptoms except that the fan speed readout being at 0 percent. The fans themselves though were physically spinning as they are supposed to, and both performance and temperature were perfectly fine, as you can see below:
According to MSI, this is a bug in the AFC (Advanced Fan Control) in the Catalyst driver that affects all graphics cards using this part of the driver. MSI is an early adopter of this API -- and it is known that new stuff can have a bug here and there. To control the speed of the fans you have to use MSI's VGA Fan Control software, though under these circumstances Igor found that the manual mode doesn't actually work. The auto mode (in the MSI utility) works perfectly fine though, and no problems present except the fan speed showing up as 0 percent.
We're not sure exactly what is going on, but the worst we found in our testing is that the fan speed could not be controlled manually and that the fan speed of the side fans will show up as 0 percent. We're not sure where this rumor came from, and we couldn't actually find a forum thread with folks complaining about these cards burning up. Our testing concluded that there is no immediate danger.
Update to the MSI VGA Fan Control utility will appear here in due time, on MSI's website. With the newest utility, at the time of writing the middle fan can be controlled.
Read more: MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning Review