PowerColor Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X: An Interesting Tech Demo
PowerColor proves to us that it's possible to put two Hawaii GPUs on one board, run them without a dramatic reduction in clock rate, and cool them with heat sinks and fans.
The Devil 13 Dual Core's power circuitry stays under 70 degrees Celsius as well, which isn’t bad. As opposed to AMD’s reference Radeon R9 295X2, PowerColor's creation is also free from any extreme peaks in power consumption, even under full load. This suggests that, even though the card's power supply is different, it's implemented well and ideal for handling the quick load fluctuations experienced by high-end GPUs. Smoothing out those spikes takes stress off of the power supply, which is already taxed by such high-end hardware. That's actually an important point, since graphics card vendors increasingly don't temper those big spikes. Instead, they make them the responsibility of PSU manufacturers.
There's also a lot to like about the Devil 13's accessory package, which includes a Razer Ouroboros wireless gaming mouse and the PowerJack, designed to hold up and support this massive graphics card. For a presumably limited time, Newegg is also throwing in a 120 GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD worth $100.
Unfortunately, the Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X is not quiet. Registering more than 58 dB(A) in quiet mode and more than 61 dB(A) in performance mode, this graphics card is a conversation piece only in the sense that it doesn’t allow conversations to happen anywhere near it. No doubt, this is the same challenge Nvidia faced with its GeForce GTX Titan Z. Ultimately, that company had to turn performance down through lower core clock rates in order to make the board's acoustics acceptable.
High power consumption at idle, which tops 35 W in spite of one of the GPUs being turned off, suggests that board layout wasn't a priority when the Devil 13 was designed.
PowerColor's Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X is a limited-edition graphics cards that will find a following, despite all of the reasons to avoid it. It's really not fit for everyday use, partly because of its price, and mostly due to its noise level.
For the same $1500 you'd spend on AMD's surprisingly elegant Radeon R9 295X2, you get that improved power delivery. But then you're forced to contend with the heat of two Hawaii processors dumped in your chassis by fast-spinning fans. Sure, there's a pretty sweet mouse bundled as an extra value. However, in the context of high-end graphics, the closed-loop liquid cooler on AMD's dual-slot 295X2 is more sensible.
Still, PowerColor's innovation deserves mention. The company managed to do something different. It runs two of AMD's fastest graphics processor at full speed on air cooling without throttling back GPU frequencies.
In the end, the Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X is mostly a technology demonstration, we'd say. It shows that two Hawaiis can be cooled by air and that they'll run without overwhelming a built-up thermal solution. But that's really all it works for. PowerColor earns recognition for going out on a limb, even though liquid cooling would have been the quieter way to cool this monster. Then again, there's already a long list of partners doing that.