290 Tri-X OC Thermal Management

Before jumping into our benchmarks, due to the significant focus we’re placing on cooling and noise for the 290 Tri-X OC (amidst the reference 290’s weaknesses) we also wanted to spend a moment discussing the card’s thermal management algorithms.

With the 290 series AMD introduced their next generation PowerTune technology, which allows for thermal management based on temperatures, power consumption, and now fan speeds. For the reference 290X in particular this was especially important as AMD used this functionality to keep fan speed noises in check despite the heavy thermal load Hawaii placed on the cooler. At the time we had assumed that everyone would use this technology even if they used different coolers, but as it turns out this isn’t the case.

For the 290 Tri-X OC Sapphire has reverted to traditional power and temperature based throttling, opting not to use the functionality of next generation PowerTune. This means that the 290 Tri-X OC does not offer the ability to throttle based on fan speeds, nor does it offer the ability to adjust the temperature it throttles at, instead throttling at Hawaii’s TjMax. This implementation caught us off guard at first since we had expected everyone to use next generation PowerTune, however as it turns out this is something that board partners get to decide for themselves on their customized cards.

Sapphire for their part has told us that based on the ample cooling performance of the Tri-X cooler that they've opted to use a traditional thermal management implementation in order to better sustain performance. Though we can’t readily test Sapphire’s statements about sustainability, we certainly can’t argue against Sapphire’s statement on the performance of their cooler. We’ll see the full breakdown in our benchmark section, but they are having absolutely no problem balancing noise and temperatures right now without next generation PowerTune.

Realistically we wouldn’t be surprised if this was also chosen because the Tri-X cooler predates the 290 series – and hence it wasn’t necessarily designed to work well with next generation PowerTune – but that’s just speculation on our part. To that end it would have been interesting to see a full next generation PowerTune implementation on this card, however it’s really just an intellectual curiosity. Out of the box the 290 Tri-X OC works just fine with a traditional thermal management implementation.

The Test

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X @ 4.2GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Disk: Samsung SSD 840 EVO (750GB)
Memory: G.Skill RipjawZ DDR3-1866 4 x 8GB (9-10-9-26)
Case: NZXT Phantom 630 Windowed Edition
Monitor: Asus PQ321
Video Cards: AMD Radeon R9 290X
AMD Radeon R9 290
XFX Radeon R9 280X Double Dissipation
Asus Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP
Sapphire Radeon R9 280X Toxic
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
AMD Radeon HD 7970
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Video Drivers: NVIDIA Release 331.93
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta v8
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta v9.5
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro


Sapphire Radeon R9 290 Tri-X OC Review Gaming Performance
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  • psyside1 - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    So no update for VRM - temps?
  • FookDuSushi - Monday, January 6, 2014 - link

    You wish. Nvidia sucks too much dick to do that.
  • tnypxl - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    No. It's a review.
  • psyside1 - Friday, December 27, 2013 - link

    So what if its review?
  • yacoub35 - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    It will be even quieter when one or more of the fans dies within three months of ownership, if it's anything like the Sapphire cards I've owned.
  • tteksystems - Friday, December 27, 2013 - link

    All fans can be replaced with even better, quieter ones, as is the practice of almost every enthusiast. I would change all fans to something better or use a water cooler. Cooling does not have to be so complicated, or even sophisticated. Choosing better after-market fans and/or water cooling always solves the cooling issues and is well worth the investment.
  • TheJian - Saturday, December 28, 2013 - link

    Don't forget all of your solutions void the warranty. Most of us don't like that ;) Also if you're going to blow the warranty, why buy a more expensive card like this, just buy ref if warranty means nothing to you. The point of buying this over ref is YOU USE THESE FANS with warranty INTACT.

    One more point, none of this is needed with ANY 780TI card. Just OC to max and have a nice day. No fan mods etc needed. Warranty still good. Sell the 3 AAA games if you don't want them to make up most of the difference and be happy you got a better card that probably won't have a phase2 driver in its future ;)
  • K_Space - Sunday, December 29, 2013 - link

    That's very much anecdotal evidence; I've got Sapphire Crossfire'd HD 5870 Vapor-X alive and kicking since release day sometime ~ 2009. (I still think it's one of the most under-rated cards from the red camp)
    Broadly speaking, Sapphire is very much a reputable company and their build quality is up there amongst AMD board partners. I'm sure this product will b no different.
  • kmmatney - Friday, January 3, 2014 - link

    I have a 560 GTX-Ti Hawk card, with a Twin Frzr III cooler which sounds like an airplane while gaming. I tried to adjust the fan settings to be quieter, but the temps would easily go above 100C. On a whim, I removed the fan cover exposing the heat sink, and zip-tied a quiet 120 mm fan above it. Not only is the card near silent now, but the temps are a good 20 deg cooler. So if you have the space (it will become a tri-slot card) I think any card can have good, silent cooling with this technique.
  • LordOfTheBoired - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    Our frothing desire for this video card increases!

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