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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Khenglish - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    Yeah I simplified things some. I was just pointing out the main culprits for performance and power scaling with temperature. I think I was over most people's heads anyway so I figured more detail wasn't worth it.

    Also maybe you meant to say something else, but all caches and registers are is a 4 transistor flip-flop (2 inverters in a loop), with 2 more transistors for reading and writing to that exact cell. Power electronics are just bigger FETs. Saying everything in a processor is just FETs and interconnects is very accurate. There really is nothing else.
  • Arbie - Friday, December 27, 2013 - link

    But they do probably learn that ICs aren't built on silicone.
  • Godigy - Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - link

    Great review, Ryan, but could you please update this review with VRM temps (stock idle/load, overclocked idle/load)? It'll show the temps in GPU-Z as VRM1 (the GPU/VRAM phases) and VRM2 (PLL-the trio of MOSFETS near the video connectors).

  • TechFanatic - Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - link

    This is Sapphire telling all AMD fans out there that your patience shall be rewarded.
    You have to remember that while Sapphire is asking for a $50 premium custom cards from other AMD partners will bring the prices down, namely the DirectCUII card from Asus which only adds $20 to the MSRP of a reference R9 290.

    This card is faster, quieter, cooler, has more memory and is less expensive than the 780.
    AMD have got a major winner on their hands.
  • GPU_obsessed - Tuesday, December 24, 2013 - link

    Well you won't see MSRP for r9 290 for still some time. Even so, $550 is a price I'm willing to pay over the $500 780 based on performance. But VRM Temps first ofc.
  • Mondozai - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    The problems with MSRP prices getting distorted due to the mining craze is a mostly NA-centric phenomenom. The mining craze has reached Sweden, too, the forums at even mainstream, non-tech sites are filled with threads on mining yet we see no distortion on prices here. I think it is less an issue of supply and more about the shameless aspects of American capitalism. Nevertheless, for those of us who do pay MSRP it is a good card. Still waiting for review of the DirectCU II cooler from Asus on this card.
  • blanarahul - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    If Computebase.de's reviews are to be believed, the Tri-X cards are better than their respective DirectCU2 and Windforce 3X cards.
  • Folterknecht - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    Computerbase is testing INSIDE A CASE not on an open benchtable. Makes a huge difference.
  • Azurael - Wednesday, December 25, 2013 - link

    Last time I checked, my computer was INSIDE A CASE too. So it seems fairly relevant..,.
  • bigboxes - Thursday, December 26, 2013 - link

    Thank you.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now