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August 29, 2014

Unboxing & Review: ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC


We're lucky enough that ASUS has provided us another unit of AMD Radeon R9 290X, This time is the Asus R9 290X DirectCU II OC 4GB. For some who might did not know this, the GPU comes with overclock out of the box compare to reference design offering better performance.

Retail SRP for the Malaysia is RM2299.00 , I personally think they would be a good alternative if one finds 290X Matrix Platinum pricing steep.

Specifications

Packaging & Contents

Here's the front view of the box. Featuring their DirectCU II heatsink which offers better heat dissipation compare to reference design.


Backside of the box, you might have notice, ASUS has include a Color kit consisting Red or Gold Color. You'll find more details below.


As we proceed with the packaging, we found ourselves quite a premium looking box.


Asus did a good job separating the box with protective foam, it's quite neat too as you as see here.


The accessory box contain a quick start manual guide, a dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe adapter, and 2 sets of stickers.


We have the red stickers installed on the GPU, isn't she a beauty?

Graphic Card

Top view of the GPU, you can customize the GPU using red or gold sticker, in this review we're using the red color of which ASUS' signature color scheme for their DirectCU II cooler.


The backplate of the GPU not only looks good, but it strengthens the graphics card PCB to prevent sagging issue.


As you can see here, this GPU requires only two PCIe slot for your system, giving better compatibility for AMD Crossfire setup on mATX form factor motherboards.


To power up this GPU, you will need a 8pin and a 6pin PCI-Express power connector.


While looking at the rear end of the graphics card, there's a switch located at lower left of this picture. The switch allows you to switch in between quiet mode and performance mode. But in our test, both offers nearly zero performance difference, where quiet mode offers lower noise but in the cost of higher temperature while performance mode has lower temperature but louder fan noise.


The video output is pretty standard, it comes with 2 Dual Link DVI, 1 Display Port 1.2, and a HDMI 1.4a Port.

Performance Test
Test Rig Configuration

CPU Cooler
Noctua NH-D14
CPU
Intel CoreI7 4770K @4.0 GHz
Motherboard
MSI Mpower Z87
Memory
Mushkin Enhanced Blackline 8GB @1600 MHz
Primary Hard Drive
OCZ Vertex 4
Power Supply
Seasonic X660
Chassis
CM690 Advanced II



We will be using AMD Catalyst 14.4 WHQL driver for our game performance test. Game performance test configuration are 1920x1080 Resolution, 4x Anti Aliasing, with graphic option set to very high or ultra.


ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC did great in our list of games, Payday 2 and Dota both have FPS limit built into their game, so they can't go above 135/120 FPS.

Temperature

In our test, Benchmark such as Heaven Unigine or 3DMark, we've reach average of 86C°, which has the same temperature result from some graphically demanding game like Battlefield 4 or Crysis 3, But Metro Last Light reaching temperature of 94C° which is quite surprising compare to other games that only reach peak of 90C°.

While games like Payday 2 or Dota 2, has average 70C° mainly due to lower performance requirement and FPS limit.

Final Thoughts
Overall, Asus R9 290X Direct CU II OC is one of the better card on the market compare to reference version. The option to allow us to customize the graphic card with or without the red/gold sticker is plus for people that going for color theme design. However, i personally feel the switch for quiet/performance bios lacks explanation for it's function.

Asus DirectCU II Heatsink with two fan performs splendidly keeping the temperature low while under load. There's also a Bios switch that allows you to switch between Performance mode or Quiet mode, but there's no performance difference between this two bios. The only different would be the Noise/Heat Ratio, Quiet mode has lesser fan noise, higher on load temperature(94C°) while Performance mode has louder fan noise, lower on load temperature(89C°). Do note there's no throttling involved, so even if the card reaches 94C°, the performance will not decrease.

While the performance gain over the reference design is not much, but it does makes different when throttling is involved on the AMD reference card.

Pros
  • Option for color customization(pure black/red/gold)
  • Comes with a metal plate to strengthen the PCB
  • Dual Bios
  • No throttling
  • Factory overclocked

Cons
  • Lack information on Dual Bios switch
  • Slightly expensive.
  • Fan can be quite noisy when using performance bios


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