August 25, 2014

Unboxing & Review: ASUS Radeon R9 290X Matrix Platinum

We're back with another graphics card review and this time we're getting our hands dirty with a ASUS Radeon R9 290X Matrix Platinum graphics card, courtesy of ASUS Malaysia. ASUS's Republic of Gamers (ROG) Matrix Platnium graphics card is renown for its striking appearance and outstanding overclocked performance that has always been the wet dream among majority of PC gamers and enthusiast around the globe to actually own one. 

ROG products usually comes with a hefty price tag that burns a hole in our wallet and the price tag of RM2649.00 is much expected for the R9 290X Matrix Platinum. Now, let's get on with our review and see what the R9 290X Matrix Platinum is capable of.  



Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, the first phrase that came to our mind. ASUS has taken the approach to keep things as simple as possible without losing the premium and elegant touch of ROG - the brand that has been endorsed by many since then.

A brief but detailed description on the construction of the graphics card can be found at the back of the packaging.

Here lies the ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum,  rests safely on an extremely thick piece of foam.

The protective foam's thickness is about 70% of the depth of the box, which is good for protection against nasty courier handling.

Right out of the box, you'll get the R9 290X Matrix Platinum, 2 piece of dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe adapter and the black ASUS box that contains the quick setup guide, Driver CD and a piece of ASUS ROG sticker.

Unlike the R9 280X Matrix Platinum that uses the similar design of the HD 7970 DirectCU II, the R9 290X Matrix Platinum uses only 2 PCIe expansion slot.

Unlike the previous generation DirectCU II cooler, the new design comes with a whole new fan design and one of the fans has a unique design known as CoolTech. CoolTech fan's design is made up of inner radial blower and outer flower-type blades to provide multi-directional airflow to ensure effective heat dissipation.

As we do notice that heat pipes tends to oxidizes overtime and there's not much we can do to stop the oxidation process. The ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum put an end to all the oxidation misery with black anodized heat pipes.

Two 8 pin power connector is required to provide sufficient power to run this beast,

You don't call it a Matrix without the color-coded GPU load indicator! This indicator comes in 4 color to indicate the GPU load state.

Being aesthetically pleasing isn't the only benefit of the pre-installed backplate, it does add rigidity to the PCB of the graphics card to reduce sagging, or PCB bending.

A 4-pin molex connector is found at the rear end of the card, which supply power for the Memory Defroster to unfreeze your the memory chips during extreme overclocking session that involves the use of LN2 (liquid nitrogen).

There's 2 extra features which can be accessed right next to the dual 8-pin power connector:
  • Safe Mode: Similar to Clear CMOS on motherboards, it allows you to restore the graphics card voltage and frequency to its original factory settings. It comes very handy for those who did a lot of experimental tuning.
  • Memory Defroster: Not a feature that you'll be using everyday, but it's a useful feature for those who went for extreme subzero cooling solution (liquid nitrogen or LN2). A simple flick of this tiny little switch allows you defrost your memory for better stability and prevent cold bug.

If you're unsure whether the Memory Defroster feature has been enabled, just flip the card around and you'll see the indicator where the arrow on the "ON" is pointing at.

And last but not least, the output. Eyefinity setup is definitely not an issue as it comes with a DisplayPort, HDMI and 2 DVI-D connector, allowing you to include up to 4 monitors in your Eyefinity setup.

Performance Test
Test Rig Configuration
CPU Cooler
Corsair H100i
I7 4790K @4.6 GHz
ASUS ROG Maximus Gene VI
Corsair Vengeance Pro 8GB @2400 MHz
Primary Hard Drive
Crucial M500 120 GB
Power Supply
Corsair AX650
Display Monitor
Dell U2312HM

For this test, we will be doing a quick performance comparison with the test rig above using the ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum and our ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II. Let the fun commence!

With no modification and tuning done to the card, we ran the test with several graphically demanding games and synthetic benchmark in our possession at the resolution of 1920 x 1080 and 4X Anti-aliasing, with the result as presented on the graph below:

The ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum is doing pretty well and here's a quick list on the performance gained when compared against the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II:

  • GRID 2: Improved by 26.0% 
  • Tomb Raider: Improved by 22.6%
  • Crysis 3: Improved by 41.1%
  • Far Cry 3: Improved by 40.0%
  • Battlefield 3: Improved by 34.4%
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0: Improved by 65.7%

We did a small adjustment to the ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum with the following values:

  • 1135 MHz on the base clock
  • 6125 MHz on the memory clock
  • 1.3V on the voltage for GPU

We've manage to squeeze a little more out of the ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum and here's the performance gain from factory settings to overclocked settings:

  • GRID 2: Improved by 4.9% 
  • Tomb Raider: Improved by 6.1%
  • Crysis 3: Improved by 8.3%
  • Far Cry 3: Improved by 7.9%
  • Battlefield 3: Improved by 4.9%
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0: Improved by 7.9%

The commonly used GPU stress test utility, FurMark is used for our stress test for maximum heat output with an ambient temperature of 31C° and fan speed to Auto for best acoustic. Do note that purpose of this GPU stress test is to check on the highest temperature both cards will reach and this doesn't represent the actual temperature you will be getting during gaming session.

As you might have already know, the reference R9 290X is known to have a very hot operating temperature of 95°C, but thanks to ASUS's newly revised fan design and DirectCU II cooler, the temperature can be tamed  below 90°C. It's still hot, but there's nothing to worry about as these will not be the temperature you'll be getting during most gaming session - except for some very graphic demanding games.

Final Thoughts
As ASUS Republic of Gamer' top of the line AMD based flagship graphics card that is specially made to impress the subzero overclockers, the ASUS R9 290X Matrix Platinum appears to be quite promising but the only that will probably hold most of us back is the price that will cost an arm and a leg - RM2659, ouch.

Although we didn't manage to use features such as memory defroster that are specifically tailored to enhance overclocking experience especially when it comes to LN2. Even without messing a lot with the overclocking specialized features due to the fact that we don't have the proper equipment to go for LN2, the overall performance is still pretty solid and the safe mode feature put on a big help to allow us to revert the card back to its factory settings with just a simple click when it's necessary.

If you're not really into these extreme overcocking but still interested in getting a R9 290X, we would recommend the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II more as it will perform nearly the same and not to mention that it's RM400 cheaper at least.


  • Aesthetic appearance
  • Factory Overclocked
  • Comes with rich overclocking features
  • Comes with a metal plate to strengthen the PCB


  • Shroud is made of plastic instead of metal
  • Might have compatibility issue with smaller chassis due to the massive shroud
  • Cost a bomb, an arm and a leg