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Customer Review

33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great gaming performance and benchmarks BUT........, 19 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Sapphire AMD R9 290 TRI-X OC Graphics Card (4GB, HDMI, PCI-E) (Accessory)
There are some niggling issues which quite frankly are a pain in the ass to deal with (for example heat issues, some software issues particularly having to disable ULPS - see below). Back in January 2014, I needed a new GFX card for my high spec gaming rig (I had a 7990HD but I wanted to sell it on because that thing was too hot). Ideally I wanted 2x780GTX but the prices were so stupidly high and after much online research I decided to go for a pair of Zotac 770GTX from Novatech (which was available at offer price of £240 plus 3 free games). I got 6 games in total which I sold on ebay for £60, bringing down my outlay to £420. Read my Amazon review of the Zotac 770GTX (great value for money and my SLI rig trounced my previous Palit 780Ti in performance and price). However, my intention was to use the 2x770GTX-SLI as a stop gap until prices of 780GTX come down. Alas, 5 months on and the cheapest 780GTX I could find was a good quality Zotac for £340 (again Novatech). I was going to go for it but then I saw a special offer on Amazon for the Sapphire TRIX R9-290 for £284. That is £56 cheaper than the cheapest 780GTX. So I went for it and bought two. Both 290's arrived next day but one turned out faulty (defective Hynix RAM). I RMA'd it for a replacement, which arrived three days later.

As mentioned by other reviewers, the 290's are of good build quality. But no-one has mentioned the underside, which should have a metal back plate. This one does not. However, upon close inspection, the metal plate is actually found internally (the pcb is attached to it, so it is giving internal rigidity and the hefty heatsink is attached to the other side of this internal metal plate). The 290's are very good performers (similar benchmarks to stock Titan Z and that thing costs £2300 and I am getting almost identical FPS to Titan Z in crysis3 maxed out settings), BUT the 2x290's put out a huge amount of heat. My Alpenfohn K2 mount doom heatsink was absorbing ambient heat not only from my FX-9590 but also from the two 290's, so it was quickly overheating to 71c and BIOS safeties was shutting down pc (no doubt, current hot weather had large role to play in this, as even my 2x770GTX were hitting high temps of 70c-80c).

I also decided to check the specs for the stock fans that came with the K2. Only 61CFM each!. So I ordered the latest 3000rpm industrial fans from Noctua (£21 each). Both fans arrived yesterday, installed and wow, massive drop in cpu temps - 37c idle, with boinc/seti in background is 43c-46c (whereas with Alpenfohn fans was 55c-58c). With boinc/seti running in background and playing crysis3, cpu was 54c-58c. All with MSI afterburner fan speed at 50%.

I also noticed massive reduction in 290 glitches whilst gaming (reduced stuttering, white patches, etc). Clearly heat output has adverse effect on 290 gaming and benchmarking performance.

But in a nutshell, the 290 even as a single card was giving very good FPS in gaming. In Xfire I am getting solid 80FPS in crysis3 ultra settings (often FPS shoots up to 100-146FPS). Compare this to my 2x770GTX-SLI which was giving 60FPS in crysis3 ultra settings (with a high of 88FPS). I am very pleased with the 2x290's but the catalyst software can be a headache to deal with. You also have to disable ULPS in regedit (otherwise it interferes with GFX card fan speed and burns out motor). Took quite a few hours trying to figure out how to disable ULPS (please see my comments page on how to disable ULPS).

Here are my benchmarks -

R9-290 Xfire:

FIRE STRIKE EXTREME -
score = 7562
graphics score = 9056
physics score = 8647
combined score = 3119

3D Mark Sky diver:
Score = 28851
Graphics score = 58552
Physics score = 9307
Combined score = 17439
CPU: Before = 52c. After = 68c.
GPU1: Before = 55c. After = 64c.
GPU2: Before = 41c. After = 53c.

VALLEY 1:
Score = 3178
FPS = 76
Min FPS = 25.9
Max FPS = 122.2

HEAVEN 4:
Score = 2224
FPS = 88.3
Min FPS = 25.2
Max FPS = 173

My Zotac 2x770GTX-SLI:

FIRE STRIKE EXTREME -
score = 5856
graphics score = 6701
physics score = 8583
combines score = 2418

VALLEY 1:
Score = 2912
FPS = 69.6
Min FPS = 25.7
Max FPS = 123.9

HEAVEN 4:
Score = 1655
FPS = 65.7
Min FPS = 21.8
Max FPS = 158.6

The 290 series are very good cards and if you are willing to deal with software and heat issues every now and then, it's a reasonable compromise (but you can resolve heat issues, as I finally managed to).

Yes, Nvidia cards run noticeably cooler and software is more stable (with better perks) but prices are stupidly high for 780GTX and 780Ti (This sapphire 290 TRIX was £56 cheaper than the cheapest 780GTX and only £54 more than the Zotac 770GTX which is a rebadged 680GTX!).

You can also get similar real life gaming performance with a single card or significantly better performance with a pair of 290's for a damn sight cheaper than a 780Ti. Let me put it this way, my pair of TRIX 290's cost me £568, whereas an MSI 780Ti costs £510 and the Asus directCUII 780Ti costs £540 (and the Zotac 780Ti costs £530).

Dont forget, I sold off my pair of Zotac 770GTX, so I recouped £370. Therefore my pair of 290's cost me £198. Almost forgot to mention but I am getting similar benchmark scores with my pair of 290's (£568!) compared to Titan Z which costs £2300!. So the Titan Z is over 4 times more expensive than my pair of 290 TRIX.

Initially Nvidia were demanding a price tag of £3k for the Titan Z, but after benchmarks of AMD 295X2 were published, the Titan Z release date was delayed by 5 weeks (it was too late for Nvidia to recall stock for fine tuning and modifications) so the only thing they could do was decrease rrp to £2300.

Plus Nvidia cards are no good for crypto-currency. Will try my hand at it with these two 290's as I would like to recover the initial costs. I read online that AMD are releasing a new GFX card this summer to take down the 780Ti. Also, AMD are releasing the new gen 390X in November 2014 (it will have 4000 stream processors, 20nm architecture, 7GHz VRAM speed and I think a total of 6GB stacked VRAM).

In the past I always preferred Nvidia GFX cards as I felt AMD were just not good enough. Since the release of the Hawaii gpu with custom coolers, I am pleased to say that AMD GFX cards are now good enough to challenge and take down Nvidia (and a damn sight cheaper too!).

UPDATE 1: 23/06/14 - I read a month ago that AMD is planning to release an upgraded 290X (one that will topple the 780Ti). Well it seems the rumours are true. Apparently, AMD never disclosed how powerful the 290/X really is. It actually has 3072 processing cores! (the extra cores have been disabled but will be enabled in the 290X+). It has been calculated that this 'all cores activated version' will even bring down the Titan Black. See my comments page for the article.

UPDATE 2: Tuesday 01/07/14 (7.30pm). Okay, some weird things have been happening with these GFX cards every so often over the last 2 weeks, but twice today. Sometimes when gaming, I noticed that when I run FRAPS whilst gaming, I am only getting 30-40FPS with both cards. Very odd. I usually turn off the game and restart my pc. Then I get proper FPS (in crysis3, ultra settings I normally get 86-94FPS, but it often shoots up to 140FPS). However, today, I was running 3D Mark diver and about 1 minute into the benchmark, the screen mysteriously just went black. I switched off my pc. Did some other things and came back after 30 minutes. Only 15 minutes ago I was just surfing the net and for some reason, the web page just crashed, screen went black and then some white dotted lines came across the screen. This does not sound good at all. Will have to trouble shoot. I hope it is something simple and fixable. As a comparison, in the 5 months I had my pair of Zotac 770GTX-SLI, I never had any problems with them. From the very first day, they worked brilliantly.

UPDATE 3: Tuesday 15/07/14. I was able to identify and resolve the strange glitches and crashing of the 290's. It was due to heat!. I had them in a Coolermaster Storm Trooper case (poor cable management as all the cables are congested in the main cabin and diminishes airflow. Also the two huge HDD cages block airflow from the front fans). I finally resolved this by getting the CM HAF932 Advanced. Great airflow on front, top, rear, bottom and side. I placed 4x120mm CM jetflo fans (2000rpm/95CFM each) on the side panel so they blow air directly on to my 290's. Had it up and running for 7 days now and I have not had a single problem with my 290's. So yes, the 290's are very good performing cards but heat build up can cause issues.

UPDATE 4: Thursday 11/12/14. Hey guys, AMD have just released their new 14.12 omega drivers. It is AMD's answer to the new Nvidia DSR and VXGI drivers (and I suspect it is a working platform for the upcoming 380X in February 2015 (and 390X sometime in 1H of 2015). I will put the new AMD drivers link in the discussion page with an article from HEXUS about the new drivers.

UPDATE 5: Sunday 01/03/15. Hey guys, I am sure you have heard all about the nvidiot 970GTX fiasco (they said 4GB memory but turns out it only has 3.5GB useable memory). Well, nvidiot is being sued for hundreds of millions $. AMD has used this opportunity to advertise to disgruntled nvidiot fans that if they return their 970GTX to NVidiot for a full refund, the AMD will let them have a 290/X at a discounted price!. I was told this by a friend. Will find the link and post it in the comments page.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Jun 2014 21:49:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 1 Sep 2014 12:12:08 BDT
Canopus72 says:
For article of fully unlocked 290X+ (3072 processing cores), see -

http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/anton-shilov/amd-readies-enhanced-radeon-r9-290x-hawaii-graphics-solution/comment-page-1/#comment-199763

Also, AMD is releasing a new FX cpu with a liquid cooler. People think this could just be an overclocked PD, but AMD have already done that (9370 and 9590!). I have a feeling this could be the limited edition FX steamroller version (for AM3+ platform) and I think it may have 12 processing cores (6 modules). This is AMD's response to the 4770K and 4790K and upcoming devil's canyon:

http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/cpu/display/20140621200650_AMD_Preps_a_New_FX_Series_Microprocessor_with_Bundled_Liquid_Cooling.html

HOW TO DISABLE ULPS -
1) In the search field (above the Start Orb) type regedit
2) Right-click on the regedit.exe shortcut that appears -> run as admin
3) In Registry, on the left highlight HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE.
4) Hit Ctrl+F, and in the Find field fill in: enableulps and hit Enter (or click Next) or hit F3 for next.
5) At Every instance of EnableUlps change the value from 1 to 0. Don't touch EnableUlps_NA
6) Close Registry
7) Reboot the PC

Posted on 26 Jun 2014 15:59:20 BDT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jun 2014 15:59:58 BDT
Canopus72 says:
The Nvidia Titan Z went head to head against the AMD 295X2 and the Titan Z was completely destroyed in all benchmarks. See -

http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/184216-nvidias-3000-titan-z-takes-on-the-1500-radeon-r9-295x2-and-gets-crushed

I also learned that Nvidia are using the same dirty tricks as intel and are bribing developers to either circumvent or cripple AMD product performance. In this case, Nvidia bribed the developers of 'watchdogs' to include a subcode in the game program that makes AMD mantle incompatible with the game.

I used to be an Nvidia fanboy but ever since the sour grapes issue wrt AMD winning the console deals, Nvidia is now playing very dirty. I will never buy an Nvidia gfx card again.

Posted on 4 Sep 2014 09:49:33 BDT
me again says:
Very informative review and also the updates as well are greatly appreciated, this review is helping in my decision's in purchasing a replacement graphics card for my gaming rig.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Sep 2014 00:09:22 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Sep 2014 00:18:39 BDT
Canopus72 says:
me again. Hi and thank you for your interest and kind comments. I'm glad to hear my review was useful. If there is anything else you need to know, then please do not hesitate to ask. You may be aware that AMD are releasing the 390X in November 2014 (Nvidia will be releasing the 980GTX and 970GTX in November also). Check out videocardz.com for relevant articles.

BTW, what gfx card do you have now and what would you like to upgrade to?. I have tested just one of my 290's (on it's own) and temperatures are good (idle 35c and load upto 54c). Once you go Xfire, that is when things get a bit hotter, so make sure you have decent cooling in your case. You may also find this link interesting -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5KMnNpU2UU

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Sep 2014 17:02:14 BDT
Canopus72 says:
me again. Hi. I just found a website detailing specs for the 390X. Apparently it is going to have 4224 processing cores and 300w power demand. It also seems that the 290X+ is actually going to be branded as the 380X (with the full 3072 activated cores from 290X version, which I mentioned above). See -

http://www.gamespot.com/forums/pc-mac-discussion-1000004/r9-390x-r9-380x-specs-31231765/

Posted on 9 Sep 2014 19:57:29 BDT
Great review - great updates and fantastic details.
I have been keeping an eye on this very card for a while now (since it dropped to 280 pounds here on zon).
My current rig is FX8350, Noctua NH-D15, Asus Sabretooth 990fx R2.0 with an Asus GTX 660TI - housed in a HAF 932 Advanced Case.
To date - I've only used NVidia cards but have been tempted to get this R290 due to price point versus performance.

My concerns relate to the well documented throttling and black screen issues whilst gaming - that you mentioned.
Just a quick question - did you do a comparison between the stock 230mm side fan that comes with the HAF 932 as opposed to the 4 120mm fans in regards cooling of your GPU in-case?
Would like to know what the differences were ?
Also, what are you using to power all the fans - my mobo allows for 4 fans and the 2 on the CPU Cooler.
Cheers --

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Sep 2014 21:23:56 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Sep 2014 21:58:48 BDT
Canopus72 says:
Hi Zorton and thank you for your interest and kind comments. Alrighty then, you have asked a very good question and to be honest, I actually did not compare the 230mm side fan on the HAF932 with the 4x120mm coolermaster jetflo fans I was using. Although I do recall that the 230mm fan did yield 85CFM of airflow. However, each coolermaster jetflo fan yields 95CFM of airflow, so that is a total of 380CFM. So no competition!.

However, I was forced to return the HAF932 due to an electrical fault on the front panel for power switch and usb ports. Thank God I spotted it in time, so it did not damage any of my components. I am back to using my trusty but ageing Coolermaster storm trooper case. I do have that upgrade itch and I am currently looking at the lovely Phanteks Enthoo Luxe case. See -

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=CA-004-PT&groupid=2362&catid=2277

Another thing I noticed about the HAF932 is that the fixings for the motherboard are sitting quite low, so once you have mounted your motherboard and your dual graphics card (in my case, a pair of Sapphire TRIX in Xfire), the first graphics card fans are actually blocked by the psu.

Unfortunately, there is a massive disparity between the amount of free space available at the top of the case when compared to free space available at the bottom of the case (lots of room and no room, respectively). This is because the HAF932 is an older design case and offered top and bottom psu mounting options. If you choose the latter and you have dual graphics cards, then be aware the bottom card is going to get very hot because the fans on the gfx card will be blocked by the psu. If however, you have a single gfx card, then there will be no issue. So in my case, it worked out for the better that I had to return the HAF932. Although I have to say the front panel on this revised version was very flimsy. I used to own the original HAF932 when it was first released and I distinctly recall, even the front panel was made of tough plastic. Sadly, CM have canned the HAF932.

On a separate note, due to the imminent release of the 980GTX by end of September, AMD have slashed the prices on their gfx cards. You can now purchase the 295x2 for £699. No joke!. I am seriously considering buying it (or waiting for the new 390X). See -

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX-350-SP&groupid=701&catid=56

and

http://www.scan.co.uk/products/8gb-xfx-radeon-r9-295-x2-core-edition-5000mhz-gddr5-gpu-947mhz-boost-1018mhz-5632-streams-dvi-mdp

If however, you are more interested in purchasing the 290/X, then I highly recommend you check out the XFX R9-290DD on overclockers. It is currently selling for £264. Tiny Tim Logan on OC3D reviewed this card and he loved it. See -

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX-219-XF&utm_source=Overclockers+UK+Newsletter&utm_campaign=e7fe86bccd-AMD_Special_Eshot9_9_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c199b69777-e7fe86bccd-212922425

As for powering all of the fans, I am using an Asus Crosshair V Formula Z motherboard. I recall it has 6 pwm sockets. However, I am using Y-splitter fan cables, so I am using 2 fans per pwm socket. In total, I am using 12 fans (3x140mm and 9x120mm). There are 6x120mm case fans for air intake (CM jetflo). I am using an Alpenfohn K2 mount doom air cooler with three of the new 120mm Noctua 3000rpm fans (110CFM each). Keeps my FX9590 cool (in this hot weather, at idle is currently 42c). I am using a 140mm Noctua 3K-rpm fan as my rear exhaust (145CFM). Top two exhaust fans are again CM jetflo.

I have been reading latest news on the new gen AMD cpu. The AMD vp has confirmed the X86 and ARM version will be released in Q1/2016. However, that is 18 months away. I really hope that in the interim AMD offer a refresh on the AM3+ mobos. I think I will write to AMD vp and gripe about it (ie - give us an updated mobo with latest gadgetry).

Anyways, the rumours are that AMD is indeed making a high performance desktop cpu. It will have 12 cores with each core at 6GHz. AMD are making a K12/ARM version that will have 20 cores. AMD have ditched the modular design and are going back to traditional cpu design. They are designing this new K12 from the ground up. It is not a refresh of any old model. It will have totally new tech and AMD have designed a system that is equal to intel's 'hyper-threading'. Apparently, their new SMT will be as good as intel HT. WRT the K12 architecture, Jim Keller said 'it is a very good design'.

I hope so because I hate intel and I really hope AMD can make something that will pull intel's pants down. They managed to do it to Nvidia (the 295X2 trounces the Titan Z in all benchmarks), so it sounds like AMD are getting their act together. BUT they need to make their cpu's and gpu's more power efficient (but JK and his design team have been working on that and the new 285 Tonga gpu is 30watts more efficient than the 280X and gives almost same performance). So here's hoping.

Almost forgot!. WRT your concerns for black screens, etc, I downloaded the latest 14.8 drivers and it is working pretty damn well!. It is meant to be for the APU's but it also works well for the gfx cards too!. Back in July, I wiped my ssd clean and did fresh reinstall of OS and drivers. I reinstalled version 14.4 and it was working great. So maybe there were some fragments of AMD drivers not fully removed which was interfering with the new driver install. I recommend you download driver sweeper and install. Remove drivers from control panel and then use 'driver sweeper' to pick off any remaining driver fragments. As far as throttling goes, no need to worry because the new 290/X with custom cooler stay within good temperature limits (but make sure your case has decent airflow). Just wait till winter comes, your pc will be very nice and cool.

Hope this helps!. If you have any more queries, feel free to ask.

PS - The time is good to buy an R9-290 due to price cuts by AMD. You definitely get a lot more bang for buck with AMD gpu's. I'm really happy with mine, BUT I have been seduced by the new 390X (4420 stream processors, 4GB DDR5 stacked DRAM at 7GHz). Will have to wait and see how much it retails for. Apparently Nvidia are going to sell the 980GTX between £450-£500. So I reckon AMD will be selling their 390X for £400-£450. Right now, the cheapest 780GTX is the Zotac 780GTX on Novatech for £330 BUT as mentioned, overclockers are selling the XFX-290DD for £264. So it is £66 cheaper!.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Sep 2014 22:04:03 BDT
Canopus72 says:
Hi Zorton. Forgot to mention but check out this MSI R9-290 on overclockers for £258 -

http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=GX-239-MS&utm_source=Overclockers+UK+Newsletter&utm_campaign=e7fe86bccd-AMD_Special_Eshot9_9_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c199b69777-e7fe86bccd-212922425

Posted on 11 Dec 2014 21:06:03 GMT
Canopus72 says:
New AMD 14.12 omega drivers (for W7-64bit) -

http://support.amd.com/en-us/download/desktop?os=Windows%207%20-%2064

HEXUS review of new AMD 14.12 Omega drivers -

http://hexus.net/tech/reviews/graphics/78137-amd-catalyst-omega-driver/
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