The PowerColor Radeon R9 290X PCS+ is a beast of a graphics card in many ways. It is huge and chunky but is very impressive in terms of low noise levels and truly excellent temperatures. Next to that is has the looks to kill for really, the one gripe for some might be that this is a three slot solution, so it will occupy some space insie you PC alright. But other then that .. very impressive.
Now as you have been able to see, the baseline performance (factory overclocked) was slightly below or equal to reference performance. Here I want to say, the sample we received came straight out of TUL/ PoweColor R&D and is an engineering sample. So unfortunately there still needs to be some stuff improved on PowerColor's end, but the baseline performance is certainly there, some BIOS tweaking still needs to be done.
Cooling & Noise Levels
So where the reference cooled products are to be considered really average at 95 Degrees C, the PCS+ cooler does make a significant difference. Yes, this triple-slot solution might be bulky but looks and cools really well, if anything the card produced the best FLIR imaging results out of all 290X cards I have tested to date. The PCB is customized and you will notice quality components only. Three subtle and silent fans in all black design make this a good looking package alright. Great looking actually, and very sturdy I must say as well, there is a metal plate at the top of the card so the card can not bend when seated horizontally in the PC. The backside of the card comes with a really terrific back-plate, the hottest sections like VRM area and GPU have gaps, allowing hot air to vent away instead of trapping it in-between the PCB and back-plate. Next to that the back-plate is roughly 2 mm away from the PCB, so there will be some airflow there. The end result is a product under stress running 63 Degrees C in Uber BIOS mode, here you can hear the fan a bit. However in silent mode the temps go up to a still low 68 Degrees C, but the card remains totally silent. So based on your preference, it is your choice and call to make.
Power consumption is not bad but again not good either, the card is rated by us having a 275 (roughly) Watt TDP. That is high, but in perspective, it is 25 to 30 Watts away from Titan. So that could have been worse. I think enthusiast consumers at this performance level will not mind that much about the power draw and be forgiving. That high TDP also will make running multi-GPU solutions a bit more complicated. With two card we think an 800~900 Watt PSU would be sufficient. So yeah, it's not great to have a GPU consuming that much power, but it could have been a lot worse.
Any AMD R9 290X in a lot of scenarios will be performing roughly at Titan or GeForce GTX 780 Ti like performance, that it pretty kick ass for just one GPU with a nicer price-tag. Performance wise really there's not one game that won't run seriously good at either of the cards, and that is at the very best image quality settings. And you do it all with a nice 30" monitor of course, at 2560x1440/1600. I mean BioShock infinite at Ultra quality levels is still oozing out 60+ FPS there. Or what about Hitman Absolution with 67+ FPS at 2560x1600 High quality and 2xMSAA? It's really nice performance. And especially for those with Ultra High Definition gaming in mind, the 290/290X will make sense setup in Crossfire. That would be a sweet spot and you'd have 4 GB of graphics memory per GPU. Added benefit is that this card is Mantle compatible, so even with a slower CPU games like Battlefield 4 and Thief (upcoming patch) will get a little extra performance boost. Even with a high-end processor another 10% extra performance over DirectX10 is viable.
Overclocking then, you will have no issue running the card at 1150~1200 MHz really. However since we had an engineering sample product at hand I find it a little subjective to cast my spell and opinion on the non retail product. One thing is a sure fact, the cooling won't be a limiting factor. You can reach roughly 1125~1150 MHz on the GPU stable easily. The memory can be clocked to 6000 MHz (effective) just as easy as well. In fact reaching 6500 MHz will likely be your final stretch.
The PowerColor Radeon R9 290X PCS+ is a potent and impressive product no matter how you look at it. Unfortunately our engineering sample was not 100% fine-tuned just yet and as a result (even with factory overclocked settings) the performance was give or take a few FPS at reference level. The product was rushed out to us so I wanted to make that very clear. The final production units obviously will kick ass with another notch performance.
What Powercolor brings to the table are excellent cooling temperatures, low or normal noise levels (your choice), great looks, a factory overclock and obviously the raw sheer unadulterated gaming performance you need to play the very latest games at high resolutions with stringent image quality settings. Obviously we like the total of 4 GB graphics memory as well. A problem right now is that prices of all the R9 290 series cards remain artificially inflated high due to high demand related to data-mining. While great for AMD, it is not so great for gamers that the 290/290X cards are truly excellent litecoin hash miners (bitcoin competition). And as such the cards are still in very high demand by non gamers. By testing this early sample of the product that needs to be finalized we can't argue that the PowerColor Radeon R9 290X PCS+ will be an excellent product. It'll be big and bulky, but that is both in sheer design and performance.
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