Final Words & Conclusion
Final Words & Conclusion
The "new" Radeon R9 390 series is interesting from several points of view, both positive and negative. The Hawaii, or Grenada GPU as AMD likes to call it now, is pretty much the same GPU used in the 290 series with the same thermal characteristics, the same number of shader processors and, well, same everything. It is however the latest iteration of the ASIC that allows for slightly higher clocks overall. The differences are to be found merely in a small bump in the GPU clock frequency. The memory is clocked faster at an effective data-rate of 6 GHz. The most substantial noticeable gain is a move from 4 GB towards 8 GB of graphics memory. We'll state it in all our 390 reviews, we very much doubt the benefits from the extra 4 GB, the number of scenarios where you will pass 4 GB is extremely limited. Other than that the changes from the board partners are maybe a new PCB and cooling. The PowerColor Radeon R9-390 PCS+ is terrific in many ways, has very decent looks, albeit the triple slot cooler is rather bulky, it is relatively inaudible and offers good maximum temps. All that combined with its overall performance makes it an interesting graphics card. The performance difference remains relative to the 290 series, AMD released optimized drivers, but they only work on the 390 series and not 290, which raises questions.
Cooling & Noise Levels
The reference Hawaii GPU cooled products in the initial 290 reference series were to be considered really average at 95 Degrees C, that is different for the 390 series. The cooler on the PCS+ will make a significant difference. This triple-slot design cools terrific, expect to hover in the 65 to 70 Degrees C domain depending on the airflow inside your system and the ambient temperature. The noise levels are okay really. You can hear a bit of airflow, but that's it. We rated this product at 41 DBa under gaming load measured at 75 cm distance, these are very normal noise levels
Power consumption is not bad but again not good either. The card is rated by us having roughly a 280~300 Watt peak power consumption (average is lower). That is OK, and could have been worse but not rather impressive. I think enthusiast consumers at this performance level will not mind that much about the power draw and be forgiving. That TDP will make running multi-GPU solutions a bit more complicated. With two cards 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.
Performance & drivers
Any Radeon R9 390 in most scenarios will be performing roughly at GeForce GTX 970 upwards to the 980 performance wise, if priced right that is a pretty okay position to be in. Performance wise all modern games up-to 2560x1440 will run pretty good, and that is at the good image quality settings. For Ultra HD the 8 GB comes in handy, then again one card is not powerful enough to drive that resolution for gaming with high image quality settings and proper AA levels. What I am trying to say is that the 8 GB graphics memory is nice and welcome, but might be a little irrelevant for most end-users while you do pay a price premium for it. Drivers then, AMD needs to step up their game and release 0-day driver releases with at the very least AAA rated titles. As hey, you want to play that game at launch day without the worry that your graphics card isn't optimized or multi-GPU enabled. While it was good to see a driver released with Batman two weeks ago, only the 200 series benefited from that while the new 300 series didn't. Also AMD outed overall optimized drivers for the 300 series, but excluded these optimizations for the 200 series. And yes that would be the 15.15 launch driver. Again, these things are a bit confusing.
Overclocking then, not bad at all. I mean the card is already factory overclocked for you and you get to add a little extra, but sure, it's not heaps alright. You can reach roughly 1150 MHz on the GPU stable, that was the best we could reach as at 1200 MHz the card started to crash. The memory can be clocked to 6800 MHz (effective). Overall that brings the card another 5%, maybe 10% performance when compared to reference clock frequencies depending on game title/resolution. It is a reasonable tweak.
It has been a wild few weeks, and a pretty busy start of the summer alright. We are seeing some intersting and less interesting product and as such this conclusion will be close to other 390 series reviews we have written. Powercolor has got their stuff right, let me first state that. But sure, we do have mixed feelings about AMD re-spinning GPUs on this scale. We understand the respins and the reasoning behind it, I'm just not sure how the end-users will benefit from it as the end results are incremental performance increases while chucking down extra money for an extra 4 GB of graphics memory that in 99% of the cases you will never use. The differences for the 390 series and 290 series are rather small. Let's also not forget that there already have been 8 GB R9 290 and 290X graphics cards on the market for almost a year. The extra few MHz on the GPU isn't going to move mountains and the extra kick in bandwidth on the memory isn't going to make the biggest difference either as that 512-bit memory bus already delivers plenty of bandwidth. That said I think the 390 series is going to be a tough sell. Everybody that has a preference for team red already purchased a R9 series 290 card in the past year or so right? GPU respinning aside, TUL / PowerColor did a nice job with the Radeon R9-390 PCS+. It offers very decent cooling temperatures for a Hawaii/Grenada based GPU, okay noise levels, nice looks and a small factory overclock. While we like the total of 8 GB graphics memory, 4 GB really was already sufficient.
So should you purchase a 290 or 390? Honestly, simply look at prices. Both cards will perform great up-to 2560x1440, the rest we feel is irrelevant. So yes, pricing will be relevant until the 290 series are phased out. Heck, a 4 GB 290 at the moment will be nearly 80 EURO cheaper opposed to the 8 GB 390. That said, PowerColor has a lovely graphics card at hand with their PCS+ edition card, a little bulky due to the cooler maybe, but from a design point of view it does ticks all the right boxes and as such can be recommended if you are in the market for a product like this. The PowerColor Radeon R9-390 PCS+ is recommended and approved by Guru3D.com if you are upgrading from say the 7800 or 7900 series, as that would make sense. But be on the lookout for some good 290 deals, it's close to similar performance and you might save 50 up-to a 100 EURO. Your call, of course :)