XFX Radeon R9 290X Black Edition Review
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XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition Review

February 17th, 2015 Mike Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

Here we have the current mainstay Graphics Card of the pcG Test Rig, the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition (R9-290X-EDBD). Chosen by the pcG team because the Radeon R9 290X offers great performance for its price and because the very hot running AMD Hawaii GPU core with its 94.00C thermal throttle should be very good at pushing even the coolest of PC Cases in our thermal tests.

So what is the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition? As the title says, this particular Graphics Card is built around the AMD Radeon R9 290X which features the rather toasty AMD Hawaii XT GPU Core. Where the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition differs from the reference card, is most obviously the new dual fan XFX Double Dissipation custom cooler, which promises better thermal performance and acoustics than that of the original AMD reference blower style cooler (hard to believe I know! 😉 ). Performance-wise we also gain a little GPU Core Clock speed over the reference card’s 1000MHz with 1050MHz, whilst the 4GB DDR5 memory speed remains the same at 1250MHz (5000MHz effective). As with the reference card, the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition features a 512bit Bus and 2816 Stream Processors, along with AMD Eyefinity, AMD HD3D, AMD Hybrid Graphics, AMD PowerPlay, AMD Stream and AMD CrossFireX Technologies. Furthered by four outputs (2x DVI-D, 1x HDMI & 1x DisplayPort) to offer you the ability to use four separate screens. As with most of the recent AMD offerings, we also gain the use of AMD Mantle, which may not have taken the world by storm as initially expected, but is building up a steady pace and being used by more and more software and Game designers all the time.

I’ll admit I’m looking forward to having a much closer look at the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition, not just because it looks rather attractive, but because it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to look at an XFX Graphics Card since the XFX Nvidia GEFORCE 7950 GX2 just over ten years ago (my very first high performance GPU).

 

XFX-Logo

XFX Black Edition With GPU Edging
The Black Edition graphics card represent our highest achievement in GPUs
XFX’s exclusive Black Edition graphics card are the most rigorously tested graphics card. They are pre-overclocked to the maximum core clock achievable and come from the highest quality yield GPUs which make up the top 1% of those produced in the world. In addition, we pair it with the highest quality components to ensure there are no bottle necks so you can be certain you are getting the best graphics card possible on the market today.’

 

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition box front

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition box back

 

Normally when receiving a high-end Graphics Card (or any for that matter!), you tend to find you’ll also gain an unsuitably large box of some sort. As a break from the norm, XFX have packaged the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition within a box that follows similar dimensions to the card itself. The front of which is predominately black, with bright almost lightning-like flashes of detail in the background. The box tells us the Graphics Card is an XFX product, that it is an R9 290X Radeon Graphics Card and that this particular version is the Black OC Edition. We are also informed of the following features:

  • Double Dissipation – Dual Fan Maximum Airflow & Cooling
  • Unlocked Voltage – Digital Power & VRM, Max Power
  • Power Tune 2.0 – Real-Time Performance Optimization

The back of the box goes on to highlight various features of the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition as well as the AMD technologies used by the card.

 

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - unboxing

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - inner box (open)

Opening the box reveals a secondary inner box. This one is isn’t too hugely exciting to look at as it’s a plain brown cardboard box, but it does have the XFX logo and name pressed onto the lid, as well as the XFX slogan ‘Play Hard’.

Lifting the lid shows a wide variety of paperwork, in fact probably more than any Graphics Card I’ve seen in recent memory…

 

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - inner box (GPU)

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - box (contents)

 

With all of the paperwork removed and out of the way, we find a removable cardboard tray. Lifting this reveals the bit we’re really interested in, the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition! The card itself is sealed within a plastic anti-static bag and well protected by cardboard bumpers around all sides. The box contents are as follows:

  • XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition
  • AMD Graphics Card Drivers Disc
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Drivers Installation Guide
  • Warranty Information
  • XFX Product Information
  • Dual 4-pin MOLEX to 6-pin Power Adapter Cable
  • Dual 6-pin Power to 8-pin Power Adapter Cable

At the time of review the XFX Radeon R9 290X Black Edition is currently available for £289.99 on Amazon or from OverclockersUK for £299.99 and comes with a 2 year warranty.

 

Specifications/Features

courtesy of XFX

General

Product Description : BLACK DD RADEON R9 290X 1050M 4GB D5 DP HDMI 2XDVI

UPC Number : 778656065550

 

Processor & Bus

Bus Type : PCI-E 3.0

Chipset version : Hawaii XT

GPU Bus (bit) : 512

GPU Clock : 1050 MHz

Performance Category : Performance

Stream Processors : 2816

 

Memory

Memory Bus : 512 bit

Memory Clock : 5.0 GHz

Memory Size : 4 GB

Memory Type : DDR5

 

Feature Technologies

AMD Eyefinity Technology : Y

AMD HD3D Technology : Y

AMD Hybrid Graphics Technology : Y

AMD PowerPlay Technology : Y

AMD Stream Technology : Y

 

Other Features

Highlight Features – 1 : Double Dissipation

Highlight Features – 2 : Unlocked Voltage

Highlight Features – 3 : Power Tune 2.0

 

Environmental

RoHS : Y

 

Display Output

Display Port ready : 1.2

Dual link Support : Y

HDMI Ready : 1.4a

Max Supported Resolution (ANALOG) : 2048 x 1536

Max Supported Resolution (DIGITAL) : 2560 x 1600(DVI);4096 x 2160(HDMI;DP)

Output – Display Port : 1

Output – DL-DVI-D : 2

Output – HDMI : 1

 

Physical

Card Profile : Dual

Thermal Solution : DD Fansink

Thermal Type : Dual Slot

Card Dimension (cm) : 29.5 x 14.3 x 4.2

Card Dimension (inch) : 11.16 x 5.63 x 1.65

Master Carton Dimensions (cm) : 51.5 x 33.7 x 37.1

Master Carton Dimensions (inch) : 20.28 x 13.27 x 14.61

Master Carton Weight (Kg) : 15.37 est.

Master Carton Weight (lb) : 33.88 est.

Package Dimensions (cm) : 16 x 33.6 x 9.8

Package Dimensions (inch) : 6.3 x 13.23 x 3.86

Package Weight (Kg) : 1.44 est.

Package Weight (lb) : 3.17 est.

Units/Carton : 10

 

Includes

6-pin to 4-pin power cable : 1

8-pin to 6-pin power cable : 1

Driver Disk Installation Guide : 1

Game Bundle : BF4 Game Bundle

Installation DVD : 1

Promotional Bundles : PSU Cross Marketing Insert

Quick Installation Guide : 1

 

Requirements

External Power – 6-pins : 1

External Power – 8-pins : 1

Minimum Power Supply Requirement : 750 watt

XFX Recommended Power Supply : XFX 850W PSU

* Additional details available here

 

First Impressions

 

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - angled front XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - angled back

 

First impressions of the XFX R9 290X Black Edition are good! The new look Double Dissipation cooler in black and chrome looks simple, understated and stunning, so much so I think this could very well be one of the best looking Graphics Cards I’ve ever seen! Not only that, but because this very sleek card is colour neutral, it’ll easily fit in with any Gaming rig colour scheme you can think of.

 

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - front XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - back

 

The front of the XFX R9 290X Black Edition is totally dominated by the Double Dissipation cooler which has a textured black finish and measures 295mm(L) x 143mm(W). As we can clearly see the cooler is of a dual fan design; both of which are 70mm, glossy black and feature a chrome rimmed surround with a silver hub sticker featuring ‘XFX GRAPHICS’ printed around their circumference. Looking to the right side of the card we can also see ‘XFX’ in large white lettering, which will also illuminate white when the card is powered on (NICE!).

After urning the card over I’m personally very disappointed and feel somewhat let down… After producing one of the best looking GPU Coolers ever created, you’d think XFX would finish off the cards sleek looks with a beautiful matte or silk black backplate, but sadly not! Admittedly the all black PCB doesn’t look bad, but given how busy it is, it would certainly have benefited from the additional backplate. Towards the lower left of the cooler shroud, you can see a small cut-out for the dual BIOS switch which is typical of the AMD R9 290/X Graphics Cards. Unlike the reference GPU, this doesn’t allow Standard and Uber mode, but just two of the same BIOS (still pretty handy in case something goes amiss whilst tinkering with your card).

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - left XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - right

 

From the sides the Double Dissipation cooler shroud looks just as good as it does from the front. We can clearly see the GPU is of the dual slot variety and measures 42mm(D). One slight oddity about the cooler itself, is that it is in fact two parts. You can clearly the break between them as both the top and bottom feature a similar chrome border. This is because the XFX R9 290X Black Edition uses XFX Ghost Thermal 2.0 Technology, which creates a floating heatsink which allows open airflow between the PCB and shroud, allowing better ventilation and cooling of the cards components.

On the opposite side we get to see a very similar design. To the left is the ‘XFX’ branding in a contrasting glossy black (sadly no white LEDs this time). Above this is a small cut-out in which you’d expect to find one or two CrossFireX connectors, but as we all know the AMD R9 290/X Graphics Cards allow for multi-card configuration via the PCIe slot, so the connectors are no longer needed. To the right of the card we can see the XFX R9 290X Black Edition features two power connectors, one 8-pin and one 6-pin. Rather annoyingly these are fitted with the clip side towards the cooler shroud, which potentially means it’ll be awkward to remove the power cables after installation.

XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - outputs XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition - end

 

Looking at the outputs we can see the XFX R9 290X Black Edition features four outputs: 2x DVI-D, 1x HDMI and 1x DisplayPort. A rather nice touch is; instead of the usual mesh styled air exhaust vents on the rear of the bracket, XFX have chosen to use their name instead.

The opposite end of the card doesn’t really show us a lot, just five of the seven 6mm copper heat-pipes and the edge of the XFX R9 290X Black Edition heatsink, it still looks pretty good though.

 

Hardware Installation

 

Installation into our Test Rig‘s motherboard and case was pretty simple. The XFX R9 290X Black Edition may be fairly large measuring 295mm(L) x 143mm(W) x 42mm(D), but the Cooler Master HAF XB test case has ample space, ensuring an easy fit with no compatibility issues at all.

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair Professional Series AX 760i
    Motherboard ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer CPU Intel Core i5-4690K
    CPU Cooler Raijintek Themis RAM HyperX Savage 2400MHz 8GB Kit
    Graphics Card XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition SSD HyperX FURY 120GB

     

    XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition - installed side XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition - installed angled XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition - installed front

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    Our Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 7 Professional N 64Bit (Service Pack 1) with all associated drivers also installed. AMD Catalyst Omega 14.12 was installed and used throughout testing.

    For testing purposes we use MSI Afterburner (here), to help us with our testing and overclocking.

     

  • Overclocking the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition using MSI Afterburner (Version 4.1.0)
  •  

    MSI Afterburner - XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition (Overclocked)

    Overclocking with MSI Afterburner is slightly different with an AMD Graphics Card and in fact ever so slightly easier. The reason behind this is MSI Afterburner will give you the actual full GPU Core Clock and Memory Clock values as opposed to the additional values. Then to make life even easier, we don’t have Nvidia GPU Boost technology to worry about. I suppose it is almost like comparing the brute force of an American Muscle car to a High-Tech Japanese Sports Car.

    The XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition is of course pre-overclocked in the XFX factory. So instead of a GPU Core Clock of 1000MHz, we net a small gain and have a stock GPU Core Clock of 1050MHz. Which according to the XFX website is the maximum you’ll get, but moving the sliders within MSI Afterburner proves otherwise (please note that due to the nature of the silicon lottery, you are not guaranteed any extra MHz at all). On this particular test card, we can increase the GPU Core Clock by a further 120MHz giving a total of 1170MHz and the memory up from 1250MHz (5000MHz effective, to 1550MHz (6200MHz effective). Which gives us an approximate gain of 11% on the GPU Core speed and a 24% MHz increase to the Memory Clock. I could only get these overclocks stable by throwing the Power Limit up by its maximum 50% and the Core Voltage (mV) also to its maximum 100mV.

    Oddly for the majority of the benchmarks used, the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition would even nudge up a little bit further with a Core Clock of 1180MHz and a full 1625MHz (6500MHz effective), but this would cause the Metro Last Light benchmark to black screen approximately 50% through the second run.

     

    Hardware Performance

     

  • XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition – STOCK (Core: 1050MHz / Mem: 5000MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 23.00 79.00 56.00 179.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 23.00 77.00 54.00 87.1 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 23.00 79.00 56.00 81.33 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 22.00 78.00 56.00 1417
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.00 74.00 51.00 9636

     

  • XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition – OVERCLOCKED (Core: 1170MHz / Mem: 6200MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    Batman Arkham Origins 21.00 81.00 60.00 199.00 FPS (average)
    Tomb Raider 21.00 82.00 61.00 96.5 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 24.00 85.00 61.00 86.00 (average)
    UNiGiNE Heaven 21.00 82.00 61.00 1559
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 21.50 70.00 48.50 10343

     

    Comparative Test Results (at stock):

    NOTE: Please note that all of these benchmarks are valid and correct at the time of review and we do not use historical data. Each benchmark is re-run every time (against our Test Cards) for each new GPU review using the latest Drivers at that time. Therefore the scores may fluctuate between reviews as Driver optimizations come into play…

     

  • BATMAN ARKHAM ORIGINS
  • Batman Arkham Origins - Benchmark Settings
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    226
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    183
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    179
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    141
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    129
    XFX 270X Black OC Edition
    102
    Results measured in FPS (average)
  • TOMB RAIDER
  • Tomb Raider - Benchmark Settings
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    109.7
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    90.6
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    87.1
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    69.0
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    60.1
    XFX 270X Black OC Edition
    49.3
    Results measured in FPS (average)
  • METRO: LAST LIGHT
  • Metro: Last Light - Benchmark Settings
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    86.61
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    81.33
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    74.67
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    58.33
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    55.33
    XFX 270X Black OC Edition
    43.33
    Results measured in FPS (average)
  • UNIGINE HEAVEN 4.0
  • UNiGiNE Heaven 4.0 - Benchmark Settings
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    1693
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    1417
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    1302
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    938
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    844
    XFX 270X Black OC Edition
    733
    Benchmark Results
  • 3DMARK (Firestrike)
  • 3DMark - Benchmark Settings
    Zotac GTX 980 AMP!
    10809
    XFX 290X Black OC Edition
    9636
    Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970
    9052
    XFX 280X Black OC Edition
    7281
    Zotac GTX 960 AMP!
    6406
    XFX 270X Black OC Edition
    5718
    Benchmark Results

     

    The XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition is without a doubt a fast card, admittedly it pales in performance when compared to the current Nvidia flagship the GTX 980, but it is also nearly a year older and considerably cheaper. So the real comparison is the similarly priced Nvidia GTX 970, with which it trades blows with throughout the pcG benchmark suite.

    As seen in the tables above, the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition may only have a small amount of overclocking headroom, but for every benchmark we have a fairly significant gain and the 11% increase in MHz for the GPU Core Clock, pretty much translates into approximately an 11% increase in benchmark results.

    We’ve tested a few of the AMD R9 290/X here at pcG now and are acutely aware they get pretty hot, but the XFX Double Dissipation (DD) cooler does a fantastic job of taming the beast within. The only benchmark that really pushed the thermals of this often hot AMD GPU was Metro Last Light and only when heavily overclocked; the maximum temperature recorded was 85.00C (61.00C Delta), which is way below the 94.00C throttle limit.

    Given how cool the XFX R9 290X DD Black Edition is for an R9 290X, you’d be forgiven for thinking it must have incredibly loud fans, yet this really isn’t the case. With a temperature of approximately 75.00C the fans on auto will ramp up to 70% which knocks out 32dB within our Test Rig. Throw the slider up to 100% to ensure the best possible cooling for an overclock and they produce just 46dB, which I find pretty impressive.

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    I’ve been looking forward to looking at the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition ever since it was first announced well over a year ago. Now it’s a key component within the pcG Test Rig, I gained the opportunity to have a much closer look and put it through its paces.

    The XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition arrived at pcG in what you could call an ‘under-sized’ box. The predominately black box isn’t a whole lot bigger than the Graphics Card itself, which is rather unlike the huge boxes like that of its competitors. The box itself may not have been quite as flashy or stylish as that of others, but it supplies ample protection to the GPU within and if we’re being totally honest? We’re a lot more interested in what’s hidden inside.

    With the cardboard confines removed, the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition is revealed to be one of THE finest looking Graphics Cards I’ve ever seen! Measuring 295mm(L) x 143mm(W) x 42mm(D), the card is compatible with the majority of Cases (I’ve even had my test card in the tiny, but very impressive SilverStone Raven RVZ01!). Just as importantly the textured matte black Double Dissipation GPU cooler shroud, dual glossy black 70mm fans with chrome rims and accents will fit in with almost any Gaming rig colour scheme and more importantly looks stunning! The styling is simple and understated, yet sleek and stealth-like, I’d honestly struggle to find a better looking Graphics Card on the market right now. It isn’t all good news though, despite the front of the shroud looking amazing, we flip the card over to find a very busy, all black PCB? I don’t understand why XFX would go through all the trouble of designing such an incredibly good looking Graphics Card, then not finish it off with a backplate of some sort!

    In the area of performance the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition doesn’t disappoint. Gaming at the current industry standard of 1920×1080 (HD) at full settings (just like it should be!) proves a pretty simple task for the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition and many of the Games you’ll be playing, will be running will have a constant 60FPS (obviously the likes of Crisis 3 are an exception). But if the cards stock 1050MHz GPU Core Clock and 1250MHz (5000MHz effective) Memory Clock aren’t quite high enough for your tastes, you can really push the card to the brink by very nearly maxing out the MSI Afterburner sliders and net yourself an approximate 11% gain in GPU Core Clock speed with 1170MHz and push the Memory Clock up a further 22% to 1550MHz (6200MHz effective). Of course these are the results for this particular test card, others may overclock higher, some might not at all. Two things that impress me even more than the performance of the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition, are the thermals and acoustics. The XFX Double Dissipation GPU cooler not only looks good, but performs nigh on flawlessly. We all know the R9 290X Hawaii GPU core runs extremely hot with a thermal limit of 94.00C which many Graphics Cards will easily hit even at their stock speed. At stock the XFX DD cooler hit a maximum temperature of 79.00C (56.00C Delta) during the Metro Last Light benchmark, causing the fans to automatically rise to a speed of 70% and produce just 32dB of noise. If that isn’t enough of a surprise by pushing the fans up to 100% for the overclocked benchmarks, the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition produces 46dB and didn’t throttle once during tests. So the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition is pretty, cool and quiet!

    As you can probably already tell, I like the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition a lot. Even despite its lack of backplate it looks great. I personally believe it is worth your consideration and well priced at just shy of £300.00. Yes it does face some pretty stiff competition from the Nvidia 970 variations such as the Zotac GEFORCE GTX 970, with which it trades blows with in the performance stakes and both of which are in a similar price bracket. The clear advantage of the 970 for me at the moment, is Nvidia G-sync which does make for a better Gaming experience (assuming your monitor features this), but we will shortly have Freesync available to negate this. The main reason I’d personally choose the XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition over the current Nvidia 970 line-up is purely a matter of aesthetics when running a multi-card set-up. The R9 290/X cards do not need a CrossFireX bridge, I like the good looks of my GPU to shine even when there is more than one in my Gaming Rig and personally I can’t stand the look of SLI or CrossFireX ribbon bridges, I feel they really spoil the overall look of your rig.

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…



    Where possible we always use Amazon’s price for Value…
     

    Design/Quality pcGameware awards the XFX Radeon R9 290X  Black Edition a Silver
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

     

    Many thanks to XFX for providing this sample for review

     


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