XFX Radeon R9 290X DD Black Edition Review
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).
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.
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…
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
courtesy of XFX
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 Bus : 512 bit
Memory Clock : 5.0 GHz
Memory Size : 4 GB
Memory Type : DDR5
AMD Eyefinity Technology : Y
AMD HD3D Technology : Y
AMD Hybrid Graphics Technology : Y
AMD PowerPlay Technology : Y
AMD Stream Technology : Y
Highlight Features – 1 : Double Dissipation
Highlight Features – 2 : Unlocked Voltage
Highlight Features – 3 : Power Tune 2.0
RoHS : Y
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
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
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
External Power – 6-pins : 1
External Power – 8-pins : 1
Minimum Power Supply Requirement : 750 watt
XFX Recommended Power Supply : XFX 850W PSU
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
|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|
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.
|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)|
|3DMark (Fire Strike)||23.00||74.00||51.00||9636|
|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)|
|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…
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
|Results measured in FPS (average)|
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.
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.
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Many thanks to XFX for providing this sample for review