While Nvidia now has their latest GPU out, AMD is still relying on their 290X to lead the pack. Asus sent over their R9 290X Matrix Platinum so that we could finally put it through our benchmark suite and find out if AMDs flagship card with a healthy overclock can keep up with the latest and greatest from Nvidia. I’m especially curious to see how it performs compared to the competition in some of our higher resolution testing. With all of the fuss about memory issues on the GTX 970 it will be great to see how AMDs current flagship card is holding up.

Product Name: Asus R9 290X Matrix Platinum

Review Sample Provided by: Asus

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

Graphics Engine

AMD Radeon R9 290X

Bus Standard

PCI Express 3.0

Video Memory

GDDR5 4GB

Engine Clock

1050 MHz

Memory Clock

5400 MHz ( 1350 MHz GDDR5 )

Memory Interface

512-bit

Interface

DVI Output : Yes x 2 (DVI-D)

HDMI Output : Yes x 1

Display Port : Yes x 1 (Regular DP)

HDCP Support : Yes

Power Consumption

up to 375Wadditional 8+8 pin PCIe power required

Accessories

2 x Power cable

Software

ROG GPU Tweak & Driver

ASUS Features

Matrix Series

Super Alloy Power

Dimensions

11.7 " x 6 " x 1.6 " Inch

29.718 x 15.24 x4.06 Centimeter

 


Packaging

Being an ROG video card there weren’t any surprises with the packaging of the R9 290X Matrix Platinum. The box is done up in the ROG red with a touch of black as well. The cover just has the model name and the Asus and ROG branding. The front does open up to a window to show the card off a little though. Here we can see just how large the box is. The window is a little smaller than the card, normally Asus does a better job getting the whole card in the window. You can still see the two large fans and some of the fan shroud. The top part of the flap does have some information on the card as well. Asus uses a photo for each feature as well as a short explanation. They touch on the DirectCU II cooling Cooltech Fan, the ROG logo on the card that changes color depending on temperatures, as well as power and LN2 features. This leaves the back of the box to have a large photo of the 290X Matrix broken down along with a full specification listing. They also slipped in a line drawing of the video connections available on the back of the card as well.

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Inside when we pull the tray out of the box we can finally see just how big the card is. Asus kept it safe in a foam tray with a cutout the shape of the Matrix. Along with that there are a couple small cutouts for the rest of the accessories. You get two 6-pin to 8-in adapters as well as a nice ROG case badge. For documentation you get a Speed Setup guide as well as the Asus software/driver disc.

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Card Layout and Photos

Well I mentioned it in the packaging section but I have to point it out again. The R9 290X Matrix Platinum is a huge card. No joke, this is the largest video card I have ever tested. It is only a two slot card, I have in the past had a few triple slot cards including the ROG 280X Matrix. For this card though Asus went vertical to try to allow quad card configurations. It is actually hard to see the scale but if you look over at the left at the back panel you can see how big everything is. It isn’t much longer than a standard card though. For styling Asus stuck with what works, it has the blacked out look with ROG red trim. Up top, you get a peek at the heatpipes but this time around they even blacked those out. It is a mean looking card that should look great in any build assuming it will fit lol.

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For cooling the R9 290X Matrix Platinum has a variation of the DirectCU II cooling that all Asus cards have. This means that the cards heatpipes directly contact the GPU to pull the heat away and out over the heatsink as quickly as possible. For fans they went with two but in this case the front fan uses the Cooltech design that we previously saw on Asus’s ITX cards. The fan on the rights blows down while the one on the left blows down as well as out. The small ring inside pushes air out meaning Asus was able to also fit a little more heatsink at the sides of the fan as well as below. More heatsink area means more potential cooling and the 290X is known to run hot so this card is going to need all the cooling you can get.

Views from the top and bottom show the cards five thick heatpipes. Along the bottom and the end of the card there is room for air to escape into the case in addition to the small amount of air that should blow out the back due to the unique fan design.

Up in the same area that you would normally find a crossfire bridge connection, Asus took advantage of the now unused space by slipping in their small LN2 Mode switch. This small switch when flipped from the standard mode to the LN2 mode unlocks restrictions on power target, voltage, and overcurrent protection. This is one of many clues that the Matrix was designed specifically for high end LN2 overclocking. Down on the end of the card we also have a Safe Mode button that with one press will reset the Matrix’s VBIOS back to factory. A quick way to drop an overclock that didn’t work for you. Right next to that button is a tiny switch, this is the memory defroster. When turned on it will defrost the cards memory to prevent cold bugs when overclocking using LN2.

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Also on the top edge of the 290X Matrix is a backlit ROG logo. I’ve seen this a few times on other ROG Matrix cards as well. The logo does more than just light up. It actually changes colors as the card heats up. This is a great way to be able to quickly see if your card is getting hot while you are gaming without having to tab out or run multiple monitors.

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I’m mentioned the size of the 290X Matrix a little already but I wanted to highlight it a little more. Most cases have a lot of room for taller cards but I test fit this card in the Corsair 540 Air and had no luck at all getting it in the case. The overall height can sometimes make it impossible but in this case it wasn’t just that. As you can see in the photo below, there is nearly two inches sticking up beyond the top of the expansion slot. The highest point is actually back farther where the fan shroud peaks for no reason. In the case of the Corsair 540 though the PCB actually runs into the case. Most tall cards don’t have such a tall PCB, generally the heatsink is what makes a lot of cards taller. Please keep this in mind if you are looking at this card for use in a tight case.

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For power you are going to need two 8 pin power connections. Luckly most of the modern power supplies just come with the 6+2 plugs anymore. This is more than the standard 6+8 setup that most high end cards need but considering the 14 phases of power that Asus included on the Matrix along with their DIGI+ VRM the extra power headway should be great, especially when overclocking. It might seem like a small thing but I love the small LEDs that Asus includes on the back of the PCB at each plug as well. When the power cable is plugged in it will light up green and it is red when it isn’t. This will help you diagnose a loose connection really quick. I’ve had that happen a few times where the plug comes loose at the power supply so you don’t see a connection issue at the card.

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When we flip the 290X Matrix over we get another look at just how large this card is for one. What is also impressive is that the PCB is just as large as the rest of the card. Asus did however cover it all up with a large aluminum backplate that adds to the strength of the card and protects the back from any physical damage. They did drill a few holes in the backplate for cooling. You don’t notice is from the other views but here we can also see that the two power connections sit down lower than the rest of the PCB. This means that the power connections won’t stick out past the fan shroud, that is good because I already have enough concerns on the size of the card, adding in two power cables sticking out of the top would most likely not fit in anything but an open air test bench. I also love that Asus included their logo and the Matrix logo on the backplate, both are upside down so they can be seen properly when installed in a case.

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For connections, the 290X Matrix comes with two DVI, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort. The HDMI and DisplayPort are full sized. While I have been slowly moving over to DisplayPort/HDMI I still love having DVI ports because I feel people are still using them more than the manufactures seem to realize. For cooling there is a small half slot vent on the back as well.

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Our Test Rig and Procedures

Our Test Rig

CPU

Intel i7-3960X

Live Pricing

Memory

Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM Quad Channel  (4x4GB)

Live Pricing

Motherboard

Asus Rampage IV X79 Motherboard 

Live Pricing

Cooling

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC

Live Pricing

Power Supply

Cooler Master Gold Series 1200 Watt PSU

Live Pricing

Storage

Kingston Hyper X 120 SSD

Seagate Constellation 2tb Hard drive 

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Case

High Speed PC Test Bench

Live Pricing

Our Testing Procedures

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

Tomb Raider

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on.  We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above, except on the “high” setting.

Sleeping Dogs

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.

F1 2014

We use the built in benchmark for F1 2014. We use the Ultra setting and then test at 2560x1440 and 1920x1080

Total War: ROME II

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in forest benchmark

Crysis 2

Using Adrenaline Crysis 2 benchmark.  1080p, 4x Anti-Aliasing, DX11, Laplace Edge Detection Edge AA, on the Times Square map, with hi res textures turned on.

Sniper Elite 3

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark

GRID Autosport

Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark

Metro Last Light

Using the included benchmark tool. The settings are set to 1920x1080, DirectX 11, quality is set to very high, Texture filtering is untouched at 4x, and motion blue is set to normal. SSAA is unselected, PhysX is unselected, Tessellation is off. We run through scene D6 three times to get an average score.

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Tested using the “Very High” setting at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440

3DMark

The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmark in normal, extreme, and ultra settings

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Using the “Extreme” preset

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 heat testing

We run through Unreal Heaven using the “Extreme” preset for 30 minutes to test in game cooling performance.

Power Usage

Using Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0, we get our “load” power usage number from the peak power usage during our test. We get our numbers from a Kill-A-Watt connected to the test benches power cord.

Noise Testing

Our Noise testing is done using a decibel meter 3 inches away from the video card on the bottom/fan side of the card. We test an idle noise level and then to get an idea of how loud the card will get if it warms all the way up we also turn the fan speed up to 50% and 100% and test both speeds as well. The 100% test isn’t a representation of typical in game noise levels, but it will show you how loud a card can be if you run it at its highest setting or if it gets very hot.

 

 


Synthetic Benchmarks

To get started with my R9 290X Matrix Platinum testing I ran it through our standard synthetic benchmark suite. This includes multiple versions of the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark that cover 1080p, 1440p, and 4k resolutions as well as the Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0. How did the R9 290X Matrix perform? Well in all three of the 3DMark tests it came above the GTX 780 Ti and below the GTX 980. From that we can see that the R9 290X has aged well, outperforming the GTX 780 Ti that came out to outperform it. There is still a considerable jump from this card to the reference GTX 980, but that is to be expected with that being a much newer card. In the Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 the reference GTX 780 Ti did perform a little better than the 290X Matrix

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In-Game

The biggest portion of our performance testing is to run the R9 290X Matrix through a whole selection of games to see what you can expect for performance in game. Synthetic benchmarks are nice for comparing between cards, but in game FPS is where it is at. So how well did the 290X Matrix perform? Well I ran it through 10 different games covering a few different genres. Nine of those games were tests at both 1080p and 1440p with the straggler being F1 2013 that has been replaced but I’ve kept it around for a while until we get more testing on F1 2014.  So how did it do? Well of the 10 games tested at 1080p all 10 of them had an average FPS of 60 FPS or over. Most are WELL above that with a few running at over twice that. When testing at 1440p the 290X Matrix was pushed harder. Only three out of the nine games tested had an average FPS of over 60 although Grid was damn close at 59.69. The other 6 all fell into the Over 30 and under 60 FPS area so they were all more than playable but not perfect. In other words the R9 290X Matrix could handle anything I threw at it at 1080p and at 1440p it held its own.

So where does that put us compared to everything else? Well generally, that puts us above everything except the GTX 980. There were a few standout tests. In Hitman at 1440p for example it pulled out in front. Grid Autosport really had me scratching my head as well. The 290X actually performed slower than the R9 280. After retesting all of the cards multiple times along with trying a whole list of other things to figure it out I was left with having to contact Asus and AMD. I didn’t hear anything back from AMD but Asus replied back with the answer I suspected. They think there is a good chance that there is a driver issue with the 290x in GRID. I will keep an eye on it and will update this when we find out what the issue is.

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Cooling, Noise, and Power

So we know that the R9 290X can still perform but what I was especially curious was just how well Asus would be able to contain the heat of the 290X. They certainly went as big as they could go on the heatsink, but with the overclock would it be enough? I started out with the power consumption testing. I ran the card through Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and noted its peak wattage as well as an idle wattage. Not surprisingly the 290X pulled more than the R9 290 that was previously at the top of the charts for a single card. At 504 for our total rig this card is using every last bit of the 290 TDP of the 290X. This is nearly 100 watts more than what our overclocked GTX 980 pulled so keep in mind you will need a heck of a power supply if you want to run in Crossfire. Any standard size should still be enough for a single card setup. AMD recommends a 750W model or bigger for a single card setup but that is being conservative, obviously our test setup is high end and pulling just over 500 watts.

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For noise the 290X Matrix is up in the top half of our results for the 100% fan speed tests. This is consistent with the 50% result as well. With this card pulling so much wattage I’m not shocked that it is higher up in the noise. You would think Asus would be able to contain it a little with such a large heatsink, but then again the Matrix cards aren’t focused on noise, they are designed to allow the best possible overclocking.

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Well we know that the 290X Matrix pulls a lot of wattage and with that wattage translates to heat as well. Temperature testing it in game and under load heated things up to a respectable 81 degrees Celsius. This is basically spot on for what I would expect an Nvidia reference card to do, not so much for a card with a cooler as large as this though. I want to put the blame on Asus but the 290X’s are known to run hot and this is no exception. If I were running this day to day I would be without a doubt be considering water cooling or I would at least change the fan profile to run a little cooler. The 290X generated enough heat that at one point during my testing my CPU got a little hot from the heat radiating next to the pump. This was partially due to our Intel Water Cooling kit getting aged and needing to be replaced, but the additional heat didn’t help by pushing it over the limit.

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Overclocking

Next up for the R9 290X Matrix is overclock testing. For this I overclock the GPU and memory individually and test using the second test in 3Dmark 11. I document how everything goes below and we can see the improvement as I overclock through the FPS result. Once I get my highest possible overclocks on both I try to run them together and see if the card can handle it together as well.

I was a little worried going into the testing. The 290X Matrix is designed for extreme LN2 overclocking but in my earlier testing I found it to run a little warm and it already pulled a hefty mount of wattage. With that and the card already having a stock overclock I wasn’t really sure how much luck I would have. I started by bumping it up from 1050MHz to 1100MHz with good luck. From there I went to get 1150MHz and the driver crashed. The same happened at 1140 and then at 1120MHz it passed. I started toying with the voltage setting in Asus’s GPU Tweak software and with a bump in voltage I was able to take the overclock back up to 1140MHz. 1150MHz did run without a crash as well but there were some artifacts. Next I went into memory overclocking taking the stock 5400MHz clock speed up to 5800MHz. Next I ran up to 6000MHz but it failed badly, I even had artifacts in windows! I turned things down without any luck as well and ended up having to settle on the initial overclock that I ran. I combined both results together and tested that with no trouble at all as well.

GPU Clock Speed Overclocking

GPU Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

1100MHz

Pass

80.52

 

1150MHz

Fail

N/A

Driver Crash

1140MHz

Fail

N/A

Driver Crash

1120MHz

Pass

82.93

 

1130MHz

Fail

82.31

Artifacts

1130MHz

Pass

83.73

1300mV voltage over stock 1250mV

1140MHz

Pass

84.26

1300mV voltage over stock 1250mV

1150MHz

Fail

84.75

Artifacts

Memory Clock Offset Overclocking

Memory Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

5800MHz

Pass

78.76

 

6000MHz

Fail

N/A

Major artifacts in windows even

5900MHz

Fail

78.89

Some artifacts

GPU and Memory Overclocks Together

GPU Clock Speed

Memory Clock Speed

FPS Result

Notes

1140MHz

5800MHz

84.76

 

 

 


Overall and Final Verdict

Even this late into its life the R9 290X is still a powerful card, performing better than everything but the GTX 980. The new drivers from AMD have helped refresh the performance a little and most importantly helped fix a few bugs. There still seem to be a few issues on that front though, our Grid Autosport results were a great example of that. The Matrix specifically seems to be the best possible option for someone looking to break a few more 290X records as well. The card has built in LN2 features like the LN2 mode switch, memory defrost switch, and the VBIOS reset button.

Just going by the hardware, it is clear that this card is capable of a LOT more when overclocking. Sadly, it is limited by the amount of heat it generates. The same really can be said for the cooling as well. This is by far the largest heatsink I have seen on a card but when doing temperature testing it was on par with the performance of some reference coolers. Part of that is because Asus is running a conservative fan profile to keep the noise down. However, it also doesn’t help that the 290X is just a hot card. The temperatures wouldn’t bother me to much but the 290X is known for throttling down when it gets hot and the last thing we want to see is the performance drop for you in a long gaming session. Be sure you are running this in a well-ventilated case and to get the most out of it you should be looking at water cooling or at minimum change the fan profile to be a little more aggressive.

The large cooler was a little noisier than expected as well but for me the biggest issue was with its overall size. The card is without a doubt the biggest card I’ve ever worked with. Specifically it is very tall causing fitment issues in some cases. You should also plan on running a big power supply with the 290X’s power draw as well. That said the large cooler is a good-looking card. Sadly this card is hard to come by now but like I said if you are an overclocker and you come across some you should snatch them up.

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld replied the topic: #36245 09 Feb 2015 15:37
Today we take a look at the R9 290X. It may be a little older but I'm curious how it is holding up to the competition.

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