Fixing The Radeon R9 290 With Arctic's Accelero Xtreme III

Assembly And Operation

Before you start down this path, read the assembly instructions carefully!

To uninstall AMD's reference heat sink and fan, you need a very small, cross-tip screwdriver. It has to be a good one. You don't want the thing's tip to round off after getting the first screw off. Keep a small container handy for the parts you take off.

Now, start by removing the reference card's shroud. It is made of plastic and attached to the cooler's frame with a number of those tiny screws. Pull the shroud off to reveal AMD's heat sink underneath, which is secured to the back of the PCB with a handful of larger screws. There are two additional screws in the slot cover, and those also have to be removed. Finally, take off the cross-shaped back plate, remembering to back the screws out in a diagonal pattern to balance pressure on the card as much as possible. 

Clean the GPU's surface with isopropyl alcohol and tidy up any residual thermal grease to prepare the assembly. To avoid short circuits, apply insulating strips over the surface-mount components, since the VRM sinks are larger than they need to be and overhang.

Then, cover the heat sinks with a thin, uniform layer of thermal adhesive and let them sit for a couple of minutes. Press the sinks on top of the memory package and power circuitry, maintaining constant pressure for five to 10 seconds, and don't touch them after that. This is the last time you'll be able to make minor adjustments.

I wrote previously that you can make up for the four missing memory sinks with an accessory kit. But more important is that you don't use one of the taller sinks on the bottom-most package, since it'd touch the main cooler's frame. One workaround is to use a spare heat sink from another kit on one half of the memory module, covering the rest with tape. But in our experience, the memory temperatures didn't get high enough to necessitate such extraordinary measures.

With the heat sink installation complete, you should have something comparable to the image below. Now you need to give the glue time to cure. One hour at room temperature should be enough. A burn-in session with non-cured thermal adhesive is futile, and can actually be dangerous.

Once the adhesive is cured, place the cooler on the PCB as described in Arctic's manual. As a general rule, use hole two for cards with 52.5 mm hole spacing and the standard 2.5 mm spacers. Don't worry if this doesn't make sense; it's explained very well in the included documentation.

You should now have an aftermarket-cooled Radeon R9 290. Pop the card into your motherboard and plug it in. Then, connect the fan leads using the included 7 and 12 V adapter, choosing the setting you want based on your cooling requirements.

A Note On Fan Control

In theory, the cooler allows you to choose between PWM and a fixed voltage (for a constant fan speed). Unfortunately, AMD's Catalyst driver doesn't work like this any more. Maximum fan speed is now linked to a target temperature, and it doesn't make sense to dial in a 50 or 60 °C target just to make the fans spin faster. The Accelero is simply too effective; the driver's control mechanism means you'll hardly ever see Arctic's solution hit 20 to 25% duty cycle under load. Spinning that slowly, there isn't enough airflow to cool the card's voltage regulators sufficiently. We'll discuss this in more depth on the next page.

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  • Applepienation
    Too bad that the new radeon cards have such poor reference coolers. That really hurts the cards. Oh well. AMD makes cheap cards but powerful with poor design, Nvidia makes expensive cards with better design.

    Also waiting for videos of the noise.
  • bemused_fred
    Why do the noise comparison videos show up on the US website, but not here?
  • bl4c
    great technological articles lately (290 fan speed, thermal pastes, ...) !
    nice to see a hardware site actually trying to live up to its name :)

    would you be able to do a comparison between after market coolers ?
    - Arctic Accelero Xtreme III
    - Arctic Accelero Hybrid
    - Gelid Rev. 2 ICY VISION

    (i think these are the only normal "ready-to-install" coolers available)
  • Terminal Boy
    Will be doing exactly this at the weekend.

    Have set of these to ensure full VRM cooling: Alpenföhn Passive DRAM / VRAM Chip Coolers
  • TuffLittleUnit
    I used the Arctic Accelero Twin Turbo II on a GTX670 because the reference cooler was so poor (even after an RMA). Once installed it's amazingly effective and almost silent. However, the installation wasn't exactly easy. The thermal glue (not paste) took well over a day to cure and during that period the little heat sinks were rather mobile. Not for the feint-hearted but very worthwhile. It also taught me that some cards are cheaper than others for a reason.
  • blak24
    Guys I did not understand two things over the replacement process:
    1) Where to put insulating strips;
    2) How to completely solve the 4 lacking heatsinks if I don't have other spare ones from other coolers. I mean, can I leave the 4 remaining chips without anything? Or should I cover with something else? (insulating strips?, tape? I did not understand this).
  • blak24
    I'm sorry but I can't see a way to edit my previous comment. Anyway, where may I buy the other 4 heatsinks for VRAM? And what are the dimensions of them?
  • Terminal Boy
    1. Insulating strips postion is shown in step 4 of installation guide. Their role is to prevent the heatsinks on the RAM and VR components from shorting out on components either side.

    2. I purchased a set of these to ensure I can get everything as cool as possible.

    I haven't fitted mine yet, BTW.
  • blak24
    Will Zalman ZM-RHS1 fit the R9 chips? I've found that the 290 chips are about 12x15mm. The Zalman are about 12x12mm. Will they be ok for a difference of 3mm? I was also not able to understand if the ones linked by you are OK, since I've not found dimensions for them.

    EDIT: 1) I know that it's written in the guide, but I can't see it on the images and I don't clearly understand where to use it.
  • baronduff
    Is anyone aware whether install on a 290x would be similar to this? The stock cooler is slowly killing me