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

Temperatures, Overclocking, And Noise

Overclocking And Temperatures at 12 V

So, let’s test the real limits of this card's frequency. We can always dial the acoustics down later. With the R9 290's power limit set to +35%, I figured out that the maximum stable clock rate was somewhere around 1150 MHz using an hour of Metro: Last Light looping 24 times. It only took 10 minutes for each pass to hit its highest temperatures, and I maintained constant clock rates throughout, so there was none of the jumping up and down seen from AMD's reference cooler.

The following chart tracks thermals for the GPU and voltage regulators at two different clock rates.

Overclocking And Temperatures at 7 V

Now we know our overclocking limits (on air, anyway). What happens to the voltage regulators when we dial back fan speed with a 7 V adapter, though? It turns out that GPU stays nice and cool, but the VRM overheats. To maintain safe parameters, we measured everything again at a 1100 MHz ceiling and a +20% power limit. The 1150 MHz we were enjoying before is still possible, but then you're looking at almost-100 °C voltage regulator temperatures.

Real-World Performance Improvement

All of this adds up to an improvement in gaming, quantified by measuring average frames per second. Otherwise, a higher sustainable clock rate on its own doesn't mean much. You'll have to forgive the results with AMD's Catalyst 13.11 Beta 6 and 8 drivers. These numbers were all run before the company adjusted its fan control algorithm in the face of our investigative work.

Between when we received our original press board with AMD's original driver and our more recent overclocking effort using Arctic's Accelero, the Radeon R9 290 picks up nearly 20% more performance. Even after the Beta 8 driver with a 47% PWM limit, the modified card wins by 13%. Of course, by pushing the 290's fan speed even higher using Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9, AMD managed to eke out addition performance. At the same time, however, it made a very loud thermal solution even louder. clock speed gain. Arctic's Accelero Xtreme III gives you even more speed, without the unbearable whining.

Video Comparison Of The Aftermarket And Reference Cooler

First we're going to let you listen to both overclocked versions of our R9 290 with Arctic's cooler at 12 V (1150 MHz) and 7 V (1100 MHz). Then, you can check out the original Radeon R9 290 with its 47% PWM limit that was knocking our press card back off of its 947 MHz ceiling. Remember, Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 makes the board even louder.

We present AMD's Radeon R9 290 GHz Edition, the way it should have been.

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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.

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showproduct.php?prodid=HS-038-AL&groupid=701&catid=2330&subcat=787

    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