Cooling System: Efficiency
The reference Radeon R9 290 is equipped with the same cooler as the Radeon R9 290X with a plastic casing, an aluminum heatsink with a copper vapor chamber, a steel heat-spreading plate, and a 70mm radial fan.
Gray-colored thermal grease and two types of thermal pads are used as thermal interfaces.
To measure the temperature of the graphics card we ran Aliens vs. Predator (2010) five times at the maximum visual quality settings, at a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels, with 16x anisotropic filtering and with 4x MSAA.
We used MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 beta 17 and GPU-Z version 0.7.4 and 0.7.5 to monitor temperatures inside the closed computer case. The computer’s configuration is detailed in the following section of our review. All tests were performed at 25°C room temperature.
When the cooler's fan was regulated automatically, we had almost the same picture as with the top-end Radeon R9 290X. The GPU's clock rate and voltage would drop down - just not as hard as with the R9 290X.
As you can see, the GPU temperature reached 94°C at a fan speed of 2680 RPM (49%) during the third test cycle. Right after that point the GPU clock rate began to drop down. The frequency drops were short and small at first, but got longer and heavier at the end. The fan's speed and noise level didn't change, though.
After some experimenting, we found out that the fan had to be set at 3070 RPM (55% of its full speed) to prevent any GPU frequency drops. The GPU temperature was as high as 92°C at that – very close to the critical level.
Replacing the default GPU thermal interface with high-efficiency Arctic MX-4 helped delay the thermal throttling, so the GPU clock rate didn’t drop down at all in our test with the automatically regulated fan:
We guess that the reference Radeon R9 290 is going to overheat in the automatic fan regulation mode anyway at high continuous load. Setting the fan manually at 55% speed helped lower the peak temperature by a couple of degrees more:
Overall, the reference Radeon R9 290 is almost the same as the top-end R9 290X in terms of cooling, which might be expected considering the similar GPUs and identical coolers. And yes, the card is as noisy as the R9 290X.