ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC Video Card Review

The first customized AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU based video card is here. We take a look at the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC video card, with better cooling, better performance, all while having a quiet fan profile. We will test this beast and find out if this is the answer all R9 290X interested buyers are looking for.

Introduction

Let's get the elephant out of the room, the AMD Radeon R9 290X, launched on October 23rd has received a lot of heat for being a loud video card in its "Uber" mode. While the sound of the AMD Radeon R9 290X can certainly not be ignored in "Uber" mode, we've contested that it isn't and never was as bad as certain other video cards in histories past.

We have also witnessed that there has been a lot of exaggeration about the fan noise. We have even witnessed another GPU maker slamming the AMD Radeon R9 290X because of the heat and noise. From the get-go we have stated that custom video cards should hopefully fix these problems. Well, we have our hands on one of those first custom video cards based on the AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU.

The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC video card will be selling for $569.99 in January. We have one today which we will run a gambit of tests on and see if this video card is the thing we've all been waiting on in regards to the Radeon R9 290X.

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ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC

The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC is a completely customized video card, from the PCB, to the components, to the cooling. This video card is better in every way compared to the reference design AMD Radeon R9 290X. It even has a factory overclock up to 1050MHz.

ASUS claims a 20% cooler operation and 3X quieter operation compared to the reference design AMD Radeon R9 290X with its DirectCU II and CoolTech fan. ASUS also claims a 30% power noise reduction and 2.5 times longer lifespan. This video card sports ASUS' DIGI+ VRM with 8-phase Super Alloy Power technology. ASUS also claims this video card will perform faster, about 4.7% faster, than a reference AMD Radeon R9 290X in "Uber" mode.

The DirectCU II thermal design consists of a 10mm direct-contact copper heatpipe for 40% greater heat transfer efficiency. The entire heat dissipation surface area is larger with the ASUS DirectCU II design compared to the reference heatsink. The dissipation area is 4112cm2 on the ASUS DirectCU II heatsink compared to 3060cm2 on the reference design. This greater surface area alone helps spread the heat.

Similar to the reference AMD Radeon R9 290X the ASUS R9 290X DCU II OC has a "Performance" mode (similar to reference Uber Mode) and a "Quiet" mode. The ASUS R9 290X DCU II OC will ship with the "Performance" mode as the default setting. Don't worry, even in "Performance" mode the noise is a lot better compared to the "Uber" mode on the reference AMD Radeon R9 290X. ASUS claims 8.3db quieter in fact in "Performance" mode. Performance mode will run the fan at 50%, but don't worry, it is indeed quiet with a lot less RPM than the reference fan.

In "Quiet" mode the fan will operate at a lower speed, and lower RPM. ASUS claims 17.3db quiet in "Quiet" mode.

The ASUS R9 290X DCU II OC is sporting ASUS's DIGI+ VRM and Super Alloy Power. The reference R9 290X has a 5 phase GPU PWM and 2 phase Memory/IO PWM. The ASUS R9 290X DCU II has a 6 phase GPU PWM and 4 phase Memory/IO PWM. This is a 6+2+2 power delivery system. This should help with overclocking stability as well. ASUS claims 30% more stable overclocking and 15% better power efficiency.

ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC Pictures

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The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC measures 11.25" from the port bracket to the edge of the heatsink sticking out past the PCB. This makes it longer than the 11" of the reference AMD Radeon R9 290X. The larger difference is in the width, it is an entire 1" larger from top to bottom than the reference AMD Radeon R9 290X. Indeed it has a much larger surface area to deal with, but it is a larger card, something to keep in mind. It also feels heavier than the reference card.

The shroud on the ASUS R9 290X DCU II OC is not a contained blower shroud that exhausts through the back panel. Instead, all the hot air will get exhausted back into your case. This of course requires that you properly configure airflow for your own chassis setup.

Thankfully ASUS has positioned the clips on the power connectors away from the heatsink. This is a complete 180 degree turnaround from the reference power connectors on the reference design. This is welcomed on the ASUS card however because of the large heatsink shroud. If the clips were toward the video card, same as the reference video card you'd never be able to get your fingers in there easily to disconnect the power connectors. We've experience this problem on some past ASUS video cards. Thankfully this one is positioned "correctly" so it is very easy to disconnect the power cables.

Inside the box there are gold and red metallic stickers so you can customize your video card. This is to match either the gold ASUS motherboards or red ASUS motherboards. We chose read to match our ASUS Maximus V Extreme.


ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC Presentation

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