XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition CrossFire Review

Take two custom XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition video cards, enable CrossFire, and let your jaw hit the floor. We will test this combination against the competition in a triple-display Eyefinity setup as well as 4K Ultra HD display gaming. We will find out if custom cards hold any advantage over the reference designed R9 290X.

Introduction

Grasp this if you will, the AMD Radeon R9 290X video card was announced and evaluated on October 23rd, 2013. It is now three months later, and we are just now starting to get video cards from add-in-board partners with customized hardware, customized designs, and custom cooling. This is absolutely not what was represented to us as a timeline by AMD. For those that have been patient to pick up a custom cooled R9 290X, we are finally starting to get appealing video cards that are worthy of hardware and gaming enthusiasts.

The AMD Radeon R9 290X is of course AMD's fastest single-GPU video card at the moment, based on the Hawaii GPU series. The AMD Radeon R9 290X is priced at an MSRP of $549, but inflated prices due to high demand, coupled with the R9 290X's high heat output and power demand has made the R9 290X a little less appealing to gamers and enthusiasts, but not LiteCoin miners.

It is up to the add-in-board partners custom video cards sporting the R9 290X GPU to prove enticing enough for gamers. We got our hands on our first custom cooled R9 290X video card just before Christmas with the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC video card. We now have our second custom cooled R9 290X based video card for evaluation today, from XFX. But wait, we don't just have one, no, we have two of these for you to test CrossFire performance!

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XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition

Before we dive into the video card, please note the goal of this evaluation. We are going to be looking at two XFX R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition video cards in CrossFire against the competition and reference R9 290X video cards in CrossFire. We are going to test performance in a triple display Eyefinity setup, and on a 4K display.

While we will have some power and temp numbers at the end, this is not our final evaluation on the XFX R9 290X DD Edition's thermal properties and overclocking ability. After this evaluation we will be working on a full evaluation covering the XFX R9 290X DD Edition. We will go in-depth on the cooler, its ability to keep the GPU cool, and full overclocking testing. Please do not yell at us for missing information, all the information about the thermal properties and overclocking will be coming. We wanted to first examine CrossFire performance against the competition and reference cards.

XFX offers three versions of video cards based on the AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU. There is the basic Core Edition (R9-290X-ENFC) which is based on AMD's reference cooler. Next up is the Double Dissipation Edition (R9-290X-EDFD} which uses custom hardware and custom cooling. Third, there is the Black Edition (R9-290X-EDBD) which is the Double Dissipation Edition plus a factory overclock.

Today we are evaluating the Double Dissipation Edition (R9-290X-EDFD) video card in CrossFire. XFX has stated that the expected MSRP on this video card is $569.99-$579.99. XFX also acknowledges the current inflated pricing due to demand and says when supply catches up, those are the expected MSRP prices. Keep in mind too that e-tailers that sell these video cards are the ones reacting to demand by jacking up prices. AMD and add-in-card builders have little control over the final prices offered on the retail market.

XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition Specs

The XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition uses a custom PCB and custom cooling. Three of the key features on the XFX Radeon R9 290X Double Dissipation Edition are that it uses solid capacitors, Ferrite core chokes, and dust free IP-5X fans. XFX has gone the extra mile with this video card to offer unlocked voltage with its digital power six VRM configuration.

Uniquely, the BIOS switch atop the XFX R9 290X DD does not control the fan speed like the reference design. Instead, XFX has customized the BIOS to run at the full fan speed as needed, automatically. The secondary position of the BIOS switch is used as a backup BIOS in case you modify the BIOS and screw it up; you will have a backup to save yourself. This means there are no Quiet or Uber modes on this video card. It just runs as fast as it can and with automatic fan control up to its maximum capacity by default, just like every other video card prior to the R9 290/X series. This means you don't have to fool with BIOS switches and wonder what your fan speed is capped at.

The XFX R9 290X DD runs at 1GHz, but when XFX says 1GHz, it is meant. Unlike the reference AMD R9 290X which can run "up to" 1GHz, this one runs all the time at 1GHz in every game we tested with no drops at all. Therefore, while it doesn't have a factory overclock, it does maintain a higher clock speed compared to the AMD R9 290X reference video card, as you will see in the performance testing to follow. The memory also runs at reference spec at 5GHz.

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Here are some pictures of the two XFX R9 290X DD video cards with CrossFire enabled in our system. Note that CrossFire cables are no longer required since CrossFire now works solely over the PCI-Express bus. Each video card requires one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connector. However, XFX has made a bad design choice having the clips for the power connectors toward the heatsink. It is very hard to get your fingers in there to remove the power cables. Flipping the power connectors around would have been the better way to design this video card.

You will note that XFX logo lights up on the front of the video card quite bright. It is a nice design, and brings light into your computer if it lacks it. However, with each video card facing down in most cases, the XFX logo will not be seen that much in that configuration. The design of the video cards though are modern and very sleek. This is how video cards should look; very slim with clean appealing lines. The video card actually is artistically designed in our eyes. It is an appealing video card that will look very good in your case with a window.

The video card is also very slim at less than 1.5" in depth. You will also find that the heatsink and shroud rise above the I/O plate, higher than the reference video card, giving the XFX R9 290X video card more heatsink and cooling area. The heatsink itself utilizes four copper pipes to each heatsink on both sides to remove heat faster from the GPU. The ASUS R9 290X DC2 OC only used aluminum pipes. The shroud design is also much more enclosed on the XFX R9 290X DD Edition. While it does not exhaust all the air out the back, it minimizes the areas that the air is being exhausted out of, and gives the video card a more complete look.