ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum Video Card Review

Today we have the highest-end R9 290X from ASUS, the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum video card. This video card is dual-purposed for fan or LN2 cooling, and has vast power capabilities. We're putting it up against the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 DirectCU II OC to see which delivers the best bang for your buck.

Introduction

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, it manufactures a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, it sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.

On our test bench today is the ASUS ROG R9 290X Matrix Platinum (ROG MATRIX-R9290X-P-4GD5) video card.

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In today's evaluation we will break down and cover every aspect of the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum video card. This is the highest-end R9 290X video card available from ASUS. This video card will perform quite well at 2560x1600 with the highest graphics quality in several of the games we will use today. It is currently priced for $629 at Amazon and Newegg.

The AMD Radeon R9 290X codenamed "Hawaii" is a Graphics Core Next (GCN) 2.0 GPU. It is still based on the 28nm process. It contains 6.2 billion transistors compared to 4.3 billion in the Radeon R9 280X. The engine clock will run up to1GHz. There are 2,816 stream processors on the Radeon R9 290X and 64 ROPs. There are also 176 texture units on the R9 290X, and it can do 256 Z/Stencil. It features a 512-bit memory bus with memory running at 5GHz, delivering 320GB/sec of bandwidth.

We want our comparison video card in this evaluation to have an NVIDIA based GPU, and also be identically priced. We have chosen to use the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II OC video card. This is currently priced for $588 at Newegg after $30 MIR or $588 at Amazon after $30 MIR with Prime Shipping. This makes it fit both of our criteria, and should be a good head-to-head, all ASUS showdown.

Editor's Note: Since we started this review pricing on the 780Ti has come down making the price delta between the two cards a bit more extreme.


ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum Video Card

The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum is a factory overclocked version of the R9 290X video card. It is the highest-end model available from ASUS, not to be confused with the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II OC which we evaluated a while back. The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P (short for Platinum) has many other features that set it apart from any other R9 290X. One of these features is the ROG or Republic of Gamers brand. This badge signifies extreme performance and ingenuity geared toward gamers and hardware enthusiasts alike.

As mentioned, the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P is a factory overclocked card, set to run at 1050MHz. This is 50MHz above the reference model, however many standard R9 290X video cards drop down as low as 800MHz due to excess heat generation. ASUS provides 1050MHz stable on this video card. The memory is also overclocked. A reference R9 290X card’s memory runs at 5GHz, while the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX runs at 5.4GHz standard.

The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P is also equipped with the DirectCU II cooling system, which features four, 8mm copper heatpipes, and one 10mm copper heat pipe. These maximize heat flow away from the GPU, onto the large aluminum fin-array heat sink. There are two fans, including a CoolTech fan mounted on the face of the video card. The CoolTech fan is a hybrid, designed for direct downward airflow, and turbine airflow to send air in multiple directions off of the video card.

There is an alternative cooling feature geared towards extreme enthusiasts. This video card is fully ready for LN2 cooling, including a switch on the board to jump between LN2 and standard mode. LN2 mode will allow for increased voltage levels, generating much more heat. That’s why it’s imperative to use LN2 cooling with this power setting. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and can combat the excessive heat generated.

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There is a 4-pin Molex connector on the back edge of the video card, which powers the brand-new ASUS memory defroster. During extreme-overclocking conditions using LN2, you can flip a switch to instantly defrost the video cards memory to assure stability. The memory doesn’t generate as much heat as the GPU, so there’s not much need of supercooling it. This provides users a quick way to exterminate the excess cold, and brings a whole new meaning to temperature control.

ASUS knows that gamers and enthusiasts alike desire to overclock the hardware they purchase. ASUS GPU Tweak allows you to burn your overclock to the BIOS, and has a safe mode switch located on the video card as a backup. Just one tap will reset the video card to default frequencies in case of emergency.

ASUS can deliver so much precise power because of the board’s DIGI+ VRM or voltage-regulator. This delivers 14-phase power through the super alloy power black-metallic capacitors, concrete-core chokes and hardened MOSFETs. These components can handle greater stress and heat, resulting in stable performance during extreme overclocking.

The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P also features an LED color-coded load indicator. When it is green it means the video card is running in safe mode. Red signifies heavy loading, while orange represents medium loading. Blue symbolizes light loading. This allows users to quickly look at their video card and see approximately what load the GPU is under.

The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum can be yours for $629 at Newegg and includes two free games, Alien Isolation and Star Citizen. It comes with a limited 3 year parts and labor warranty. You can read more about the ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum here.


ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX Platinum Pictures

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The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P ships in a large box that targets all the features of the video card. The back of the box shows a diagram of all the physical areas on the video card. The accessory package includes a driver CD and quick installation guide, and two dual 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe connectors. There was also a Republic of Gamers badge for your case.

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The ASUS ROG R9 290X MATRIX-P is mostly black with red trim. The PCB is black, and the heatsink and heat pipes are painted matte black. The back aluminum plate that secures all rear mounted components is also black. It's a beautifully colored and well designed video card that feels very sturdy.

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The small switch along the top edge of the video card allows you to choose standard operating mode or LN2 mode. On the back edge of the video card, opposite the I/O panel is a 4-pin Molex connector used to power the memory defroster during subzero overclocking. The on/off defroster switch is located back here, along with the safe mode BIOS reset switch. There is also a hub to manually solder on voltage monitoring cables to read live voltages right from the hardware.

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Along the top of edge, towards the power adaptors is the LED GPU loading indicator. The rear I/O panel houses two dual-link DVI-D connectors, an HDMI connector, and a DisplayPort connector. This video card requires two 8-pin PCIe power adaptors and a 750W minimum power supply to operate effectively. It measures 11 and 5/8th inches in length, 1.5 inches wide, and 5.5 inches in height. This is a very large video card compared to many we see, make sure it has enough room for your case!