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ASUS ROG Matrix R9 290X Platinum - Performance Test

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Introduction

Having assessed the recently launched R9 290X DirectCU II OC from ASUS, we now turn our attention to the ASUS ROG Matrix R9 290X Platinum as the top-of-the-line offering from the Republic of Gamers graphics cards series. This graphics card features factory overclocked GPU and memory, a 14-phase Super Alloy Power, Black Metallic Capacitors, along with ASUS' proprietary DIGI+ VRM digital power delivery design that was first featured on their motherboards. Besides that, ASUS also gives extreme overclockers the exclusive Memory Defroster, LN2 Mode, VGA Hotwire and many more features to break the world records. To keep the graphics card running cool, the Matrix R9 290X Platinum features the innovative DirectCU II cooling solution, coupled with a pair of 95 mm cooling fans. ASUS claims that the runs up to 20% cooler, three times quieter and 6% faster than reference Radeon R9 290X.

Specifications

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GPU-Z Information

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The Matrix R9 290X Platinum offers 2816 unified shaders, 64 ROPs, 176 TMUs, and 4 GB of GDDR5 memory on a 512-bit memory bus. Besides that, this card is factory overclocked to 1050 MHz for the GPU and 1350 MHz (5400 MHz effective) for the video memory, as compared to reference Radeon R9 290X (1000 MHz/ 5000 MHz).

Unboxing

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The Matrix R9 290X Platinum ships in a large red box featuring Republic of Gamers theme.

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The back of the box describes some of the key features and specifications of the graphics card as well as an awesome picture of the DirectCU II cooler broken down by each of its layers showing a little of what is behind the cover.

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The Matrix R9 290X Platinum is a dual-slot solution measuring 11.7" x 6" x 1.6", which is slightly larger than the R9 290X Direct CU II OC series and comes with two 95 mm fans. One of the fans has a unique CoolTech design, which carries hybrid blade and bearing. This fan is capable of providing a multi-directional flow, to dissipate the heat effectively.

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The Radeon R9 290X GPU chip is soldered at the middle of the graphics card. Based on AMD's Hawaii XT, the R9 290X will support AMD's TrueAudio, Mantle, DirectX 11.2, and bridge-free Crossfire technology using CrossFire Direct Memory Access aka XDMA.

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The custom PCB features DIGI+ VRM with 14-phase Super Alloy Power's Japanese-made 10K Black Metallic Capacitors, concrete-core chokes and hardened MOSFETs to deliver a precise digital power for superior efficiency, stability, and performance.

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The Safe Mode button resets the graphics card back to default frequencies and voltages. This is useful to get the card back to its original working condition and get the system working normally. The Memory Defroster jumper switch is ASUS' brand new technology that will help extreme overclocking on the memory modules. This awesome feature defrosts the video memory during subzero overclocking to ensure stability and prevent cold bugs.

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The memory chips are based on Elpida-BBBG GDDR5 that are said to have overclock ability not as good as the Hynix-AFR chip. It is disappointing that ASUS decided to use these memory chips on such a high end graphics card. It is very unfair for AMD lovers because ASUS is reportedly provides Hynix chips to the NVDIA-based Matrix GTX 780 Ti.

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The graphics card requires a pair of 8-pin power input. It is an upgrade from the R9 290X DirectCU II OC which has 8+6-pin connectors. You can also see the VGA Hotwire terminals to wire the Matrix R9 290X Platinum card to the solder points on compatible ROG motherboards and you're ready to overvolt and overclock. With this cool feature, you can gradually and safely adjust voltages to the GPU, video memory and phase-locked loop (PLL), either via the UEFI BIOS or from the operating system in real time.

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There is no CrossFire connector found on the graphics card. With R9 290 Series, AMD started transferring multi-GPU data via the PCIe slot interface of the card. Also spotted, a tiny jumper switch that allows you to toggle between two modes: "LN2" mode and "Standard" mode. The liquid nitrogen (LN2) jumper switch unlocks restrictions on power target, voltage and overcurrent protection so you can unleash full power from the GPU.

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The ROG Color-coded Load Indicator offers an instant and easy-to-understand display of current GPU load levels. For starters, if the LED glows red, this means the Matrix R9 290X Platinum is under extreme load, Blue for light loading and orange for medium loading. If the card is operating in safe mode, the LED will turn to green.

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The rear I/O panel includes a pair of DVI-D ports, a HDMI port and a DisplayPort. These interfaces support up to three monitors simultaneously for Eyefinity setup.

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The black anodized aluminum backplate's unique design does add some aesthetic looks to the graphic card as well as provides extra rigidity to the PCB.

Now let's take a look under its cover to see the build of the DirectCU II cooler.

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The cooler comes with a huge radiator, which is connected with five anodized black heat pipes. ASUS utilizes the Vapor Chamber technology which is known to have a better performance than regular cooling systems.

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Included in the box is a pair of dual 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCie Y-adapters, a ROG metal sticker, a quick setup guide and the driver/ utility disk.
 

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Test Setup

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Testing Methodology

The Intel Core i7 4770K processor was overclocked to 4.625 GHz while all the graphics cards used were operating at stock clocks and stock cooler on air cooling. The Matrix R9 290X Platinum was set to "Standard" mode. Ambient temperature was around 31°C throughout the benchmarks.

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The settings for in-game benchmarks are listed in the table above.

Software & Tools

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ASUS GPU Tweak - an overclocking tool with GPU and memory tuning, overvolting, GPU load-line calibration and VRM frequency tuning, allowing for the most extensive control and adjustment parameters for maximum overclocking potential.

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ASUS GPU Tweak Streaming - allows you to share on-screen action in real-time. Add scrolling text, pictures, and webcam images to the streaming window easily.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Synthetic Benchmarks

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Game Benchmarks

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Overclocking & Temperature

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Loaded with massive overclock features on the graphics card, we expected that the Matrix R9 290X Platinum should be at least on par or beating the R9 290X DirectCU II OC. But to our dismay, we're disappointed in the overclock ability of the Matrix. Perhaps it is just our review sample that doesn't hit the silicon lottery.

With a GPU voltage of 1.3 V, we managed to overclock the GPU clock speed to 1150 MHz from 1050 MHz. We were able to obtain a 1225 MHz overclock on the GPU with the R9 290X DirectCU II OC.

However, memory overclocking is better than the R9 290X DirectCU II OC. The video memory went to 6250 MHz from 5400 MHz with 1.63v (up from 1.5v). Well, that is pretty "normal" for Elpida based memory chips which we have discussed earlier. You can't go more than that with Elpida chips.

In summary, these are around 9.5% and 16% overclocks for the GPU and memory clocks, respectively. The maximum temperature hit 77°C. In the 3DMark 11 benchmark, this overclock improved the graphics score by 4%. Not so impressive in my opinion because we could achieve a 14% improvement with the R9 290X DirectCU II OC.
 

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Thoughts & Verdicts

The ROG Matrix R9 290X Platinum is ASUS' current top-end card in terms of features and performance for the AMD camp. The exclusive features such as the 14-phase digital DIGI+ VRM power design with Super Alloy Power, 10K Black Metallic Capacitors, DirectCU II cooling system, LN2 Mode, Safe Mode, Memory Defroster, GPU Tweak software and many more will bring overclocking experience to the next level.

In terms of its stock clock performance, it was within expectation. The performance is not throttled like the reference Radeon R9 290X thanks to the custom DirectCU II cooling system. The graphics card is capable of running most modern game titles at high resolution such as 2560x1600 or even a 4K panel at maximum details.

In terms of overclocking, we were expecting more on the GPU and memory overclocks on air cooling. It is understandable that luck does play some important roles in this too. Chip binning is necessary to find the best overclocking gem but it takes time, skill and technology to do this job. As for the memory part, they could have used the Hynix-AFR or Samsung based memory chips that are proven to have excellent overclock ability. However we believe that the Matrix R9 290X Platinum card will shine under cold, giving that it has so many extreme overclocking and overvolting features to push it to the limit.

The Matrix R9 290X Platinum has a bit of a problem; its DirectCU II cooler is actually designed for a larger GPU such as the NVIDIA's GK110. As you can see this from the picture below, two of the copper heat pipes don't touch the Hawaii XT GPU at all. Besides that, two other heat pipes just make partial contacts with the GPU chip resulted in inefficient heat dissipation. Their rival, Sapphire managed to solve this with their Tri-X cooler by putting some heat pipes that have better contact with the AMD's GPU.

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Although the suggested retail price hasn't been announced yet, we expect the price will be tagged somewhere between the R9 290X DirectCU II OC (RM 2,499) and the Matrix GTX 780 Ti Platinum (RM 3,099). It is very hard to recommend this card over the GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II OC which is priced at RM 2,799. Only enthusiasts and power users with deep pockets and want to put it under subzero will consider purchasing this graphics card. For air cooling overclocking we still recommend the R9 290X Direct CU II OC for its performance over price ratio.

We would like to thank ASUS Malaysia for sending us this sample for review.

Performance: 5/5
Materials: 3/5
Specifications: 5/5
Appearance: 5/5
Performance/ Price Value: 4/5

Pros:
+ Factory overclocked GPU and video memory
+ Beautiful outlook
+ Massive overclocking features
+ Unique metal backplate provides extra protection to the PCB

Cons:
- Will cost a bomb
- Slower than GTX 780 Ti
- Air overclocking is worse than the R9 290X DC II OC, could be a lemon chip
- Elpida chips have limited memory overclock ability
- The fan could be a little loud when blasting at full speed (100%)
- GPU Tweak is immature at time of writing; load-line calibration is broken
- DirectCU II cooler base is not designed to fit AMD GPU, causing inefficient heat dissipation
- No game bundle
 

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This review has a professional feel and it's also nice to read. As for Asus's approach to this card, it's just massively disappointing to say the least. I had the 7970 Matrix and it ran hotter and overclocked worse than my thinner and much, much smaller Vapor-X from Sapphire. AMD needs to do something about this issue which affects both their CPU and GPU lineup. AIBs that are in both camps aren't putting as much effort into their products.
 

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asus should have made a cooler specifically for the 290x matrix instead of just pulling it off the 780ti and hoping it would work. They should also probably bin the cores when putting them on their top end card instead of just binning the core for their pro overclocker friends to get them good PR.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by szeged View Post

asus should have made a cooler specifically for the 290x matrix instead of just pulling it off the 780ti and hoping it would work. They should also probably bin the cores when putting them on their top end card instead of just binning the core for their pro overclocker friends to get them good PR.
After thinking about it, it's easy really. For every AMD product they sell, they are selling 3X OR 4X Nvidia/ Intel products. That's where the money is coming from and it explains where all their attention is placed.
 

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this is another reason why i prefer evga gpus, they binned their highest end card for every card sold, not just the ones kingpin gets himself, every user has a chance to have a great card. Meanwhile over at asus they gave their best chips to their in house overclockers so they can put a big score up on hwbot or similar places so everything thinks they will get a card just as good when in reality the cores are probably just random ones nvidia/amd gave them.
 
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