When AMD launched their R9 295 X2 a couple of months back it was a big step for their GPU side of the business. Not only was it the fastest card they had ever created, it was the first to really take cooling seriously. Gone were the loud fans of past single and dual GPU cards and in their place a stylish low noise cooler with additional liquid cooling radiator and fan combo. The bonus was that the factory assembly meant the difference between the install of that model and the traditional cards was four screws. Simple.
Powercolor offer their own branded version of the liquid cooled R9 295 X2… and now for those who want a similar level of framerate they have their air cooled dual core R9 290X with Devil 13 branding. Today we take a look at this R9 290X2 to see what PowerColor can do with their custom design card in a selection of games including Battlefield 4 and GRID Autosport at 4K resolution.
Packaging and Bundle
When we last saw a Devil 13 card… and quite impressive it was… it arrived in some impressive packaging and the new 290X dual card is no different. We get a high quality cardboard box with fancy seal and then inside along with some power cables and documentation we get a “Power Jack”. This sits between the base of our case and the Devil 13 providing additional stability to this massive card… more on that later.
As an added bonus with the Devil 13 290X2 we also get a Razer mouse. And not a cheap one, this is their top of the range Ouroboros which we reviewed a while back. This wireless mouse is hugely customisable with extending sections and additional grips and won our Gold award. Also worth noting is that this card is eligible for the AMD Never Settle promotion which gives us a free copy of 3 games, such as Murdered: Soul Suspect and Thief.
The Devil 13 Dual Core R9 290X
So what is this Devil 13? Well it is a completely custom design card which starts with an oversized (length and height) black PCB and attached to it are “Super Cap” capacitors which offer reduced electrical noise and enhanced thermal performance. Their PowerIRStage has a peak efficiency of 93.2 (Powercolor note this being an improvement over other designs of 3-13%) and combines with a high efficiency (90%+) Digital PWM for enhanced stability and tuning. Powercolor also go with an enhanced phase design, in this case 10+2+3 phase and continue the high quality components with Ferrite Core Chokes which reduce ripple and enhance power delivery. Voltage measurement points make an appearance at the back end of the cards and the rear of the PCB features white LEDs to signify GPU load.
In terms of cooling, this is a 3x92mm fan design with metal shroud. Powercolor state these “Double Blade” fans are capable of providing 20% extra airflow over alternate designs and these sit above two blocks of aluminium fins. Running through those fins are 8x8mm copper heatpipes and 2x6mm copper heatpipes. The copper heatpipes attach to copper GPU blocks and surrounding our GPUs we have large die cast panels which sit on the MOSFETs and Memory to help dissipate heat. An additional panel does that on the back and on that, covered by protective plastic, is AMD Corporate VP, Roy Taylors signature.
Looking along the top edge of the card we see three significant aspects of this models design. Firstly it is a 3 slot card. Secondly there is a BIOS switch for normal and Turbo modes (more aggressive boost tech) and finally we have 4x 8-pin power connectors. For card outputs PowerColor opt for dual DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. This allows us to connect display configurations such as 3x1080p screens for 5760×1080 Eyefinity gaming with 4K screens also supported.
The Devil 13 has two Hawaii cores running at 1000MHz and features 8GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory running at 1350MHz. Per GPU for the Stream processors AMD and Powercolor have gone for a 2816 “core” design (64ROPs / 176 Texture units) and our memory bus is 512-bit. PCIe 3.0, DirectX 11.2 and DirectCompute are all supported on this card as is acceleration of high definition content and the card can output 7.1 audio over HDMI including DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD. Finally, as expected, Mantle and TrueAudio are both supported as is bridgeless CrossFire.
So let’s start with the design and build quality of the new Devil 13. This is one monster of a card, in many respects. First of all, it’s huge. As long as the 295 X2 but both taller (about 2-3cm) and wider, 3 slots. It is also significantly heavier than pretty much any graphics card we have tested. Of course a lot of that aspect is down to the significant amount of metal used here. We have a durable shroud and backplate then the heatsink fins, masses of copper heatpipes (two thicknesses), large GPU blocks and another plate on the front of the PCB.
PowerColor, as well as using high quality “Platinum Power” components to build the card, should also get some credit for making the effort to build a card like this even if it is in limited quantities… but have they been successful overall?
Well first of all, purely on a framerate point of view the Devil 13 does well. It exceeds the performance of the cheaper GTX 780 Ti most of the time and of course is faster than a single 290X. In games (or 3DMark) which are well optimised for dual GPUs it also compares well with 290X CrossFire and isn’t too far behind the similarly priced GTX 780 Ti SLI. Added to that the card is often a touch faster than the 295 X2 from AMD and runs 4K gaming without issue. So no real complaints there… things start to get a bit ropey when we look at power use where this card requires a huge amount to run, hence the 4x 8-pin connectors. Our system was drawing around 100w more than the 295 X2.
Past that things start to get more significant. First up are temps where this card runs significantly hotter than a custom 290X OC with even more of a difference over 295 X2 with its high performance cooler. This is of course with the three large fan design of the Devil 13 mixed with a lot of metal… and that is where our most significant issue with the product sits. This card is exceptionally loud. In fact it’s very intrusively loud and in our view, too loud. Even in a chassis, under a desk it’s very noticeable and even when we left the room and closed the door we could still hear the fans on the Devil 13.
What’s the solution to that? Well build a system in a case with good noise dampening. Then game with a set of headphones on at a decent volume. It may sound a bit like a joke but as good as the Razer mouse is that PowerColor bundle, and it is a GREAT mouse, they should have gone with a set of noise cancelling headphones. That would have helped with the noise issue but everyone already has a mouse, not everyone has a decent set of noise cancelling headphones so they would be more useful.
So who should buy the Devil 13? At £1100 it is a niché product in terms of cost for sure. The £100 mouse does add value, as the free games from AMD do too, but in our opinion this card is a tough sell against the 295 X2. If AMD had botched the design of that card and it was more difficult to install then PowerColor had a gap to aim for because this card would have been much easier to install but the 295 X2 is easy enough to install, quieter, cooler and just about as fast. Similar things can be said of the 290X and 780 Ti CF/SLI setups also. Really what we are left with is a set of users who have a large case, significant budget, want a fast single PCB solution and don’t want liquid anywhere near their rig. For everyone else, there are better options out there.
Pricing: Ebuyer.com £1098