What's new
  • Please do not post any links until you have 3 posts as they will automatically be rejected to prevent SPAM. Many words are also blocked due to being used in SPAM Messages. Thanks!

PowerColor Devil 13 R9 290X Dual Core Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
The R9 290X Devil 13 is bound to make some waves in the gaming world, not only due to the fact that it carries on a well-established PowerColor tradition that has seen them launch some of AMD’s most powerful GPUs. You may not remember but back in August of 2012, Hardware Canucks was among the first to report that the HD 7990 would be launched in the guise of PowerColor’s HD 7990 Devil 13. That cards boasted absolutely awesome performance metrics, beating the GTX 690 in numerous benchmarks provided its Turbo Mode was used. Naturally, AMD went on to “officially” launch the HD 7990 but the Devil 13 has always remained in our minds as one of the best custom products launched in the last two years.

Fast forward to a few months ago and AMD rolled out their long-anticipated R9 295X2. Not only did it take NVIDIA completely by surprise but it approached cooling in a new and innovative way (for a reference card that is); instead of sticking to a sometimes-inefficient air based heatsink, AMD incorporated a water cooling setup. As a result, its dual R9 290X cores were able to operate at full speed without the throttling and it demolished everything in its path.

PowerColor’s R9 290X Devil 13 goes back to basics by utilizing virtually the same specifications as the R9 295X2 but backing things up with an infinitely more adaptable fan-based heatsink. Ditching the water cooler wasn’t easy since the Hawaii cores and 8GB memory produce an astonishing amount of heat but the Devil 13 compensates by throwing a massive amount of thermal dissipation power at the problem.


With a pair of fully enabled R9 290X cores alongside 8GB of overclocked memory, PowerColor’s Devil 13 will likely become the world’s fastest graphics card. However, there’s a lot that needs to go on behind the scenes as well. For example AMD needed to add water cooling to ensure their cores didn’t throttle to lower speeds and the Devil 13 needs to accomplish the same thing but with an air-cooled heatsink. That’s a tall order to fulfill considering large portions of its heatsink are carried over from the previous design.

One thing that likely won’t be controversial is the Devil 13’s price. At $1,400 it is $100 less than AMD’s R9 295X2 but, as we will see on the next page, there are far more accessories included. Just don’t expect PowerColor’s flagship to be widely available because, as with the HD 7990 Devil 13, it is a truly limited edition with about 250 cards being produced. However, if you do manage to get your hands on one, expect to be set in the high end gaming department for the next few years at least.

While some may question the existence of cards like the PowerColor R9 290X Devil 13, they make no excuses about being narrowly targeted towards enthusiasts and gamers with a ton of money to burn. In that regard, we’re about to find out whether or not this card can hope to compete against or even surpass AMD’s mighty R9 295X2.

 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the PowerColor R9 290X Devil 13

A Closer Look at the PowerColor R9 290X Devil 13



In order to add some more value to the Devil 13 while also appealing to gamers who want a few extras with their $1400 graphics card, PowerColor has included a Razer Ouroboros. This high end gaming mouse is highly customizable to your individual grip style, boasts wireless transmitting capabilities and goes for about $150. Unfortunately, most folks who can afford such an expensive purchase likely already have their preferred gaming mouse so the actual added value here is a bit dubious.

PowerColor’s other addition is more of a necessity. The PowerJack is a graphics card support post that can be modified in height to fit pretty much every motherboard. It attaches to the bottom of your case and extends upwards, ensuring a heavy card like the Devil 13 doesn’t put undue stress on your motherboard.


At 2 ½” high, 12” long and weighing in at a sumo-like 5.2lbs, PowerColor’s Devil 13 isn’t for the faint of heart, nor those with smaller cases. Unlike the R9 295X2, there’s just no way this thing should be used inside of a small form factor system. You’ll see why later.

With that being said, this edition of the Devil 13 follows the same overall design as its predecessor with a large block and red heatsink shroud alongside a trio of high RPM 92mm fans. There are however some changes below the surface.


The Devil 13’s heatsink uses a brute force approach to cooling with a pair of “modules”, each being equipped with four 8mm and one 6mm heatpipes. These are topped off by PowerColor’s unique Double Blade fans which utilize secondary smaller blades to increase airflow. In the past we found this design to increase high range acoustics when the fan speeds ramp up but this heatsink will need all the help it can get to tame the two Hawaii XT xores.


Running around the card’s periphery and placed directly in contact with the PCB is a die-cast secondary heatsink which also adds to structural rigidity.

Below all these heatsinks and coolers is a seriously tricked-out PWM design. It features five super capacitors in an all-digital 10+2+3 VRM layout with an optimal operating range of up to 105°C (they’re actually rated to a maximum of 150°C) and a so-called PowerIR stage that boasts a switching frequency efficiency of up to 93.2%.


Adding a bit of flair to the Devil 13 is a glowing logo alongside a small button simply marked “D”. This button controls the BIOS selection and when pressed (and illuminated), enables a Turbo Mode which increases fan speeds to achieve optimal performance levels without throttling.


Around the Devil 13’s back is a backplate heatsink which is strategically placed to ensure critical components are covered while also leaving a few openings for the card’s LED displays and voltage read points. There’s just enough “meat” here to cover the rear-mounted GDDR5 memory modules.


Among the many features of this card are the voltage read points. However, we really don’t see that they will be used that much since, as we will see later, overclocking or voltage tuning are near impossibilities. There are also quite a few LED scattered around the PCB’s backside which indicate PWM load states.


A signature from AMD’s Roy Taylor and an imprinted Devil 13 logo round out the backplate additions, through, unlike vinyl graphics on a riced-out Honda Civic, neither adds horsepower.


On the connectivity front, PowerColor hasn’t retained the standard R9 290X I/O layout but goes with with dual DVI connectors a DisplayPort and a lone HDMI. Power is supplied by a truly awe-inspiring quad 8-pin design that could, if necessary, provide up to 600W of power without taking the PCI-E slot’s ability into account.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
Long Term Temperatures & Perf / Thermal Imaging

Long Term Temperatures & Perf / Thermal Imaging


PowerColor’s Devil 13 has the distinction of being the only air cooled dual R9 290X card on the market and there’s good reason for this: AMD launched their own R9 295X2 which includes a sealed water cooling loop; something we thought was a necessity for dispersing the intense heat loads being output by the cores and memory modules. PowerColor has proven us wrong since, as you will see below, the Devil 13 has achieved reasonably good temperature numbers and neatly avoids any throttling.


Let’s start off with temperature over 15 minutes of constant load with Hitman Absolution, a title that pushes both cores to 100% usage. As you can see, the Devil 13’s Turbo Mode gets both cores to a maximum of 73°C, where they stayed even after an hour or more of testing. That’s still a far cry from the R9 295X2’s sub 65°C results but miles below the card’s 90°C temperature limit.

Turning things over to the Normal Mode results in higher temperatures but, as we will see later, significantly lower acoustics. The maximum we saw was 80°C. Again, this is an impressive result even though the Devil 13 needed a triple slot heatsink to get here. VRMs were amazingly cool as well, never getting above the 60°C mark.


As you might expect, with such low temperatures, the card didn’t get anywhere near its thermal throttling ceiling and in both modes frequencies remained steady at 1GHz. Naturally, there will be certain applications and games that push things far beyond this but throughout our testing the Devil 13’s clocks remained rock solid.


With sustained frequencies, a bit of a memory speed boost and overall constant temperatures, the Devil 13’s performance is quite simply excellent.

While we don’t have any complaints when the results above are taken at face value, PowerColor did have to make some sacrifices in order to succeed where many thought they would fail. On the next page, we’ll get into those in detail.



Hitting the card with a FLIR thermal imaging camera doesn’t show any particular areas of worry. The heat seems to be evenly dispersed other than the extreme hot spots we see directly above the VRMs (an indication the heatsinks are working the way they should) and the PWM LEDs on the Devil 13’s backside. The PCB directly behind the cores does tend to get hot as well but that was to be expected.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
Acoustical Testing / System Power Consumption

Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 14” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


When using the Devil 13 in Turbo Mode, expect it to conduct a shock and awe campaign on your eardrums. In order to achieve its lowest temperatures, the heatsink’s fans need to power up to 77% of their maximum rotational speed and things get really loud really fast. Granted, we’re testing on an open test system but nearly 67 decibels is simply ridiculous. So much so that I could clearly hear the wailing over the in-game sound while using noise cancelling headphones.

The real problem here is that other than lower temperatures and an infinitesimal amount of additional overclocking headroom (more on that later), Turbo Mode doesn’t net any positive results over the Normal Mode, be it performance or otherwise. Part of this problem can be traced back to AMD’s new PowerTune Boost algorithm which does well in throttling an ASIC when it reaches higher temperatures but it flat-out refuses to take advantage of any thermal headroom granted by high end cooling designs. Had it been designed differently, PowerTune and that Turbo Button would be a perfect match for gamers who are willing to sacrifice their sanity for better performance. As it stands, this mode isn’t beneficial other than for scaring a few years out of the family cat’s life.

PowerColor’s Default Mode is more mild mannered and quieter than a dual reference R9 290X setup but that doesn’t mean it’s “silent”. It does however blend relatively good temperatures with a level of acoustics that can be deemed acceptable for some gamers. On the other hand, buying a pair of custom cooled R9 290X cards will not only cost less but will also deliver an even quieter experience.


System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Hitman Absolution while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.

Please note that after extensive testing, we have found that simply plugging in a power meter to a wall outlet or UPS will NOT give you accurate power consumption numbers due to slight changes in the input voltage. Thus we use a Tripp-Lite 1800W line conditioner between the 120V outlet and the power meter.


Due to the higher core temperatures, PowerColor’s Devil 13 consumes a good amount more electricity than the R9 295X2, especially in Normal Mode where heat is allowed to rise into the upper registers. This isn’t too much of a concern since anyone buying this card will know full well what they’re getting into beforehand.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell 2412M (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 14.4 Beta
NVIDIA 337.50 Beta


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
1440P: Assassin’s Creed Black Flag / BF4

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/YFgGnFoRAXU?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The fourth iteration of the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the first to make extensive use of DX11 graphics technology. In this benchmark sequence, we proceed through a run-through of the Havana area which features plenty of NPCs, distant views and high levels of detail.


2560 x 1440




Battlefield 4


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/y9nwvLwltqk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Amidst its teething problems since its release, BF4 has been a bone of contention among gamers. In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.

2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
1440P: Call of Duty Ghosts / Far Cry 3

Call of Duty: Ghosts


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gzIdSAktyf4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest Call of Duty game may have been ridiculed for its lackluster gameplay but it remains one of the best-looking games out there. Unfortunately due to mid-level loads, getting a “clean” runthrough without random slowdowns is nearly impossible, even with a dual SSD system like ours. Hence why you should ignore any massive framerate dips as they are anomalies of poor loading optimizations. For this benchmark we used the first sequence of the 5th Chapter entitled Homecoming as every event is scripted so runthroughs will be nearly identical.

2560 x 1440





Far Cry 3


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/mGvwWHzn6qY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

One of the best looking games in recent memory, Far Cry 3 has the capability to bring even the fastest systems to their knees. Its use of nearly the entire repertoire of DX11’s tricks may come at a high cost but with the proper GPU, the visuals will be absolutely stunning.

To benchmark Far Cry 3, we used a typical run-through which includes several in-game environments such as a jungle, in-vehicle and in-town areas.



2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
1440P: Hitman Absolution / Metro: Last Light

Hitman Absolution


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.


2560 x 1440




Metro: Last Light


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/40Rip9szroU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

The latest iteration of the Metro franchise once again sets high water marks for graphics fidelity and making use of advanced DX11 features. In this benchmark, we use the Torchling level which represents a scene you’ll be intimately familiar with after playing this game: a murky sewer underground.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
1440P: Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p-a-8mr00rY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.


2560 x 1440





Tomb Raider


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/okFRgtsbPWE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.


2560 x 1440


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,421
Location
Montreal
4K: Assassin’s Creed Black Flag / BF4

Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag


3840 x 2160




Battlefield 4


3840 x 2160


 

Latest posts

Twitter

Top