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PowerColor R9 390X PCS+ Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: AC: Unity / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed: Unity


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While it may not be the newest game around and it had its fair share of embarrassing hiccups at launch, Assassin's Creed: Unity is still one heck of a good looking DX11 title. In this benchmark we run through a typical gameplay sequence outside in Paris.

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Battlefield 4


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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.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: Dragon Age: Inquisition / Dying Light

Dragon Age: Inquisition


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Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most popular games around due to its engaging gameplay and open-world style. In our benchmark sequence we run through two typical areas: a busy town and through an outdoor environment.

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Dying Light


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Dying Light is a relatively late addition to our benchmarking process but with good reason: it required multiple patches to optimize performance. While one of the patches handicapped viewing distance, this is still one of the most demanding games available.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


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The latest game in Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.

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Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: Hitman Absolution / Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Hitman Absolution


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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.

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Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


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With its high resolution textures and several other visual tweaks, Shadow of Mordor’s open world is also one of the most detailed around. This means it puts massive load on graphics cards and should help point towards which GPUs will excel at next generation titles.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


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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.

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Tomb Raider


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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.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
4K: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


Total War: Attila is the only strategy title in our benchmarking suite simply because it is one of the most resource-hungry. It gobbles resources with good reason too: this game happens to be one the best looking of the series thus far. Our benchmark sequence uses the in-game tool since, after hours of gameplay, it seems to show a perfect blend of in-game elements.

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Witcher 3


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Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


AMD's Grenada XT core is a direct clone of the Hawaii XT core found within the R9 290X so there are a number of things we already know about overclocking it: there will be copious amounts of heat and voltage increases will be relatively limited through software. Speaking of software, PowerColor doesn't have their own overclocking tools so we decided to use MSI's AfterBurner.

AfterBurner allowed us to boost voltage by 100mV and the Power Limit by a whopping 50%, which is actually quite impressive given Sapphire's Trixx tool didn't allow for much of any tuning beyond core and memory clocks. The card actually responded quite well but it certainly didn't achieve anything we'd deem spectacular.

Final clock speeds were 1167MHz on the core and 6642MHz on the GDDR5 modules. Both were absolute limits before the card started erroring out in some games. All in all, this is a solid showing and one that is bound to boost framerates by a good margin.


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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


PowerColor’s R9 390X PCS+ has all the makings of an excellent graphics card. It is fast, well priced, boasts a great looking cooling solution and slots in perfectly between NVIDIA’s GTX 970 and GTX 980 while boasting significantly more memory than either of those solutions. Unfortunately, there are competing cards which are simply more appealing than what PowerColor is offering here.

The R9 390X PCS+ sits in an enviable position on the performance front. NVIDIA doesn’t have a thing that can touch it from a price per FPS standpoint and its framerate output stacks up exceedingly well against the newer R9 Fury. Even the 8GB of 6GHz GDDR5 certainly seems to help things along when the card is asked to render at 4K resolutions. Granted, it doesn’t perform one iota better than a reference clocked R9 390X but blame for that lack of pre-overclocking lies firmly in AMD’s lap since they’ve pushed these cores as far as they’ll go without serious binning. So PowerColor has this area checked off perfectly.

Temperature is another area of the PCS+’s strengths. At idle it remains cool enough for the fans to turn completely off and under load the core remained blissfully cool. Overclocking headroom was quite decent as well but due to a lack of software from PowerColor, you’ll be relegated to using AMD’s poorly implemented driver-based overclocking tool or MSI’s AfterBurner. Nonetheless, this card delivered here as well.

Unfortunately, it is the way the PCS+ attains those impressive temperatures that quickly becomes a turn-off. This is a loud card. PowerColor seems to have regressed in this respect since fan noise was never something we critiqued them for in the past, even with their excellent R9 290X PCS+. If you game with headphones on this won’t really matter. However, the noise is certainly noticeable your speakers aren’t set to “blow eardrums out my eyeballs” mode.

The real question boils down to this: what does PowerColor offer that’s unique among R9 390X cards? The ASUS STRIX, Gigabyte Windforce 3x, MSI Gaming 8G, XFX Double Dissipation and of course Sapphire’s TRI-X all offer similar variations of the same formula: high clock speeds, advanced PWMs, excellent software and claims of extremely quiet heatsinks. PowerColor on the other hand certainly doesn’t have silence on their side, there’s no branded software solution to reign in those fan speeds (though MSI’s AfterBurner is compatible) and their frequencies take a back seat to ASUS and MSI. Even pricing aligns perfectly with the competition. With that taken into account, the enviable position we mentioned previously quickly falls by the wayside.

PowerColor has a good all-round card here that’s on the noisy side. However, our sole major critique can easily be overcome by the judicious application of a software-based fan speed profile so we can’t only that against it. What the R9 390X PCS+ actually lacks is a convincing reason to buy it over the competition since in this highly cut-throat market, being good enough simply isn’t going to cut it anymore. Not when there are firmly entrenched cards like the STRIX, GAMING and TRI-X to contend with. PowerColor needs to offer uniqueness for their cards to stand out and right now, mostly due to a lack of flexibility on the core’s part, that hasn't happened with the R9 390X PCS+.
 
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