More and more Radeon R9 290-series graphics cards are eschewing AMD's reference cooler. The latest two that do so hail from PowerColor, and they trade the dual-slot, single-fan AMD contraption for a pretty imposing triple-slot, triple-fan cooler:
The PCS+ R9 290X 4GB GDDR5 and PCS+ R9 290 4GB GDDR5 both feature the same PCS+ cooler, which comprises five heat pipes, two aluminum fin arrays, and three 80-mm fans. PowerColor claims this cooler design lowers temperatures by 24% and reduces noise levels by 17% compared to the stock AMD solution.
No doubt thanks to that extra thermal headroom, PowerColor has managed to clock both cards above than AMD's reference speeds. The PCS+ R9 290X and PCS+ R9 290 have peak GPU clocks of 1050MHz and 1040MHz, respectively, compared to 1000MHz and 947MHz for vanilla AMD cards. PowerColor also cranks up the memory speed to 5.4 GT/s, up from the 5 GT/s reference, on both models.
If these puppies were using the AMD cooler, I might worry about thermal constraints leading to lower-than-advertised speeds—and about noise levels being higher than they ought to be. Those PCS+ heatsinks are pretty huge, though, and the three fans presumably pump substantial amounts of air without having to spin up like jet engines. Heck, if PowerColor's claims about temperature and noise levels reductions check out, these cards might even fare better at their higher frequencies than the stock AMD cards do at their default clocks.
If you'd rather not sacrifice three expansion slots to your graphics card, there are other, leaner Radeon R9 290-series cards with custom coolers. We've seen dual-slot models from Asus, MSI, and XFX, and PowerColor itself recently introduced a Radeon R9 290X with a liquid-cooling plate.
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