The Radeon R9 290X is a beast—and a toasty one at that. Cards based on AMD's reference design appear to be thermally limited, especially with the blower running in "quiet" mode, which is already pretty loud. We've been waiting for card makers to come up with alternatives, and Asus has now teased its first custom solution. Behold the R9 290X DirectCU II:
The DirectCU II cooler relies on dual fans and fat pipes. The CoolTech fan on the left differs slightly from the spinner on the right; it includes an inner blower to help direct airflow to the rear exhaust vents. This hybrid fan debuted in Asus' mini GeForce GTX 670, and you can see a video of it in action here on YouTube. At least versus grains of rice, the CoolTech combo looks like an effective one. I'm curious to see why Asus went with a standard second fan, though.
In addition to dual fans, the DirectCU II cooler has 10-mm heatpipes that make direct contact with the GPU. Asus has also come up with a custom power delivery system that includes digital PWMs and other fancy electrical components.
The Asus post doesn't discuss specific clock speeds or noise levels. However, it does mention delivering "a consistent level of performance, lower operating temperatures in game and overall quieter operation." The custom cooler may be able to maintain higher GPU clock speeds than we've observed on retail 290X cards. There's plenty of room for improvement over the reference design's acoustics, too. We've had good experiences with Asus' other DirectCU cards, so we're optimistic.
Unfortunately, we don't have any information on when Asus' custom 290X will be available. Let's hope it arrives soon. Newegg is completely sold out of 290X reference cards right now.