HIS was kind enough to send along their new flagship R9 290X for us to check out, which boasts a factory overclock, a beefed up power delivery section, and a host of other features we’ll dive into. Now that Cryptocoin mining has lessened its impact on AMD based graphics card pricing, cards in this class should be a bit more appealing to those in the market for one. The HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 falls within the HIS “Turbo” family of graphics cards that promise a balance of great gaming performance and cooling. So, let’s take this latest offering from HIS, run it through our review process, and see if it’s a worthy contender in the crowded R9 290X market!
Specifications and Features
Below are the specifications as provided by the HIS website. Of note here is the factory overclock applied to the GPU core and the memory. The GPU core has been overclocked 40 MHz from the reference design, and the memory sees an increase from 5000 MHz to 5400 MHz. While there are a lot of factory overclocked cards on the market, it’s not often we see the memory overclocked as well. Nice touch there! HIS also beefed up the power connectors from the reference design’s 6-pin and 8-pin to dual 8-pin connectors.
|HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Specifications|
|Model Name||HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X² Turbo 4GB GDDR5 PCI-E 2xDLDVI-D/DP/HDMI|
|Chipset||AMD Radeon R9 290X|
|Memory Size (MB)||4096|
|Core Clock (MHz)||1040MHz|
|Memory CLK (Gbps)||5.4Gbps|
|Memory Interface (bit)||512bit|
|Power Supply Requirement||500W (or greater) power supply with two 150W 8-pin PCI Express power connectors|
|Max. Resolution (Per Display)
||DisplayPort 1.2 – 4096×2160
HDMI – 4096×2160
Dual-link DVI with HDCP – 2560×1600
|Bus Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
||2x DL-DVI-D + DisplayPort+ HDMI|
|Card Dimension||29.7 x 14.3 x 4.4 cm – 11.69 x 5.63 x 1.73 in|
GPU-Z confirms the specifications above and provides additional information as well. We can see the card has 2816 unified shaders and 64 ROPs. The 4 GB of onboard memory sits on a 512-bit interface with a bandwidth of 345.6 GB/s. Pretty impressive numbers there.
Other than full support for AMD’s 2nd generation GCN technology, there are plenty of other features to explore. The iPower feature brings a beefed up power delivery section in an effort to boost overclocking potential. The 9-phase all digital power design features DirectFET MOSFETS with dynamic power phase control. HIS claims this design greatly improves overclocking potential. All below images and descriptions courtesy HIS.
|iPower for More Voltage, More Overclocking – HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X² turbo features iPower carries more voltage, more overclocking, IceQ X² is cooler and quieter. iPower design allows the card to carry more voltage, expanding overclocking capability to a new level!|
|Turbo: HIS OC Graphics Card – Turbo cards are faster than regular cards! The card is bios-overclocked out of the box with 1040MHz / 5400 MHz core clock and memory clock respectively, offering the performance edge for gamers!|
HIS always makes a big deal of their IceQ X2 cooler and with good reason. I’ve reviewed several of their cards with this cooler and have always found it to perform very well. On the other side of the PCB, HIS includes a back plate for PCB reinforcement and to prevent board flexing. Additionally, a dual BIOS switch can be found on the top edge of the PCB. HIS named the switch positions “Standard BIOS” and “Silent BIOS.” From what I can tell, the only difference between the two BIOS is that the fan will run at a slower default speed when in the “Silent BIOS” position.
|Cooler – With IceQ X², the card is cooler than the reference cooler.|
|Quieter – IceQ X² is one of the quietest coolers, making the card quieter than the reference cooler. The card is below 28dB when watching movies, surfing Facebook, working. The card remains quiet whether you are gaming, online socializing, entertaining or working.|
Back Plate Design
The HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 supports up to four way crossfire configurations. The first image below mentions the card having two crossfire connectors, but they are not the type shown in the image. As we all know by now, the R9 290X doesn’t use bridges anymore. Instead, they use the PCI-E bus for frame syncing and communication between cards. AMD Eyefinity is also supported, which should work extremely well given that the card has 4 GB of onboard memory.
|Built for Crossfire – CrissfireX Ready! The card is armed with 2x Crossfire Connectors and is ready for up to 4-way crossfire for strengthened performance!|
|AMD Eyefinity – Set up Eyefinity on 3 displays with No ACTIVE DisplayPort Adapter needed.|
On the software side of things, HIS provides their iTurbo overclocking utility. HIS says you can use iTurbo with any graphics card, regardless of manufacturer. We’ll have a closer look at this utility later in the review.
HIS video card packaging is pretty consistent among all their offerings and usually consists of a blue theme. That tradition holds true to form here with lots of information printed on the box front, back, and sides. If you’re actually able to hold and read the box before purchase, you should be able to get a good feel for what the card offers in the way of features.
Inside the outer carton is another black box that houses the card and a couple accessories. Once the inner box is opened, you’ll find documentation and a portfolio sitting on top. Sitting below is the R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 securely positioned in a foam bed and wrapped in an anti-static bag. The portfolio holds the driver/utility CD, a HIS sticker, and the quick installation guide. That’s all there are to the accessories… no power adapter cable or DVI to VGA adapter that most people never use anyway.
The following pictures were taken from various angles to give you an overview of the aesthetics. Sitting by itself, the card is very attractive looking. However, the gold colored shroud might be a challenge to match up with a system’s color scheme. If you have seen the latest ASUS Z97 channel series motherboards, then you’ll have an idea of what color scheme would work well with this card.
The HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 Up Close
Having a look at the display connectivity options, we find two DL-DVI-D, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort. Multi-monitor setups are a breeze to setup, especially when using three displays. You can use both DVI ports and the HDMI port to quickly setup a tri-monitor setup. Additional displays can be used too, but may require an active DisplayPort adapter depending on how many are used. As previously mentioned, two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors are needed to power the card. The connectors are positioned at the top-rear area. The Dual-BIOS switch is also located at the top of the card and is located a few inches behind the mounting bracket.
The IceQ X2 cooler is held in place with four spring loaded screws and a “X” shaped retention bracket found on the back of the card. Once removed, we can have our first look at the copper block, five heatpipes, and the aluminum fin stack. The five heatpipes consist of two that are 8 mm in size and three that are 6 mm. All five heatpipes pass through the copper block and then weave their way through the aluminum fins. The two fans pictured in the “First Look” section above are 89 mm dual axial affairs. The IceQ X2 cooler was making good contact with the GPU core, but the amount of TIM used was a little heavy for my liking. That’s just me being picky!
Under the ICEQ X2 cooler, you’ll find another plate attached to the top of the PCB. Under the plate is a series of thermal pads making contact with all the memory ICs and a couple of the power bits. An additional heatsink is placed over the MOSFETs for an added cooling effect, and it too uses a thermal pad. The bracket you see at the top of the card is merely a grab handle to assist with installing and removing the card. If you find it cumbersome or just don’t like the looks of it, taking it off is easy enough.
The back of the PCB features a back plate for added PCB support. In addition to adding aesthetic value, it also works well at preventing any flexing of the PCB.
Stripped down to the bare PCB, we can have a look at the 9-phase power design (7+1+1), which breaks down into seven for the GPU, one for vMem, and one for PLL. When compared to the reference design, you get one additional power phase for the GPU. HIS chose to use the International Rectifier 3567B VRM, which supports software modification of GPU and memory voltages. SKHynix H5GQ2H24AFR-T2C memory ICs are used to make up the 4 GB of onboard vMem. These GDDR5 memory modules are rated at 5000 MHz using 1.5 V, which is a slower speed than HIS has them set to by default. Given how well SKHynix memory typically overclocks, we should be able to push them a bit further yet… we’ll find out! The last image below is of the AMD Hawaii XT GPU core used on R9 290X graphics cards.
HIS iTurbo Overclocking Software
iTurbo is the utility HIS provides for overclocking, monitoring, and fan speed control. There are five areas to explore inside iTurbo, the first being the Home screen. This is just a place HIS uses to feed news and information to users. It doesn’t appear to be updated too often, but it does have a couple useful links. The Info screen gives the user GPU specifications at a glance, much the same as what we see with GPU-Z. The Overclock screen will vary depending on what graphics card is being used; but in our case, we have GPU clock, memory clock, and voltage control available. You can also save up to four profiles from here. The Fan Control screen lets you decide between three options – Auto, Fixed, or Custom. Using the custom option allows you to set fan speeds based on temperature thresholds using a graph style interface. Finally, the settings screen lets you customize the behavior of the utility and adds a few additional tweaks.
For a 24/7 stable overclock, I landed at 1150 MHz on the GPU and 1500 MHz (6000 MHz quad pumped) on the memory side. When compared to a reference design R9 290X, that equates to a 14% overclock on the GPU and 17% on the memory. I’m probably a little more picky as to what I consider a stable overclock than most people. I ensure the overclock has no artifacts, stuttering, or any other annoying behavior. On higher end cards such as this one, the overclock also has to be stable when testing Eyefinity with three monitors.
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Formula|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2400 MHz 2x8GB @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24|
|SSD||Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 – Catalyst Driver 14.4|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
I’ve got a good selection of comparison cards on tap today, so let’s get right to it! We’ll stick to the GPU test procedure that we’ve been using since the Haswell platform was released. If you’re not familiar with our testing method, click on the link provided for more information. For quick reference, below is the down and dirty version of what we do.
- i7 4770K @ 4 GHz
- Dual Channel DDR3-1866 9-9-9-24
- GPU @ stock and overclocked
- Monitor capable of 1920×1080
- 3DMark Vantage – DirectX 10 benchmark running at 1280X1024 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark 11 – DirectX 11 benchmark running at 1280X720 – Performance preset.
- 3DMark Fire Strike – DirectX 11 benchmark running 1920X1080 – Standard test (not extreme).
- Unigine Heaven (HWBot version) – DX11 Benchmark – Extreme setting.
- Batman: Arkham Origins – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, PhysX off, V-Sync off, The rest set to on or DX11 enhanced.
- Battlefield 4 – 1920X1080, Ultra Preset, V-Sync off.
- Bioshock Infinite – 1920X1080, Ultra DX11 preset, DOF on.
- Crysis 3 – 1920X1080, Very high settings, 16x AF, 8x MSAA, V-Sync off.
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn – 1920X1080, Maximum preset.
- Grid 2 – 1920X1080, 8x MSAA, Intel specific options off, Everything else set to highest available option.
- Metro Last Light – 1920X1080, DX11 preset, SSAA on, Tessellation very high, PhysX off.
Starting with the synthetic benchmarks, you’ll see the HIS R9 290X iTurbo IceQ X2 trading blows with the MSI R9 290X Lightning. Even though the MSI card has a higher factory overclock, the HIS card managed to top it in HWBot Heaven and 3DMark Fire Strike. 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11 showed an advantage for the MSI card. Once the HIS card was overclocked, it scaled nicely as those scores will show. The other thing you’ll notice is the EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified coming out on top in every benchmark we ran. That’s not surprising as it’s been one of the fastest single GPU video cards we’ve tested to date.
The game benchmarks show the MSI card’s higher overclock come more into play. The HIS card was right there with the MSI offering, actually topped it in the FFXIV:ARR benchmark, and tied it in Batman: Arkham Origin.
For Eyefinity testing, I picked out five of our most popular game titles and combined that with the cards we have Eyefinity/Surround results for. Eyefinity testing showed good results for the HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 with three of the five game benchmarks scoring over the 30 FPS minimum we like to see. Crysis 3 and and Metro: Last Light fell below 30 FPS, but all single GPU video cards we’ve tested to date have too. When the HIS card was overclocked, it actually managed to top the EVGA GTX 780 Ti Classified a time or two.
Temperatures and Power Consumption
The IceQ X2 cooler does a great job of keeping the card well under thermal thresholds. When the fan is set to Auto, it’s darn near inaudible as it only ramps up to around 50% under the most demanding usage scenarios. If you manually set the fan speeds to 100%, the fan noise is noticeable; but far from what I’d call obnoxiously so.
Power consumption is about as expected for a video card in this class. Idle consumption numbers are impressive with just under 100 watts at stock speed and sitting idle. Without any overclock applied to the card, the highest wattage usage was 365 watts under load. However, once overclocked, the power consumption jumped as high as 488 watts under full load. If you combine a decent amount of CPU and GPU overclocking, I’d probably recommend using a quality 650 to 750 watt power supply to leave yourself a bit of headroom.
Pushing the Limits
The quest for the highest overclock that allowed a run of 3DMark Fire Strike to complete landed at 1225 MHz GPU and 1650 MHz memory. I wouldn’t call this overclock 24/7 stable by any means, but it’s a good judge of what the card is capable of if you’re into pushing things to the extreme (LN2 anyone?). All in all, there really isn’t anything at all to complain about on the overclocking front!
The HIS R9 290X iPower IceQ X2 performed great across all our testing and proved to be a worthy contender in the crowded R9 290X market. As far as pricing goes, I don’t have a firm answer on that because the card hasn’t hit the eTailers quite yet. This exact same card without the factory applied overclock sells for $509.99 at Newegg, so I’ll venture to say you’ll see anywhere from a $20 to $30 premium added for this overclocked version. That would make the final price very attractive and certainly one of the least expensive R9 290X offerings with a factory overclock on both the GPU and memory.
The gold colored shroud and the unique grab handle give the card a look that will stand out from other manufacturer’s offerings. Just under that gold colored shroud is the IceQ X2 cooler, which does a great job of keeping the card cool at a very low noise level.
Overclocking proved easy to accomplish using the HIS iTurbo utility, especially with the ability to adjust GPU and memory voltages. Provided you have good case cooling, the card should run happily at roughly a 15% overclock. So, in the end, we have a great performing card that should be available soon at an attractive price. It’s an easy call this time around… Overclockers Approved!