Remember in a previous review I said you would see a slew of HIS GPU reviews? Are you tired of them yet? If so, too bad! I’m certainly not, and today we have a R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC on the test bench. HIS again beefs up the reference 290 on both the hardware and cooling side, along with a pretty unique color scheme and look. Scroll on down the page and see how she performed and see if the appearance tickles your eye!
Specifications and Features
Below is a list of specifications sourced from the HIS website. The 290 is of course based off of the new AMD architecture. The 290 has 2,560 Stream Processors sitting on a 512-bit wide bus sporting 4GB of GDDR5 running at a frequency of 1250 MHz. The core comes in at 967 MHz. Outputs are of the usual fare with Displayport, HDMI and a DVI. With a card of this caliber, a 500W or greater (quality) power supply is recommended.
|HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC|
|Model Name||HIS R9 290 IceQ x2 OC 4GB GDDR5 PCI-E 2x DLDVI-D/DP/HDMI|
|Chipset||AMD Radeon R9 290|
|Memory Size||4096 MB|
|Core Clock||Up to 967 MHz|
Up to 5000 Gbps
|Power Requirements||500W (or greater) power supply with two 150W 8-pin PCI Express power connectors recommended|
|Max. Resolution (per Display)||DisplayPort 1.2 – 4096×2160
HDMI – 4096x2160Dual Link DVI with HDCP – 2560×1600
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|Outputs||2x DLDVI-D + DisplayPort+ HDMI|
As briefly mentioned above, HIS has taken AMD’s reference design and have added to it a bit. The reference 290 brought with it eight power phases while the iPower IceQ X2 OC uses nine as well as using two 8-pin PCIe power connectors versus a 6 + 8 pin configuration. HIS calls this “iPower”, which gives the card more clean power to help with your overclocking adventures.
Of course the iCooler claims of Cooler and Quieter ring here as well with claims of being cooler than reference (not exactly a high benchmark to beat!), and quieter (also not difficult to attain). And to be frank, it does just that in keeping things cooler, but especially quieter than the reference R9 290.
Since the PCB is beefed up as well as the cooling, HIS offers a bit of an overclock out of the box for this card with its core coming in at 967 MHz and vMem at 1250 MHz.
iPower for More Voltage, More Overclocking
iPower design allows the card to carry more voltage, expanding overclocking capability to a new level! The 290 IceQ X2 OC has an 9 phase PWM and uses two 8 pin PCIe power connectors while the reference model has 8 and uses an 8+6 pin PCIe setup.
|CoolerWith 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.|
OC is Faster
The card has the latest OC technology, providing extra performance for the most demanding games and applications!
Next up are some more detailed slides of what HIS has done to this card to set it apart from its many peers. We see our first glimpse of the gold colored cooler sporting two 89mm axial fans, a backplate on the PCB with a nifty (though not needed and a bit peculiar looking to an otherwise aesthetically pleasing card) handle that sticks up just taller than the heatpipes for easier carrying.
Another one of the many features on this card is having a dual BIOS. The main purpose of these BIOS’ are for different fan profiles, a ‘silent’ and ‘gaming’ type of profile where the fan spins up a bit more aggressively (I suggest you use this if you do any gaming). Also, if for some reason – either through you flashing it or some other way – one goes bad, you can fall back to the other.
HIS also has implemented an improved power design by adding a dynamic phase control PWM IC for power savings (at idle/light loads it does not use all phases). Along with the increased number of power phases, a digital power design as well as using 2 Oz. of copper on the PCB, are also improvements over the reference model.
Below is the screenshot of GPU-Z which confirms the specifications mentioned above. As you can see, the card comes in at 967 MHz on the core and 1250 MHz on the 4GB 512-bit memory interface. The card sports 2,560 Stream Processors along with 64 ROPs and 160 TMUs.
Our first pictures will be of the retail packaging. As we have seen from our numerous other HIS reviews, the packaging is in their cool blue theme with snow and ice. One of the first things that jumps out is the iPower IceQ X2 naming, and we also see a small picture of the card, some cooler, quieter, and ‘OC’ symbols noting the cooling configuration and that it is overclocked out of the box. Flipping the box over is more marketing and details about the iCooler as well as some system requirements.
Per usual there is not too much to see on the sides of the boxes outside of the outputs and other high-level specifications on the other side.
As is typical with HIS, they emplore a ‘box in box’ setup with the card sitting snug and well-protected inside of the jet black box.
Photo Op – Meet the HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ x2 OC
Ahh, there it is folks, in all of its golden glory, the HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC. I’m sure most remember the iCooler, specifically the shroud with the neat aluminum honeycomb ‘X’ in the middle, but perhaps not in its golden glory, but black. They needed something to stand out, and they sure did it. You will either love or hate this color scheme (this goes well with those ASUS boards that are gold in color). Outside of the shroud, we see the 89mm fans mentioned previously to help keeping things cool. Also pictured is the handle which sticks up a bit above the heatpipes.
Flipping the card around to the backside, we see a black backplate that covers around 3/4 of the card sans the ends. The backplate, like the shroud on the front of the card, has a honeycomb pattern on it as well, though its painted on here. The card does have quite a solid feel to it, which I would expect regardless with this cooler and backplate.
A Closer Look
Zooming in a bit on the card, the first picture shows the outputs. You have a typical compliment of DisplayPort, HDMI, and two DVI. Plenty. Next up are the power requirements. Being a 250W board power card, two 8-pin PCIe plugs will be needed.
As we take off the iCooler from the card, we can see HIS uses a copper base along with multi-sized heatpipes varying from three 6mm to two 8mm “super pipes” as another board maker calls that particular size. The fin array isn’t very dense, but the number of pipes snaking through them along with that copper base should keep things pretty cool regardless.
The next picture shows the PCB with the ram cooler/holder still attached. It also has a separate heatsink to cool the VRMs. You likely can’t see it in the next picture, but this heatsink did make good contact with all the memory ICs.
The last pictures show the card in its birthday suit. Don’t worry, its SFW!
Here we see the power bits up close and the IR 3567B controller.
Next up is the Hynix Memory IC (H5GQ2H24AFR-ROC) which comes in at 1.35v and 1250 MHz. Here is to hoping for some good headroom with factory specs on these chips as only limited voltage control is available.
Software – HIS iTurbo
I bet after all these reviews we know what the HIS iTurbo software looks like, so I will not go into detail but simply show you the screenshots in this gallery. It is an adequate and functional solution, there is no doubt there.
Performance and Benchmarks
- Intel i7 4770K @ 4 GHz, 1.1 V
- MSI Z97 XPower AC
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
- 240 GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W PSU
- HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC @ 967 MHz/1250 MHz Memory, and Overclocked @ 1124 MHz/1400 MHz memory
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- AMD 14.6 beta RC
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the Overclockers.com reviews).
Note all testing below uses 1920×1080 screen resolution.
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) – Extreme setting
- Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
- Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High, Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
- Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
- Bioshock: Infinite – Ultra DX11, DDOF (through Steam – option # 2, then option #1 assuming your are at 1080p)
- Batman: Arkham Origin – 8xMSAA, Geometry Details/Dynamic Shadows/DOF/Ambient Occlusion: DX11 Advanced, Hardware PhysX: OFF, the rest On or High
- Grid 2 – 8xMSAA, Ultra defaults + Soft Ambient Occlusion: ON
- Final Fantasy XIV:ARR – Default Maximum setting
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures
Getting on with things, we start our benchmarks off with synthetic testing using 3DMark Vantage. Here the HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC scores 34,463, beating out its equally clocked Visiontek 290 and falling a bit behind the higher clocked MSI 290 Gaming and last just a few percent behind the GTX 780.
In 3DMark 11, the HIS 290 scored 13,185 while beating out the Visiontek by a couple percent and matching the higher clocked MSI and the GTX 780. A nice showing here in a more modern benchmark.
Next, we get into the latest 3DMark (Fire Strike). In this benchmark we see the HIS 290 score 9,163 besting the Visiontek again by a couple of percent and around the same as the MSI 290 and GTX 780.
Last up in our synthetic suite is Unigine Heaven (Hwbot, Extreme). Here it scored 2,892 while matching the Visiontek and being ever so slightly behind the MSI 290 and GTX 780.
Let’s see how she does in actual games…
I always like to start with our GPU killers here so we do so with Crysis 3. Here the HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC averaged 36.2 FPS at stock speeds and 40.1 while overclocked. At stock speeds it matched or beat everything but the MSI 290 but all of the like cards were within 1 FPS anyway… a statistical tie to me.
Next up is Metro: Last Light. Here we see 43.5 and 49.3 FPS stock and overclocked respectively out of the HIS card while matching or beating the others, again by about 1 FPS.
Last up is my favorite game, Battlefield 4. Here the HIS 290 manages to put up 71.4 FPS stock and 79 FPS while overclocked. It looks like there are some driver improvements here over the Visiontek, while matching the MSI and easily beating the GTX 780.
Next up, we have Bioshock: Infinite. In this benchmark the HIS 290 pulled off 91.9 FPS stock falling short only to the GTX 780. In Batman: Arkham Origins, she reached 98 FPS stock matching its 290 brothers but getting waxed by the GTX 780 in this title (TWIMTBP). Last up in games is my now 2nd favorite driving game (the new Grid Autosport replaces this one as my fave) Grid 2. Here we see 104.1 FPS out of the HIS 290 again only losing to the GTX 780, and by quite a bit here.
As far as pushing the limits goes. I wasn’t able to push more on the core no matter what voltage as I would get artifacts and freezing. Disappointing, but hey, you can’t win every silicon lottery. Still, a 150 MHz overclock isn’t anything to scoff at, that is for sure. As always, your mileage may vary in the overclocking world.
The memory I was able to push it up to the MSI AB limit of 1625 MHz a HUGE increase from stock and that was with a mere +50 mv increase! Even though there are improvements to be had by overclocking the memory, the majority of increases would still come from the increase in GPU clock speeds, so I decided to leave it with this and move on.
Cooling and Power Consumption
Moving on to the temperatures that the card produced under their venerable “iCooler”, we see the warmest temperature reached was 76 °C. While that seems a bit warm, what needs to be told here is I left the BIOS switch in its default/quiet mode. When the card maxed out at 76 °C, the fan ramped up to a darn near silent 44%. I could not hear them over a few Yate Loons at 1K RPM, that is for sure. So for being dead silent, it kept things pretty cool and there was no throttling of clockspeeds even in this mode. Well done HIS!
Not pictured in this graph is the more aggressive fan profile results. The peak temperature I saw there was 71 °C with the fan ramping up to around 55%. We should be able to take away from this that there is plenty of headroom left in the cooler to keep this card cool… and it is very silent until you get past the 65% mark. Even at 100% though its not bad at all. Again, well done on this cooler implementation. While it may not be the best performing of those we have tested in the past, it certainly does its job well and quietly to boot.
Moving on down to the power consumption side of things. This card falls in line with all the others we reviewed really, so there is nothing exciting to see really. At stock clocks, things peaked at 365W, while overclocked I managed to see 399W with the ‘trusty’ old Kill-A-Watt meter. A quality 550W PSU will be plenty to power this card overclocked to the moon and some overclocking on the CPU.
HIS brought to the market another solid choice in the 290 landscape with their R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC. With its slightly beefier PCB to its solid performing (and silent when not pushed past a certain point) iCooler attached, they have again brought a very viable option to users.
One great thing I have noticed since I last reviewed their cards is that with this version of cooler there is room to get the power plugs on and off. Their blower style cooler you literally had to bend it a little to get my fingers in there. A minor inconvenience to be sure, but still worth a mention. The look of the card may not fit in everyone’s theme being the shiny gold, but its doesn’t really ring too terrible to me. As I said earlier, grab a gold colored board from ASUS and things should match quite nicely there for sure.
Price-wise, the HIS R9 290 iPower IceQ X2 OC comes in at $379.99 at Newegg.com. That is the least expensive of ALL the 290s Newegg has listed by $20 (not including MIR). So with its better than reference PCB on this iPower version, quiet and solid performing cooling solution in their iCooler, as well as being the cheapest available, go get it if you are looking for a 290. This card is Overclockers.com approved!
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)