It’s been a while since we reviewed the AMD reference design GPU14 graphics cards. However, now that the partner cards are becoming available, PowerColor has sent along their PCS+ R9 270X for us to have a look at. This card comes factory overclocked and has what appears to be a pretty stout cooling solution. The AMD R9 270X GPUs offer good performance at an affordable price, and I’ve been waiting to see how AMD partners incorporate these GPU14 cards into their product lineups. So, let’s see what PowerColor has been able to do as we run this card through our review process.
Specifications and Features
I pulled the specifications below from the PowerColor website, which further indicate the applied factory overclock. However, something interesting is that PowerColor actually overclocked the memory on this card too. It’s only a slight overclock of 25 MHz, but it’s still something rarely seen done by other manufacturers. Not listed in the specifications below are the Shader Units and ROPs, which come in at 1280 and 32 respectively.
|PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X Specifications|
|Graphics Engine||RADEON R9 270X|
|Video Memory||2GB GDDR5|
|Engine Clock||1060MHz (up to 1100MHz with boost)|
|Memory Clock||1425MHz (5.7Gbps)|
|Bus Standard||PCIE 3.0|
|Standard Display Connecors||DL-DVI-I/DL-DVI-D/HDMI/Display Port|
|ATI Stream Technology||Supported|
|ATI Eyefinity Technology||Supported|
|VGA Output||Via Adapter|
|VGA Max Resolution||2048×1536|
|DVI Max Resolution||2560×1600|
|DisplayPort Max Resolution||4096×2160|
|HDMI Max Resolution||4096×2160|
|Minimum System Power requirement (W)||500W|
|Power Connector||Two 6-Pin PCI Express|
Other than all the features that come along with AMD’s Graphics Core Next architecture, the PCS+ R9 270X has several PowerColor enhanced features to add to the mix. PowerColor describes their power delivery as a “Deluxe Gold Power Kit.” Here, we see a seven-phase power design that uses a digital VRM for clean and efficient power delivery. The reference design R9 270X uses a six-phase power design, so we do have an increase here. The following images and descriptions courtesy of PowerColor.
|Digital VRM: Decrease the ripple and enhance power efficiency.Ferrite Conducting Power: 33% higher power.Multi Phases Design: 5+1+1 phases board power Design.|
The PCS+ cooling design uses heatpipes, a large copper base, and a unique Dual Fan design to keep things cool. I like the looks of this cooler, and we’ll see how well it performs later in the review.
The box front is decked out in a red and black theme with the product name front and center. Along the bottom are additional details of the card’s capabilities. Around back, we find many of the features and specifications we talked about above. The box sides provide a platform for additional branding and a basic multilingual specification list.
Once the outer carton is opened, we get to the second box inside. Here, we have the card well-protected in a foam bed and wrapped in an anti-static bag. Accessories are scarce and only include a DVI to VGA adapter, driver disc, and a user’s manual.
Before I perform my customary surgical procedure, here are several images of the card from various angles, enjoy!
The PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X Up Close
The display output area is a dual-slot design that includes DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections. For power connectivity, there are two 6-pin PCI-E power sockets. The card is also Crossfire ready, so we have the appropriate connector for that as well. On the back of the card is a connector used to install the optional Turbo Timer device. This device simply plugs into the provided connection point and will keep the fans running momentarily after the system is powered off. Supposedly, this will cool the card down quicker and add to the longevity of the card. How long the fans continue to run will vary based on the amount and size of the fans found on PowerColor video cards that support this feature.
After removing the four spring loaded screws from the back of the PCB, the cooler will lift right off. The thermal paste was applied a little too thick for my liking, but probably adequate for the job at hand. The solid copper block has three heatpipes running through the center, which then curl around to engage the aluminum fin stack. Two of the copper heatpipes are 8 mm in diameter, and the third is 6 mm. After removing the shroud, we can have a better look at the 90 mm Dual Fan design we previously mentioned. The five smaller fan blades you see in the below pictures are what supposedly direct more air towards the center area of the fin stack thus increasing the airflow there. I also removed the backplate to have a look at the back side of the PCB. The backplate does a good job of supporting the PCB and minimizing any board flexing, but it doesn’t offer any cooling attributes.
Moving our attention over to the power delivery design, we see five phases dedicated to the GPU and two more for the memory. This obviously isn’t the most robust power phase design I’ve seen; but for a card in this class, it’s more than adequate. PowerColor added an aluminum heatsink over the MOSFETs to help keep them cool. A thermal pad is used for TIM here, and it was found to be well-applied and making good contact.
In order to control the power phases, PowerColor uses the digital IOR IR3567B VRM chip. The 2 GB of onboard memory is provided by the Elpida W2032BBBG-6A-F GDDR5 Modules. The memory is rated at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz quad pumped) at 1.5 V and sits on a 256-bit bus width. With the memory set at 1425 MHz, this should allow a bit of headroom for additional overclocking… we’ll see! The last image below is a look at the AMD Pitcairn GPU core.
Overclocking and Benchmarks
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Formula|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2x4GB|
|SSD||Samsung EVO 500 GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 360 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
Overclocking for Stability
Unfortunately, PowerColor doesn’t offer any supporting software of their own, so you’ll need to rely on AMD Overdrive or another utility of your choosing. In my case, I chose to use the latest beta version of MSI’s afterburner. We haven’t seen voltage control yet for any R9 270X, and that held true this time as well. Afterburner did allow core and memory speed overclocking though, so off I went in search of a 24/7 stable overclock. Even with the lack of voltage manipulation, I was still able to get the GPU raised to 1225 MHz. On the memory side, I expected a decent overclock because the Elpida memory is actually rated for speeds higher than PowerColor set them at. I wasn’t disappointed as I managed to get it stable at 1550 MHz. That, my friends, equates to an 11% GPU overclock and a 9% memory overclock. To take that one step further, when compared to the reference design cards, we end up with a 15% GPU clock speed increase and a 10% memory clock speed increase. That’s pretty impressive stuff.
We’ve migrated over to our new suite of game benchmarks, but our synthetic tests have remained the same for the most part. Below is the down and dirty explanation of what we do, but please visit our GPU Testing Procedure page for a detailed rundown of the process.
- 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.
Armed with our 24/7 overclock setting, let’s get to benchmarking this card. The synthetic benchmarks show the PCS+ R9 270X landing right where expected. It holds pretty tight to the GTX 760 and also beats the reference R9 270X and R9 270. Once the card was overclocked, it really showed some good numbers and actually beat out the GTX 670 and GTX 760 a time or two.
Moving over to our game benchmarks, we see a very similar pattern. Again, as expected, we see good gains over the reference design R9 270X and R9 270. Once we applied the overclock, it held very tight to the GTX 760 in most cases. Keeping in mind the R9 270X series is meant to go head to head with the GTX 660, it’s nice to see it compete with the higher level GTX 760 in many of our tests.
Pushing the Limits
Pushing the limits turned out to be short and sweet. I wasn’t able to get any more from the memory side, and the GPU would only manage another 10 MHz before artifacting began. Not having any voltage control makes it difficult to get much at all past our 24/7 stable overclock. About all I could get for you was a run of 3DMark Fire Strike with the additional 10 MHz.
Temperature and Power Consumption
The PCS+ cooler did a fantastic job of keeping the GPU cool under all test conditions. The fan is barely audible up to around 60% fan speed, but noticeably loud when ramped up to 100%. Given the performance of the cooler, coupled with the lack of GPU voltage adjustments, there really isn’t a need to take the fan off of auto control. It will do just fine left there.
Our temperature testing procedure entails running HWBot Heaven at both stock and overclocked settings. The results are normalized to 25 °C ambient. Testing includes the fan control set to auto and then again with the fan speed set to 100%. Here are the results, which clearly show the PCS+ cooler is up to the task.
Our power consumption tests are done using a Kill-a-Watt with wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to hopefully get the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I take this testing one step further and also provide results with the video card overclocked. Keep in mind, these numbers are total system draw, not just the video card.
When idle, the card simply sips power with the total system draw coming in at just over 100 watts. The maximum system draw I could produce was 277 watts when overclocked, which is still pretty impressive.
The least expensive R9 270X on Newegg is…well, this one! At $199.99, it’s 10 bucks cheaper than anything else with the same out-of-box overclock. I’ve seen a couple reference design R9 270X cards (except for the cooler) sell for the same price or even more than the PCS+ R9 270X. So, we definitely have a card on our hands that’s priced right.
On the performance side, the PCS+ R9 270X did quite well and plowed right through all our testing without so much as a hiccup. Overclocking proved to be very fruitful, even without being able to raise voltages. I love the fact that PowerColor used memory that is rated for speeds much faster than they have it set at, which is undoubtedly why they felt comfortable giving the memory a slight overclock at the factory. However, as you saw in the overclocking section, the card is capable of much more on both the memory and GPU side.
I had a feeling just from looking at the design of the PCS+ cooler it would perform quite well. It didn’t disappoint and kept the card cooled off nicely at a respectable noise level. Darn nice cooler this PCS+ is!
Aesthetically speaking, the black and red design will look great in any similarly colored system build. The addition of a backplate not only adds support for the card, but also adds to the good looks.
To wrap things up, we have a great performing card that overclocks very well, and it might just be the best R9 270X bang-for-buck card there is right now. If you have a R9 270X on the radar for your next graphics card purchase, take a good look at this one.