PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X Graphics Card Review

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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.

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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)
Memory Interface 256bit
DirectX® Support 11.1
Bus Standard PCIE 3.0
Standard Display Connecors DL-DVI-I/DL-DVI-D/HDMI/Display Port
OpenGL Supported
CrossFireX™ Technology Supported
ATI Stream Technology Supported
ATI Eyefinity Technology Supported
VGA Output Via Adapter
DVI Output DL-DVI-I/DL-DVI-D
DisplayPort On Board
HDMI On Board
HDCP Support Support
VGA Max Resolution 2048×1536
DVI Max Resolution 2560×1600
DisplayPort Max Resolution 4096×2160
HDMI Max Resolution 4096×2160
Board Dimensions 240mmx111mmx38mm
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.

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powercolor_r9270x (3) 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.

powercolor_r9270x (2) 90mm Ultra Huge Dual Fan Design: Provide 17% more air flow.2pcs 8mm +1pcs 6mm Large Heat Pipes: Efficiently cools down the temp.Pure Copper Base: 100% GPU coverage and carry away excessive heat efficiently.
powercolor_r9270x (4) The Double Blades fan design can absorb airflow into the center, and increase up to 20% airflow compared to traditional design, even can prevent the dust depositing at the bearings and the bottom of fan, prolonging the life cycle of the thermal and also video card.

Packaging/Accessories/First Look

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.

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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.

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Photo Op

Before I perform my customary surgical procedure, here are several images of the card from various angles, enjoy!

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

powercolor_r9270x (26)

PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

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.

Display Outputs

Display Outputs

Power Connectors

Power Connectors

Crossfire Connection

Crossfire Connection

Turbo Timer Connection

Turbo Timer Connection

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.

PCS+ Cooler Removed

PCS+ Cooler Removed

The PCS+ Cooler

The PCS+ Cooler

Copper Block and Heatpipes

Copper Block and Heatpipes

Copper Block and Heatpipes

Copper Block and Heatpipes

Shroud Removed

Shroud Removed

PCS+ Dual Fan Design

PCS+ Dual Fan Design

Dual Fan Design Up Close

Dual Fan Design Up Close

Backplate Removed

Backplate Removed

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.

MOSFET Heatsink

MOSFET Heatsink

MOSFET Heatsink Removed

MOSFET Heatsink Removed

GPU Power Phases

GPU Power Phases

GPU Power Phases

GPU Power Phases

GPU Power Phases

GPU Power Phases

Memory Power Phases

Memory Power Phases

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.

IOR Voltage Regulation Module

IOR Voltage Regulation Module

Elpida Memory

Elpida Memory

The Pitcairn GPU Core

The Pitcairn GPU Core

Overclocking and Benchmarks

Test System

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.

HWBot Heaven @ 1225 GPU/1550 Memory

HWBot Heaven @ 1225 GPU/1550 Memory

3DMark Fire Strike @ 1225 GPU/1550 Memory

3DMark Fire Strike @ 1225 GPU/1550 Memory

Benchmarking Methods

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.

Synthetic Tests

  • 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.

Game Tests

  • 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.

Benchmarks

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.

HWBot Heaven Results

HWBot Heaven Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

3DMark Fire Strike Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark 11 Results

3DMark Vantage Results

3DMark Vantage Results

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.

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Batman: Arkham Origin Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Battlefield 4 Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Bioshock Infinite Results

Crysis 3 Results

Crysis 3 Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Final Fantasy XIV: ARR Results

Grid 2 Results

Grid 2 Results

Metro: Last Light Results

Metro: Last Light Results

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.

3DMark Fire Strike @ 1235 MHZ GPU/1550 MHz Memory

3DMark Fire Strike @ 1235 MHZ GPU/1550 MHz Memory

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.

Temperature Test Results

Temperature Test Results

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.

Power Consumption Test Results

Power Consumption Test Results

Conclusion

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.

Overclockers_clear_approvedClick the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

Dino DeCesari (Lvcoyote)

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