MSI Radeon R9-290X Gaming
We have seen many MSI custom PCB or fully custom PCB or even just custom cooled cards and they always impress with some very nice temps along with looking pretty awesome as well. The gaming series carries the Red/Black theme with a custom Twin Frozr model cooler and offers usually a nice overclock with some really good gaming performance to offer some amazing framerates for the end-user.
The card we have today needs no introduction as the R9-290X from AMD made a big splash when it entered the market although not all of the noise was good as users quickly found that the reference cards were plagued with massive heat from a simply inadequate cooler design. Well that being the case we do know that the Twin Frozr cooler design does very well at removing heat so the 290X is naturally a perfect candidate for testing just how well the cooler works as the thermal load from the 290X GPU is intense so if MSIs Twin Frozr can pull off a good showing it will just be proof positive of what we had said previously in praise of the MSI cooling solution.
The R9-290X Gaming card hits the market at an unsettling 699.99 via Newegg at the time of writing and this is cause by the unfortunate mining craze going on presently which is causing a shortage of AMD GPUs. This in the end pushed AMD GPU prices into a price point where they cannot readily contend and the normal value aspect of buying an AMD gaming card is simply not there.
Military Class 4 Components
MSI has long touted the Military Class components on their cards due to the fact that they are specially tested components, not just by them but by a third-party testing center according to the enclosed certificate. “Military Class components” sounds nice, but are they really necessary on a card or motherboard? Honestly, no as most times the reference components are good enough to do their job. However, they are not designed to push the limits to the extreme. The answer is better and stronger components. Most manufacturers worth their salt will use better components, so in order to try and stand out, MSI uses “Military Class” components in an attempt to ensure better hardware reliability.
Military Class Component Testing
When MSI puts military class components to the fire they are not joking as they come to the table claiming to have passed multiple tests following Mil spec (MIL-STD-810G) tests including:
- Temperature Shock testing: Sudden thermal changes which can normally wreak havoc on electrical components are fully tested on these components to ensure they can last through some of the worst conditions like lets say what the extreme enthusiasts community may employ them for. Although im sure the Lightning card will be more in that category it’s still nice to know it’s there.
- Humidity Testing: Testing of components in different humidity conditions can make a big difference as to the capabilities of the cards as different areas can have much different environments and not every deployment will be like a sterile lab and knowing they can take that kind of abuse once again is a major plus.
- Vibration tests: This one is a little nuts but being in California I guess if I have an earthquake I can ensure the shaking wont affect the components.
- Low Pressure Testing: This once again is a little extreme as deployment for different elevations especially extreme enough to require low pressure testing is gonna be extremely rare if ever but it will handle it.
- High Temperature Testing: This one should be a standard for every component in a high end PC as thermals are the enemy of every enthusiasts rig so I like to see such attention paid here.
- Low Temperature Testing: Once again I think something more targeted at the Lightning model, but the fact that they test these cards to withstand LN2 benchmarking temperatures tells me that under standard gaming stresses this card is gonna run and keep on running.
- Shock Testing: This is once again more extreme as these are similar to drop or rough impact testing which even if the card survives I’m sure other components may not fare so well in this kind of scenario.
So what we can take from this is that this card may survive the nuclear apocalypse or even a Zombie infestation but well in the case of a nuclear apocalypse this card looks like it could probably take it, and with The North Korea situation maybe you can hide behind a stack of these cards.
Advanced Twin Frozr IV Cooler
MSI introduced the Twin Frozr cooler quite some time ago. The Twin Frozr is MSI’s version of the custom cooler to keep the GPU and components cool on the card.
Here we see some advantages of the cooler design, including the dual propeller blade fans which work in tandem to ensure plenty of air is moved through the fin array for a cooler running GPU and also onboard components.
The propeller blade design is made to offer some serious airflow without the fan noise we had heard before and compared to the cards we had issue with before related to sound I would say they took that feedback and really got it figured out.
The complete cover heatsink is a nice dual purpose design as it works as a heatspreader for the VRM/memory components but also it helps stiffen the PCB quite a bit which makes for a much stronger and more durable card.
MSI offers its own software utility. MSI Afterburner is co-developed with Rivatuner which is very similar to what the other top manufacturers are offering.
Above you can see it in action and with the Dragoon Army skin it looks really good. One thing that troubles me is that the Voltage control is not working presently but last time I ran into this it was simply a beta Afterburner needed for the newer card so as soon as I hear from MSI about this I will update.
MSI Gaming App
The Gaming app is a cool design as it offers a simple to use interface where users can quickly set a overclock or even Eco setting without having to work with the Afterburner app which for some can be a bit confusing especially for a newer or inexperienced user
Above you can see the small footprint of the gaming app. there is an addition to this gaming app vs the very first one I had used on the GTX 770 which it now has a cooldown button which you will notice as the snowflake above the silent mode button. This allows quick timed bursts of the fan up to 70% to rapidly cool the card when needed I am guessing if benching or stressing the card this could be pretty handy to cool down quickly between runs.
Performance - 8.5
Value - 8
Quality - 9
Features - 9
Innovation - 8.5
MSI did a great job on the R9-290X Gaming card and when they fix the GPU voltage control issue it will be amazing however until this mining craze is over the value aspect will be lost as prices are moving to unsettling levels.