AMD has certainly kept our test benches busy lately, with the debut of two Fiji-based flagships, namely the liquid-cooled Radeon Fury X and its surprisingly capable air-cooled little brother, theRadeon Fury. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the Radeon R9 390X, specifically Asus’ handsome STRIX offering.
Don’t Call It Hawaii!
“Rebadge” or “rebrand” are dirty words in the GPU space. Those are words that describe a GPU maker taking an existing architecture, wrapping it up with some new software features, tweaked frequencies, and perhaps updated aesthetics, and presenting it with a shiny bow as a new product. Initially that’s the impression we got about AMD’s Radeon 300 series, and for reference products, that may very well be the case, but after spending time with the Asus STRIX Radeon R9 390X, that would be somewhat of an unfair conclusion.
The Radeon R9 390X isn’t simply a 290X with a mildly increased GPU clock. That 5% boost to the GPU clock is there – from 1000MHz to 1050MHz, but there’s thankfully more to it. The Hawaii architecture launched 18 months ago, and since then AMD has tweaked the manufacturing process, made some microcode enhancements, and improved thermals and power. The 390X also rocks much faster GDDR5 memory, and of course a twofold increase in the standard complement of video memory–8GB (up from 4GB).
AMD claims a 10% performance boost in games compared to the 290X, and we’ll put that to the test. If you already have a 290X that may not be enough to warrant jumping on this train. However, thanks to the new Catalyst 15.7 drivers, you can CrossFire a 290X with a 390X. If you’re looking to double your graphics horsepower without dipping both feet into 300 Series waters, it may be a compelling option. Let’s dig in.
Introducing the Asus Strix Radeon 390x
Retailing for $469 MSRP, the Asus STRIX Radeon R9 390X takes the universal 50MHz GPU clock speed bump and ramps it up to 1070MHz. The card utilizes Asus’ DirectCU III cooling solution with triple wing-blade fans and boasts “0dB Fan Technology,” a welcome feature we’re starting to see as the default in several newer video cards. On paper, this means completely silent gaming in some scenarios, by eliminating fan nosie until the GPU reaches 65 degrees Celsius.
In reality, this is only going to benefit you when working on the desktop or playing very light-duty games with less demanding graphical requirements. But since we are talking about a $469 card, I think it’s fair to focus primarily on those graphically intensive games, so we’ll revisit this feature and operating temps overall after we drop some gaming benchmarks.
Contributing to the cooling solution are a pair of 10mm heatpipes, and a sturdy backplate protects the PCB and ideally prevents it from bending over time.
Asus also offers a range of display connectivity: 1 DVI-D, 1 HDMI, and three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs in total. And from an aesthetic standpoint the card screams quality. A red and white glowing STRIX LED adorns the side, and to the right of that a pair of LEDs indicate whether or not your PCI-e power cables are plugged in properly. Overall, the shroud really pops with its red and black color scheme, and the card looks sharp.