MSI R9 290X Lightning Edition
MSI R9 290X Lightning
By the time you read this article, AMD's current single GPU flagship graphics card, the Radeon R9 290X, will have celebrated its first birthday since it was released to the world. Since then, the card has been through the hands of many different manufacturers, all of whom have overclocked the card and built their own heatsinks and coolers for the card. MSI, however, may have gone a little overboard when they created the Lightning edition of the R9 290X.
Like the GTX 780 Lightning, the R9 290X Lightning sports the same oversized heatsink and triple fans on top of it, and with good (if not obvious) reason: it's designed to aggressively keep the card cool from the heat it generates. To this extent, the R9 290X Lightning is a noisy card, both when it is idle and when it's working on a full load, with the emphasis on its idleness. Even when we browse the web, the card's three fans were furiously spinning away.
But for what it is worth, the enormous heatsink and three fans actually do their jobs, keeping the card's overall temperature hovering between 65 and 73 degrees Celsius.
There are drawbacks to this card, and those drawbacks actually boil down to its physical design and power consumption. Once installed, the card takes up two PCIe slots, so if you're looking at a CrossFire configuration, you'll only be able to do a dual or Tri-CrossFire configuration, depending on the size of your motherboard. Regarding the power consumption, the card requires two 8-pins and one 6-pin connectors.
When the original R9 290X first hit the shelves, AMD themselves aggressively overclocked the card all the way from 850MHz to a massive 1,000MHz. MSI's R9 290X Lightning, however, has been overclocked to 1,080MHz. During our testing, we actually managed to push past that number and got the card's Boost Clock speed up to 1,150MHz.
To test the card, we ran Unigine Heaven 4.0 and 3DMark's main benchmarks for high-end gaming PCs: Fire Strike, Fire Strike Extreme, the new Fire Strike Ultra, and Sky Diver. On Unigine Heaven, the R9 290X Lightning managed an average of 53 FPS, while the scores for the 3DMark benchmarks were 10,310, 5,192, 2,797, and 28,944 respectively.
For real-world testing, we ran Crysis 3, Batman: Arkham Origins and Hitman: Absolution. Crysis 3 gave us an average FPS of 42 with the MSAA set at the highest setting, and doubled that once we turned off antialiasing. On Batman: Arkham Origins, the R9 290X absolutely outperformed the game, averaging 105 FPS throughout the game. Hitman: Absolution paced the card at an average framerate of 46 FPS with antialiasing on, and close to 60 FPS with anti-aliasing off.