Performance Results

By default, our reference Radeon R9 290 runs at a top clock speed of 947 MHz.  With the NZXT installed, we were able to overclock it to 1150 MHz without much issue, a sizeable 21% increase in clock speed. 

Nicely done!  But the real question is about consistency of this clock speed!

This graph shows the clock speed of the R9 290 over time you can see that within 300 seconds or so the reference model was running into a thermal block and was downclocking to near 900 MHz.  With the Kraken X40 and G10 at work though, the R9 290 was able to maintain the 1150 MHz clock speed.

Over this 8 minute period, the average clock speed with the NZXT hardware installed was just under 1150 MHz while the reference cooler was much lower.  

Oops, sorry for the typo.  The green bar is Idle, blue bar is Load.

Even more impressive perhaps is the sound level improvements of this cooler over the reference design.  At load, the R9 290 was running at 48.5 dbA with the cooler AMD provided while the combination of the 80mm and 140mm fans for the NZXT K40 + G10 combo only hit 33.7 dbA.  That is a HUGE sound level difference and should make any reference R9 290/290X user pine for this kind of setup.

How do the temperatures compare between the two configurations?  It's not even close – the NZXT G10 bracket with the X40 cooler allows the R9 290 to run more than 40C lower at load.  That is not a typo – 40 degrees Celsius!!

There is a downside though – the temperature of VRM1 was approaching 100C with the NZXT cooler installed but only reached 65-70C with the reference cooler.  Clearly the removal of heatsinks on the VRM is problematic and could cause issues with overclockability on some cards.  Increasing the speed of the 80mm fan might help this but I think a better solution is to purchase some generic stick-on heatsinks to use in addition to the fan.  

Closing Thoughts

The Kraken G10 will only run you $30 if you can locate it, though availability appears to be getting scarce as of now.  You can still find it for sale on NZXT's website, though both Newegg and Amazon are out of stock.  If you happen to have a water cooler that will work with the G10 already on hand, the $30 cost to custom cool your reference Radeon R9 290 or Radeon R9 290X is a steal.  If you have to purchase the water cooler as well the cost and benefit ratio gets skewed a bit.  The Corsair H55 might work for $60 – but double check on compatibility.  

I do believe that any user that has a reference cooled R9 290 or 290X card will see a huge benefit if they go with a third party cooler instead.  There are already some other heatsink/fan combinations around that will work as well, but the NZXT G10 allows you to combine what is likely the quietest and coolest option on a GPU that definitely needs it.

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