MSI Gaming - Radeon R9 290 4GB Overclocked Edition

Seeing that I generally keep sacrificing my own PC to add tech to the CGPL gaming system I had a need yet again to setup a PC so I could game myself. I had just pulled my machine apart again to ship parts off to complete event tech and I was really struggling to play on the low end AMD CPU and HD6870 that I generally use for StarCraft II. With that in mind I thought I might re-visit AMD graphics cards again as I had been on a bit of a hiatus while I was tinkering with NVidia cards for our latest two Vox Gaming PC builds. Note that this is NOT a review its just an experience article, draw whatever conclusions you like from it its just me sharing my experience! 

 I just so happened to chance upon the MSI Gaming R9 290 4gb while hunting around and as I had previously used the R9 280X and before that the HD7950 I thought I might check it out as its a theoretical model step up from those and it was only $339 ( ). Here is the little beasty, its quite a lot smaller than the R9 280X I had which is a pretty good thing and unless I knew it was a R9 290 I would have just guessed it was a GTX770 as once you drop the Twin Frozr II cooling on the cards they basically look the same.  

Okay well lets get the base spec out of the way so you of the nerdier kind know what exactly we are dealing with:  

PC: AMD FX8350 CPU (water-cooled and not overclocked) 8gb Kingston HyperX Fury DDR3 1600, Intel 520 Series SSD 120GB 
Card: MSI Gaming - AMD R9 290 4G Overclocked Edition 
- 977MHz core (gaming) 
- 1007MHz core (overclocked) 
- 947MHz core (silent) 
- 4GB GDDR5 5000MHz Memory
* note MSI Gaming App used to set clock speed
Outputs: DVI-D x 2, HDMI 1.4a x1, DisplayPort x1 

So naturally first up I downloaded the latest drivers from the AMD website and got them loaded on and also the MSI Gaming App, the default mode for the app is gaming which is your mid range clock speed. The MSI Gaming App is a piece of cake you simply open it up (shown below) and click the mode you want and it adjusts the cards clock speed to suit.  

The cool thing I did find is that it has 2 handy little features of mention, the first being that if you aren't gaming at all, if you select silent mode it will drop the clock down to 300MHz so the card is basically running on "I don't really need any grunt" mode. Which is naturally better for just surfing the web when you aren't gaming as its a lower power mode compared to leaving it in gaming mode where it sits on 977MHz all the time. The other was the cool down button which gives a 40 second burst of 100% fan speed to cool the card down which may come in handy if you were to say go into battlefield4 and play on OC mode for a few hours.  

Now that being said I am a Counter Strike: Global Offensive player so naturally first thing I did was load into the game and set my video settings to my liking and off I went (SS below) 

I know that principle tells you that if you turn MSAA and Texture Filtering to minimums you should get better FPS, but I generally think that's false you get an overall smoother in game feel and your aim feels more precise if you set 4X MSAA and Anisotropic 4X for your texture filtering. I did also notice that when you first load into a game on a cold boot on this AMD card the FPS seems to increase as the card warms up so its always good to churn a few bots first to bring your card up to temp. 

Ok well onto the in game side, I had net graph running and i played out a good dozen or so MM games and numerous hours of bots and I found the results a little odd. Overall the game was nothing but smooth and if I turned the net graph off I was more than happy with the feel in game. But that being said with the net_graph 1 set I did find some pretty wild FPS fluctuation which is relatively normal depending on the complexity and draw distances on the map areas you pass through. Generally you hovered between 180-260 FPS which is beautifully smooth and deployed smokes didn't seem to cause any FPS drops at all no matter where i put them. Molly's on the other hand definitely drew some FPS drops where you would see a pretty reliable 160-180 FPS when looking through one or moving through one.  

Even stranger was that in some areas of some maps and it wasn't consistent it was somewhat on and off you would see the FPS drop into the 140 range and it wouldn't matter if you were flashing/smoking or fighting or just passing through the area. The key note to consider was that even though you would see 140-160 flickering there the game was still smooth as a baby's bum and you got no motion blur or stuttering even when the frames were dropping. I would even go as far as saying that had the net_graph been off I wouldn't have even noticed the fps drop at all which is why i often say don't run CS with your net graph on its a mental thing, if you run around for a while with your settings where you like them and its smooth don't run it. CS is a mental game and that net graph churning on your screen if you are making bad shots is just more reason to blame FPS drops for your bad aim that day.  

Ok here are a couple of shots, I took them on cache as that often seems to be the worst map when it comes to FPS or FPS drops but even still running on the longest most open areas of the maps the FPS seemed quite good: 


Okay well finally I better give you some benchmark data, so what I did was download 3DMARK (yeah the free one because I'm a cheap skate) and ran the bench over the machine (note machine specs at top of article for reference). I only ran the standard test and you can view the results here: 

Okay well that's it for this little experience article, I was thinking I might do the same for the MSI Gaming GTX760 2GB as I was generally surprise and impressed by the results I had on that card before I also shipped that off and at $299 as a basic CS:GO video card its a bit of a steal. Stay tuned for that one and thank you for reading.