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MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning Overclocked Video Card Review

MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning Overclocked Video Card Review

We check out the very badass Radeon R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC from MSI. Follow on as Shawn puts it through its paces and sees how it performs.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, Apr 4 2014 3:58 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 37 IMAGES

MSI has always been one of our favorite brands when it comes to video cards due to the simple fact that they have some of the best series on the market. Combine that with the fact that they offer both NVIDIA and AMD based cards, and you end up with just an arsenal of awesome video cards.

Sitting at the top of the series is the Lightning line up of cards, which is reserved for the fastest single GPU setups from both AMD and NVIDIA. While we're yet to see the company do anything with the new GTX 780 TI, today they've finally attacked the R9 290X 4GB from AMD, a popular card that continues to sell out on a consistent basis.

There's really not much more that needs to be said about the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC card. We know all about the Lightning series and we're far from new to the R9 series let alone the R9 290X 4GB. So, let's just get into the package and find out just what MSI has provided.

Package

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Taking a look at the box design, you can see we've got a fairly simple setup going on with the front. You can clearly see the brand and model along with the fact it's part of the Lightning Series and comes overclocked out of the box. Turning the box over, you can see we've got a lot more detail on some of the main features that are being offered.

Across the top, you can see that a large amount of focus is placed on the cooler with its Dust Removal Technology, SuperPipe Technology, and Triple fan setup. You can also see mention on the Triple Level Signals, Pure Digital PWM Control, Enhanced Power Design, and Twin BIOS. Across the bottom half of the box, you can see the focus is on the Military Class 4 Components, which brings with it Copper Mosfets, Highly-Conductive Capacitors, Super Ferrite Chokes, and Dark Solid Capacitors. All make for a card that will perform faster thanks to its ability to handle the heavy abuse overclockers give it.

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Taking the package out of the box, you can see we've got a really nice setup. The top opens up and gives us a look at the card, and you can see a tab at the bottom that pulls out and gives us our accessories. It's just one of the many nice touches that the Lightning Series from MSI brings to the table.

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As we start to dive into the package, it's all a very standard affair. You can see we've got a quick user guide, standard manual, driver CD, and Certificate of Quality and Stability for the Military Class components.

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Checking out the cables, you can see we've got two 6-Pin to 8-Pin PCIe Power Connectors along with a dual Molex to 6-Pin PCIe power Connector. Along the right side, you can see our three V-Check cables, which we'll talk about a little more when we look at the card. Across the bottom, you can see a heat sink that is used if you remove the cooler and opt for Water or LN2 cooling. It's something only the more hardcore overclockers will opt for.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Taking a look at the card, you might feel it looks familiar. This isn't the first time we've seen this particular Twin Frozr cooler as it was seen on the MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3GB we looked at late last year. It did a good job there, and hopefully it will continue to do a good job today on the R9 290X. As for the overall design, you can see it's a triple fan setup with a larger fan on each end and a slightly smaller one in the middle. It carries with it a massive heat sink behind the fans and a large amount of heat pipes that help make for a triple slot card that weighs a solid 1,580 grams.

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Taking the time to start to move around the card, you can see on the back of the card we have our three V-Check points. With the help of the cables we showed in the package and a Volt Meter, you're able to get an accurate measurement of the voltage on the Aux, Core, and Memory. This isn't a feature that everyone is going to use; instead, like the bracket shown in the previous page, it's going to be reserved for the more hardcore overclocker.

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Continuing to move around the card, you can see that power comes in a massive setup with two 8-Pin PCIe connectors and a single 6-Pin PCIe connector. The reference R9 290X 4GB and every other one we've received to date uses the standard single 8-Pin PCIe and 6-Pin PCIe connector setup. As we head to the front of the card, there's not a whole lot going on with just the BIOS switch that lets us switch between the two BIOS that are installed. You can, of course, see we don't have any CrossFire connectors as they're not needed for the R9 290 and R9 290X.

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Heading over to the I/O department to finish our look at the card, you can see we've got the standard connection setup with two Dual-Link DVI-D connectors alongside a single HDMI and DisplayPort connector to round things off.

Specifications

Checking out the specifications of the card, it comes as no surprise that MSI has overclocked it out of the box. When you look at a Lightning card, though, you don't simply run it at its out-of-the-box clock speeds. Before we cover the overclocking, though, you can see below that the core has been pushed up to 1080MHz from the default 1000MHz.

As for the 4GB of GDDR5, in typical MSI fashion, that has been left alone. You can see below that it remains at the reference clocked 5000MHz QDR.

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Bumping up the voltages, you can see above that we got some solid numbers out of the card. The core was pushed up to 1185MHz, while the 4GB of GDDR5 was pushed to 5300MHz QDR.

This is an overclock that is both stronger than the recently looked at Twin Frozr Gaming OC version of the card from MSI and the Tri-X OC version from Sapphire.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

Today we're, of course, focusing on high-end cards in our graphs here. Next to our overclocked MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC, we've got the reference R9 290X 4GB running in "Uber Mode" alongside the recently looked at MSI R9 290X Twin Frozr Gaming OC, which has its core running at 1,110MHz.

As for the NVIDIA side of things, we've got the MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3GB, which is running at 1,020MHz on the core, and the reference GTX 780 Ti 3GB to round things off.

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer more intensive games with benchmarks comes to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance, 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, you can see that the strong overclock we've got on our MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC helps put the card ahead of all our other setups here at both presets. Let's see how everything looks as we move forward.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark

Buy It Here

Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.

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3DMark Fire Strike looks great, and you can see that the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC is the only setup that breaks the 11,000 point mark.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

This new benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies.

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While Heaven has tended to always favor the NVIDIA offerings thanks to the heavy emphasis on Tessellation, you can see above the strong overclock from the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC means we're able to come out ahead of everything at both resolutions.

Benchmarks - Phantasy Star Online 2

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.sega.com/?t=EnglishUSA

Product Homepage: http://www.pso2.com/us/html/index.html

Play Phantasy Star Online 2 and experience revolutionary combat in an action-driven, free-to-play multiplayer online RPG from SEGA. Take a journey into an immersive sci-fi fantasy narrative and explore mysterious world's to unravel their secrets. Join fellow adventurers and fight against the legions of darkness to banish them from the galaxy.

Score explanation: Less than 2000: Please adjust your game settings because the processing load is quite heavy.

2000 through 5000: The game runs fine at the setting, if you have room, you can adjust some settings.

5001+: The game works wonderfully at this setting.

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PSO 2 tends to always benefit from a strong overclock, and you can see here that the overclock we get on the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC helps push the performance of this setup ahead of the others with almost 21,000 points being seen.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition, which is also made by Capcom. It takes place ten years after the events of the first game on the same fictional planet. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with mercenaries fighting against jungle pirates. After destroying a mine, the mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, after which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game: "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates...unless you had some kind of grudge."

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While Lost Planet 2 lags behind the NVIDIA offerings across the board, here you can see that the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC gets ahead of the other R9 290X offerings. More importantly, though, we've got playable FPS at all resolutions, including a solid 98 FPS being seen at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, ranging from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just Cause 2 performance across the board looks great. You can see the overclock on our MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC offers us strong performance gains at all resolutions, which sees this MSI offering jump out ahead of all our other setups at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - F1 2012

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com

In F1 2012, players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements, and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers, and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas, and the return of Germany's famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

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F1 2012 acts up a little when overclocking is thrown into the mix, and often we can see quite a dip in performance. While you can see the Twin Frozr takes a bit of a dip, the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC dip isn't quite as large, and the lowest FPS we see is still a massive 156 FPS at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://enterthemetro.com/ /

Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. Khan believes the Dark One is the key to humanity's future and wants to make peace with it, while Ranger leader Colonel Miller wants to kill the creature due to its potential threat. Miller sends Artyom to the surface with a mission to kill the Dark One; he is accompanied by Anna, Miller's sarcastic daughter and the Rangers' best sniper.

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Looking at Metro Last Light, you can see that the overclocked MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC manages to outperform the other setups at all resolutions, and while it doesn't hit that 60 FPS number we want at the highest resolution, it does get the closest with a 55 FPS average. A slight detail drop on our MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC and we'd be able to get that 60 FPS number we're on the hunt for.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/dirtshowdown/360/

DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series. Pick-up-and-play controls combine with electrifying events, frenzied crowds, and stunning graphics to deliver high octane, dive-in-and-drive thrills from event one.

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Dirt Showdown sees some great gains with the overclock here on the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC, and you can see we're ahead of our other setups at all resolutions with the MSI offering being the only one to break the 100 FPS mark at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Nexuiz

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.alientrap.org/

Product Homepage: http://www.nexuiz.com/

Nexuiz is an Arena First Person shooter coming soon to consoles. Nexuiz is fast paced with extremely competitive game play. IllFonic brings Alientrap Software's Nexuiz to next-gen gaming consoles around the world while staying true to the game play refined over the years through development. IllFonic introduces a new Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated. Nexuiz for consoles is powered by CryENGINE 3.

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Nexuiz sees the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC get nice performance gains. Looking above, you can see it's the only card that is able to break the 60 FPS mark at 1920 x 1200, while every other setup manages to fall a little short.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/age.html

Sniper Elite V2 features detailed sniping simulation with advanced ballistics that take into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, aim stability, and more. It is guaranteed to provide players with the most realistic simulation of military sharpshooting yet available.

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Against the other R9 290X 4GB offerings, you can see our overclocked MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC manages to get a nice little boost at all resolutions. Against the NVIDIA offerings, you can see we're slightly lagging. The most important fact is that we get playable FPS at all resolutions, including an excellent 91 FPS at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://eu.square-enix.com/en

Product Homepage: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/

The core gameplay of Sleeping Dogs consists of giving the player an open world environment in which to move around freely. Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. On foot, the player character has the ability to walk, run, jump, climb over obstacles, and swim, as well as use weapons and martial arts in combat. Players also drive a variety of vehicles, including cars, boats, and motorcycles.

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Sleeping Dogs numbers are great across the board with solid FPS seen at all resolutions, and the overclocked MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC again manages to come out ahead of all our other setups here.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.ioi.dk/

Product Homepage: http://hitman.com/

Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth game developed by I/O Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series and runs on I/O Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. Before release, the developers stated that Absolution would be easier to play and more accessible while still retaining hardcore aspects of the franchise. The game was released on 20 November 2012, which is in the 47th week of the year (in reference to the protagonist, Agent 47).

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Looking at Hitman Absolution, you can see there's really not much change with the overclock due to the fact that we hit an FPS wall at all resolutions. At least the FPS wall is a solid one with almost 80 FPS being seen as a minimum and the average being in the 90 FPS range. As usual, you can also see that the FPS wall is hit at a later stage than the NVIDIA cards.

Benchmarks - Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.nixxes.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.tombraider.com/us/base/agegate?refer=184&

Tomb Raider is an action-adventure platform video game. Published by Square Enix, Tomb Raider is the fifth title developed by Crystal Dynamics in the Tomb Raider franchise. As the first entry in a new Tomb Raider continuity, the game is a reboot that emphasizes the reconstructed origins of the culturally influential lead character Lara Croft. Tomb Raider was released on 5 March 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Microsoft Windows to universal critical acclaim.

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Tomb Raider lets the overclocked MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC see a nice boost in performance that lets the 2560 x 1600 average hit 61 FPS. Looking above, you can see it's the only setup that manages to break the 60 FPS barrier at that resolution. It's also accompanied by an extremely strong 49 FPS minimum.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://irrationalgames.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.bioshockinfinite.com

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game and the third installment in the BioShock series. Previously known as "Project Icarus," it is being developed by Irrational Games and was released worldwide on the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013. BioShock Infinite is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games but features similar gameplay concepts and themes.

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BioShock Infinite numbers are fantastic, and you can see the overclock on the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC helps bring the card to a solid 60 FPS at 2560 x 1600. While the NVIDIA offerings manage to achieve this, you can see that out of the R9 290X cards, the Lighting is the only one.

Benchmarks - Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Custom 60 Second Run with FRAPS

Developer Homepage: http://dice.se/

Product Homepage: https://www.battlefield.com/games/battlefield-4

Battlefield 4 (also known as BF4) is a first-person shooter video game developed by Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game is a sequel to 2011's Battlefield 3. Battlefield 4 features several changes compared to its predecessor. The game's heads-up display is much the same, composed of two compact rectangles. The lower left-hand corner features a mini-map and compass for navigation, and a simplified objective notice above it; the lower right includes a compact ammo counter and health meter.

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Performance is a little all over the place under Battlefield 4. You can see at all resolutions, though, we manage to get playable FPS with a 55 FPS minimum being seen at 2560 x 1600 and a solid 95 FPS average.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Even with the strong overclock, you can see, like all our other setups, the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC falls short of the 60 FPS average we need at both resolutions.

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Just Cause 2 sees a bit of a performance bump in both resolutions, and we continue the trend of very strong FPS being seen. At the highest resolution, we see an excellent 93 FPS, which puts us ahead of all the other setups.

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Looking at Sleeping Dogs, you can see that we fall short of the FPS we need at the highest resolution with a 42 FPS average. At 1920 x 1200, though, you can see we've got very playable numbers with the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC being the only card able to get into the 70 FPS range.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run of 3DMark Vantage at the Performance preset.

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Looking above, you can see that the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC runs very warm when just sitting idle. With these high idle numbers, I found myself worried that when it came to load we would see the card shoot into the 90s.

Looking above, though, you can see the variant is very small and we're looking surprisingly strong with a 72C load temperature. Considering the overclock and the fact that the R9 290 cards are well known for running extremely hot, these are some very impressive numbers.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels are sitting towards the top of the pack, but they're not at an insane level. You can see we're in the high 60s for load and mid 60s for idle. Considering the overclock and the power of the card, these are numbers are fairly good.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01--or "Power Thingy" as it has quickly become known as to our readers--we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated video cards installed. Keep in mind that it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember, though. While our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more. We test at the exact same stage every time, so tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum--only an SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items will result in a higher draw.

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It comes as no surprise that the power draw on the model is quite high at 562 watts under load. If you're spending this kind of money, we'd recommend you'd have a strong power supply that sits at around the 750-800 watt range.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

While we'd normally expect quite a premium for a Lightning based card, due to the fact that the R9 290X continues to run out of stock, the price of the model has jumped in general. For that reason, the mid $700 price tag that you can find the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC for is really competitive. Stock is going to be one of the larger issues as the model is going to no doubt come in and then go straight out. Looking today, though, the model is really worth the wait if you're happy to do so.

When it comes to performance, the card is fantastic. Out of the box, it sports the highest overclock of any R9 290X 4GB that we've looked at. You don't have to be some crazy overclocker to see the value in the Lightning version of the R9 290X 4GB from MSI. There's no denying, though, that if you're going to get the most out of it and the most performance for your money, then you would want to really fire up MSI Afterburner.

Overclocking is really quite easy, and outside of adding extra performance for nothing, it's just a blast to do anyway. MSI doesn't offer anything that is going to cause problems to the card in terms of voltages, so you can max them out and then take the time to overclock the core and memory to see just how much performance you can get out of the card.

When it comes to the bundle, you can see that it's fairly standard with everything you need to get up and running. You haven't got much in terms of extras, and if you're not really overclocking, the inclusion of the plate for Water Cooling and LN2 users isn't going to be much use. The same can be said for the V-Check cables; most users will probably find themselves not needing these.

You don't have to have a water cooling setup or be playing with extreme elements to see the value in the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC. Out of the box, it's the fastest R9 290X 4GB we've tested because of the strong core overclock MSI offers. For the money, you're still getting a fantastically built product that has got a number of improvements over the reference card thanks to the Twin Frozr Cooler and Military Class 4 components. MSI has set the bar for performance again here today and it's no doubt going to be hard to top.

PRICING: You can find the MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC retails for $842.07 at Amazon.

Canada: The MSI R9 290X 4GB Lightning OC retails for CDN$902.58 at Amazon Canada.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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