Okay folks, I'm about at my wit's end here, and I'm hoping someone might be able to help me figure this long standing issue out. First thing's first, here are the machine details:
- Sapphire reference 290 (Elpida mem), Sapphire Tri-X R9 290 (Hynix mem), no overclocks
- Intel DZ77BH55K motherboard
- Intel i5-3570k cpu, no overclock
- Ramaxel DDR3-1333 mem, 8 gigs
- Corsair HX750 psu (latest model)
- Windows 7 64-bit, booted in Legacy (non-uefi) mode
- AMD Catalyst 14.4 (also tried the latest beta drivers)
- Using HDMI out to my tv, also tried DVI out
I started with a Sapphire reference 290 gpu. It ran fine for months, then one day it started getting the dreaded black screen crashes I've read about on the forums. The crashes only occurred during gaming/benchmark sessions, and even then it would take a good 30+ minutes before it would start happening. I tried all the normal troubleshooting:
- - Uninstall/reinstall drivers.
- - Try the latest beta drivers.
- - Use DDU to fully remove the drivers and reinstall.
- - Swap back in my old 7950 card as a test. It ran great, as always.
Amongst the many forums posts I found regarding the black screen issue, one fellow said he had luck underclocking the video memory a bit, as the problem might have to do with the large voltage swings the card has to go through between low power and full power states. I tried that out and underclocked the video card memory down to 1050 MHz. That solved the problem! I was able to fully stress the card with no problems at all. Gaming and benchmarking all worked great for hours at a time with no issues.
So, having determined at least where the issue was, I opened a ticket with Sapphire, told them everything I knew, and they recommended returning the card for RMA. So I did that (returned the card), and they replaced it with a Tri-X model. Wow! I plugged in the Tri-X, logged into Windows, and boom. Black screen crash. This Tri-X card will occasionally black screen while I'm not even gaming. Even just browsing the web or using the desktop will do it. I went through all the same sorts of troubleshooting steps, isolating variables, etc. Turns out that, again, underclocking the video card memory solves the problem. So I contacted the Sapphire service provider who originally provided the RMA service (Althon Micro), and they said the replacement card I received was indeed a refurbished card (which I had assumed), but it had gone through an overnight burn-in testing/benchmarking and had no issues.
I even just went as far as pulling out a spare hard drive I had available and doing a fresh Windows 7 install on it. I installed nothing but the latest Windows Updates, the 14.4 Catalyst drivers, and the Heaven and Valley benchmarks, so it's very clean. No luck. Still get black screens.
So I beg of you, Sirs and Madams, what might the problem be? I'm really at a loss. Is it likely this replacement card is also bad? Or is this video card memory/black screen issue more of a fundamental design flaw in the 290, and am I likely to get yet another card with the same issue if I went with yet another RMA? Or is there some strange hardware incompatibility between the 290 and some other aspect of my system?
And for the record, both Sapphire's and Althon's support have been great. The folks I've been dealing with have all been great to work with, so no complaints there.