Not content with testing full cover blocks on the R9-290X in our full cover roundup we carried on testing to include universal GPUs.  It should be noted that this was done on a different card and although the setup was the same the exact numbers are not to be compared between the two reviews.  For reference on core cooling the best performing full cover block was retested (Swiftech) and the best performing full cover block for VRMs (AquaComputer) was also retested.

Why Universal Blocks?

Universals blocks have many uses but have become less popular in recent times as full cover blocks have grown in popularity and availability.  They can be used as a lower price alternative to a full cover block, or they may be used when full cover blocks simply aren’t available, or aren’t available yet.

The costs savings of using a universal block extend beyond the initial purchase price.  Typically they can be reused as the end buyer upgrades hardware meaning that the potential savings can be much more than any difference in price

Of course there are downsides too – full cover blocks also cool VRAM and more importantly the VRM.  For these depending on your card (and your overclock) you may want or need to add extra cooling.  For our standard reference R9-290 that we used for testing, it was necessary to cool both VRMs and VRAM to achieve the overclock we wanted to use for testing.  After these were added the R9-290 ended up used for testing looked like this:

As always a big thank you to Sponsors – Alphacool, EK, Ibercool, Koolance, Watercool and XSPC!


  1. Is there any reason why the Micro SW-X can not be used in combination with any other universal cooler? My choice would be the EK Supremacy VGA (mostly because it’s so tiny and should allow the use of VGA cooling pads compared to some other bigger models) with the Micro SW-X in series.

  2. Also, how where did you get that T-shaped VRAM – VRM heatsink? Why is it T-shaped? Are the surface mount components beside the VRM higher than the VRM itself? Same problem like with the GPU – VRM? I am a bit worried about the VRAM – VRM temperature which has no temperature sensor.