AMD Radeon R9 290X Review: Welcome To Hawaii

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AMD has been making quite a bit of news the last few weeks, thanks in part to a multi-day event the company held in Honolulu, Hawaii to announce its next-gen graphics products and a few new related technologies. Of course, the recent release of its Radeon R7 and R9 series of products on October 8 generated plenty of buzz as well.

In case you missed it, the event in Hawaii was broken up into a few segments, some of which were broadcast publicly and a few that were kept under embargo until new products were ready for prime time. We covered all of the public announcements in these recent articles, should you want to a quick refresher:

To recap, AMD’s Mantle is a low-level API that’s designed to allow game developers to work ‘closer to the metal’ so to speak, to more efficiently exploit the features and performance capabilities of AMD’s GCN-based graphics processors. Mantle is being co-developed with DICE, the makers of the Frostbite engine, and will debut in a patch coming in December for the hotly anticipated game Battlefield 4.

AMD's Gaming Evolved App powered by Raptr gives AMD graphics card owners the ability to easily optimize their in-game settings with customized, optimal game profiles. Users of the utility will also accumulate real-life and digital rewards and will have the ability to live stream their games via sites like Twitch. The goal of the utility is to provide a simple, more console-like experience for PC gamers, looking to optimize the look and performance of their games without having to manually fiddle with complicated in-game menu systems. The concept is similar to NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience app, though it doesn’t leverage any AMD-proprietary information—it’s crowd sourced.

Which brings us to the launch of the Radeon R7 and R9 series of products. A couple of weeks back we were able to give you a glimpse at the Radeon R7 260X, Radeon R9 270X and Radeon R9 280X. Though these cards have new branding, they are all actually based on existing GPU designs. Through the use of higher frequencies and tweaked memory configurations, the new Radeon R7 and R9 series cards we looked at were measurably faster than their previous-gen counterparts, but technically they’re not all new. You can check out our coverage right here:

The Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X, and R9 280X also hit the market at lower price points than the Radeon HD-series parts using the same GPUs, which enhanced their overall value proposition. The Radeon R9 280X looked particularly appealing, considering it offered similar performance to the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, but at a sub-$300 price point. Due to some confusion in the lead-up to that article, however, we weren’t able to show you all of the AIB cards produced by AMD’s partners on launch day. As such, we’ve included a couple of new R7 and R9 series cards in this piece as well, namely the MSI R7 270X HAWK and the ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II. As you’ll see a little later, they’re both pretty slick.

The AMD Radeon R9 290X Is A Go

One of the biggest pieces of news to come out AMD’s event, however, was the announcement of the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X. The cards weren’t ready in time for the October 8 launch, but the top of the line model, based on the GPU codenamed Hawaii, is ready now and we’re going to show it to you here in all its glory today.

The AMD Radeon R9 290X - Gigabyte's Is On Sale Now At Amazon

AMD Radeon R9 290X
Specifications & Features
  Radeon R9 290X
Stream Processors 2,816
Engine Clock Up to 1 GHz
Compute Performance 5.6 TFLOPS
Memory Configuration 4GB GDDR5 / 512-bit
Memory Speed 5.0 Gbps
Power Connectors 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin
PCI-E Standard PCI-E 3.0
AMD TrueAudio Technology Yes
API Support DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3

Radeon R9 290X CrossFire -- Dongles No Longer Required

The Radeon R9 290 and 290X are both based on the same GPU, but we’ll have to withhold other details about the R9 290 until a little later. As you can see in the specification table above, the Radeon R9 290X features 2816 Stream Processors and an engine clock of up to 1GHz. It says “up to” instead of a firm number because of some changes made to AMD’s PowerTune technology, which we’ll talk about on the next page. The card’s 4GB of GDDR5 memory are connected to the GPU via a wide 512-bit interface and R290X requires a pair of supplemental power connectors—one 6-pin and one 8-pin. There’s plenty more to talk about too, like a new CrossFire interface that eliminates the need for a dongle, a more flexible output configuration for Eyefinity, and TrueAudio support, among a few other things. We should probably just get to it...

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ChuckRenninger one year ago

Comparable/Slightly better than a 780.. $100 cheaper.

Dave_HH one year ago

That's the general synopsis, yes and what's impressive is they also do it with a significantly small die size, which is how they get to that lower cost. That said, AMD needs to work a little more on refining cooling, acoustics and occasional frame latency.

FJakimowicz one year ago

Well for sure cards manufacturers will take care of optimizing the reference cooler and other things.

thunderdan602 one year ago

I am impressed. Very impressed. If AMD can do this card justice and get stable drivers developed (ATI never seemed to ger it done consistently), I would consider this card in my next build. The one and only time I went ATI for my gpu I had major driver issues.

RicoFrost one year ago

It is impressive however I will wait as I feel the noise of the card is far to loud. Reports are saying 42dbs quiet and 50dbs umber. I am hoping that they will come out with better coolers which will run lower temps (I know its fine but still) and quieter fans.

G-sync also looks impressive so I will be holding off for a few months, I take it that NVidia will drop the price on 780's shortly.

realneil one year ago

Great review Marco.

More performance for a lower price. I like that.

As for the noise, AMD partners will have quiet cooling solutions on the market before too long. Hopefully, the costs will not be too much more than ~this~ is.

I guess that the ball is in NVDIA's court now. Let the price wars begin! Ha-Ha!

MMaddox one year ago

it's nice to see some actual competition between Nvidia and AMD. Can't wait to see how they both decide to push the envelope from here.

TButtons one year ago

I want a 770 but the 280X is $100 but I really dislike the Radeon drivers.

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