Performance Summary: The AMD Radeon R9 290 is an excellent performer. As you probably surmised when the card was first announced, its performance is better than the Radeon R9 280X, but not quite on the same level of the Radeon R9 290X. However, the R9 290’s performance is much closer to AMD’s flagship than it is to the 280X. Overall, the Radeon R9 290 offers about 85%-95% of the performance of the Radeon R9 290X.
Versus competing NVIDIA-based offerings, the Radeon R9 290 goes toe to toe with the GeForce GTX 780. Throughout our testing, the Radeon R9 290 and GeForce GTX 780 traded victories, with the 290 coming out on top in four tests and the GeForce in three. With a different mix of games, however, that ratio could easily flip in the GeForce’s direction. For all intents and purposes, the cards are evenly matched if we focus strictly on performance.
The Radeon R9 290’s performance was very good throughout our testing—no doubt about it. What’s just as likely to tickle your fancies, however, is its price. AMD is launching the Radeon R9 290 at $399, which is $100 below the GeForce GTX 780’s just-reduced price of $499.
If the price vs. performance ratio is your only concern, the Radeon R9 290 is clearly a good value at in its current price bracket. The GeForce GTX 780 does have a number of things going for it that we must mention though. The GeForce GTX 780 is definitely the quieter of the two cards. The 780 also has somewhat better power consumption characteristics, its aesthetics and design are more attractive in our opinion, and NVIDIA is also offering an excellent game bundle currently, which also includes a deep discount on a SHIELD should you want to pick one up this holiday season. Those things may not swing all consumers in NVIDIA’s favor over a cool c-note, but they should be considered nonetheless.
In the end, we can’t help but like the Radeon R9 290. It’s a cutting edge product, that offers new features and excellent performance, and it arrives at an aggressive price point. If you’re in the market for a graphics card in the $400 price range, you can’t do any better than the Radeon R9 290.
Update: We have pulled our recommendation of the Radeon R9 290. We have been able to replicate the throttling issues some others have reported with certain workloads and performance of the card dipped by over 15%. We will continue to investigate and revisit the issue when we have more data and AMD has provided some insight into their plans to address the issues.