Final Words

Bringing this review to a close, going into this launch AMD has been especially excited about the 290X and it’s easy to see why. Traditionally AMD has not been able to compete with NVIDIA’s big flagship GPUs, and while that hasn’t stopped AMD from creating a comfortable spot for themselves, it does mean that NVIDIA gets left to their own devices. As such while the sub-$500 market has been heavily competitive this entire generation, the same could not be said about the market over $500 until now. And although a niche of a niche in terms of volume, this market segment is where the most powerful of video cards reside, so fierce competition here not only brings down the price of these flagship cards sooner, but in the process it inevitably pushes prices down across the board. So seeing AMD performance competitive with GTX Titan and GTX 780 with their own single-GPU card is absolutely a breath of fresh air.

Getting down to business then, AMD has clearly positioned the 290X as a price/performance monster, and while that’s not the be all and end all of evaluating video cards it’s certainly going to be the biggest factor to most buyers. To that end at 2560x1440 – what I expect will be the most common resolution used with such a card for the time being – AMD is essentially tied with GTX Titan, delivering an average of 99% of the performance of NVIDIA’s prosumer-level flagship. Against NVIDIA’s cheaper and more gaming oriented GTX 780 that becomes an outright lead, with the 290X leading by an average of 9% and never falling behind the GTX 780.

Consequently against NVIDIA’s pricing structure the 290X is by every definition a steal at $549. Even if it were merely equal to the GTX 780 it would still be $100 cheaper, but instead it’s both faster and cheaper, something that has proven time and again to be a winning combination in this industry. Elsewhere the fact that it can even tie GTX Titan is mostly icing on the cake – for traditional gamers Titan hasn’t made a lot of sense since GTX 780 came out – but nevertheless it’s an important milestone for AMD since it’s a degree of parity they haven’t achieved in years.

But with that said, although the 290X has a clear grip on performance and price it does come at the cost of power and cooling. With GTX Titan and GTX 780 NVIDIA set the bar for power efficiency and cooling performance on a high-end card, and while it’s not necessarily something that’s out of AMD’s reach it’s the kind of thing that’s only sustainable with high video card prices, which is not where AMD has decided to take the 290X. By focusing on high performance AMD has had to push quite a bit of power through 290X, and by focusing on price they had to do so without blowing their budget on cooling. The end result is that the 290X is more power hungry than any comparable high-end card, and while AMD is able to effectively dissipate that much heat the resulting cooling performance (as measured by noise) is at best mediocre. It’s not so loud as to be intolerable for a single-GPU setup, but it’s as loud as can be called reasonable, never mind preferable.

On that note, while this specific cooler implementation leaves room for improvement the underlying technology has turned out rather well thanks to AMD’s PowerTune improvements. Now that AMD has fine grained control over GPU clockspeeds and voltages and the necessary hardware to monitor and control the full spectrum of power/temp/noise, it opens up the door to more meaningful ways of adjusting the card and monitoring its status. Admittedly a lot of this is a retread of ground NVIDIA already covered with GPU Boost 2, but AMD’s idea for fan throttling is in particular a more intuitive method of controlling GPU noise than trying to operate by proxy via temperature and/or power.

Meanwhile 290X Crossfire performance also ended up being a much welcomed surprise thanks in large part to AMD’s XDMA engine. The idea of exclusively using the PCI-Express bus for inter-GPU communication on a high-end video card was worrying at first given the inherent latency that comes PCIe, but to the credit of AMD’s engineers they have shown that it can work and that it works well. AMD is finally in a position where their multi-GPU frame pacing is up to snuff in all scenarios, and while there’s still some room for improvement in further reducing overall variance we’re to the point where everything up to and including 4K is working well. AMD still faces a reckoning next month when they attempt to resolve their frame pacing issues on their existing products, but at the very least going forward AMD has the hardware and the tools they need to keep the issue under control. Plus this gets rid of Crossfire bridges, which is a small but welcome improvement.

Wrapping things up, it’s looking like neither NVIDIA nor AMD are going to let today’s launch set a new status quo. NVIDIA for their part has already announced a GTX 780 Ti for next month, and while we can only speculate on performance we certainly don’t expect NVIDIA to let the 290X go unchallenged. The bigger question is whether they’re willing to compete with AMD on price.

GTX Titan and its prosumer status aside, even with NVIDIA’s upcoming game bundle it’s very hard right now to justify GTX 780 over the cheaper 290X, except on acoustic grounds. For some buyers that will be enough, but for 9% more performance and $100 less there are certainly buyers who are going to shift their gaze over to the 290X. For those buyers NVIDIA can’t afford to be both slower and more expensive than 290X. Unless NVIDIA does something totally off the wall like discontinuing GTX 780 entirely, then they have to bring prices down in response to the launch of 290X. 290X is simply too disruptive to GTX 780, and even GTX 770 is going to feel the pinch between that and 280X. Bundles will help, but what NVIDIA really needs to compete with the Radeon 200 series is a simple price cut.

Meanwhile AMD for their part would appear to have one more piece to play. Today we’ve seen the Big Kahuna, but retailers are already listing the R9 290, which based on AMD’s new naming scheme would be AMD’s lower tier Hawaii card. How that will pan out remains to be seen, but as a product clearly intended to fill in the $250 gap between 290X and 280X while also making Hawaii a bit more affordable, we certainly have high expectations for its performance. And if nothing else we’d certainly expect it to further ratchet up the pressure on NVIDIA.

Power, Temperature, & Noise
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  • ninjaquick - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    so 4-5% faster than Titan? Reply
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    If the 780Ti is $599, then that means the 780 should see at least a $150 (nearly 25%!) price drop, which is good with me. Reply
  • DMCalloway - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    So, what you are telling me is Nvidia is going to stop laughing- all- the- way- to-the-bank and price the 780ti for less than current 780 prices? Current 780 owners are going to get HOT and flood the market with used 780's. Reply
  • dragonsqrrl - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Why is it that this is only ever the case when Nvidia performs a massive price drop? Nvidia price drop = early adopters getting screwed (even though 780 has been out for ~6 months now). AMD price drop = great value for enthusiasts, go AMD! ... lolz. Reply
  • Minion4Hire - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Titan is a COMPUTE card. A poor man's (relatively speaking) proper compute solution. The fact that it is also a great gaming card is almost incidental. No one needs a 6GB frame buffer for gaming right now. The Titan comparisons are nearly meaningless.

    The "nearly" part is the unknown 780 TI. Nvidia could enable the remaining CUs on 780 to at least give the TI comparable performance to Titan. But who cares that Titan is $1000? It isn't really relevant.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Even much cheaper radeons compeltely destroy the titan as well as every other nvidia gpu in compute, do not be fooled by a single, poorly implemented test, the nvidia architecture plainly sucks in double precision performance. Reply
  • ShieTar - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    Since "much cheaper" Radeons tend to deliver 1/16th DP performance, you seem to not really know what you are talking about. Go read up on a relevant benchmark suite on professional and compute cards, e.g. http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-workstati... The only tasks where AMD cards shine are those implemented in OpenCL. Reply
  • ddriver - Thursday, October 24, 2013 - link

    "Much cheaper" relative to the price of the titan, not entry level radeons... You clutched onto a straw and drowned...

    OpenCL is THE open and portable industry standard for parallel computing, did you expect radeons to shine at .. CUDA workloads LOL, I'd say OpenCL performance is all I really need, it has been a while since I played or cared about games.
    Reply
  • Pontius - Tuesday, October 29, 2013 - link

    I'm in the same boat as you ddriver, all I care about is OpenCL in these articles. I go straight to that section usually =) Reply
  • TheJian - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    You're neglecting the fact that everything you can do professionally in openCL you can already do faster in cuda. Cuda is taught in 600+ universities for a reason. It is in over 200 pro apps and has been funded for 7+yrs unlike opencl which is funded by a broke company hoping people will catch on one day :) Anandtech refuses to show cuda (gee they do have an AMD portal after all...LOL) but it exists and is ultra fast. You really can't name a pro app that doesn't have direct support or support via plugin for Cuda. And if you're buying NV and running opencl instead of cuda (like anand shows calling it compute crap) you're an idiot. Why don't they run Premiere instead of Sony crap for video editing? Because Cuda works great for years in it. Same with Photoshop etc...

    You didn't look at folding@home DP benchmark here in this review either I guess. 2.5x faster than 290x. As you can see it depends on what you do and the app you use. I consider F@H stupid use of electricity but that's just me...LOL. Find anything where OpenCL (or any AMD stuff, directx, opengl) beats CUDA. Compute doesn't just mean OpenCL, it means CUDA too! Dumb sites just push openCL because its OPEN...LOL. People making money use CUDA and generally buy quadro or tesla (they own 90% of the market for a reason, or people would just buy radeons right?).
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/7457/the-radeon-r9-2...
    DP in F@H here. Titan sort of wins right? 2.5x or so over 290x :) It's comic both here and toms uses a bunch of junk synthetic crap (bitmining, Asics do that now, basemark junk, F@H, etc) to show how good AMD is, but forget you can do real work with Cuda (heck even bitmining can be done with cuda)

    When you say compute, I think CUDA, not opencl on NV. As soon as you toss in Cuda the compute story changes completely. Unfortunately even Toms refuses to pit OpenCL vs. Cuda just like here at anandtech (but that's because both love OpenCL and hate proprietary stuff). But at least they show you in ShieTar's link (which craps out, remove the . at the end of the link) that Titan kills even the top quadro cards (it's a Tesla remember for $1500 off). It's 2x+ faster than quadro's in almost everything they tested. So yeah, Titan is very worth it for people who do PRO stuff AND game.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-workstati...
    For the lazy, fixed ShieTar's link.

    All these sites need to do is fire up 3dsmax, cinema4d, Blender, adobe (pick your app, After Effect, Premiere, Photoshop) and pit Cuda vs. OpenCL. Just pick an opencl plugin for AMD (luxrender) and Octane/furryball etc for NV then run the tests. Does AMD pay all these sites to NOT do this? I comment and ask on every workstation/vid card article etc at toms, they never respond...LOL. They run pure cuda, then pure opencl, but act like they never meet. They run crap like basemark for photo/video editing opencl junk (you can't make money on that), instead of running adobe and choosing opencl(or directx/opengl) for AMD and Cuda for NV. Anandtech runs Sony Vegas which a quick google shows has tons of problems with NV. Heck pit Sony/AMD vs. Adobe/NV. You can run the same tests in both on video, though it would be better to just use adobe for both but they won't do that until AMD gets done optimizing for the next rev...ROFL. Can't show AMD in a bad light here...LOL. OpenCL sucks compared to Cuda (proprietary or not...just the truth).
    Reply

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