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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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  • kyuu - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    I agree. Ignore at all the complainers; it's great to have the benchmark data available without having to wait for all the rest of the article to be complete. Those who don't want anything at all until it's 100% done can always just come back later. Reply
  • AnotherGuy - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    What a beast Reply
  • zodiacsoulmate - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Donno, all the geforce cards looks like sh!t in this review, and 280x/7970 290x looks like haven's god...
    but my 6990 7970 never really make me happier than my gtx 670 system...
    well, whatever
    Reply
  • TheJian - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    While we have a great card here, it appears it doesn't always beat 780, and gets toppled consistently by Titan in OTHER games:
    http://www.techpowerup.com/reviews/AMD/R9_290X/24....
    World of Warcraft (spanked again all resolutions by both 780/titan even at 5760x1080)
    Splinter Cell Blacklist (smacked by 780 even, of course titan)
    StarCraft 2 (by both 780/titan, even 5760x1080)
    Titan adds more victories (780 also depending on res, remember 98.75% of us run 1920x1200 or less):
    Skyrim (all res, titan victory at techpowerup) Ooops, 780 wins all res but 1600p also skyrim.
    Assassins creed3, COD Black Ops2, Diablo3, FarCry3 (though uber ekes a victory at 1600p, reg gets beat handily in fc3, however hardocp shows 780 & titan winning apples-apples min & avg, techspot shows loss to 780/titan also in fc3)
    Hardocp & guru3d both show Bioshock infinite, Crysis 3 (titan 10% faster all res) and BF3 winning on Titan. Hardocp also show in apples-apples Tombraider and MetroLL winning on titan.
    http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/radeon_r9_290...
    http://hardocp.com/article/2013/10/23/amd_radeon_r...
    http://techreport.com/review/25509/amd-radeon-r9-2...
    Guild wars 2 at techreport win for both 780/titan big also (both over 12%).
    Also tweaktown shows lost planet 2 loss to the lowly 770, let alone 780/titan.
    I guess there's a reason why most of these quite popular games are NOT tested here :)

    So while it's a great card, again not overwhelming and quite the loser depending on what you play. In UBER mode as compared above I wouldn't even want the card (heat, noise, watts loser). Down it to regular and there are far more losses than I'm listing above to 780 and titan especially. Considering the overclocks from all sites, you are pretty much getting almost everything in uber mode (sites have hit 6-12% max for OCing, I think that means they'll be shipping uber as OC cards, not much more). So NV just needs to kick up 780TI which should knock out almost all 290x uber wins, and just make the wins they already have even worse, thus keeping $620-650 price. Also drop 780 to $500-550 (they do have great games now 3 AAA worth $100 or more on it).

    Looking at 1080p here (a res 98.75% of us play at 1920x1200 or lower remember that), 780 does pretty well already even at anandtech. Most people playing above this have 2 cards or more. While you can jockey your settings around all day per game to play above 1920x1200, you won't be MAXING much stuff out at 1600p with any single card. It's just not going to happen until maybe 20nm (big maybe). Most of us don't have large monitors YET or 1600p+ and I'm guessing all new purchases will be looking at gsync monitors now anyway. Very few of us will fork over $550 and have the cash for a new 1440p/1600p monitor ALSO. So a good portion of us would buy this card and still be 1920x1200 or lower until we have another $550-700 for a good 1440/1600p monitor (and I say $550+ since I don't believe in these korean junk no-namers and the cheapest 1440p newegg itself sells is $550 acer). Do you have $1100 in your pocket? Making that kind of monitor investment right now I wait out Gsync no matter what. If they get it AMD compatible before 20nm maxwell hits, maybe AMD gets my money for a card. Otherwise Gsync wins hands down for NV for me. I have no interest in anything but a Gsync monitor at this point and a card that works with it.

    Guru3D OC: 1075/6000
    Hardwarecanucks OC: 1115/5684
    Hardwareheaven OC: 1100/5500
    PCPerspective OC: 1100/5000
    TweakTown OC: 1065/5252
    TechpowerUp OC: 1125/6300
    Techspot OC: 1090/6400
    Bit-tech OC: 1120/5600
    Left off direct links to these sites regarding OCing but I'm sure you can all figure out how to get there (don't want post flagged as spam with too many links).
    Reply
  • b3nzint - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    "So NV just needs to kick up 780TI which should knock out almost all 290x uber wins, and just make the wins they already have even worse, thus keeping $620-650 price. Also drop 780 to $500-550"

    we're talking about titan killer here.
    titan vs titan killer, at res 3840, at high or ultra :

    coh2 - 30%
    metro - 30%
    bio - (10%) but win 3% at medium
    bf3 - 15%
    crysis 3 - tie
    crysis - 10
    totalwar - tie
    hitman - 20%
    grid 2 - 10%+

    2816 sp, 64rop, 176tmu, 4gb 512bit. 780 or 780ti won't stand a chance. this is titan killer dude wake up. only then then we're talking CF, SLi and res 5760. But for single card i go for this titan killer. good luck with gsync, im not gave up my dell u2711 yet.
    Reply
  • just4U - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Well.. you have to put this in context. Those guys gave it their editor's choice award and a overall score of 9.3 They summed it up with this..

    "
    The real highlight of AMD's R9 290X is certainly the price. What has been rumored to cost around $700 (and got people excited at that price), will actually retail for $549! $549 is an amazing price for this card, making it the price/performance king in the high-end segment. NVIDIA's $1000 GTX Titan is completely irrelevant now, even the GTX 780 with its $625 price will be a tough sale."
    Reply
  • theuglyman0war - Thursday, October 31, 2013 - link

    the flagship gtx *80 $msrp has been $499 for every upgrade I have ever made. After waiting out the 104 fer the 110 chip only to have the insult of the previous 780 pricing meant I will be holding off to see if everything returns to normal with Maxwell. Kind of depressing when others are excited for $550? As far as I know the market still dictates pricing and my price iz $499 if AMD is offering up decent competition to keep the market healthy and respectful. Reply
  • ToTTenTranz - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    How isn't this viral? Reply
  • nader21007 - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    Radeon R9 290X received Tom’s Hardware’s Elite award—the first time a graphics card has received this honor. Nvidia: Why?
    Wiseman: Because it Outperformed a card that is nearly double it's price (your Titan).
    Do you hear me Nvidia? Please don't gouge consumers again.
    Viva AMD.
    Reply
  • doggghouse - Friday, October 25, 2013 - link

    I don't think the Titan was ever considered to be a gamer's card... it was more like "prosumer" card for compute. But it was also marketed to people who build EXTREME! machines for maximum OC scores. The 780 was basically the gamer's card... it has 90-95% of the Titan's gaming capability, but for only $650 (still expensive).

    If you want to compare the R9 290X to the Titan, I would look at the compute benchmarks. And in that, it seems to be an apples to oranges comparison... AMD and nVIDIA seem to trade blows depending on the type of compute.

    Compared to the 780, the 290X pretty much beats it hands down in performance. If I hadn't already purchased a 780 last month ($595 yay), I would consider the 290X... though I'd definitely wait for 3rd party cards with better heat solutions. A stock card on "Uber" setting is simply way too hot, and too loud!
    Reply

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