Metro: Last Light

As always, kicking off our look at performance is 4A Games’ latest entry in their Metro series of subterranean shooters, Metro: Last Light. The original Metro: 2033 was a graphically punishing game for its time and Metro: Last Light is in its own right too. On the other hand it scales well with resolution and quality settings, so it’s still playable on lower end hardware.

For the bulk of our analysis we’re going to be focusing on our 2560x1440 results, as monitors at this resolution will be what we expect the 290 to be primarily used with. A single 290 may have the horsepower to drive 4K in at least some situations, but given the current costs of 4K monitors that’s going to be a much different usage scenario. The significant quality tradeoff for making 4K playable on a single card means that it makes far more sense to double up on GPUs, given the fact that even a pair of 290Xs would still be a fraction of the cost of a 4K, 60Hz monitor.

With that said, there are a couple of things that should be immediately obvious when looking at the performance of the 290.

  1. It’s incredibly fast for the price.
  2. Its performance is at times extremely close to the 290X

To get right to the point, because of AMD’s fan speed modification the 290 doesn’t throttle in any of our games, not even Metro or Crysis 3. The 290X in comparison sees significant throttling in both of those games, and as a result once fully warmed up the 290X is operating at clockspeeds well below its 1000MHz boost clock, or even the 290’s 947MHz boost clock. As a result rather than having a 5% clockspeed deficit as the official specs for these cards would indicate, the 290 for all intents and purposes clocks higher than the 290X. Which means that its clockspeed advantage is now offsetting the loss of shader/texturing performance due to the CU reduction, while providing a clockspeed greater than the 290X for the equally configured front-end and back-end. In practice this means that 290 has over 100% of 290X’s ROP/geometry performance, 100% of the memory bandwidth, and at least 91% of the shading performance.

So in games where we’re not significantly shader bound, and Metro at 2560 appears to be one such case, the 290 can trade blows with the 290X despite its inherent disadvantage. Now as we’ll see this is not going to be the case in every game, as not every game GPU bound in the same manner and not every game throttles on the 290X by the same degree, but it sets up a very interesting performance scenario. By pushing the 290 this hard, and by throwing any noise considerations out the window, AMD has created a card that can not only threaten the GTX 780, but can threaten the 290X too. As we’ll see by the end of our benchmarks, the 290 is only going to trail the 290X by an average of 3% at 2560x1440.

Anyhow, looking at Metro it’s a very strong start for the 290. At 55.5fps it’s essentially tied with the 290X and 12% ahead of the GTX 780. Or to make a comparison against the cards it’s actually priced closer to, the 290 is 34% faster than the GTX 770 and 31% faster than the 280X. AMD’s performance advantage will come crashing down once we revisit the power and noise aspects of the card, but looking at raw performance it’s going to look very good for the 290.

AMD's Gaming Evolved Application & The Test Company of Heroes 2
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  • mattgmann - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    I'd really like to see some benchmarks with this and the 290x under water.

    For someone like me that has already invested in building a water cooling setup and seen a few generations of hardware pass through it, the idea of watercooling the graphics card is a foregone conclusion.

    The only added cost to me in upgrading the cooling is a few dollars worth of memory and other heatsinks to put on the card since I'd be using a universal gpu block.

    I have a feeling that with the thermal levels in check, these cards will probably perform a good bit quicker than they already do (and that much more than the competition).
    Reply
  • supamark - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    "At the end of the day the 290 is 9.7dB louder than its intended competition, the GTX 780. With a 10dB difference representing a two-fold increase in noise on a human perceptual basis, the 290 is essentially twice as loud as the GTX 780."

    Un, no. Learn to dB... 3 dB would mean it's twice as loud, 10 dB means it's 10x as loud, the decibel is a log scale.
    Reply
  • NomanA - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    Human audio perception is also on a somewhat logarithmic scale. Twice as loud, doesn't mean, two times a certain value on a linear scale. Reply
  • supamark - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    Sorry, but 3 dB is twice as loud. 10 dB, aka 1 Bel, is 10 times as loud. You hear 3 dB as twice as loud. You should just read this.... (3rd paragraph) instead of arguing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decibel
    Reply
  • kiwidude - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    You are incorrect, 3dB represents a ratio of two to one or a doubling of power. Perception of loudness is not the same as sound pressure level or power. An increase of 10db SPL is perceived to be approximately twice as loud.

    I suggest you read instead of arguing. http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/2004-About-dB/
    Reply
  • Sancus - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    You're talking about power. Ryan Smith is talking about perceptual loudness. They're completely different. 10db does NOT sound 10 times as loud to your ear. It merely represents ten times as much power.

    http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/2004-About-dB/
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    You would need to start talking about human-hearing-weighted scales at that point to get any kind of "X as loud" to us, type measurements. Which is where dBA is often the go to scale. Reply
  • philosofa - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    Don't quote me regulations. I co-chaired the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the color of the book that regulation's in. We kept it gray.

    Excellent editing ser :)
    Reply
  • dudeofdur - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    bracket + closed loop water cooler. Boom, solved your problem Reply
  • Torm - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    It is sad when a review is so biased, that the reviewer doesn't appreciate extra performance. If you prefer a quiet card, turn the fan speed down. You are here to review the performance, and while the noise level is taken into consideration, in your final thoughts, you never once say "While the may be loud, you can always adjust fan levels to find the right sound for you." This card, by performance numbers, should have been a very high recommendation, with a note on it being loud. You decided in the review of the card, that you had rather recommend against it, as opposed to being honest. While I tested the card, I found it loud yes, but I also found that if I was an "Average" consumer, who will have their computer case sitting at least 2-3 feet from them, and listening to the audio of a game, movie, or music, that the audio difference between it and the 780 is barely noticed. This is a good review ruined by Biased minded comments. If you are looking for one of the best cards out there, and the BEST value for your money. This card IS it. Bar None. Just to be clear. I am a Hardcore Titan fan, but if I were to build a PC today, this would be the card I went with. Reply

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