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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  • Leyawiin - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    I'd just wait for the ASUS DirectCU II version or something equivalent. Something as hot, loud and power hungry as the old GTX 480 isn't acceptable to me, but drop a couple of those cons and I'd be on board. Reply
  • FuriousPop - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    No... just............too........ loud..........

    *puts on headphones*

    Now then, as i was saying its very loud but but i want it whisper quiet, so buzz off else where then. your 2cents here is not appreciated.

    as a CFx7970 owner (not to mention i had 2xgtx670's just before that which 1 became DOA and yes just as loud as current GPU's) i can safely say - noise is NOT a reason to be placing the whole argument onto when deciding about price/performance wise when there are sooo many different things you can do to reduce the noise generated from your case - if your unwilling to then obviously logic dictates that you would NOT purchase this, clearly.... but but i still wanna compare my 6 month old GPU to this one....... of course you can junior.... of course you can...

    Custom coolers will come and will reduce the temps/noise, maybe not by a massive amount, but maybe just enough to convert some of those green boys over!
  • stangflyer - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    I am a older gamer at almost 50. I have had many cards since my first 3DFx card. Both AMD/ATI and Nvidia have been in my cases. I have a 1440p monitor but also game at 5040x1050 eyefinity.
    Currently run 2x7950 sapphire flex boost cards. They run relatively quiet as I have a empty slot in-between the cards.

    I listened to some of the sound clips of the 290/x and they reminded me of my 5970 that I ran before my 7950's. I swore I will never have anything that loud in my pc again.

    Will wait and see what the custom coolers bring to the table as I am hoping to go to one card even though I know I will lose some performance. Or just wait for 20nm.

    I was over at my cousins and he showed me his new 780gtx with the acx cooler. Mild OC and it was extremely quiet.

    I will play with either red or green cards but I do know that I will pay 100 bucks for the noise diff of the 780gtx.
    We will see.
  • lnanek - Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - link

    Hmm, loud cards are good for me, I always use earbuds anyway. Reply
  • Sancus - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    Everyone who says "just use headphones" probably doesn't realize that these AMD cards are so loud that they would actually be quite disturbing to anyone else in the room, and in the case of Crossfire, probably your entire house or adjacent apartments. 2x 290X's in CF Uber mode are approaching vacuum cleaner levels of noise.

    Not recommending these cards due to noise is not 'biased' it's merely a common sense, practically based choice.
  • ClexRex - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    Agrred ive played with the 290x and unless you keep your pc in the other room defiantly hold out till the aftermarket cool is here otherwise youll be pissed and havto spend another 50 on aftermarket cooling once available.

    Also a lot of people hatng on the 780 forget one thing..that it overclocks better than the 290/290x flat also have the option for custom bios which in return will boost the 780 above the 290 and do it at a lower power comsumption/noise/heat

    Also to crossfire the 290 you will need a min. of 1000w psu as we ran intoissues with 800w psu's during testing with crossfire and heavily overclocked cpu's.
  • rtho782 - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    This card actually hits louder noise levels than the old FX5800 Ultra! Not exactly the same method to measuring but this was 10 years ago... Reply
  • AnnihilatorX - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    Power consumption will be identical while performance will be down, so efficiency will be slipping and 290 will have all the same power/cooling requirements as 290X.

    The above statement I feel is an over-simplication.

    I would imagine the actual instantaneous clock-for-clock power consumption will actually decrease due to the lower computation units. However, R290 or R290X cannot sustain their boost clock and are nearly always throttled by their thermal limits. Hence, the practical power consumption is similar, and since at the same power output R290 would have to have a higher clock to match the speed to R290X, the theoretical efficiency is somewhat lower, but I don't think they differ by much.
  • UGMan - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    Come on AMD, get this beauty out with coolers from ASUS, MSI, Sapphire et. al. and then TAKE MY MONEY ! Please !!!
    Nothing out there touches it for the price, and AMD have finally sorted out crossfire. I've got a feeling that Mantle is going to shock and awe with it's performance.

    Bring it on !!!
  • Vorl - Wednesday, November 6, 2013 - link

    for everyone using stupid sound comparisons, like "a 747 taking off". Here are some real comparisons.

    Whisper Quiet Library at 6' 30dB
    Normal conversation at 3' 60-65dB
    Telephone dial tone 80dB

    I think that the reviewer is biased considering how big a deal they make of noise now, but in the past with noisy nvidia cards it was more like "meh, they are noisy, BUT FAST". Now they are all over "how loud the card is".

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