AMD Radeon R9 290 Review: Fast And $400, But Is It Consistent?

Detailed Gaming Efficiency Results

Thanks to your requests in our feedback section, we’re including the benchmark performance results in our efficiency calculations. Specifically, we’re using the benchmarks recorded during our power consumption measurements. This is especially interesting due to the fact that Metro: Last Light isn't a Gaming Evolved title, so nobody can accuse it of favoring AMD.

We're testing at 1920x1080, given that resolution's popularity. The two faster and two slower graphics cards end up with fairly similar performance, which dispels any lingering doubt about this being an apples-to-oranges comparison. The graphs show the results for the Radeon R9 290 with its new driver and higher fan speed, since displaying three different results would have been confusing.

Gaming Loop Performance

Let’s first take a look at the plain frames per second and the frames per second percentages. This provides a nice overview.

With the new drivers that are supposed to keep the boisterous radial fan under control, AMD's Radeon R9 290 only gives up about one percent of its performance compared to eight percent with the old drivers. The performance difference is six percent for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780. This doesn’t really make either of the two reference graphics cards look great. One gives up some of its performance, and the other one gets loud.

Efficiency

This is where power consumption enters the scene. We’re now judging the graphics cards based on how much power they need to achieve each of their frame rates. The GeForce GTX 780 does benefit from its better cooling, and manages to stay in the same place that we’ve become accustomed to. Then again, through some smart maneuvering, AMD manages to push its card to, or at least close to, the same level as Nvidia’s offering.

The Radeon R9 290 is only three to four percent less efficient than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780. This is a pretty massive improvement over the 26 percent separating the AMD Radeon R9 280X and GeForce GTX 770. The fact that Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 has already been the happy recipient of several optimized drivers, whereas the Radeon R9 290 is only supported by a beta driver should provide some food for thought, too. The gap between the two graphics cards could shrink, or even disappear altogether, at some point in the future.

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    Top Comments
  • Shankovich
    Wow a 12% boost with non-reference coolers. Can you imagine what'll happen with the 290X when we see that? Thanks AMD! Some much needed competition!
    24
  • slomo4sho
    This is a win at $400! Good job AMD!



    http://techreport.com/review/25602/amd-radeon-r9-290-graphics-card-reviewed/9

    Anonymous said:
    However, the two retail Radeon R9 290X boards in our lab are both slower than the 290 tested today. They average lower clock rates over time, pushing frame rates down. Clearly there’s something wrong when the derivative card straight from AMD ends up on top of the just-purchased flagships. So who’s to say that retail 290s won’t follow suit, and when we start buying those cards, they prove to underperform GeForce GTX 780? We can only speculate at this point, though anecdotal evidence gleaned from our experience with R9 290X is suggestive.


    Chris, these results differ drastically from real world results from 290X owners at OCN... I understand that your observations are anecdotal and based on a very small sample size but do you mind looking into this matter further because putting such a statement in bold in the conclusion even though it contradicts real world experiences of owners just provides a false assumption to the uninformed reader...

    The above claim has already escalated further than it should... A Swiss site actually has already rebutted by testing their own press sample with a retail model and concluded the following:

    Quote:
    With the results in hand, the picture is clear. The performance is basically identical between the press copy and graphics card from the shelf, at least in Uber mode. Any single frame per second is different, which is what may be considered normal as bonds or uncertainty in the measurements.

    In the quiet mode, where the dynamic frequencies to work overtime, the situation becomes slightly turbid. A minor performance difference can be seen in some titles, and even if it is not about considerable variations, the trend is clear. In the end, it does an average variance tion of only a few percent, ie no extreme levels. The reason may include slightly less contact with the cooler, or simply easy changing ambient temperature.
    12
  • gity69
    Well as a long time AMD fan this is both great news and cause for concern. That disparity between retail and press cards is disturbing to say the least. I am also curious if a proper cooling solution would rectify that problem. As to why I like AMD well much like their CPU's the Hawaii line looks to be power hungry and hot but will shine if power is not a concern and pampered by someone who knows what their doing. I'm looking forward to what I can do with one of these with a proper water cooling setup.
    12
  • Other Comments
  • slomo4sho
    This is a win at $400! Good job AMD!



    http://techreport.com/review/25602/amd-radeon-r9-290-graphics-card-reviewed/9

    Anonymous said:
    However, the two retail Radeon R9 290X boards in our lab are both slower than the 290 tested today. They average lower clock rates over time, pushing frame rates down. Clearly there’s something wrong when the derivative card straight from AMD ends up on top of the just-purchased flagships. So who’s to say that retail 290s won’t follow suit, and when we start buying those cards, they prove to underperform GeForce GTX 780? We can only speculate at this point, though anecdotal evidence gleaned from our experience with R9 290X is suggestive.


    Chris, these results differ drastically from real world results from 290X owners at OCN... I understand that your observations are anecdotal and based on a very small sample size but do you mind looking into this matter further because putting such a statement in bold in the conclusion even though it contradicts real world experiences of owners just provides a false assumption to the uninformed reader...

    The above claim has already escalated further than it should... A Swiss site actually has already rebutted by testing their own press sample with a retail model and concluded the following:

    Quote:
    With the results in hand, the picture is clear. The performance is basically identical between the press copy and graphics card from the shelf, at least in Uber mode. Any single frame per second is different, which is what may be considered normal as bonds or uncertainty in the measurements.

    In the quiet mode, where the dynamic frequencies to work overtime, the situation becomes slightly turbid. A minor performance difference can be seen in some titles, and even if it is not about considerable variations, the trend is clear. In the end, it does an average variance tion of only a few percent, ie no extreme levels. The reason may include slightly less contact with the cooler, or simply easy changing ambient temperature.
    12
  • Heironious
    This is weird, something must be wrong with your system. I have an i5-2500, GTX 780, 16 GB G Skill 1333, 500 GB samsung SSD, Windows 8.1 64 bit, and on Ultra with 4x MSAA I get 80 - 100 FPS....
    -7
  • Heironious
    And thats on Multiplayer 64 man servers....
    -9
  • cangelini
    This is the single-player campaign.
    7
  • aznjoka
    According to Tom's Benchmarks Nvidia's price drop just became meaningless
    9
  • Heironious
    Multiplayer would add more stress to the CPUs / GPU's. Like I said, something is wrong with their machine. I would prob get higher on single player. Im going to check and find out.
    -5
  • DBGT_87
    hope we will not wait so long for the custom cards
    3
  • slomo4sho
    Anonymous said:
    According to Tom's Benchmarks Nvidia's price drop just became meaningless


    Now to wait for the non-reference cards at the end of the month!
    9
  • jimmysmitty
    I agree that the stock cooling is pretty bad but in honesty, no matter how nice they make it after market is always better. The Titan may not have had after market but if it did it would have cooled better.

    It looks like a good card for the price as it even keeps up with the $100 more GTX780. This is good as NVidia may drop prices even more which means we could also see a price drop on the 290X and I wouldn't mind a new 290X Toxic for sub $500.
    2
  • guvnaguy
    In terms of potential performance it seems like a great card, but you get what you pay for with regards to chip quality and cooling.

    Best to wait a month or two before buying to see how this all goes down
    3
  • Shankovich
    Wow a 12% boost with non-reference coolers. Can you imagine what'll happen with the 290X when we see that? Thanks AMD! Some much needed competition!
    24
  • Raheel Hasan
    Great price but its performance is so close to 290x (~5%) that 290x is not making any sense at $550
    4
  • rmpumper
    Anonymous said:
    According to Tom's Benchmarks Nvidia's price drop just became meaningless


    Some people who need CUDA for work and GPU for gaming will still get 780s, but no one will get 290x for $150 premium just to get a couple more FPS over 290. AMD just shot themselves in the foot before hurting nvidia.
    9
  • MANOFKRYPTONAK
    It would be awesome if the 780 would drop to 400, or sub 400. 780ti for 550 to beat the 290x price. And then 299x vs 790x, I'm in heaven now :)
    4
  • Anonymous
    If the AIBs can address the noise and heat (assuming sufficient channel quantities), AMD has a nice cash-cow.
    -1
  • crisan_tiberiu
    The cooler is one of the reasons that the card is cheaper than the competition. Why invest so much on a reference cooler when every guy who goes "ultimate hardware" wont use it anyway? The high end cards have a nieche consumer target who will go 3rd part coolers and watter...
    Nvidia made a very good job with the reference cooler(but you really pay for it)... do you think AMD could not have pulled of a "monster" cooler?? is it really hard to make a good cooler? no, it is expensive.
    1
  • crisan_tiberiu
    BTW, you guys @ Tom's, make a call to Nvidia and ask them: "guys, how much does the cooler on the GTX 780 cost?" after that, make the call to AMD and ask the same question about the cooler on the R9 290/290x.
    You could do this, you have youre sources :)
    8
  • m32
    Most of us were expecting $450! With $400 AMD is leaving a little meat on the bone for when we custom coolers. Personally, and I only speak for me, I'll take this card with it's heat, noise, performance and etc for $400.

    Strange thing and I know some of us were going through this. I was thinking getting a 280x on Black Friday/Cyber Monday but the price tag is leaving me with something to think about. I think I'm just going to save up the few pennies to get something I thought was out of my price range ($300-450) a month ago ($650+).
    -1
  • gity69
    Well as a long time AMD fan this is both great news and cause for concern. That disparity between retail and press cards is disturbing to say the least. I am also curious if a proper cooling solution would rectify that problem. As to why I like AMD well much like their CPU's the Hawaii line looks to be power hungry and hot but will shine if power is not a concern and pampered by someone who knows what their doing. I'm looking forward to what I can do with one of these with a proper water cooling setup.
    12
  • Relayer
    Where did you get that retail sample? From nVidia? LOL
    -3