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The Radeon R9 290X

Radeon R9 290X Review: AMD's Back In Ultra-High-End Gaming
By , Igor Wallossek

AMD’s reference Radeon R9 290X is exactly as long as Radeon HD 7970 (11”) and similarly two expansion slots wide. Even the 75 mm centrifugal fan looks like it carried straight over.

Also familiar is the little switch on the card’s top edge. Previously, that might have been used to control maximum clock rates, enabling a minor boost for an extra bit of performance. Given those PowerTune changes we just covered, though, that wouldn't make sense. Instead, that's the switch to toggle between Quiet and Uber mode.

The fan shroud is clearly updated, and I’ve already heard feedback from Tom’s Hardware staffers who really like the more sweeping red and black design. I remain partial to Nvidia’s metal shroud and polycarbonate window though, particularly at this very high-end price point. There are plenty of GeForce GTX 780s with third-party coolers, but a great many ship with the reference ID I wrote about in The Story Of How GeForce GTX 690 And Titan Came To Be. It’d be great to see AMD step up with something similarly inspired.

Despite similar dimensions, Radeon R9 290X is clearly based on a different PCB than AMD’s Tahiti-based cards. Most obvious is the lack of CrossFire connectors. Because Hawaii features an xDMA engine, CrossFire traffic is carried over the PCI Express bus, eliminating the need for those pesky cables. It appears improbable that an aftermarket cooler designed for 7970 would work on R9 290X.

AMD is staying quiet on maximum board power, but claims that R9 290X should push up to 250 W in typical gaming scenarios. Realistically, because PowerTune is constantly making changes, it’s pretty difficult to nail down peak consumption. We recorded a range, though, and found a peak that spanned from 225 to 295 W. Given one eight- and one six-pin auxiliary power connector, plus a 75 W PCI Express slot, those numbers are within the 300 W you probably wouldn’t want to exceed.

The R9 290X cards we received all had two dual-link DVI ports, a full-sized HDMI output, and one DisplayPort connector. Its Hawaii GPU features an updated display controller though, which includes a third independent timing generator. So, although the flagship board comes equipped with one less display output than the R9 280X we recently reviewed, you can actually hook up six screens operating at different resolutions and timings to the R9 290X with an MST hub.

Hawaii’s new display controller will also enable the 600 MHz pixel rates needed to support upcoming single-stream Ultra HD displays at 60 Hz. As you know, currently, the only way to drive a 4K screen is through two HDMI ports or one DisplayPort 1.2 output with MST support. These correspond to a pair of 1920x2160 tiles that come together as a 2x1 Eyefinity array. Next-generation scalars will make 3840x2160p60 possible without tiling—they’ll simply require higher pixel clocks. Radeon R9 290X can do it for sure, but AMD isn’t certain whether its older display controllers will.

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  • 99 Hide
    BigMack70 , October 23, 2013 10:04 PM
    Thank goodness AMD had some sense with the pricing. Finally, at long last, Nvidia can stop raping consumers' wallets due to lack of competition.

    This is win-win-win for everyone (except maybe Nvidia).

    Hope we never have to deal with a $1000 single GPU fiasco again. Good riddance.
  • 79 Hide
    beta212 , October 23, 2013 9:09 PM
    That's incredible. Especially at high res, I wonder how they do it. But the low price alone is enough to blow the competition away. Seriously think about it, it's around half the price for higher performance!
    - AMD: We're not aiming for the ultra high end.
    I think Nvidia just got trolled.
  • 60 Hide
    anxiousinfusion , October 23, 2013 9:37 PM
    Wait the 290 X... X? is going to be $550?! Forgive me, padre for I have sinned.
Other Comments
  • 79 Hide
    beta212 , October 23, 2013 9:09 PM
    That's incredible. Especially at high res, I wonder how they do it. But the low price alone is enough to blow the competition away. Seriously think about it, it's around half the price for higher performance!
    - AMD: We're not aiming for the ultra high end.
    I think Nvidia just got trolled.
  • 29 Hide
    slomo4sho , October 23, 2013 9:12 PM
    Great price point. This card has already broken world records just a few hours after release!


  • 25 Hide
    aznguy0028 , October 23, 2013 9:19 PM
    I was thinking about hopping on the 7970ghz when it's on sale, but after seeing this, it's time to break apart the piggy bank for the 290x, what value!
  • 33 Hide
    Benthon , October 23, 2013 9:21 PM
    Like the conclusion said, you just can't argue about aesthetics and thermals at this price point/performance. Well done AMD, lets see team green's response! Go consumer!
  • 21 Hide
    tuklap , October 23, 2013 9:25 PM
    This is awesome for us ^_^
  • 23 Hide
    Shankovich , October 23, 2013 9:27 PM
    Wow, and it's pegged at 73% too. Even if nVidia's "780ti" beats the 290X, it probably won't beat a 290X running at full power. And if mantle does make some big performance boosts, nVidia is going to be in a really tight spot. Looking forward to what they'll do. In the mean time, loving this competition! We all win in the end.
  • 13 Hide
    julianbautista87 , October 23, 2013 9:31 PM
    daaaaayyyyyuuuummmm
  • 60 Hide
    anxiousinfusion , October 23, 2013 9:37 PM
    Wait the 290 X... X? is going to be $550?! Forgive me, padre for I have sinned.
  • 21 Hide
    Darkerson , October 23, 2013 9:40 PM
    Good job, AMD!
  • 21 Hide
    jkhoward , October 23, 2013 9:40 PM
    I just purchased this card from Newegg.
  • 15 Hide
    CaptainTom , October 23, 2013 9:41 PM
    Wow AMD. GG! You exceeded every possible expectation! Have fun with your GTX 780 Ti Fanboys!!!!!
  • 19 Hide
    ilysaml , October 23, 2013 9:42 PM
    Time to Upgrade my HD 6950 to 290X, and my 1080P to 2500x Monitor.
  • 37 Hide
    lt_dan_zsu , October 23, 2013 9:44 PM
    I've never been more blown away by a hardware review. Never have I seen a gpu beat another gpu at just over half the cost.
  • 11 Hide
    DarkForce_256 , October 23, 2013 9:45 PM
    So what's the deal with the 290?
  • 9 Hide
    shin0bi272 , October 23, 2013 9:51 PM
    it always tickles the hell out of me when an amd card ties or about ties an nvidia card in one game then in an nvidia physx game the amd kicks the crap out of the nvidia card... Of course if you know why that happens in metro you know its more of a fault of the coders not physx but its still funny.
  • 10 Hide
    jimmysmitty , October 23, 2013 9:58 PM
    $550 is not bad for the fact that it beats the 780 easily and even pressures the Titan.

    Most of the higher resolution gaming wins come from the larger memory bandwidth and of course more vs the 780.

    That's a good sign. Maybe NVidia will drop prices and push this to $400-$450 and I will pick one up when there is a Vapor-X version of course,
  • 2 Hide
    markbro89 , October 23, 2013 9:59 PM
    Where to buy?! Newegg still says coming soon D:
  • -7 Hide
    DarkForce_256 , October 23, 2013 10:03 PM
    So what's the deal with the 290?
  • 99 Hide
    BigMack70 , October 23, 2013 10:04 PM
    Thank goodness AMD had some sense with the pricing. Finally, at long last, Nvidia can stop raping consumers' wallets due to lack of competition.

    This is win-win-win for everyone (except maybe Nvidia).

    Hope we never have to deal with a $1000 single GPU fiasco again. Good riddance.
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