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

Power Consumption

Idle and Multi-Monitor Loads

The Radeon R9 290X’s power consumption at idle is surprisingly high. Even though AMD makes a point of highlighting its ZeroCore Power feature, which does drop the card to a miserly 5 to 6 W, you only enjoy the benefit of this when your monitor is in suspend mode. As soon as the desktop becomes active, power consumption jumps to 20 W with one monitor connected. Connect two and you’re looking at 57 W. Three monitors take you all the way up to 59 W. This means that the R9 290X consumes more power than two overclocked GeForce GTX 780s in SLI with more than one monitor attached.

Hardware Accelerated Video Output

During Blu-ray playback (or other accelerated video work), AMD's Radeon R9 290X consumes 70 W. This is bizarre, since the Radeon R7 240 does the same thing under 17 W. AMD clearly has some driver work to do still.

Onwards and Upwards: Gaming

After that negative attention, PowerTune kicks in to do the job it's supposed to do. The technology makes its adjustments so quickly that it's difficult to express average power consumption using one number. There's a lot of variation, and the reading changes based on several factors.

Because we can't be as objective as we'd want, we're providing a range instead. To achieve this, we left the power limit alone in CCC and lowered the board's target temperature to 70 degrees Celsius. The resulting cooling performance is about on par with what AMD’s partners offer on existing cards in the same thermal class, giving us a preview of what they might achieve with their own cooling solutions and R9 290X.

Power figures between 185 and 218 W are pretty darned good in the ultra-high-end segment. In light of these results, I think we can forgive the idle numbers we recorded earlier.

When Push Comes to Shove: The Peak Values

If you want to take the Radeon R9 290X to its limits, then you need to push it hard by increasing its power limit and dropping the target temperature. Under those conditions, it's possible to exceed 300 W. We even saw 335 W from the card, though that's probably not at all something you want to reproduce.

The 225 W we measured using a compute-heavy load and stock settings can be pushed as high as 295 W by giving the fan more room to spin up and targeting a lower thermal ceiling. Unfortunately, those conditions don't last. Once the Radeon R9 290X hits its target temperature, power consumption drops considerably. This explains the card’s relatively low performance in our GPGPU benchmarks.

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  • beta212
    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.
  • slomo4sho
    Great price point. This card has already broken world records just a few hours after release!

  • esrever
    2 of these for 4k looks amazing but Im a little disappointed by the power consumption when you crank up performance.
  • aznguy0028
    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!
  • Benthon
    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!
  • tuklap
    This is awesome for us ^_^
  • Shankovich
    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.
  • julianbautista87
  • anxiousinfusion
    Wait the 290 X... X? is going to be $550?! Forgive me, padre for I have sinned.
  • Darkerson
    Good job, AMD!
  • jkhoward
    I just purchased this card from Newegg.
  • CaptainTom
    Wow AMD. GG! You exceeded every possible expectation! Have fun with your GTX 780 Ti Fanboys!!!!!
  • ilysaml
    Time to Upgrade my HD 6950 to 290X, and my 1080P to 2500x Monitor.
  • lt_dan_zsu
    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.
  • DarkForce_256
    So what's the deal with the 290?
  • shin0bi272
    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.
  • jimmysmitty
    $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,
  • markbro89
    Where to buy?! Newegg still says coming soon D:
  • DarkForce_256
    So what's the deal with the 290?
  • BigMack70
    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.
  • harmaatukka
    I'm not sure if this is meaningful or not when it comes to benchmarking, but in real world running Skyrim over 60 fps breaks the physics of the game. The game becomes unstable with objects flying randomly around and things falling from the sky. The game may CTD as soon as in the starting sequence because you may fly out of the cart.
  • haro87
    Ill wait for the better cooling solutions to come out... seems like to get the most out of the cards cooling is the key
  • richmondHeights
    $550 for the R9 290X... You go red team! "Om nom nom"... that's the sound of Jen Hsun Huang eating his shoes. He's had 7 months to reap in profits for the high end gamer market. Now it's time to lower prices across the board. I'm hoping the GTX 780 gets lowered to $500 and Titan lowered to $650.

    Where will the GTX 780Ti fit? We'll be watching you for the the response nVidia. It better be good or you'll get creamed.

    It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
  • designasaurus
    As usual, AMD has a poor reference cooler. Also as usual, I expect the non-reference boards the manufacturers come up with to solve this issue handily. Sapphire, Asus, etc. will solve this card's weaknesses and charge $0-20 extra for the privilege - still a good deal if you have the patience to wait a bit.