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

Results: Arma III At 3840x2160

Ultra HD presents us with some interesting challenges. To begin, while DisplayPort is the most logical interface between your graphics card and a tiled display, there is no way for us to use FCAT and DP for analyzing performance. The workaround is two HDMI inputs, one of which gets routed through a DVI splitter and into a capture card. But while Nvidia says this works fine, AMD is insistent that its controller doesn't support this configuration due to timing issues. That leaves us with Fraps. And of course, there’s no way for us to pick up dropped and runt frame using Fraps. So, we immediately shed the dual-GPU solutions from our charts.

What we’re left with, then, are five single-GPU boards at a dialed-down High detail preset in Arma III. The Ultra configuration we used on the previous page is simply too demanding. Even set to High, we see averages under 40 FPS at best.

Using the Quiet mode firmware, AMD’s Radeon R9 290X maintains more than 30 FPS, beating GeForce GTX Titan.

With that said, I can’t believe that anyone willing to spend $3500 on an Ultra HD screen today would compromise game settings to make a single-card gaming box playable. Calling R9 290X the best solution for a smooth experience at 3840x2160 is a red herring. In Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display?, I concluded that you’d want at least two GeForce GTX 780s for 4K. And although the R9 290X is faster than even the $1000 Titan, I maintain that you need a pair in order to crank your settings up to where they should be.

Average frame time variance isn’t bad, but the AMD cards encounter less consistent delivery in worst-case measurements, which could manifest as more stutter when the going gets tough.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.