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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.


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.

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