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

Noise And Video Comparison


The Radeon R9 290X review covered fan speeds and how noise level relates to different loads. AMD's new Catalyst 13.11 Beta 8 driver doesn't really improve the situation. We don't get more performance from any specific optimization, but rather by increasing the noise level.

We’re presenting separate videos for the two drivers to demonstrate progression from the first to the second one. Unfortunately, the louder of the two is the driver AMD apparently plans to ship. For comparison, we also include the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780, as well as a Radeon R9 290 that we upgraded ourselves with a third-party cooling solution. These nicely show just how much performance AMD leaves on the table due to its reference cooler. As always, the measurements are taken with a studio microphone perpendicular to the middle of the card from a distance of 50 cm.

AMD Radeon R9 290 Noise Comparison Before and After the Driver Update

Both videos show the noise level during a long gaming loop and illustrate the result in the graph.

At idle, the AMD Radeon R9 290’s radial fan is definitely noticeable, but bearable.

Noise Comparison with the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780

Same gaming loop, different graphics card. The GeForce GTX 780 at stock speed and settings is a lot quieter, but it pays for it by reaching its thermal limit quickly. The fan needs to be pushed quite a bit to achieve consistent GPU Boost frequencies. Seventy percent are enough for a cold card, but once it’s warmed up, a fan speed of 80 percent is needed to maintain those higher clock rates. This is the only way to get an apples-to-apples comparison of the two competing graphics cards.

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.