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

Results: Crysis 3

Our Crysis 3 benchmark is based on real-world gameplay. Fairly consistently, it appears to be platform-bound, though. It might be tempting to suspect a v-sync issue, given the average frame rates at 1920x1080 clumping up at 60 FPS. However, if you look back to our R9 290X review, you’ll notice averages in the 65 FPS range—roughly corresponding to our switch from a Core i7-4960X to a -3970X processor this time around.

One observation cannot be missed, though: Radeon R9 290 looks a lot like our sampled 290X and GeForce GTX Titan. The retail R9 290X is quite a bit slower though, particularly at 2560x1440.

The frame rates drop too low at 3840x2160 to be usable, though that’s clearly where AMD’s Hawaii GPU excels. We’ve already tested the 290X in CrossFire and seen impressive results. However, we’re waiting for a second retail card before revisiting that configuration in a more realistic way.

Our dual-GPU numbers were generated by the FCAT tool suite, which is designed to factor our dropped and runt frames. And yet, the Radeon HD 7990 is somehow able to transcend the ceiling imposed on every other card at 1920x1080.

This is masked somewhat at 2560x1440, where the GeForce GTX 690 reminds us that it’s a very capable performer, too. Single-GPU boards like the Radeon R9 290X, 290, GeForce GTX Titan, and 780 all clump together though. There's a little more spread at 3840x2160, but only enough to see the retail 290X getting outperformed by the sampled 290. Both cards beat out Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780.

Worst-case frame time variance is fairly low at 2560x1440. It gets worse at 1920x1080 and 3840x2160, though seemingly not in a consistent way. Only the GTX 690’s higher numbers would make sense from the standpoint of getting two GPUs to render frames consistently. Just remember these are 95th percentile numbers. The average and 75th percentile are being excluded to avoid a data overload.

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.