An issue of variance
AMD just sent along an email to the press with a new driver to use for Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 testing going forward. Here is the note:
We’ve identified that there’s variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink.
The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.
The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X ‘Quiet mode’, and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z.
If you’re working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.
Great! This is good news! Except it also creates some questions.
When we first tested the R9 290X and the R9 290, we discussed the latest iteration of AMD's PowerTune technology. That feature attempts to keep clocks as high as possible under the constraints of temperature and power. I took issue with the high variability of clock speeds on our R9 290X sample, citing this graph:
I then did some digging into the variance and the claims that AMD was building a "configurable" GPU. In that article we found that there were significant performance deltas between "hot" and "cold" GPUs; we noticed that doing simple, quick benchmarks would produce certain results that were definitely not real-world in nature. At the default 40% fan speed, Crysis 3 showed 10% variance with the 290X at 2560x1440:
AMD Releases Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 Driver To Correct Performance Variance Issue of R9 290 Series Graphics Cards
Subject: Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling | November 8, 2013 - 02:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: R9 290X, powertune, hawaii, graphics drivers, gpu, GCN, catalyst 13.11 beta, amd, 290x
AMD recently launched its 290X graphics card, which is the new high-end single GPU solution using a GCN-based Hawaii architecture. The new GPU is rather large and incorporates an updated version of AMD's PowerTune technology to automatically adjust clockspeeds based on temperature and a maximum fan speed of 40%. Unfortunately, it seems that some 290X cards available at retail exhibited performance characteristics that varied from review units.
AMD has looked into the issue and released the following statement in response to the performance variances (which PC Perspective is looking into as well).
Hello, We've identified that there's variability in fan speeds across AMD R9 290 series boards. This variability in fan speed translates into variability of the cooling capacity of the fan-sink. The flexibility of AMD PowerTune technology enables us to correct this variability in a driver update. This update will normalize the fan RPMs to the correct values.
The correct target RPM values are 2200RPM for the AMD Radeon R9 290X "Quiet mode", and 2650RPM for the R9 290. You can verify these in GPU-Z. If you're working on stories relating to R9 290 series products, please use this driver as it will reduce any variability in fan speeds. This driver will be posted publicly tonight.
From the AMD statement, it seems to be an issue with fan speeds from card to card causing the performance variances. With a GPU that is rated to run at up to 95C, a fan limited to 40% maximum, and dynamic clockspeeds, it is only natural that cards could perform differently, especially if case airflow is not up to par. On the other hand, the specific issue pointed out by other technology review sites (per my understanding, it was initially Tom's Hardware that reported on the retail vs review sample variance) is an issue where the 40% maximum on certain cards is not actually the RPM target that AMD intended.
AMD intended for the Radeon R9 290X's fan to run at 2200RPM (40%) in Quiet Mode and the fan on the R9 290 (which has a maximum fan speed percentage of 47%) to spin at 2650 RPM in Quiet Mode. However, some cards 40% values are not actually hitting those intended RPMs, which is causing performance differences due to cooling and PowerTune adjusting the clockspeeds accordingly.
Luckily, the issue is being worked on by AMD, and it is reportedly rectified by a driver update. The driver update ensures that the fans are actually spinning at the intended speed when set to the 40% (R9 290X) or 47% (R9 290) values in Catalyst Control Center. The new driver, which includes the fix, is version Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 and is available for download now.
If you are running a R9 290 or R9 290X in your system, you should consider updating to the latest driver to ensure you are getting the cooling (and as a result gaming) performance you are supposed to be getting.
Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2 is available from the AMD website.
- AMD Radeon R9 290X Hawaii - The Configurable GPU?
- AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Review - Trip to Hawaii for $399
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information on the Radeon R9 290 series GPU performance variance issue as it develops.
Image credit: Ryan Shrout (PC Perspective).
Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2013 - 01:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, r9 290, hawaii, crossfire, amd, 290x, powertune
How does all the power of a GTX 780 for a price tag $100 lower sound to you? Honestly it might sound a little loud as the reference cooler on the R9 290 can be a little loud at 50% which is the speed you need to be able to keep this card running full out. As long as you don't mind the sound or are willing to wait for custom air or water cooling solutions there are no negatives about the 290. Frame pacing makes Crossfire much smoother and it sports the hardware improvements for EyeFinity to improve your experience in 4K and multi-monitor usage. [H]ard|OCP actually uses the word epic just before giving this card a Gold Award, check out their full review here.
Ryan's review, including Frame Rating can be found by clicking here.
"It is time now to look at AMD's Radeon R9 290. This lower-cost R9 290 series video card packs a punch, not only in performance, but also in price. Watch it compete with the GeForce GTX 780, and win while being priced lower. This is the value you have been waiting for with gaming performance."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon R9 290 @ The Tech Report
- AMD Radeon R9 290 @ Legion Hardware
- AMD Radeon R9 290 @ Hardware.info
- AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 290 @ Techspot
- AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD R9 290 @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 290 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire @ [H]ard|OCP
- Powercolor R9 290X OC Review @ OCC
- PowerColor R9 290X OC 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- HIS R9 270X IceQ X² Turbo Boost Clock 2GB GDDR5 Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB @ eTeknix
- 4K Gaming Showdown – AMD R9 290X & R9 280X Vs Nvidia GTX Titan & GTX 780 @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290X vs NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 at 4K @ Legit Reviews
- Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Review @ OCC
- MSI R9 280X GAMING @ [H]ard|OCP
- VisionTek Radeon R9 280X Video Card Review @ Modders-Inc
- HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire Radeon R9 270X Vapor-X Video Card Review @ TechwareLabs
- AMD's Radeon Gallium3D Starts Posing A Threat To Catalyst @ Phoronix
- Three GeForce GTX 780 Graphics Cards @ X-bit Labs
- GeForce GTX 770 Graphics Cards Roundup @ X-bit Labs
- Gigabyte GTX 780 WindForce OC @ eTeknix
More of the same for a lot less cash
The week before Halloween, AMD unleashed a trick on the GPU world under the guise of the Radeon R9 290X and it was the fastest single GPU graphics card we had tested to date. With a surprising price point of $549, it was able to outperform the GeForce GTX 780 (and GTX TITAN in most cases) while under cutting the competitions price by $100. Not too bad!
Today's release might be more surprising (and somewhat confusing). The AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB card is based on the same Hawaii GPU with a few less compute units enabled (CUs) and an even more aggressive price and performance placement. Seriously, has AMD lost its mind?
Can a card with a $399 price tag cut into the same performance levels as the JUST DROPPED price of $499 for the GeForce GTX 780?? And, if so, what sacrifices are being made by users that adopt it? Why do so many of our introduction sentences end in question marks?
The R9 290 GPU - Hawaii loses a small island
If you are new to the Hawaii GPU and you missed our first review of the Radeon R9 290X from last month, you should probably start back there. The architecture is very similar to that of the HD 7000-series Tahiti GPUs with some modest changes to improve efficiency with the biggest jump in raw primitives per second to 4/clock over 2/clock.
The R9 290 is based on Hawaii though it has four fewer compute units (CUs) than the R9 290X. When I asked AMD if that meant there was one fewer CU per Shader Engine or if they were all removed from a single Engine, they refused to really answer. Instead, several "I'm not allowed to comment on the specific configuration" lines were given. This seems pretty odd as NVIDIA has been upfront about the dual options for its derivative GPU models. Oh well.
When AMD released the Radeon R9 290X last month, I came away from the review very impressed with the performance and price point the new flagship graphics card was presented with. My review showed that the 290X was clearly faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 and (and that time) was considerably less expensive as well - a win-win for AMD without a doubt.
But there were concerns over a couple of aspects of the cards design. First was the temperature and, specifically, how AMD was okay with this rather large silicon hitting 95C sustained. Another concern, AMD has also included a switch at the top of the R9 290X to switch fan profiles. This switch essentially creates two reference defaults and makes it impossible for us to set a baseline of performance. These different modes only changed the maximum fan speed that the card was allowed to reach. Still, performance changed because of this setting thanks to the newly revised (and updated) AMD PowerTune technology.
We also saw, in our initial review, a large variation in clock speeds both from one game to another as well as over time (after giving the card a chance to heat up). This led me to create the following graph showing average clock speeds 5-7 minutes into a gaming session with the card set to the default, "quiet" state. Each test is over a 60 second span.
Clearly there is variance here which led us to more questions about AMD's stance. Remember when the Kepler GPUs launched. AMD was very clear that variance from card to card, silicon to silicon, was bad for the consumer as it created random performance deltas between cards with otherwise identical specifications.
When it comes to the R9 290X, though, AMD claims both the GPU (and card itself) are a customizable graphics solution. The customization is based around the maximum fan speed which is a setting the user can adjust inside the Catalyst Control Center. This setting will allow you to lower the fan speed if you are a gamer desiring a quieter gaming configuration while still having great gaming performance. If you are comfortable with a louder fan, because headphones are magic, then you have the option to simply turn up the maximum fan speed and gain additional performance (a higher average clock rate) without any actual overclocking.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2013 - 02:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, kepler, hawaii, amd
If you didn't stay up to watch our live release of the R9 290X after the podcast last night you missed a chance to have your questions answered but you will be able to watch the recording later on. The R9 290X arrived today, bringing 4K and Crossfire reviews as well as single GPU testing on many a site including PCPer of course. You don't just have to take our word for it, [H]ard|OCP was also putting together a review of AMD's Titan killer. Their benchmarks included some games we haven't adopted yet such as ARMA III. Check out their results and compare them to ours, AMD really has a winner here.
"AMD is launching the Radeon R9 290X today. The R9 290X represents AMD's fastest single-GPU video card ever produced. It is priced to be less expensive than the GeForce GTX 780, but packs a punch on the level of GTX TITAN. We look at performance, the two BIOS mode options, and even some 4K gaming."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card @ The Tech Report
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Hardware.info
- 4K Gaming Showdown - AMD R9 290X & R9 280X Vs Nvidia GTX Titan & GTX 780 @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire @ techPowerUp
- AMD Radeon R9 290X @ Techspot
- AMD R9 290X @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4 GB @ techPowerUp
A slightly new architecture
Last month AMD brought media, analysts, and customers out to Hawaii to talk about a new graphics chip coming out this year. As you might have guessed based on the location: the code name for this GPU was in fact, Hawaii. It was targeted at the high end of the discrete graphics market to take on the likes of the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN from NVIDIA.
Earlier this month we reviewed the AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and the R7 260X. None of these were based on that new GPU. Instead, these cards were all rebrands and repositionings of existing hardware in the market (albeit at reduced prices). Those lower prices made the R9 280X one of our favorite GPUs of the moment as it offers performance per price points currently unmatched by NVIDIA.
But today is a little different, today we are talking about a much more expensive product that has to live up to some pretty lofty goals and ambitions set forward by the AMD PR and marketing machine. At $549 MSRP, the new AMD Radeon R9 290X will become the flagship of the Radeon brand. The question is: to where does that ship sail?
The AMD Hawaii Architecture
To be quite upfront about it, the Hawaii design is very similar to that of the Tahiti GPU from the Radeon HD 7970 and R9 280X cards. Based on the same GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture AMD assured us would be its long term vision, Hawaii ups the ante in a few key areas while maintaining the same core.
Hawaii is built around Shader Engines, of which the R9 290X has four. Each of these includes 11 CU (compute units) which hold 4 SIMD arrays each. Doing the quick math brings us to a total stream processor count of 2,816 on the R9 290X.
AMD is up to some interesting things. Today at AMD’s tech day, we discovered a veritable cornucopia of information. Some of it was pretty interesting (audio), some was discussed ad-naseum (audio, audio, and more audio), and one thing in particular was quite shocking. Mantle was the final, big subject that AMD was willing to discuss. Many assumed that the R9 290X would be the primary focus of this talk, but in fact it very much was an aside that was not discussed at any length. AMD basically said, “Yes, the card exists, and it has some new features that we are not going to really go over at this time.” Mantle, as a technology, is at the same time a logical step as well as an unforeseen one. So what all does Mantle mean for users?
Looking back through the mists of time, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the individual 3D chip makers all implemented low level APIs that allowed programmers to get closer to the silicon than what other APIs such as Direct3D and OpenGL would allow. This was a very efficient way of doing things in terms of graphics performance. It was an inefficient way to do things for a developer writing code for multiple APIs. Microsoft and the Kronos Group had solutions with Direct3D and OpenGL that allowed these programmers to develop for these high level APIs very simply (comparatively so). The developers could write code that would run D3D/OpenGL, and the graphics chip manufacturers would write drivers that would interface with Direct3D/OpenGL, which then go through a hardware abstraction layer to communicate with the hardware. The onus was then on the graphics people to create solid, high performance drivers that would work well with DirectX or OpenGL, so the game developer would not have to code directly for a multitude of current and older graphics cards.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 25, 2013 - 03:08 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: live, hawaii, amd
In case you didn't know, AMD is hosting a live stream to talk about the new AMD Hawaii series of GPUs. You should definitely be on our PC Perspective Live! page right now to participate and watch!
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 21, 2013 - 11:58 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, leak, hawaii, amd
What better way to spend your weekend than to comb over photos and graphs to try and figure out everything you can about the upcoming AMD Hawaii GPU just days before they announce it during a live stream? A collection of leaks including pictures and benchmarks made their way onto the web (they have a way of doing that) from our friends in China. I spotted a post from our buddy Hassan at WCCFTech that detailed much of the information available so far.
The first picture was actually posted by Johan Andersson, lead developer at DICE over Twitter with a not-too-vague comment about Hawaii and Volcanic Islands.
— Johan Andersson (@repi) September 21, 2013
A website with the convenient name of udteam.tistory.com posted images with quite a bit more detail including some with the cooler removed.
The GPU here is apparently going to be called the AMD Radeon R9-290X as AMD shifts to a completely new naming scheme with this generation. We already discussed an interview with AMD's Matt Skynner in which he said the die of Hawaii was 30% smaller than NVIDIA's GTX TITAN and would be more efficient per die area than the GeForce option.
Other specifications that have been compiled (that are still rumors really at this point) include a 512-bit memory interface (quad 128-bit controllers more than likely based on the memory layout), 4GB of GDDR5, 5+1 phase power and 8+6 pin power connections (very reasonable for a flagship). The die size is being estimated at 424 mm2 (larger than Radeon HD 7970 but smaller than TITAN) and price estimates are sitting at $599.
We even found a couple of benchmarks claiming to have performance results of this new beast of a GPU. Though the name of the card on the result is blocked out we are supposed to believe these are results from the AMD R9-290X and they are impressive if true. In both of the graphs here the new Hawaii GPU is faster than the $999 GeForce GTX TITAN at a significantly lower price!
All signs are pointing to AMD's next 28nm GPU to be a high end gamer's dream graphics card. That is, IF all these rumors and leaks turns out to be accurate. We still don't know the key data points like stream processor count, but we'll know it all in due time. (Maybe next week?) We still have concerns about the status of AMD's multi-GPU fixes but if the company can get that worked out in time for this relesae, I expect AMD to make a big splash this fall with a revamped Radeon brand.
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