Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A Powerful Architecture

AMD likes to toot its own horn. Just a take a look at the not-so-subtle marketing buildup to the Radeon R9 295X2 dual-Hawaii graphics card, released today. I had photos of me shipped to…me…overnight. My hotel room at GDC was also given a package which included a pair of small Pringles cans (chips) and a bottle of volcanic water. You may have also seen some photos posted of a mysterious briefcase with its side stickered by with the silhouette of a Radeon add-in board.

This tooting is not without some validity though. The Radeon R9 295X2 is easily the fastest graphics card we have ever tested and that says a lot based on the last 24 months of hardware releases. It’s big, it comes with an integrated water cooler, and it requires some pretty damn specific power supply specifications. But AMD did not compromise on the R9 295X2 and, for that, I am sure that many enthusiasts will be elated. Get your wallets ready, though, this puppy will run you $1499.

01.jpg

Both AMD and NVIDIA have a history of producing high quality dual-GPU graphics cards late in the product life cycle. The most recent entry from AMD was the Radeon HD 7990, a pair of Tahiti GPUs on a single PCB with a triple fan cooler. While a solid performing card, the product was released in a time when AMD CrossFire technology was well behind the curve and, as a result, real-world performance suffered considerably. By the time the drivers and ecosystem were fixed, the HD 7990 was more or less on the way out. It was also notorious for some intermittent, but severe, overheating issues, documented by Tom’s Hardware in one of the most harshly titled articles I’ve ever read. (Hey, Game of Thrones started again this week!)

The Hawaii GPU, first revealed back in September and selling today under the guise of the R9 290X and R9 290 products, is even more power hungry than Tahiti. Many in the industry doubted that AMD would ever release a dual-GPU product based on Hawaii as the power and thermal requirements would be just too high. AMD has worked around many of these issues with a custom water cooler and placing specific power supply requirements on buyers. Still, all without compromising on performance. This is the real McCoy.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB Dual Hawaii Graphics Card!!

MSI's R9 290X GAMING 4G sports a variety of overclocked settings and a Twin Frozr IV

Subject: Graphics Cards | April 7, 2014 - 07:14 PM |
Tagged: msi, R9 290X GAMING 4G, amd, hawaii, R9 290X, Twin Frozr IV, factory overclocked

The familiar Twin Frozr IV cooler has been added to the R9 290X GPU on MSI's latest AMD graphics card.  The R9 290X GAMING 4G sports 4GB of GDDR5 running at an even 5GHz and a GPU that has three separate top speeds depending on the profile you choose; 1040 MHz with OC Mode, 1030 MHz for Gaming Mode and 1000 MHz in Silent Mode.  [H]ard|OCP also tried manually overclocking and ended up with a peak of 1130MHz GPU and 5.4GHz for the GDDR5, not a bad bump over the factory overclock.  Check out the performance of the various speeds in their full review.

1396151094av674gYKyI_1_6_l.jpg

"On our test bench today is MSI's newest high-end GAMING series graphics cards in the form of the MSI Radeon R9 290X GAMING 4G video card. We will strap it to our test bench and compare it to the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Ti GAMING 3G card out-of-box and overclocked to determine which card provides the best gameplay experience."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: NZXT

Installation

When the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X first launched last year, they were plagued by issues of overheating and variable clock speeds.  We looked at the situation several times over the course of a couple months and AMD tried to address the problem with newer drivers.  These drivers did help stabilize clock speeds (and thus performance) of the reference built R9 290 and R9 290X cards but caused noise levels to increase as well.  

The real solution was the release of custom cooled versions of the R9 290 and R9 290X from AMD partners like ASUS, MSI and others.  The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II model for example, ran cooler, quieter and more consistently than any of the numerous reference models we had our hands on.  

But what about all those buyers that are still purchasing, or have already purchased, reference style R9 290 and 290X cards?  Replacing the cooler on the card is the best choice and thanks to our friends at NZXT we have a unique solution that combines standard self contained water coolers meant for CPUs with a custom built GPU bracket.  

IMG_9179_0.JPG

Our quick test will utilize one of the reference R9 290 cards AMD sent along at launch and two specific NZXT products.  The Kraken X40 is a standard CPU self contained water cooler that sells for $100 on Amazon.com.  For our purposes though we are going to team it up with the Kraken G10, a $30 GPU-specific bracket that allows you to use the X40 (and other water coolers) on the Radeon R9 290.

IMG_9181_0.JPG

Inside the box of the G10 you'll find an 80mm fan, a back plate, the bracket to attach the cooler to the GPU and all necessary installation hardware.  The G10 will support a wide range of GPUs, though they are targeted towards the reference designs of each:

NVIDIA : GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770, 760, Titan, 680, 670, 660Ti, 660, 580, 570, 560Ti, 560, 560SE 
AMD : R9 290X, 290, 280X*, 280*, 270X, 270 HD7970*, 7950*, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 6770, 5870, 5850, 5830
 

That is pretty impressive but NZXT will caution you that custom designed boards may interfere.

IMG_9184_0.JPG

The installation process begins by removing the original cooler which in this case just means a lot of small screws.  Be careful when removing the screws on the actual heatsink retention bracket and alternate between screws to take it off evenly.

Continue reading about how the NZXT Kraken G10 can improve the cooling of the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X!!

AMD Radeon R9 290X shows up for $549 on Newegg. Is the worst behind us?

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 4, 2014 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Yes, I know it is only one card.  And yes I know that this could sell out in the next 10 minutes and be nothing, but I was so interested, excited and curious about this that I wanted to put together a news post.  I just found a Radeon R9 290X card selling for $549 on Newegg.com.  That is the normal, regular, non-inflated, expected retail price.

WAT.

290xwat.jpg

You can get a Powercolor AXR9 290X with 4GB of memory for $549 right now, likely only if you hurry.  That same GPU on Amazon.com will cost you $676.  This same card at Newegg.com has been as high as $699:

290xwat2.jpg

Again - this is only one card on one site, but the implications are positive.  This is also a reference design card, rather than one of the superior offerings with a custom cooler.  After that single card, the next lowest price is $629, followed by a couple at $649 and then more at $699.  We are still waiting to hear from AMD on the issue, what its response is and if it can actually even do anything to fix it.  It seems plausible, but maybe not likely, that the draw of coin mining is reached a peak (and who can blame them) and the pricing of AMD GPUs could stabilize.  Maybe.  It's classified.

But for now, if you want an R9 290X, Newegg.com has at least one option that makes sense.

Just a reminder of the state of Hawaii

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2014 - 12:45 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, hawaii, catalyst, amd

Confirming the results that Ryan and other sites have seen are the results of [H]ard|OCP's testing of two different retail R9 290X GPUs against a pair of press sample cards.  Much as with Ryan's findings even using the newer Catalyst 13.11 Beta 5 driver, Quiet mode performance varies far more than Uber mode does but even Uber mode displays some differences between models.  However they draw a slightly different conclusion based on their experiences, determining that the variance is not just a matter of press samples versus retail cards but a variance between any and all 290X GPUs.  The complexity of this huge chip is such that the differences in manufacturing process and tolerances are to blame and some cards will simply be better than others.  They also are disappointed by AMD's marketing team, citing that the key is 'With NVIDIA GTX 600 and 700 series the video cards are "running faster than advertised" and with AMD R9 290X the video card is running "slower than advertised."'

1388637001OyMBWZblhG_1_1.png

"The AMD Radeon R9 290X arrived recently with a high level of performance, and a high level of controversy. There have been reports of performance variance between Radeon R9 290X video cards. We have two purchased retail cards today with stock cooling that we will test and see if performance variances exist."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP
Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Sapphire Triple Fan Hawaii

It was mid-December when the very first custom cooled AMD Radeon R9 290X card hit our offices in the form of the ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II.  It was cooler, quieter, and faster than the reference model; this is a combination that is hard to pass up (if you could buy it yet).  More and more of these custom models, both in the R9 290 and R9 290X flavor, are filtering their way into PC Perspective. Next on the chopping block is the Sapphire Tri-X model of the R9 290X.  

Sapphire's triple fan cooler already made quite an impression on me when we tested a version of it on the R9 280X retail round up from October.  It kept the GPU cool but it was also the loudest of the retail cards tested at the time.  For the R9 290X model, Sapphire has made some tweaks to the fan speeds and the design of the cooler which makes it a better overall solution as you will soon see.

box.jpg

The key tenets for any AMD R9 290/290X custom cooled card is to beat AMD's reference cooler in performance, noise, and variable clock rates.  Does Sapphire meet these goals?

The Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB

While the ASUS DirectCU II card was taller and more menacing than the reference design, the Sapphire Tri-X cooler is longer and appears to be more sleek than the competition thus far.  The bright yellow and black color scheme is both attractive and unique though it does lack the LED light that the 280X showcased.  

Sapphire has overclocked this model slightly, to 1040 MHz on the GPU clock, which puts it in good company.

  AMD Radeon R9 290X ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X
GPU Cores 2816 2816 2816
Rated Clock 1000 MHz 1050 MHz 1040 MHz
Texture Units 176 176 176
ROP Units 64 64 64
Memory 4GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5400 MHz 5200 MHz
Memory Interface 512-bit 512-bit 512-bit
TDP ~300 watts ~300 watts ~300 watts
Peak Compute 5.6 TFLOPS 5.6+ TFLOPS 5.6T TFLOPS
MSRP Price $549 $569 $599

IMG_9130.JPG

There are three fans on the Tri-X design, as the name would imply, but each are the same size unlike the smaller central fan design of the R9 280X.

Read our review of the Sapphire R9 290X Tri-X 4GB Graphics Card!!

AMD Mantle for Battlefield 4 Delayed into the New Year

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 30, 2013 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: amd, Mantle, hawaii, BF4, battlefield 4

If you have been following the mess than has been Battlefield 4 since its release, what with the crashing on both PCs and consoles, you know that EA and DICE have decided that fixing the broken game is the number 1 priority.  Gee, thanks.  

bf4splash.jpg

While they work on that though, there is another casualty of development other than the pending DLC packs: AMD's Mantle version of the game.  If you remember way back in September of 2013, along with the announcement of AMD's Hawaii GPUs, AMD and DICE promised a version of the BF4 game running on Mantle as a free update in December.  If you are counting, that is just 1 more day away from being late.

Today we got this official statement from AMD:

After much consideration, the decision was made to delay the Mantle patch for Battlefield 4. AMD continues to support DICE on the public introduction of Mantle, and we are tremendously excited about the coming release for Battlefield 4! We are now targeting a January release and will have more information to share in the New Year.

Well, it's not a surprise but it sure is a bummer.  One of the killer new features for AMD's GPUs was supposed to be the ability to use this new low-level API to enhance performance for PC games.  As Josh stated in our initial article on the subject, "It bypasses DirectX (and possibly the hardware abstraction layer) and developers can program very close to the metal with very little overhead from software.  This lowers memory and CPU usage, it decreases latency, and because there are fewer “moving parts” AMD claims that they can do 9x the draw calls with Mantle as compared to DirectX.  This is a significant boost in overall efficiency."

mantle_diag_03.jpg

It seems that buyers of the AMD R9 series of graphics need to wait at least another month to really see what the promise of Mantle is really all about. Will the wait be worth it?

Source: AMD

Video Perspective: GPU Shortages and Litecoin Mining Discussion

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 12, 2013 - 05:20 PM |
Tagged: video, amd, radeon, hawaii, r9 290, R9 290X, bitcoin, litecoin, mining

If you already listened to this weeks PC Perspective Podcast, then feel free to disregard this post.  For the rest of you - subscribe to our damned weekly podcast would you already?!?

In any event, I thought it might be interesting to extract this 6 minute discussion we had during last nights live streamed podcast about how the emergence of Litecoin mining operations is driving up prices of GPUs, particularly the compute-capable R9 290 and R9 290X Hawaii-based cards from AMD.

Check out these prices currently on Amazon!

The price of the GTX 770 is a bit higher than it should be while the GTX 780 and GTX 780 Ti are priced in the same range they have been for the last month or so.  The same cannot be said for the AMD cards listed here - the R9 280X is selling for $130 more than its expected MSRP at a minimum but you'll see quite a few going for much higher on Amazon, Ebay (thanks TR) and others.  The Radeon R9 290 has an MSRP of $399 from AMD but the lowest price we found on Amazon was $499 and anything on Newegg.com is showing at the same price, but sold out.  The R9 290X is even more obnoxiously priced when you can find them.

03.jpg

Do you have any thoughts on this?  Do you think Litecoin mining is really causing these price inflations and what does that mean for AMD, NVIDIA and the gamer?

Controversy continues to erupt over AMD's new GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 27, 2013 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Ryan is not the only one who felt it necessary to investigate the reports of differing performance between retail R9 290X cards and the ones sent out for review.  Legit Reviews also ordered a retail card made by Sapphire and tested it against the card sent to them by AMD.  As with our results, ambient temperature had more effect on the frequency of the retail card than it did on the press sample with a 14% difference being common.  Legit had another idea after they noticed that while the BIOS version was the same on both cards the part numbers differed.  Find out what happened when they flashed the retail card to exactly match the press sample.

290x-cards-645x485.jpg

"The AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 have been getting a ton of attention lately due to a number of reports that the retail cards are performing differently than the press cards that the media sites received. We have been following these stories for the past few weeks and finally decided to look into the situation ourselves."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

Author:
Manufacturer: Sapphire

Another retail card reveals the results

Since the release of the new AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 graphics cards, we have been very curious about the latest implementation of AMD's PowerTune technology and its scaling of clock frequency as a result of the thermal levels of each graphics card.  In the first article covering this topic, I addressed the questions from AMD's point of view - is this really a "configurable" GPU as AMD claims or are there issues that need to be addressed by the company? 

The biggest problems I found were in the highly variable clock speeds from game to game and from a "cold" GPU to a "hot" GPU.  This affects the way many people in the industry test and benchmark graphics cards as running a game for just a couple of minutes could result in average and reported frame rates that are much higher than what you see 10-20 minutes into gameplay.  This was rarely something that had to be dealt with before (especially on AMD graphics cards) so to many it caught them off-guard.

02.jpg

Because of the new PowerTune technology, as I have discussed several times before, clock speeds are starting off quite high on the R9 290X (at or near the 1000 MHz quoted speed) and then slowly drifting down over time.

Another wrinkle occurred when Tom's Hardware reported that retail graphics cards they had seen were showing markedly lower performance than the reference samples sent to reviewers.  As a result, AMD quickly released a new driver that attempted to address the problem by normalizing to fan speeds (RPM) rather than fan voltage (percentage).  The result was consistent fan speeds on different cards and thus much closer performance.

However, with all that being said, I was still testing retail AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 cards that were PURCHASED rather than sampled, to keep tabs on the situation. 

Continue reading our article on retail variance in R9 290X clock speeds and performance!!