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!!

So Apparently Some R9 290 Cards Can Flash in to a 290X?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | November 26, 2013 - 03:18 AM |
Tagged: R9 290X, r9 290, amd

Multiple sites are reporting that some AMD's Radeon R9 290 cards could be software-unlocked into 290Xs with a simple BIOS update. While the difference in performance is minor, free extra shader processors might be tempting for some existing owners.

"Binning" is when a manufacturer increases yield by splitting one product into several based on how they test after production. Semiconductor fabrication, specifically, is prone to constant errors and defects. Maybe only some of your wafers are not stable at 4 GHz but they can attain 3.5 or 3.7 GHz. Why throw those out when they can be sold as 3.5 GHz parts?

amd-gpu14-06.png

This is especially relevant to multi-core CPUs and GPUs. Hawaii XT has 2816 Stream processors; a compelling product could be made even with a few of those shut down. The R9 290, for instance, permits 2560 of these cores. The remaining have been laser cut or, at least, should have been.

Apparently certain batches of Radeon R9 290s were developed with fully functional Hawaii XT chips that were software locked to 290 specifications. There have been reports that several users of cards from multiple OEMs were able to flash a new BIOS to unlock these extra cores. However, other batches seem to be properly locked.

This could be interesting for lucky and brave users but I wonder why this happened. I can think of two potential causes:

  • Someone (OEMs or AMD) had too many 290X chips, or
  • The 290 launch was just that unprepared.

Either way, newer shipments should be properly locked even from affected OEMs. Again, not that it really matters given the performance differences we are talking about.

Source: WCCFTech

Podcast #277 - GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

Subject: General Tech | November 14, 2013 - 12:38 AM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gtx 780ti, Vector 150, ocz, r9 290, R9 290X, 290, 290x, WD, My Cloud, EX 4

PC Perspective Podcast #277 - 11/14/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the GTX 780Ti, OCZ Vector 150 SSD, Details about Kaveri, and much more from APU13!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

 
Program length: 1:09:03
  1. Reminder about Halloween contest - update when I get home
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:30:50 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
  4. Closing/outro

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

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:

clock-avg.png

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:

Crysis3_2560x1440_OFPS.png

Continue reading our coverage of the most recent driver changes and how they affect the R9 290X and R9 290!!

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 |
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.

Retail versus Review Sample Performance Variance Testing.jpg

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.

Also read:

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).

Source: AMD

PC Perspective Podcast #276 - AMD Radeon R9 290, Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H, SSD Torture tests and more!

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2013 - 05:12 PM |
Tagged: Z87X-UD5H, video, R9 290X, r9 290, podcast, nvidia, gtx 780, grid, ec2, amd, amazon

PC Perspective Podcast #276 - 11/07/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon R9 290, Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H, SSD Torture tests and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

 
Due to a recording error, portions of the audio track are missing. Because of this, the audio will skip around in various places. This is actually happening, and you aren't crazy (well maybe, but not because of the audio). Considering these files were almost not recovered, it's a miracle we have this much of the recording.
 
Program length: 0:47:56
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  3. podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

Clock Variations

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.

clock-avg.png

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.

Continue reading our article on the AMD Radeon R9 290X - The Configurable GPU!!!

Podcast #275 - AMD Radeon R9 290X, ARMTechCon 2013, NVIDIA Pricedrops and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2013 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, R9 290X, amd, radeon, 290x crossfire, 280x, r9 280x, gtx 770, gtx 780, arm, mali, Altera

PC Perspective Podcast #275 - 10/31/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the AMD Radeon R9 290X, ARMTechCon 2013, NVIDIA Pricedrops and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

 
Program length: 1:22:37
  1. Week in Review:
    1. 0:55:40
  2. 0:59:20 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
      1. Intel Series 9 Chipset
  3. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
  4. podcast@pcper.com
  5. Closing/outro

 

(Nitroware) AMD Radeon R9 290X Discussion

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 28, 2013 - 10:21 PM |
Tagged: R9 290X, amd

Hawaii launches and AMD sells their inventory (all of it, in many cases). The Radeon R9 290X brought reasonably Titan-approaching performance to the $550-600 USD dollar value. Near and dear to our website, AMD also took the opportunity to address much of the Crossfire and Eyefinity frame pacing issues.

amd-gpu14-06.png

Nitroware also took a look at the card... from a distance because they did not receive a review unit. His analysis was based on concepts, such as revisions to AMD design over the life of their Graphics Core Next architecture. The discussion goes back to the ATI Rage series of fixed function hardware and ends with a comparisson between the Radeon HD 7900 "Tahiti" and the R9 290X "Hawaii".

Our international viewers (or even curious North Americans) might also like to check out the work Dominic undertook compiling regional pricing and comparing those values to currency conversion data. There is more to an overview (or review) than benchmarks.

Source: NitroWare

Fall of a Titan, check out the R9 290X

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2013 - 02:38 PM |
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.

1382088059a47QS23bNQ_4_8_l.jpg

"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:

Graphics Cards

Source: [H]ard|OCP