With the GPU landscape mostly settled for 2014, we have the ability to really dig in and evaluate the retail models that continue to pop up from NVIDIA and AMD board partners. One of our favorite series of graphics cards over the years comes from MSI in the form of the Lightning brand. These cards tend to take the engineering levels to a point other designers simply won't do - and we love it! Obviously the target of this capability is additional overclocking headroom and stability, but what if the GPU target has issues scaling already?
That is more or less the premise of the Radeon R9 290X Lightning from MSI. AMD's Radeon R9 290X Hawaii GPU is definitely a hot and power hungry part and that caused quite a few issues at the initial release. Since then though, both AMD and its add-in card partners have worked to improve the coolers installed on these cards to improve performance reliability and decrease the LOUD NOISES produced by the stock, reference cooler.
Let's dive into the latest to hit our test bench, the MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning.
The MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning
MSI continues to utilize the yellow and black color scheme that many of the company's high end parts integrate and I love the combination. I know that both NVIDIA and AMD disapprove of the distinct lack of "green" and "red" in the cooler and box designs, but good on MSI for sticking to its own thing.
The box for the Lightning card is equal to the prominence of the card itself and you even get a nifty drawer for all of the included accessories.
We originally spotted the MSI R9 290X Lightning at CES in January and the design remains the same. The cooler is quite large (and damn heavy) and is cooled by a set of three fans. The yellow fan in the center is smaller and spins a bit faster, creating more noise than I would prefer. All fan speeds can be adjusted with MSI's included fan control software.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 2, 2014 - 11:41 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: computex, radeon, r9 295x2, Hawaii XT, dual gpu, computex 2014, ASUS ROG, asus, Ares, amd
The latest installment in the ASUS ARES series of ultra-powerful, limited-edition graphics cards has been announced, and the Ares III is set to be the “world’s fastest” video card.
The dual-GPU powerhouse is driven by two “hand-selected” Radeon Hawaii XT GPUs (R9 290X cores) with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. The card is overclockable according to ASUS, and will likely arrive factory overclocked as they claim it will be faster out of the box than the reference R9-295x2. The ARES III features a custom-designed EK water block, so unlike the R9 295x2 the end user will need to supply the liquid cooling loop.
ASUS claims that the ARES III will “deliver 25% cooler performance than reference R9 295X designs“, but to achieve this ASUS “highly” recommends a high flow rate loop with at least a 120x3 radiator “to extract maximum performance from the card,” and they “will provide a recommended list of water cooling systems at launch”.
Only 500 of the ARES III will be made, and are individually numbered. No pricing has been announced, but ASUS says to expect it to be more than a 295x2 ($1499) - but less than a TITAN Z ($2999). The ASUS ROG ARES III will be available in Q3 2014.
For more Computex 2014 coverage, please check out our feed!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | May 27, 2014 - 12:00 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, R9, R7, eyefinity, amd
AMD has just launched their Catalyst 14.6 Beta drivers for Windows and Linux. This driver will contain performance improvements for Watch Dogs, launching today in North America, and Murdered: Soul Suspect, which arrives next week. On Linux, the driver now supports Ubuntu 14.04 and its installation process has been upgraded for simplicity and user experience.
Unless performance improvements are more important to you, the biggest feature is the support for Eyefinity with mixed resolutions. With Catalyst 14.6, you no longer need a grid of identical monitors. One example use case, suggested by AMD, is a gamer who purchases an ultra-wide 2560x1080 monitor. They will be able to add a pair of 1080p monitors on either side to create a 6400x1080 viewing surface.
If the monitors are very mismatched, the driver will allow users to letterbox to the largest rectangle contained by every monitor, or "expand" to draw the largest possible rectangle (which will lead to some assets drawing outside of any monitor). A third mode, fill, behaves like Eyefinity currently does. I must give AMD a lot of credit for leaving the choice to the user.
Returning to performance with actual figures, AMD claims "up to" 25% increases in Watch Dogs at 1080p or 28% at 1600p, compared to the previous version. The new CrossFire profile also claims up to 99% scaling in that game, at 2560x1600 with 8x MSAA. Murdered: Soul Suspect will see "up to" 16% improvements on a single card, and "up to" 93% scaling. Each of these results were provided by AMD, which tested on Radeon R9 290X cards. If these CrossFire profiles (well, first, are indicative of actual performance, and) see 99% scaling across two cards, that is pretty remarkable.
A brief mention, AMD has also expanded their JPEG decoder to Kabini. Previously, it was available to Kaveri, as of Catalyst 14.1. This allows using the GPU to display images, with their test showing a series of images being processed in about half of the time. While not claimed by AMD, I expect that the GPU will also be more power-efficient (as the processor can go back to its idle state much quicker, despite activitating another component to do so). Ironically, the three images I used for this news post are encoded in PNG. You might find that amusing.
AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta Drivers should be now available at their download site.
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 26, 2014 - 05:16 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, radeon, r9 295x2, R9 290X
Through hard work or good luck you find yourself the proud owner of an R9 295X2 and a 4K display but somehow the performance just isn't quite good enough. You can't afford another X2 though there is an R9 290X in your price range but you just aren't sure if it will help your system out at all. That is where [H]ard|OCP steps in with this review where they prove that tri-fire in this configuration does indeed work. Not only does it work, it allows you to vastly increase your performance over a 295X2 or to improve the performance somewhat while raising your graphics settings to new highs. For those using 5760x1200 Eyefinity you probably already have your graphics options cranked; this upgrade will still offer you a linear increase in performance. Not bad if you have the money to invest!
"Will adding a single AMD Radeon R9 290X video card to the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 work? Will you get triple-GPU performance, ala TriFire CrossFire performance? This just might be a more financially feasible configuration for gamers versus QuadFire that provides a great gaming experience in Eyefinity and 4K resolutions."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Sapphire R9 290X Vapor-X OC @ Kitguru
- Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290X - Cooling the Savage Beast @HiTech Legion
- MSI Radeon R9 280X Gaming 6 GB @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire R9 290X Vapor-X OC 4GB Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- CLUB3D R9 290X RoyalAce Superoverclock @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 290 On Ubuntu 14.04 With Catalyst Can Beat Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- Catalyst On Ubuntu 14.04 Linux Competes Well With Windows 8.1 @ Phoronix
- High-End NVIDIA GeForce vs. AMD Radeon Linux Gaming Comparison @ Phoronix
- Windows 8.1 Still Outperforms Linux With Latest Intel GPU Drivers @ Phoronix
- Raijintek Morpheus @ techPowerUp
- PNY GTX 780 XLR8 OC Edition @ [H]ard|OCP
- Palit GTX780 Jetstream 6GB SLi (Ultra HD 4K) @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 750 @ Hardware Secrets
- ASUS GeForce GTX 780 Ti DirectCU II OC @ X-bit Labs
Subject: Graphics Cards | May 15, 2014 - 06:16 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, r9 290, r9 280x, r9 280, amd
Just the other day AMD sent out an email to the media to discuss the current pricing situation of the Radeon R9 series of graphics cards. This email started with the following statement.
You’ve seen many articles, discussions online about the AMD Radeon™ R9 lineup – especially chatter about pricing and availability. As we’ve talked about it before, the demand for the R9 lineup has been nothing but astonishing, and went well beyond our most optimistic expectations. That created a situation where gamers weren’t able to purchase their desired R9 graphics card.
Clearly AMD would not bring up the subject if the current situation was BAD news so guess what? All seems to be back normal (or expected) in terms of AMD Radeon R9 pricing and card availability. Take a look at the table below to get an idea of where Radeon's currently stand.
|Radeon R9 295X2||$1524||$1499|
|Radeon R9 290X||$549||$529|
|Radeon R9 290||$379||$399|
|Radeon R9 280X||$289||$299|
|Radeon R9 280||$249||$249|
|Radeon R9 270X||$199||$189|
|Radeon R9 270||$169||$179|
There is one price change that differs from the products' launch - the SEP of the Radeon R9 280 has dropped from $279 to $249. Nothing dramatic but a nice change.
Maybe most interesting is this line from the AMD email.
Now that product is available and at suggested pricing, these prices will remain stable. No more madness like you saw in Q1.
That emphasis is AMD's. I'm not quite sure how the company thinks they can keep a tight control on pricing now if it wasn't able to do so before, but more than likely, with the rush for coin mining hardware somewhat dying off, the prediction will hold true. (As a side note, there appears to be some discounts to be found on used Radeon hardware these days...)
Of course the AMD bundling promotion known as Never Settle Forever is still going strong with these new prices as well. Scott wrote up a story detailing this latest incarnation of the promotion and he and I both agree that while free is always
good great, the age of most of the titles in the program is a bit of a problem. But AMD did note in this email that they have "lined up a few brand new games to add to this promotion, and they'll [sic] be sharing more info with you in the next few weeks!"
Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2014 - 06:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 4k, amd, crossfire, quad crossfire, r9 295x2, radeon, video
Ryan isn't the only crazy one out there stringing 2 PSUs together to power a pair of AMD's massively powerful 295X2s in CrossFire; the gang at [H]ard|OCP did as well after taking the Mickey with a certain Brian. As with Ryan's experiment they required a second PSU, in this case a 1350W plus an 850W in order to stop the rig from crashing. Their test components also differed somewhat, a Maximus V Extreme instead of a P9X79 Deluxe and slightly different RAM and Win 8.1 installed on their SSD. The other reason to check them out is the Eyefinity 5760 x 1200 tests in addition to the 4K tests.
"Got extra PCIe slots and have no idea what in the world you can do with those? Well if you have $3000 burning a hole in your pocket, wiring in your house that is up to code, a good air conditioning system, and a Type C fire extinguisher that you are not using, AMD's Radeon R9 295X2 QuadFire may be just what the fire marshal ordered."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Custom-cooled Radeon R9 290X cards from Asus and XFX @ The Tech Report
- Sapphire Vapor-X R9 290 Tri-X OC Video Card Review @ Legit Reviews
- MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning 4 GB @ techPowerUp
- Sapphire R9 280X Vapor-X (Tri-X) OC 3GB @ eTeknix
- XFX Radeon R7 250 Core Edition Video Card Review @ Hardware Secrets
- GeForce 700 vs. Radeon Rx 200 Series With The Latest Linux Drivers @ Phoronix
- 13-Way Low-End GPU Comparison With AMD's AM1 Athlon @ Phoronix
- EVGA Backplate Install for the GTX 780 Ti Classified @ Hardware Asylum
- Gigabyte GTX 750 Ti WindForce 2X OC 2GB @ eTeknix
- ASUS GTX 750 Ti OC 2GB @ eTeknix
- TKFA2 GTX 750 Ti OC 2GB @ eTeknix
You need a bit of power for this
PC gamers. We do some dumb shit sometimes. Those on the outside looking in, forced to play on static hardware with fixed image quality and low expandability, turn up their noses and question why we do the things we do. It’s not an unfair reaction, they just don’t know what they are missing out on.
For example, what if you decided to upgrade your graphics hardware to improve performance and allow you to up the image quality on your games to unheard of levels? Rather than using a graphics configuration with performance found in a modern APU you could decide to run not one but FOUR discrete GPUs in a single machine. You could water cool them for optimal temperature and sound levels. This allows you to power not 1920x1080 (or 900p), not 2560x1400 but 4K gaming – 3840x2160.
All for the low, low price of $3000. Well, crap, I guess those console gamers have a right to question the sanity of SOME enthusiasts.
After the release of AMD’s latest flagship graphics card, the Radeon R9 295X2 8GB dual-GPU beast, our mind immediately started to wander to what magic could happen (and what might go wrong) if you combined a pair of them in a single system. Sure, two Hawaii GPUs running in tandem produced the “fastest gaming graphics card you can buy” but surely four GPUs would be even better.
The truth is though, that isn’t always the case. Multi-GPU is hard, just ask AMD or NVIDIA. The software and hardware demands placed on the driver team to coordinate data sharing, timing control, etc. are extremely high even when you are working with just two GPUs in series. Moving to three or four GPUs complicates the story even further and as a result it has been typical for us to note low performance scaling, increased frame time jitter and stutter and sometimes even complete incompatibility.
During our initial briefing covering the Radeon R9 295X2 with AMD there was a system photo that showed a pair of the cards inside a MAINGEAR box. As one of AMD’s biggest system builder partners, MAINGEAR and AMD were clearly insinuating that these configurations would be made available for those with the financial resources to pay for it. Even though we are talking about a very small subset of the PC gaming enthusiast base, these kinds of halo products are what bring PC gamers together to look and drool.
As it happens I was able to get a second R9 295X2 sample in our offices for a couple of quick days of testing.
Working with Kyle and Brent over at HardOCP, we decided to do some hardware sharing in order to give both outlets the ability to judge and measure Quad CrossFire independently. The results are impressive and awe inspiring.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | April 21, 2014 - 01:55 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, never settle forever, never settle, amd
AMD has been taking PC gaming very seriously, especially over the last couple of years. While they have a dominant presence in the console space, with only IBM in opposition, I believe that direct licensing revenue was not their main goal, rather that they hope to see benefits carry over to the PC and maybe mobile spaces, eventually. In the PC space, Never Settle launched as a very successful marketing campaign. While it had a stutter with the launch of the R9 (and R7) product lines, it is back and is still called, "Never Settle Forever".
Keeping with Forever's alteration to the Never Settle formula, the type of card that you purchase yields a Gold, Silver, or Bronze reward. Gold (the R9 280 and R9 290 series, and the R9 295X2) gets three free games in the Gold tier, Silver (R9 270 and R7 260 series) gets two in the Silver tier, and Bronze (R7 250 and R7 240 series) gets one free game in the Bronze tier. By and large, the tiers are the same as last time plus a few old games and one upcoming Square Enix release: Murdered: Soul Suspect. They have also made deals with certain independent developers, where two indie titles bundled together count as one choice.
The complete breakdown of games is as follows:
|Murdered: Soul Suspect (June 3, 2014)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Dungeon Siege III||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Company of Heroes 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Total War: Shogun 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Titan Quest (Gold Edition)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Supreme Commander (Gold Edition)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Deus Ex: Human Revolution||Yes||Yes||No|
|Just Cause 2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Banner Saga + Mutant Blobs Attack (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Guacamelee + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mutant Blobs Attack + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Banner Saga + DYAD (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mutant Blobs Attack + Guacamelee (indie combo)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Oddly enough, there does not seem to be a Banner Saga + Guacamelee combo...
... the only impossible combination.
AMD has also announced that Never Settle will continue for more "additions" in 2014. Which ones? Who knows. It is clear that they have a great working relationship with Square Enix Europe, including basically their last six major titles in Never Settle and keeping them there, but there is not really anything from them on the horizon (at least, not announced). AMD does sound confident in having other deals lined up this year, however.
Never Settle Forever graphics cards are available now "at participating retailers". Bundle codes can be redeemed any time between now and August 31st.
There is some regional variance in game availability, however. Read up before you purchase (especially if you live in Japan). You should be fine if you live in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and Latin America, though, at least where AMD products are available. Still, it is a good idea to check.
Competition is a Great Thing
While doing some testing with the AMD Athlon 5350 Kabini APU to determine it's flexibility as a low cost gaming platform, we decided to run a handful of tests to measure something else that is getting a lot of attention right now: AMD Mantle and NVIDIA's 337.50 driver.
Earlier this week I posted a story that looked at performance scaling of NVIDIA's new 337.50 beta driver compared to the previous 335.23 WHQL. The goal was to assess the DX11 efficiency improvements that the company stated it had been working on and implemented into this latest beta driver offering. In the end, we found some instances where games scaled by as much as 35% and 26% but other cases where there was little to no gain with the new driver. We looked at both single GPU and multi-GPU scenarios on mostly high end CPU hardware though.
Earlier in April I posted an article looking at Mantle, AMD's answer to a lower level API that is unique to its ecosystem, and how it scaled on various pieces of hardware on Battlefield 4. This was the first major game to implement Mantle and it remains the biggest name in the field. While we definitely saw some improvements in gaming experiences with Mantle there was work to be done when it comes to multi-GPU scaling and frame pacing.
Both parties in this debate were showing promise but obviously both were far from perfect.
While we were benchmarking the new AMD Athlon 5350 Kabini based APU, an incredibly low cost processor that Josh reviewed in April, it made sense to test out both Mantle and NVIDIA's 337.50 driver in an interesting side by side.
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.
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.