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.
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.
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:
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.
Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2013 - 03:48 PM | Ken Addison
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!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the 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
ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP
Earlier this month AMD took the wraps off of a revamped and restyled family of GPUs under the Radeon R9 and R7 brands. When I reviewed the R9 280X, essentially a lower cost version of the Radoen HD 7970 GHz Edition, I came away impressed with the package AMD was able to put together. Though there was no new hardware to really discuss with the R9 280X, the price drop placed the cards in a very aggressive position adjacent the NVIDIA GeForce line-up (including the GeForce GTX 770 and the GTX 760).
As a result, I fully expect the R9 280X to be a great selling GPU for those gamers with a mid-range budget of $300.
But another of the benefits of using an existing GPU architecture is the ability for board partners to very quickly release custom built versions of the R9 280X. Companies like ASUS, MSI, and Sapphire are able to have overclocked and custom-cooled alternatives to the 3GB $300 card, almost immediately, by simply adapting the HD 7970 PCB.
Today we are going to be reviewing a set of three different R9 280X cards: the ASUS DirectCU II, MSI Twin Frozr Gaming, and the Sapphire TOXIC.
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 bit of a surprise
Okay, let's cut to the chase here: it's late, we are rushing to get our articles out, and I think you all would rather see our testing results NOW rather than LATER. The first thing you should do is read my review of the AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Hawaii graphics card which goes over the new architecture, new feature set, and performance in single card configurations.
Then, you should continue reading below to find out how the new XDMA, bridge-less CrossFire implementation actually works in both single panel and 4K (tiled) configurations.
A New CrossFire For a New Generation
CrossFire has caused a lot of problems for AMD in recent months (and a lot of problems for me as well). But, AMD continues to make strides in correcting the frame pacing issues associated with CrossFire configurations and the new R9 290X moves the bar forward.
Without the CrossFire bridge connector on the 290X, all of the CrossFire communication and data transfer occurs over the PCI Express bus that connects the cards to the entire system. AMD claims that this new XDMA interface was designed for Eyefinity and UltraHD resolutions (which were the subject of our most recent article on the subject). By accessing the memory of the GPU through PCIe AMD claims that it can alleviate the bandwidth and sync issues that were causing problems with Eyefinity and tiled 4K displays.
Even better, this updated version of CrossFire is said to compatible with the frame pacing updates to the Catalyst driver to improve multi-GPU performance experiences for end users.
When an extra R9 290X accidentally fell into my lap, I decided to take it for a spin. And if you have followed my graphics testing methodology in the past year then you'll understand the important of these tests.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 17, 2013 - 04:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, amd
The NDA on AMD R9 290X benchmarks has not yet lifted but AMD was in Montreal to provide two previews: BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, both at 4K (3840 x 2160). Keep in mind, these scores are provided by AMD and definitely does not represent results from our monitor-capture solution. Expect more detailed results from us, later, as we do some Frame Rating.
The test machine used in both setups contains:
- Intel Core i7-3960X at 3.3 GHz
- MSI X79A-GD65
- 16GB of DDR3-1600
- Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 (331.40 drivers) / AMD Radeon R9 290X (13.11 beta drivers)
The R9 290X is configured in its "Quiet Mode" during both benchmarks. This is particularly interesting, to me, as I was unaware of such feature (it has been a while since I last used a desktop AMD/ATi card). I would assume this is a fan and power profile to keep noise levels as silent as possible for some period of time. A quick Google search suggests this feature is new with the Radeon Rx200-series cards.
BioShock Infinite is quite demanding at 4K with ultra quality settings. Both cards maintain an average framerate above 30FPS.
AMD R9 290X "Quiet Mode": 44.25 FPS
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780: 37.67 FPS
(Update 1: 4:44pm EST) AMD confirmed TressFX is disabled in these benchmark scores. It, however, is enabled if you are present in Montreal to see the booth. (end of update 1)
Tomb Raider is also a little harsh at those resolutions. Unfortunately, the results are ambiguous whether or not TressFX has been enabled throughout the benchmarks. The summary explicitly claims TressFX is enabled, while the string of settings contains "Tressfx=off". Clearly, one of the two entries is a typo. We are currently trying to get clarification. In the mean time:
AMD R9 290X "Quiet Mode": 40.2 FPS
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780: 34.5 FPS
Notice how both of these results are not compared to a GeForce Titan. Recent leaks suggest a retail price for AMD's flagship card in the low-$700 market. The GeForce 780, on the other hand, resides in the $650-700 USD price point.
It seems pretty clear, to me, that cost drove this comparison rather than performance.