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AMD Radeon R9 290X Hawaii Review - Taking on the TITANs

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

The Radeon R9 290X 4GB Graphics Card and Specs

If you were paying attention to the noise that AMD was creating during its GPU14 event then you likely already know what the Hawaii-based Radeon R9 290X looks like.  If you are a fan of the black and red color scheme, then prepare to be ecstatic. 

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At just about 290mm in length, the R9 290X is just a little bit longer than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX TITAN and GTX 780 cards.  The plastic housing is well designed and maintains the red/black scheme that has been with AMD for quite a while.  The reference card also keeps the pretty standard heatsink and single fan combination we've had since the introduction of the Radeon HD 5000 cards. 

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Though we touched on most of this on the previous page, it is worth recapping here the specifications of the new R9 290X.  It has 2816 stream processors, 37% more than the R9 280X / HD 7970 that came before it.  This helps bump up the top theoretical compute power to 5.6 TFLOPS giving it an edge of 36% over the R9 280X.  By far the most important architectural change was the increase in primitives / clock; from 2 to 4

The engine clock of "up to" 1.0 GHz will need some more discussion on another page as we found it to be quite a bit more variable than expected. 

With 4GB of GDDR5 memory, the R9 290X should have more than enough space for 4K gaming and even though it runs at a slower clock speed (5.0 Gbps) it increases the bus width up to 512-bit for a massive amount of memory bandwidth; 320 GB/s and 11% faster than the R9 280X.

The R9 290X includes 176 texture units, 64 ROPs and double the Z/Stencil rate of its predecessors.  Clearly the R9 290X does not lack in the hardware department.

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The fan on the R9 290X is very similar to the fans we have seen on previous Radeon cards which should tell your right away that this product isn't going to be much quieter than previous generations. 

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Despite the huge 6.2 billion transistor die, the R9 290X only requires an 8+6 power connector config. 

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We don't need no stinking CrossFire connectors!  But clearly, AMD had left that option open as a contingency plan as the solder points are still located on the reference PCB.  We'll go over the updated CrossFire technology on the next page and you'll find we have some early CrossFire and 4K benchmark results in a follow up article as well!

You may notice the switch on the right hand side of the image as well; that moves the BIOS from "Quiet" mode to "Uber" mode.  All that really means is a shift in the maximum fan speed from 40% to 55% allowing for slightly higher clocks for a slightly longer period of time.  See my PowerTune page for details on that.

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The back side of the R9 290X is left bare for all to see though there is much to gawk at.  There are a lot of pads for that 4GB of memory though...

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Just like we saw with the R9 280X launch, AMD has gone with a more intelligent display output configuration that includes a pair of dual link DVI outputs, a full size HDMI port and a full size DisplayPort.  Without a doubt this has been the most amicable configuration I have seen in graphics cards in the last several years. 

October 28, 2013 | 08:29 AM - Posted by Panta

R9-290x hits 1200/1600 easy, i doubt it.
i assume it's a cheery picked card..

October 24, 2013 | 11:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Almost considered getting one of these until I saw the 95C temps.

You go SLI and end up overheating all your other expensive components and drive down your PSUs efficiency.

C'mon AMD! I want to buy from you and support you guys but get your sh!t together.

That's too damn hot. I wonder how many RMA's due to overheated parts are coming down the line.

October 24, 2013 | 12:51 PM - Posted by Chloiber (not verified)

It's a great card, but the reference cooling is, as always unusable. I had hoped that AMD would improved this time. It's really a sad story: they should invest way more in their coolers (and up production cost by a bit, they can go up a bit in prices easily).
I know that custom designs will appear which remedy this problem quite a bit, but it still leaves a very big disadvantage. And everyone who reads the reviews gets a bad impression of the card. I think AMD will never learn.

October 25, 2013 | 12:11 PM - Posted by TwinShadowx (not verified)

Cant Please everyone. I Rather have a cheap looking card the runs Hot and loud that Cost 550 then a card that's over price at the end of the day the both get the Job down. Also AMD could have spent time and money getting a real cooler and also charge 1000$

October 24, 2013 | 01:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This price is excellent. We won't have to pay a huge premium for the mods that Asus, MSI and others are going to make on the stock 290X. Imagine an Asus Ares 290X version with a silent cooler. Energy consumption cannot change much but noise is something I won't tolerate.

Happy happy happy.

October 24, 2013 | 01:16 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Looks like Titan kicked it`s arse.
NVIDIA FTW !

October 24, 2013 | 10:43 PM - Posted by nabokovfan87

are you mad?

October 24, 2013 | 04:04 PM - Posted by ltguy005 (not verified)

I would like to see the R9 290x and the GTX Titan benchmarked together with the fans at the same rpm and the temperature throttle point set to the same value (like 70C) so that each card can boost up as much as possible while staying in that noise/temp envelope.

October 24, 2013 | 06:31 PM - Posted by jon (not verified)

great review ryan,
I really like your frame time graphs especially @1440p
It was also shocking to see how low the 290X avg. clocks really are. And still it competes!

It would be great if you could add in the real average clock speeds for a particular bench instead of stating the boost clock/base clock, behind the name of each card.(in future reviews).

That would make for an easier comparison since clock speeds seem to be all over the place on both the 290X and nvidia cards.

October 25, 2013 | 07:06 AM - Posted by Johnny Rook (not verified)

The gaming experience I can get from a reference R9 290X would be better than the reference GTX 780 gaming experience if:

a) I use noise-canceling headphones;

b) I use an water-block;

c) I am willing to pay a bit extra in my power bills.

But, wouldn't that make the R9 290X "experience" cost me ~$750, or more?

No, R9 290X is not worthy a Gold Award.
Sorry Ryan but, I think you are not being coherent with yourself; the GTX 780, that already performs better than a TITAN, not even a Brass Award got in your review!

And I don't even want to continue writing about the "gaming experience" a card delivers being more important to me than its "raw performance" numbers, because is a personal preference.

Anyways, for those that only care about "raw performance", real owners, in real-world gaming rigs, already start to post results from the R9 290X in forums, and those results are not being better than results posted previously by GTX 780 owners.

October 27, 2013 | 08:13 AM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Its a review, its his opinion, and it's just as valid as your.

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October 26, 2013 | 08:21 PM - Posted by wujj123456

International Stutter Units... LMAO

November 5, 2013 | 01:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Amazing review , thanks :)
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November 9, 2013 | 04:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi, the page 1 of this article states that the GTX Titan/780/280X/7970GHz hace 320-BitBUS when in reality they are 384-Bits.

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