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.
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | October 31, 2013 - 07:48 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
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- 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: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 29, 2013 - 02:21 AM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 24, 2013 - 06:38 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 23, 2013 - 11:30 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, firepro
Currently AMD holds 18% market share with their FirePro line of professional GPUs. This compares to NVIDIA who owns 81% with Quadro. I assume the "other" category is the sum of S3 and Matrox who, together, command 1% of the professional market (just the professional market)
According to Jon Peddie of JPR, as reported by X-Bit Labs, AMD intends to wrestle back revenue left unguarded for NVIDIA. "After years of neglect, AMD’s workstation group, under the tutorage of Matt Skyner, has the backing and commitment of top management and AMD intends to push into the market aggressively." They have already gained share this year.
During AMD's 3rd Quarter (2013) earnings call, CEO Rory Read outlined the importance of the professional graphics market.
We also continue to make steady progress in another of growth businesses in the third quarter as we delivered our fifth consecutive quarter of revenue and share growth in the professional graphics area. We believe that we can continue to gain share in this lucrative part of the GPU market based on our product portfolio, design wins in flight, and enhanced channel programs.
On the same conference call (actually before and after the professional graphics sound bite), Rory noted their renewed push into the server and embedded SoC markets with 64-bit x86 and 64-bit ARM processors. They will be the only company manufacturing both x86 and ARM solutions which should be an interesting proposition for an enterprise in need of both. Why deal with two vendors?
Either way, AMD will probably be refocusing on the professional and enterprise markets for the near future. For the rest of us, this hopefully means that AMD has a stable (and confident) roadmap in the processor and gaming markets. If that is the case, a profitable Q3 is definitely a good start.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 23, 2013 - 10:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, overclocking, asus, ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP, r9 280x
Having already seen what the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP can do at default speeds the obvious next step, once they had time to fully explore the options, was for [H]ard|OCP to see just how far this GPU can overclock. To make a long story short, they went from a default clock of 1070MHz up to 1230MHz and pushed the RAM to 6.6GHz from 6.4GHz though the voltage needed to be bumped from 1.2v to 1.3v. The actual frequencies are nowhere near as important as the effect on gameplay though, to see those results you will have to click through to the full article.
"We take the new ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP video card and find out how high it will overclock with GPU Tweak and voltage modification. We will compare performance to an overclocked GeForce GTX 770 and find out which card comes out on top when pushed to its overclocking limits."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte R9 280X OC 3 GB @ techPowerUp
- HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo Boost Clock 3GB Video Card Review @ Madshrimps
- AMD Radeon R9 290X Versus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Benchmarks @ Legit Reviews
- XFX R9 280X Black OC Edition @ Kitguru
- AMD Radeon R9 280X Video Card Review w/ ASUS, XFX and MSI @ Legit Reviews
- HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X² Turbo and R9 270X IceQ X² Turbo @ Legion Hardware
- Sapphire Radeon R9 270X Vapor-X @ Benchmark Reviews
- MSI R9 270X Hawk Review @ OCC
- Asus Matrix R9 280X Platinum @ LanOC Reviews
- ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP 3 GB @ techPowerUp
- HIS Radeon R9 280X IceQ X2 @ Benchmark Reviews
- Sapphire Toxic Edition R9 270X Video Card Review @HiTech Legion
- MSI Radeon R9 270X Gaming Video Card Review @ Ninjalane
- Sapphire Toxic R9 270X @ LanOC Review
- AMD Radeon 7000 and Radeon R200 Series Mixed CrossFire Testing @ Legit Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 270X Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- MSI R9 270X HAWK 2 GB @ techPowerUp
- HIS Radeon R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo Boost @ Benchmark Reviews
- Asus R9 270X DirectCU II Top @ LanOC Reviews
- Diamond Multimedia Radeon 7870 7870PE52GV Review @ HCW
- AMD Radeon R9 270X On Linux @ Phoronix
- ASUS GTX760 DirectCU Mini OC @ Hardawre.info
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 OC / GTX 780 OC @ Hardware.info
- MSI N660 Gaming Review: affordable and silent GeForce GTX 660 @ Hardawre.info
- Asus GTX 670 Direct CU Mini @ LanOC Reviews
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 On Linux @ Phoronix