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?

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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

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November 26, 2013 | 11:46 AM - Posted by anon (not verified)

From what' ive heard on the LinusTechTips forums, XFX/Powercolor cards have highest chance of it working, but it's also worked on an Asus.

November 26, 2013 | 03:51 PM - Posted by Thrall (not verified)

I can attest that most 290's do not unlock. It seems that 20% of xfx cards do and 70-90% of powercolor/club3d/vtx3d do. No other vendor cards unlock at this point. The current theory is that these vendors weren't able to get their hands on 290 laser cut chips due to supply so they bios locked off a few.

Over at the overclock thread we're still trying to work out if certain serial number batches of xfx are unlockable, but we don't have enough samples to find a pattern yet. Currently the only way to tell if it can be unlocked is to flash the 290x bios and check if GPU-z shows the 2816 cores a 290x has, to take off the cooler and see if you have a "2000" chip model, or to run a program listed on the thread.


November 30, 2013 | 08:35 AM - Posted by syr khen (not verified)

I have Club 3D which fully unlocked to 290x with asus bios. It originally said AMD as vendor for bios in gpuz and 3dmark not Club 3D. Maybe that is the key for those that want a flashable one to 290x. Either way great performance for 449.00 Can price.



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