Controversy continues to erupt over AMD's new GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | November 27, 2013 - 04:44 PM |
Tagged: sapphire, radeon, R9 290X, hawaii, amd, 290x

Ryan is not the only one who felt it necessary to investigate the reports of differing performance between retail R9 290X cards and the ones sent out for review.  Legit Reviews also ordered a retail card made by Sapphire and tested it against the card sent to them by AMD.  As with our results, ambient temperature had more effect on the frequency of the retail card than it did on the press sample with a 14% difference being common.  Legit had another idea after they noticed that while the BIOS version was the same on both cards the part numbers differed.  Find out what happened when they flashed the retail card to exactly match the press sample.

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"The AMD Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 have been getting a ton of attention lately due to a number of reports that the retail cards are performing differently than the press cards that the media sites received. We have been following these stories for the past few weeks and finally decided to look into the situation ourselves."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

Graphics Cards

November 27, 2013 | 04:52 PM - Posted by AMDbumlover (not verified)

wow, the AMD bashing never ceases?

November 27, 2013 | 06:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Truth hurts. Tired of Red Team constantly thinking the entire world is against them. Stop acting like a victim, you're losing everybody's sympathy. In fact rather than push for AMD to be a competitor in the CPU/GPU world I would almost rather see them utterly destroyed just to shut you people up and take the market up prices from Nvidia and Intel.

November 27, 2013 | 06:53 PM - Posted by hosko

If PcPer is out to get AMD why is the ASUS R9 290 on the High End leader board build. You would have thought if they were getting paid to bash AMD that they would probably get paid to not recommend them in the system build.

Perhaps you are just a fanboy who doesn't like the truth that AMD are doing something dodgy and should have put a decent cooling solution on their cards. This is news and a PC hardware website would lose credibility if they didn't report it. You would hear much worse from the other side if they didn't.

November 27, 2013 | 05:08 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

See a difference.

PCPer repeating Nvidias reviewer guides PR through articles.
LegitReviews actualy looking for a cause.

That's how you do it.

November 27, 2013 | 05:41 PM - Posted by arbiter

Tomshardware reported a 10%+ difference between press cards and retail. Few people asked ryan about this so he bought a few retail cards with his own $ and found that there was truth in what was reported. ryan was and has praised the card for its performance and price but won't pull no punch's against either side.

November 27, 2013 | 06:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Read the article hes only compared 1 MSI 290 and 1 Sapphire 290X

AMD choose to go with a driver update for the fan issue because BIOS flashing would be too trouble some for users. Each vendor would have to send out a bios patch.

I haven't head anything on this yet?

Galaxy Issues GTX 780 Ti Recalls, MOSFETS Exploding

November 27, 2013 | 06:29 PM - Posted by arbiter

so blaming nvidia as a whole for what galaxy messed up on? sounds like amd fanboy nit picking again? Find it sad though that all reviews done for amd card were based on a bios that made card look good on press samples but then what could be called a bait and switch for retail.

November 27, 2013 | 08:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How can I be a AMD fan boy. I'm interested in facts not slander.

AMD has an issue. It was obvious when the first R9 290 comparisons came out there was a difference between those reviewed and retail. All the reviews I've read including PCPers include the R9 290X as well.

If your constantly harping about issues you mentioned 3 times already and don't even investigate what the cause is. It makes you no different then a gossip magazine vomiting the same PR crap Nvidia does.

Legit Reviews at least investigated more to figure out what the root cause is.

Discrepancy in the BIOS between press and retail.

One can conclude that switching bios is a solution from the Legit Review article but is the discrepancy through all AIB BIOSes ?

Then it makes much more sense to issues a driver fix like the R9 290 then to have all AIB members issue there fix BIOSes.

It just funny to me a tech site that can do 3hr long tear down of a XBone and PS4 and cant even do a BIOS comparison with the cards it rather do a verbatim of Nvidia PR for 4 articles in a row.

November 27, 2013 | 06:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD fanboy's still butt hurt about the whole Frame Rating debacle, but I guess PCPer had no hand in bringing that to the forefront since they just are Nvidia Spokesmen.

November 27, 2013 | 05:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Well, lets be honest for a while here...

Every reviewer in town called the R reference design cooling solution "insufficient" to say the least.

Obviously, like every other chip nowadays, when that thing hits its TDP, it will start down clocking to avoid cooking itself.

I seriously don't get it why AMD designed a leading product and slapped on top the cheapest cooling solution it could get its hands on. You're probably going to suggest price, but honestly, at the bulk prices these guys get materials etc, +30 dollars to get ample cooling on a hot chip like this is a no brainer. In other words, if your heading for the 290 or 290x...go with the custom stuff.

As for PC per not being fair with its reviews and bashing AMD: Dude, this is news. People need to know that these badly designed hardware solutions are out there, broken by design, costing a ton of money,specially now during holidays, when people actually spend a little something extra on themselves.

Plus, they never bashed the chip, PC Per gave a very favorable review of the product and cross-posted similarly stellar reviews from other hardware sites. Hardly bashing.

p.s. If mantle (tied with the worst publisher in the world, EA, famous for releasing games in Alpha) fails. i can see amd drowning in its ocean of failure.

November 27, 2013 | 06:36 PM - Posted by arbiter

Less AMD pump's a ton of $ in to dev's to make support for it. Outside games AMD puts $ to get their logo on, i don't see mantle going far less nvidia gets on board and supports it (that will never happen)..

November 27, 2013 | 06:17 PM - Posted by hatycat (not verified)

Well, that was not expected, that rules out AMD doing it intentionally to mislead consumers. I wonder what they will do to address this if the issue is at a bios level.

November 27, 2013 | 06:42 PM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

The more negative articles we see about the reference cards, the more positive reaction will follow with custom cards.

November 30, 2013 | 05:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You sir...nailed it. I've been saying this for a while. You can tell me to remove my foil hat, but it makes odd sense...They were waiting for 780ti to really set the stage.

For instance, 290x should be at most around 10% slower than 780ti, yet it is closer to 15%. That shows some serious throttling going on when amd's arch generally scales at 96-97%.

Will not be surprised when we see 1100/5500 290x with decent cooling (and hence not throttling) essentially equaling a 780ti...probably for a cool hundred bucks less...or 1200/6000 overclocks essentially equaling the 780ti overclocked performance. People forget that even with a 7ghz 384-bit bus (and more efficient arch for memory bandwidth) that both of these chips are bw limited at around 1200mhz (for 6000/8000mhz respectfully, perhaps 780ti slightly lower)..and fundamentally are not that different when you account for the 48 rop limitation of gk110.

I hope at that time real clockspeeds are explored not only on amd's models, but also on the geforce. I think people deserve to know if they are getting said performance at 1ghz or up to 1100mhz+...that type of info is important when looking at competing products both within the same sku or competing models. The old 'clock-per-clock' is more relevant than ever...but hardly explored since nvidia debuted boost. The criticism leveled at amd could be almost completely inversely applied to nvidia, as often their products may appear to run more efficiently according to the box clocks, when in actuality they are clocking themselves higher. In a product marketplace where chips that are competing can usually both obtain high clocks (or in the case of 280x vs 770 or 7870 v 760 the later clocks itself up to 15% higher but the former could easily reach those clocks with a manual overclock), but only one uses then out of the's worth noting.

This crap is such a can of worms. Yeah...Hawaii prolly needed a nice decap layer, a less compact design, and a better cooler. End of the day though powertune/boost are just freaking annoying when trying to parse the bs and pick the best design based on design and overall capability per dollar.

November 27, 2013 | 06:46 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You get the cooling solutions you pay for! AMD, in this matter, tried to get its price points too low, and skimped/gimped the cooling and firmware! This is not the first, for either AMD or Nvidia, as the price/performence warfare continues! Those who want to be the first on the block, with the new and shiny, can expect to be the beta testers, for the rest, who will wait for the kinks to be worked out. Enjoy your shakedown cruise. I'll wait for all the loose bolts, and faulty hatches to be fixed.

November 27, 2013 | 09:03 PM - Posted by Trojan (not verified)

Anyone see a dead horse being beaten here?

For those wishing AMD to fold, you must have deep pockets and won't mind buying Nvidia over priced cards. Say $800 for a mid-range and $1200 if you want king if the hill flagship high end? Because that's what would happen if AMD closes their doors.

Don't tell me Nvidia never made sure they sent a checked card to reviewers please this is so common it's not news or new. Nvidia can buy out a PC maker and use leverage on them to stop using AMD cards and nothing more than a couple of sentences. End story.

Love Nvidia great products no doubt. AMD is doing a turn around with this series and bringing innovation like Mantle, true audio, and through competitive pricing stopped Nvidia from price gouging us. Forced a $700 780Ti that beats their $1000 card gaming they over priced due to lack of competition and it's more powerful and less costly.

You can buy 2 290's for $800 which will slaughter a single $700 780Ti. But let's focus on common business practice that both sides are doing since someone squealed. Puleeeeze.

November 27, 2013 | 09:38 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

LOL, people say "bash." How can "your 290x is actually faster than what you bought!" be bashing?

If the retail 290x couldn't hold up to the new BIOS, then it would be worthy of bashing.

AMD just messed their launch up... They must have been tweaking till launch day and couldn't have reflashed every retail 290x.

I'm just waiting till they release the new and improved BIOS'.

November 28, 2013 | 01:24 AM - Posted by wujj123456

Well, I am just wondering why put so much pressure on AMD? Look at Nvidia too, please.

Yes, Nvidia only promises base/boost speed, but not the upper bound. However, remember when you do your benchmark, you are effectively running at whatever actual speed your card provides. Let's call it "real" frequency. Your review is based on this "real" frequency. It will stabilize at some point after warming for certain application. It's same as AMD's card, and the only difference is how they market their speed.

Now if you want to argue that AMD is a bit shady or inconsistent about "real" frequency, take a look at what I have on hand.

Card 0: EVGA GTX780 SC (941/993MHz, 69.4%)
Card 1: EVGA GTX780 non-SC (863/902MHz, 70.5%)
Card 2: EVGA GTX780 non-SC (863/902MHz, 63.7%)
All from newegg, marked with (base/boots, ASIC quality)

At stock settings, running Heaven benchmark for several minutes, the "real" freqs are stuck at 862/862/1019-1045, with fan speed 51%/60%/63%, and temperature 79/83/84. I picked Heaven because it's easier to run, and I've observed similar results across games.

What do you see?
1) The non-SC versions are effectively running at their base clock while SC version are running at much higher than boost under all stock settings?
2) All review sites I saw all stated that GTX780 stay at 80C, with some boost while running games. This is definitely not my case. The regular GTX780 has to hit 83/84C to maintain base clock with stock fan profile.

Now, let me change my perspective. Sure I don't want SLI to run at different speeds, and introduce shuttering and all other crap. So how much overclock do I need to make them equal? I unlock fan speed with my own curve, and thermal to 106%/85C. Also OC memory +300MHz. Here is the result:
Card 0: +0MHz, 79% fan, 67C, 1071MHz
Card 1: +79MHz, 97% fan, 78C, 1071MHz
Card 2: +129MHz, 97% fan, 78C, 1071MHz

I need to OC 79MHz for card 1 and 129MHz for card 2 so that all three cards reach same 1071MHz "real" freq during gaming. That's consistent across all games I've played so far, including Dirt 3, Bioshock Infinite, BF4, FC3, Heaven benchmark, 3DMarks, etc.

Again you can argue that overclocking tweaks the characteristics a bit, but Nvidia and AMD have different architectures, and running at 1GHz for R9 might as well be similar points where GTX780 are at 1071MHz, on same process. If not convinced, just compare my stock setting data with what you guys get during your review.

The variation is definitely there for Nvidia, and it's equally HUGE, if not bigger. Especially if you consider the OC version is just a fact of binning. Sure they have different BIOS, but when overclocking to equal grounds, the difference between cards show up immediately. Nvidia might as well shipped you a better bin for review, or at least filter the worst ones.

If you have a problem with AMD stating max frequency instead of base frequency, which might mislead consumers, fair. However, if your point is inconsistency on retail vs review samples, make sure you check Nvidia too. It's no better from my limited sample. The fact they stated base/boost speed doesn't make them immune to hand-pick review sample for you guys.

I am a huge Nvidia fan, but at this point, I do think you are biased on this matter, unless you guys do a similar study on Nvidia cards. Similar sample size, warm them up, and check on actual speed during benchmarks.

This is my data and thoughts. Now please show yours. You have much more resource than me after all.

Edit: My cards are all bought on early June, so must be their old stepping instead of the new one. GPU-z says revision A1.

November 28, 2013 | 11:34 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

What a pointless discussion about video cards with variable clock speed that is. xD

November 28, 2013 | 11:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Exactly the same as with the pointless article PCper wrote on this matter (again)

November 28, 2013 | 02:25 PM - Posted by SwissBeatz (not verified)

IMO, whatever issues AMD has with regards to their 'Tahiti'
GPU particularly their hi end R9 series cards, we can't
blame other Tech Sites for doing a lot of benchmarks on
these GPUs and if they saw something odd WELL,.. WHAT DO WE
EXPECT?? OFCOURSE they will publish it for us to read and
making us aware if they find the product defective or in
this case, having frequency and performance issues.

THO UNFORTUNATELY things got a bit out of hand and some
Tech sites who are under nVIDIA's Payroll are exploiting it
in order for nVidia to gain market share and to earn more
profit WHICH as of now are loosing a lot of money since the
R9 is killing them bigtime AND,.. by "OVER EXAGGERATING"
the issue they are hoping they could make people buy their
OVERPRICED GPUs. STILL, tho im not a Fanboy of neither, BUT
a lot of Vendor Neutral tech sites are already convinced
that by simply 'reflashing' the Card eliminates the issues
tho for some R9 owners who doesn't know how to reflash
their card, instead of finding the solution to their cards
they ended up "crying" on forums.

This is no offense to anyone but WE ALL CAN'T DENY THE FACT
even Tech sites who are under Nvidia's payroll that no
matter what they DO and WITH THE CURRENT R9 CARD ISSUES
PERFORMANCE RATIO and with a bit of Tweaking (Reflahing in
this case) makes the Card perform like they way it should.
Again, no offense to anyone.

As for Nvidia, instead of practicing cheap marketing
strategy and hypocrisy in order to earn more profit why not
make a video card that truly rivals the hi-end R9
performance and the PRICE as competitive as to what those
Bad Ass R9 Rads are on right now. Wake up nVidia, "BULLSHIT
WILL GET YOU TO THE TOP, But it wont keep you long there".

November 28, 2013 | 05:06 PM - Posted by Ryan D. (not verified)

Took Nvidia less than a month to beat AMD's R9 290x with the GTX780ti with better temps, overclocks, less power consumption & noise and ALREADY AFTERMARKET COOLERS. Assuming tech stes being paid by Nvidia is the biggest joke on the net right now Whahaha - do you have proof? No? than STFU & GTFO. Crawl back from under that shit pile you came from idiot.

November 28, 2013 | 06:04 PM - Posted by snook

that 780Ti "beat" the R9 290X sure...a little. not the same beating Nv's 780 and titan took from the 290X.

mark it: an aftermarket cooled 290X is going to put the price of that 780Ti in a perspective no Nv fan is going to like. no better performing and still way to expensive.

November 28, 2013 | 05:59 PM - Posted by Middle Finger Jake (not verified)

Its obvious you're an nVidia Fanboy,.. a Dumb one (obviously).
Read all the posts here carefully before you react and the way you reacted is like you're a Gay who got stepped on the foot by some other Guy while walking on the street who cant do nothing but to say "OUCH". Read some reviews on the R9 and R9x PRICE TO PERFORMANCE RATIO of these video cards and compare it to the GTX 780ti video card and after reading the reviews try to bend over and reach your stick with your mouth
and suck it and take a picture of your self while doing it and see how it looks like. Now GTFO and do it. Coz you dont belong in this tread.

November 28, 2013 | 08:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wow. Butthurt up in here. Read PCPer's and Legits on the matter. Looks like AMD pulled some shenanigans for Reviewers due to the BIOSes being different and performing different.

You can't defend that. It is obvious this was done on purpose so it would be a smooth ride for the reviewers but for the retail, its done for stability. Unless, with Legits theory, it was a mistake and somehow some older BIOS was all the fucking cards. Don't think so.

See, I stopped using AMD for a reason and it was mainly due to their drivers. Still is. I REALLY want AMD to come out on top so pricing can be a level ground again, so NVidia doesn't gouge, but selling hot loud cards that have random performance issues sucks.

Honestly, it seems like some mistake has occurred, but talk about a fuck up. I wonder how these cards will look in a few months when they have better coolers by 3rd party.

November 28, 2013 | 09:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Really ?

Nov 17
Tom's Hardware
Tuning Radeon R9 290X: Replace The Thermal Paste For More Efficiency

Seams some sites are jumping to conclusions instead of investigating.

Check the pictures and results. You and Ryan might learn something.

November 29, 2013 | 02:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hmm this site always makes the biggest deal about small issues when it comes to AMD. They refused to use vysnc, or run radeon pro which dramatically helped the crossfire stuttering issue , when really it was a non issue for anyone that did either of the above. Other sites mentioned this, even reviewed radeon pro etc .. but not this site.

Now its making a big deal about an old bios and 200 rpms on a fan over a review card. Nvidia has never hand picked review cards ... ;-) or put updated bios's on them ... please !

Getting to the point where i'll just read toms and other sites, atleast they delve a little deeper and come up with useful solutions. They offer a bit more than the negative bias here.

I've had 5870s, 480 GTXs, 580 GTXs, 7970s .. next cards will be either custom 780 ti's or custom 290x's. Time will tell.

November 29, 2013 | 05:11 AM - Posted by Jim (not verified)

Nice if your a pc nerd , tweaker and like tinkering with an inferior product like the R9 series. Some people with good jobs and income buy nvidia because they don't like to tinker around. Put it in their pc, install driver, overclock and game smoothly period. The spend their precious time with their kids, family and friends which matter the most.

November 29, 2013 | 09:44 AM - Posted by snook

yeah, that's what it is :/

well, daddy warbucks, hows about you send this poor/broke gamer a GTX 780Ti?? you got them deep pockets, prove it.

$699 hasn't been some magically large number, since 1982.

November 29, 2013 | 05:14 AM - Posted by Jim (not verified)

Plus you guys that tinker and tweak away are the less than 1% in the world (Enthusiast) so it's irrelevant. Can't compete with majority of the world that wants easy. Buy, plug and play with no issues. Just like the Xbone & PS4. That is what sells!

November 29, 2013 | 09:32 AM - Posted by snook

read: soft.

December 1, 2013 | 09:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

i'm tired of reading about the fanboys on both sides of this issue in the comments. my god people grow up for you act like 10 year olds. for one stop posting Anonymously and use a name if you wish to bash one side or other. my guess is your to chicken shit to do so, please prove me wrong then. the key is to do your research by looking at many diff sites and coming to a your own conclusion on what works best for YOU. Screw off you fanboys on both sides. your just showing that your stuck at the age 0f 10 and can not grow up and have an adult discussion. thanks for all reviews, ignore the fanboy asses, and keep up the good work for all of us.
the 6er

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