AMD's Radeon R9 290X, which launched a couple weeks ago, severely disrupted NVIDIA's high-end lot. At $549.99, it isn't low by AMD standards, but is made to look great because of NVIDIA's overpriced offerings in the segment. Today, the company launches its second graphics card based on the "Hawaii" silicon, the Radeon R9 290 (with just the "X" missing from the name). As with most "second best" offerings based on high-end GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA, the R9 290 is a slightly trimmed down version of the company’s flagship at a significantly lower price that could very well cannibalize even AMD's own R9 290X.
At $399, the same price at which NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX 770 and a whole $150 (27 percent) cheaper than the Radeon R9 290X launched last month, the Radeon R9 290 is another disruptive product from AMD designed to wreck the competition's lineup. What makes it extremely catchy at that price is how much AMD left on the chip after cutting it down from that of the R9 290X.
The Radeon R9 290 features 2,560 of the 2,816 stream processors physically present on the "Hawaii" silicon, which is only a 9% reduction from the R9 290X—compare that to the 12.5% reduction in stream processors the Radeon HD 7950 was left with when it was carved out of the 2,048 stream processors-laden "Tahiti" silicon. The TMU count is down to 160 from 176, and the GPU core clock speed is 948 MHz instead of 1000 MHz.
Absolutely everything else is the same as on the R9 290X. You still get four independent tessellation units, 64 ROPs, a 512-bit wide memory interface, and 4 GB of memory running at 5.00 GHz, churning out 320 GB/s of memory bandwidth.
At its $399 price, the R9 290 reviewed today has several NVIDIA products in its crosshairs. It's priced just $70 higher than the GeForce GTX 770, and the GTX 770 retails for $329.99 while only performing on par with the $299 Radeon R9 280X. The R9 290 is also a whole $100 cheaper than the recently price-adjusted GeForce GTX 780 now going for $499.99, though the Radeon R9 290X convincingly beats the GTX 780 in terms of performance. It will be extremely interesting to see if the R9 290 can repeat that performance lead.
Radeon R9 290 Non-X Market Segment Analysis
| ||Radeon |
| HD 7970|
| Radeon R9 |
| Radeon |
| Radeon |
|Shader Units||2048||1536||2048||1536||2304||2560||2816||2x 2048||2688||2x 1536|
|ROPs||32||32||32||32||48||64||64||2x 32||48||2x 32|
|Graphics Processor||Tahiti||GK104||Tahiti||GK104||GK110||Hawaii||Hawaii||2x Tahiti|| GK110||2x GK104|
|Transistors||4310M||3500M||4310M||3500M||7100M||6200M||6200M||2x 4310M||7100M||2x 3500M|
|Memory Size||3072 MB||2048 MB||3072 MB||2048 MB||3072 MB||4096 MB||4096 MB||2x 3072 MB||6144 MB||2x 2048 MB|
|Memory Bus Width||384 bit||256 bit||384 bit||256 bit||384 bit||512 bit||512 bit||2x 384 bit||384 bit||2x 256 bit|
|Core Clock||1000 MHz||1046 MHz+||1050 MHz||1006 MHz+||863 MHz+||947 MHz||1000 MHz||1000 MHz||837 MHz+||915 MHz+|
|Memory Clock||1500 MHz||1753 MHz||1500 MHz||1502 MHz||1502 MHz||1250 MHz||1250 MHz||1500 MHz||1502 MHz||1502 MHz|
Packaging and Contents
We received the card without packaging or accessories from AMD. Rest assured that the final product will come with the usual documentation, driver CD, and adapters.
AMD is using their typical reference design cooler, which has been upgraded with some red highlights. This is the exact same cooler as on the R9 290X. Dimensions of the card are 27.5 x 11 cm.
This makes the card a tiny bit longer than the GTX Titan/690, but considerably shorter than the HD 7990.
Installation requires two slots in your system.
Display connectivity options include two DVI ports, one HDMI port, and one DisplayPort. You may use all outputs at the same time, so triple-monitor surround gaming is possible with one card.
Please note that the DVI outputs no longer support analog monitors. AMD also improved their display controller hardware, so you can now use three HDMI/DVI monitors at the same time without having to buy an active DP-to-DVI adapter (this was a requirement to providing the TMDS clock signal for the third monitor on previous generation cards).
The GPU also includes an HDMI sound device. It is HDMI 1.4a compatible, which includes HD audio and Blu-ray 3D movies support.
The Radeon R9 290 only supports CrossFire via the PCI-Express bus, which means that CF bridges are no longer required. According to AMD, this will not affect performance and actually enables 4K CrossFire. You may combine up to four R9 290 cards in a multi-GPU CrossFire configuration.
Pictured above are the front and back, showing the disassembled board. High-res versions are also available (front
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A Closer Look
AMD's cooler uses a large Vapo-Chamber baseplate to soak up heat generated by the GPU core. The cooler also cools memory chips and voltage regulation circuitry. Hot air is blown out of the case.
The card requires a 6-pin and 8-pin PCI-Express power connector. This configuration is good for up to 300 W of power draw.
AMD has also included their Dual BIOS feature with the R9 290. Unlike the R9 290X, there are no separate BIOSes for "quiet" and "uber".
This is the first time I see the International Rectifier IR 3567B controller on a graphics card. It is functionally very similar to the CHiL controllers we've seen on previous generation cards and provides software voltage control and extensive monitoring via I2C. Being a new device, though, it might take a bit until it is fully supported in overclocking software.
The GDDR5 memory chips are made by SK Hynix and carry the model number H5GQ2H24AFR-R0C. They are specified to run at 1500 MHz (6000 MHz GDDR5 effective).
AMD's Hawaii graphics processor uses the GCN shader architecture. It is produced on a 28 nm process at TSMC Taiwan, with 6.2 billion transistors on a 438 mm² die.