AMD Radeon R9 290 4 GB Review 235

AMD Radeon R9 290 4 GB Review

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Introduction

AMD Logo


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
R9 280X
GeForce
GTX 770
HD 7970
GHz Ed.
GeForce
GTX 680
GeForce
GTX 780
Radeon R9
290 Non-X
Radeon
R9 290X
Radeon
HD 7990
GeForce
GTX Titan
GeForce
GTX 690
Shader Units20481536204815362304256028162x 204826882x 1536
ROPs323232324864642x 32482x 32
Graphics ProcessorTahitiGK104TahitiGK104GK110HawaiiHawaii2x Tahiti GK1102x GK104
Transistors4310M3500M4310M3500M7100M6200M6200M2x 4310M7100M2x 3500M
Memory Size3072 MB2048 MB3072 MB2048 MB3072 MB4096 MB4096 MB2x 3072 MB6144 MB2x 2048 MB
Memory Bus Width384 bit256 bit384 bit256 bit384 bit512 bit512 bit2x 384 bit384 bit2x 256 bit
Core Clock1000 MHz1046 MHz+1050 MHz1006 MHz+863 MHz+947 MHz1000 MHz1000 MHz837 MHz+915 MHz+
Memory Clock1500 MHz1753 MHz1500 MHz1502 MHz1502 MHz1250 MHz1250 MHz1500 MHz1502 MHz1502 MHz
Price$300$330$380$390$500$400$550$770$1000$1000

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.

The Card

Graphics Card Front
Graphics Card Back

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.

Graphics Card Height

Installation requires two slots in your system.

Monitor Outputs, Display Connectors

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.

Graphics Card Teardown PCB Front
Graphics Card Teardown PCB Back

Pictured above are the front and back, showing the disassembled board. High-res versions are also available (front, back). If you choose to use these images for voltmods, etc., please include a link back to this site or let us post your article.

A Closer Look

Graphics Card Cooler Front
Graphics Card Cooler Back

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.

Graphics Card Power Plugs

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.

Graphics Card Memory Chips

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).

Graphics Chip GPU

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.
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