AMD’s graphics cards have been in short supply for the past 3 months or so. The market has hoovered up the old stock from the HD 7000 series at knock-down prices and most of the stock from the high end R9 series including pretty much every R9 290X, R9 290 and R9 280X. While a lot of these graphics cards have been snapped up by crypto-currency miners looking to mine Scrypt algorithm coins the main reason for the shortage, according to SweClockers, is not high demand but short supply.
Apparently a shortage of components is the primary reason for availability issues, with most GPU manufacturers not having enough ASICs (GPUs), GDDR5 memory and other components. However, other people are blaming AMD for not allocating enough production to TSMC. AMD was apparently cautious about oversupplying a declining PC desktop market and hence under-produced. Either way, whether it is a shortage of components, excessive demand or a combination of both the message is clear – the supply shortage will be with us for a lot longer before the issue is fixed.
When the AMD R9 290X hit the market everyone was impressed with the fantastic value for money offered – performance that could challenge and often easily beat the GTX 780 for a fraction of the price at the time of release. Nvidia of course responded with price cuts but AMD did even more to undercut the R9 290X than Nvidia did by releasing the R9 290. The R9 290 is $150 cheaper than the R9 290X and offers only a tiny drop-off in performance. Of course we aren’t here to review the AMD R9 290, we’ve already done that here, but what we are doing today is looking at our first non-reference R9 290 graphics card from an AMD partner.
The generous AMD partner is Sapphire and they’ve provided us with their Tri-X AMD R9 290 graphics card. For the eagle-eyed reader with a good memory you make see the rather obvious similarities with this graphics card and the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition graphics card we recently reviewed. The similarity comes from the shared Tri-X cooling solution. In the case of the R9 290 it really needs this kind of high performance cooling solution because it is a graphics card that produces a lot of heat and gulps its way through a lot of power, even at stock clocks. However, Sapphire have been brave and taken clock speeds from 947MHz to 1000MHz on the core and bumped the memory up to 5200MHz from 5000MHz. This is going to result in even more heat so the Tri-X cooler is a necessary addition.
Sapphire’s packaging has the usual feature bubbles along the bottom pointing out key things like UEFI BIOS compatibility, the fact it is overclocked and using the Tri-X cooling solution.
The rear of the packaging contains more product details and explanations of the features. You can check out more details about the product at the official product page here.
Included with Sapphire’s R9 290 Tri-X graphics card is a 1.8m HDMI 1.4a cable, molex to 6 pin power supply adapter, dual molex to 8 pin power supply adapter, driver CD, Sapphire case badge/sticker and some documentation.
Gigabyte apparently has two custom Radeon R9 290 series cards with WindForce 3X 450W cooling system in the works, according to VideoCardz.
The new Radeon R9 290 and 290X graphic cards will be clocked at 1040 MHz, a 40 MHz gain for the 290X and a 93 MHz for the 290, both having a memory running at a 5 GHz value. They are also equipped with 4GB GDDR5 memory across a 512-bit interface, having the R9 290X featuring a Hawaii XT GPU with 2816 Stream Processors while the R9 290 features a Hawaii PRO with 2560 shaders. Unfortunately. there is no detailed information available at this point as to how the graphic cards were modified and all features/improvements included. But we do get to have a look at a quick preview of how they are going to look and the box they come in below.
Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X OC – GV-R929XOC-4GD
Gigabyte Radeon R9 290 OC – GV-R929OC-4GD
It is also recommended by Gigabyte to have a 600 watts PSU for both cards, but this requirement probably won’t go through since the graphic cards are still equipped with only 6+8pin power connectors.
Battlefield 4 has been one of the biggest game releases so far this year for gamers on all gaming platforms. The FPS title from EA and DICE has got off to a relatively shaky start with numerous audio, graphical and gameplay problems across the various platforms it was released on. In fact for many Battlefield 4 owners the game is still in a dysfunctional or buggy state, but you can expect (or hope) that EA and DICE will begin to patch and fix the majority of the problems within the coming weeks as they have said they will. The shaky launch aside, what most PC owners/gamers want to know, if they haven’t already found out, is how do current generation GPUs perform in Battlefield 4 on the PC?
Today we put that question to the test with an extensive, albeit not entirely complete, range of current generation AMD and Nvidia GPUs. On the AMD side we have the R7 260X, R9 270, R9 270X, R9 280X, R9 290 and R9 290X while on the Nvidia side we have a few more offerings with the GTX 650 Ti Boost, GTX 660, GTX 760, GTX 770, GTX 780, GTX 780 Ti and GTX Titan. All of the aforementioned graphics cards are current offerings and to the sharp-minded readers you will notice some graphics cards are missing. Mainly the current generation lower-end graphics cards from both AMD and Nvidia are absent, that includes the Nvidia GTX 650, GT 640 GDDR5, GT 640 DDR3 and the AMD R7 250 and R7 240. The main reason for not testing these graphics cards, other than that we didn’t have most of them, is because they simply aren’t that capable of running such a high end gaming title. Of course that’s not to say they can’t but given the nature of the resolutions we test (mainly 1080p or above) and the quality settings our readers like to see (very high or ultra) these GPUs simply aren’t cut out for the test. Arguably they are more aimed at gamers with 1366 x 768 monitors tackling medium-high details but I digress. The system requirements for Battlefield 4 reveal a similar picture, if you want a smooth gameplay experience then you need an AMD Radeon HD 7870 or Nvidia GTX 660 or better. However, those system requirements show you very little about what you can expect at different resolutions. So without any further ado let us show you our results and show you exactly how AMD and Nvidia’s offerings stack up!
The current wave of AMD R9 290 graphics card releases, that started today with the R9 290’s official launch – check out our review here, are just reference designs with different partner stickers on. This will be the case until AMD lifts the rumoured non-reference embargo on its partners. Once lifted they will be able to release their own custom cooled and custom PCB designs of the R9 290 GPU. Until then there isn’t really much to differentiate current R9 290 offerings, other than price, and one AMD vendor is going a little bit further than the others to bring the cost down for the end user – that’s Sapphire. Sapphire’s R9 290X 4GB graphics card is just a reference design with the usual specifications of the R9 290:
2560 GCN Cores
Up to 947MHz core clock
4GB of GDDR5 memory
512 bit memory interface
1250MHz actual, 5000MHz effective memory clock
AMD TrueAudio support
PCI Express 3.0 compatibility
Direct X 11.2 support
Mantle API support
OpenGL 4.3 support
Native CrossFire X support (without the need for a physical bridge)
Sapphire’s R9 290 is coming to market at £319.99 at Overclockers and £319.55 from Scan Computers. This is a fair bit cheaper than competing R9 290 graphics cards from other vendors that are in the £330-£380 region. In the USA Sapphire’s R9 290 graphics card is retailing for $399.99 which is again slightly lower than many other vendors who are selling in the $410-$430 region. Sapphire’s R9 290 comes with a 2 year manufacturer warranty. Availability is expected from today, November 5th.
The launch of AMD’s R9 290X last week was interesting as it certainly stirred up the graphics card market and industry. Following the launch arguing between readers occurred in abundance across many review sites, not just our own. Where I stand in this debate is that AMD have really shot themselves in the foot by releasing such a high performance graphics card that then gets throttled by such a mediocre cooling solution. Then to make things worse they’ve chosen to shed no light on the launch of non-reference solutions – something all prospective R9 290X buyers are waiting for to make a fully informed decision. Yet despite the R9 290X being throttled by that stock cooler the general consensus from most reviewers was that the R9 290X is at least as good as the GTX 780, while some reviewers who were able to test in favourable temperature conditions received results that suggested the R9 290X was better than the GTX Titan. Our review fell into that latter category and our benchmarks showed the R9 290X as being quite some way ahead of the GTX Titan in most benchmarks.
Setting the R9 290X aside for a bit, today we have with us the R9 290, the R9 290X’s little brother. For those who remember the HD 7000 series clearly the R9 290 is essentially the HD 7950 successor and is the second best single GPU graphics card of the RX-2XX series. Sadly, the AMD R9 290 comes with the same weak AMD stock cooling solution so we can expect more of the same – a wide variety of reviewers showing very different results based on testing that was conducted in varying ambient room temperatures. I think it is immensely important to stress that if readers really want to see the full picture, and want to make a solid judgement on whether the R9 290(X) cards are a good buy, then you’ve got to wait for the non-reference solutions to hit the market to see the accurate picture. When that will be is anyone’s guess as AMD have remained tight-lipped about it, we’ve seen a variety of (guess)estimates thrown all over internet forums ranging from early November to mid December – in my opinion the sooner the better.
The AMD R9 290 is a moderately cut down version of the R9 290X. It features the same GPU die but with 256 less GCN cores, 16 less texture units and a slightly lower core clock speed. Of course on paper the gap is very small so we probably shouldn’t expect to see no more than a 5-10% dip in performance compared to the R9 290X.
AMD’s R9 290 also comes with AMD’s new version of PowerTune like the R9 290X had. In essence the new PowerTune can be seen as AMD’s answer to Nvidia’s GPU Boost 2.0. AMD’s new PowerTune balances clock speeds and fan speeds to maintain a steady temperature threshold. The card adjusts the clock speed dynamically along with the fan speed (which also has a threshold) to maintain that steady temperature under load. By default there is a 95 degree fixed max temperature and 40% fixed max fan speed so the clock speed will be adjusted to ensure it can achieve both those parameters. Normally this means the clock speed is lowered when the card is going to exceed either the max temperature or fan speed, or the clock speed is raised when there is sufficient temperature or fan profile headroom to support this. What this creates is an extensive overclocking system where users can balance the temperature, fan speed, clock speed and also the Power Limit to get the most performance or the most silence. AMD’s OverDrive section of their Catalyst Control Center will allow you to control all these other parameters but you will also be able to use third party overclocking tools to adjust these things too when those programs are fully updated.
Linked to the new overclocking system is the dual BIOS implementation but unlike the R9 290X, the R9 290 does not have two different modes, just two identical BIOSes. The R9 290 comes with the “Quiet” profile equivalent of the R9 290X that caps the fan speed at 40%. It isn’t particularly quiet though so wait for those non-reference solutions.
AMD has also worked hard to support 4K gaming in a “plug and play” fashion on its new flagship with default Eyefinity configurations for tiled 4K monitors such as the Sharp PN-K321 or ASUS PQ321Q monitors (and while on the topic of 4K be sure to check out our 4K gaming featured article here that includes the R9 290X, R9 280X, GTX Titan and GTX 780). As part of its push to 4K AMD is supporting the new industry standard for tiled displays in VESA – DisplayID v1.3. While AMD can support the very limited numbers of 4K monitors currently out on the market, in the future when 4K monitors proliferate, AMD (and other graphics providers) will need a unified standard to easily recognise stitched 4K panels.
A final noteworthy mention is AMD’s new method of CrossFire which enables the activation of CrossFire without the need for the physical CrossFire X ribbon. As far as AMD have suggested this will only be supported on the R9 290 series as it is part of the new architectural design of the Hawaii GPU. The Eyefinity and TrueAudio enhancements introduced by AMD with the other RX 2XX cards released a few weeks ago are also extended to the R9 290, check out the details of those right here.
With GPUs getting more and more powerful and 4K monitors becoming available for consumer purchase we thought we’d use AMD’s R9 290X launch as a spring-board to look at the 4K Gaming performance of AMD and Nvidia’s top 2 single GPU graphics cards. Of course since writing this article Nvidia have revealed their intentions to release a GTX 780 Ti graphics card which is worth considering when looking at these benchmarks. AMD are also expected to reveal an R9 290 graphics card at some stage this year too. So this is by no means a comprehensive or complete look at 4K performance on high end AMD and Nvidia GPUs, but we think it is an interesting place to start.
Firstly let’s recap the graphics cards we’re using, all four are pictured above and they are:
Next we’ve managed to get a hold of a 4K monitor for this testing as AMD were kind enough to provide us with the Sharp PN-K321 4K monitor.
The Sharp PN-K321 uses a 32 inch IGZO panel providing a resolution of 3840 x 2160. Being a first generation 4K panel it uses two 1920 x 2160 displays stitched together with an advanced display controller chip. The 4K monitor is able to stream 4K at up to 60Hz which is best done through DisplayPort.
We’ve used the usual selection of games that we’d normally do in our graphics card reviews so we’ve got a selection of 7 games and one synthetic benchmark to show you: Alien vs Predator, Bioshock Infinite, Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, Unigine Heaven 4, Tomb Raider, Dirt Showdown and Metro Last Light. Without any further ado let’s see exactly how these AMD and Nvidia GPUs got on at some 4K gaming.
According to Sweclockers the GTX 780 Ti will be priced at the same level as the GTX 780 currently is in order to compete more effectively with the AMD R9 290X. Apparently the GTX 780 Ti will cost $649 to compete with the AMD R9 290X which is expected to be priced in that same region. The GTX 780 will then be cut down from $649, probably to somewhere in the region of $550-600, to allow it to compete with the AMD R9 290 which will be priced a bit lower than the R9 290X.
Of course no one really knows what AMD’s pricing strategy for the R9 290X and R9 290 is yet and Nvidia cannot respond with price cuts until it knows. If AMD opts for $649 for the R9 290X like widely speculated then the R9 290 will likely be $100 cheaper than the R9 290X, mirroring how AMD spaced the HD 7970 and HD 7950 out by $100 on launch in 2011, meaning $649 and $549 respectively. This would mean Nvidia’s $649 GTX 780Ti would compete with the R9 290X and the GTX 780 would compete with the R9 290.
Ultimately, we won’t know for sure until the R9 290X and R9 290 graphics cards are released. When Nvidia announce price cuts we’ll bring you the news as soon as possible so stay tuned for that.
VideoCardz.com claims to have scored the embargo lift dates of the AMD Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X graphics cards. According to a forum post, which they sourced from Cardpu, AMD employee “Chris Li” has stated the NDA lift dates are as pictured above. If these rumoured dates are accurate we should then see the AMD R9 290 series graphics cards launch on those dates, with the R9 290X coming first. VideoCardz.com also claimed that their own source verified the launch date of the R9 290X as correct. Of course we cannot confirm or deny the launch dates as we simply do not know but if VideoCardz.com are to be believed then we will see the Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 very soon. The wait is almost over for AMD GPU fans.
AMD revealed a new technology at its GPU 14 press event which it will be launching for three of its new GPUs. The AMD R9-290X, R9-290 and R7-260X GPUs will all support AMD’s new TrueAudio technology.
AMD claims that its programmable audio engine will revolutionise gaming audio by giving game developers more flexibility to tweak and tune their audio to a new level.
AMD’s TrueAudio offers up more audio channels than conventional audio engines with increased accuracy.
The TrueAudio technology enables directional audio over any output….5.1/7.1/Stereo and so on.
Only three graphics cards support the new AMD TrueAudio technology – presumably these are the GPUs based on AMD’s new GCN 2.0 architecture while the cards that do not support it are presumably the rebranded cards from the HD 7000 series.
AMD will be working with a wide range of companies in the audio and game industries to maximise the success of the new TrueAudio technology.
While AMD chose not to disclose any raw specifications when it officially unveiled the R9 290 series just a few moments ago they did disclose some metrics about the performance and architecture which hints at performance.
Starting off AMD says that the R9 290 series has improved energy efficiency over the previous HD 7000 generation. Additionally there is enhanced hardware level support for Microsoft’s Direct X 11.2 API.
Next up the R9 290 series supports over 5 TFLOPS of compute power, the HD 7970 GHz Edition had 4.3 TFLOPS – a 16% increase.
The memory bandwidth has increased to “over 300GB/sec”. For comparison the AMD HD 7970 GHz Edition had 288 GB/sec memory bandwidth.
AMD are claiming the R9 290 Series is capable of up to 4 billion triangles a second.
Finally they are claiming more than 6 billion transistors. For reference the HD 7970 and HD 7970 GHz Edition had 4.3 billion transistors meaning the R9 290 series has 39.5% more transistors.
More details to follow. If you missed the leaked performance review of the R9 290X then be sure to check that out right here.
AMD’s Live Stream for the GPU 14 event still hasn’t got under-way yet due to some technical difficulties but if you want to check the Live Stream out (when it does finally work) then we’ve got all the links you’ll need right below so you don’t need to do anything!
3Dcenter.org has managed to get its hand on some key information about the new AMD flagship graphics card the R9-290X. Based on the Hawaii chip this GPU succeeds the Tahiti series (HD 7900) and features a die area of 430mm² which is 18% bigger than Tahiti. The Hawaii GPU has 4 raster engines with 2816 shader units, 176 TMUs, 32-48 ROPs and a 384 bit GDDR5 interface. The next chip down still based on Hawaii should have 160 TMUs, 32-48 ROPs, 2560 shader units and a 384 bit interface.
In terms of performance 3D center estimate that we will see around 20 to 25% more performance compared to the HD 7970 GHz edition as a result of these new tweaks. The new RX-2XX series will feature hardware level support for Direct X 11.2. The new shaders use the GCN2.0 design and have a temperature controlled boost clock design. 3Dcenter says these new GPUs will presented in just 6 days on September 25th. Availability is slated for mid to late October.
Image #1 courtesy of AMD and Image #2 courtesy of 3Dcenter.org
The guys over at WCCFTech have managed to grab some details of AMD’s upcoming Volcanic Islands GPU family via the HIS website. We tried to explain the new GPU naming system a while back but now we can bring you the exact naming of these new graphics cards from AMD. The new naming system will be as follows:
AMD R9-290 (Replacing HD 7990 Flagship)
AMD R9-280 (Replacing HD 7900 Series)
AMD R9-270 (Replacing HD 7800/7700 Series)
AMD R7-260 (Replacing HD 7770 Series)
AMD R7-250 (Replacing HD 7700 Series)
AMD R7-240 (Replacing HD 7600 Series)
Based on currently available information the new graphics card line up is believed to look something like this:
Apparently the majority of the graphics cards from the new R-200 series are to be refreshed or rebadged versions of current AMD HD 7000 series graphics cards. These include the R9-270X and below. As you can see from the above table, if this is true, then AMD have knocked to HD 7970 (Tahiti XT) down 3 places in the product stack essentially meaning the HD 7850’s successor is a HD 7970. Nvidia’s rebranding exercise only saw products knocked down by a single place in the product stack, as the GTX 680 became the GTX 770.
AMD’s Hawaii GPU will be for the top three fastest single GPU cards while Vesuvius/Tonga will be the dual GPU graphics card to replace the HD 7990. This will probably be based on a pair of Hawaii GPUs.
WCCFTech also noted that the HIS 280X iPower IceQ X² graphics card was listed with the following specifications:
3GB GDDR5 VRAM
384 Bit interface
Dual LinkDVI-I/HDMI/2xMini DP
The R9-280X is said to be based on the Hawaii XT GPU.