AMD Radeon R9 290 Video Card Review

It is time now to look at AMD's Radeon R9 290. This lower-cost R9 290 series video card packs a punch, not only in performance, but also in price. Watch it compete with the GeForce GTX 780, and win while being priced lower. This is the value you have been waiting for with gaming performance.


On October 23rd, 2013, AMD launched its flagship video card, the Radeon R9 290X. The Radeon R9 290X is to date AMD's fastest single-GPU video card ever to be produced for gaming. The new Radeon R9 290X is based on an evolved Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture, with performance to rival the competition.

The key component that made the R9 290X succeed was the low price that AMD was able to offer it at, compared to the competition. The R9 290X has an MSRP of $549. At $549, we found the R9 290X delivers faster performance than NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 780, and compares more closely to the GeForce GTX TITAN. We will talk more about NVIDIA pricing in the conclusion, prices have changed since that evaluation. Please read the full evaluation to better understand the R9 290X and the base architecture.

Radeon R9 290 and Pricing

The next product down, from the R9 290X is being launched today, the AMD Radeon R9 290. Note the subtraction of the "X" in the naming scheme. The R9 290 is based on exactly the same evolved architecture as the R9 290X. The ROPs are the same specification. In fact, the memory subsystem is the same specification. The only difference is a reduction in stream processors and texture units.

Before we get into all the nitty gritty specs, let's talk cost. Just as AMD shocked us all with the $549 price tag on the R9 290X, the AMD Radeon R9 290 has an MSRP of $399.

The last generation's high-end fastest single-GPU video card, the Radeon HD 7970, released on December 22nd, 2011, had an MSRP of $549. The new Radeon R9 290 being launched today is a lot faster than the Radeon HD 7970.

Last generation’s fastest single-GPU video card the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, released on June 21st, 2012, had an MSRP of $499. The R9 290 is being introduced at $100 less than the HD 7970 GHz Edition was, and is a better performer.

If this R9 290 had been released in the previous generation at $399, it would have been between the Radeon HD 7870 and the Radeon HD 7950 in the product stack.

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Radeon R9 290 Specifications

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Take some of the R9 290X specifications and scale those down to the R9 290. As previously mentioned, not all qualities of the 290X have been scaled down though. Many qualities remain at full R9 290X strength. The same GPU process, and transistor count is present on the R9 290 as the R9 290X. The same memory bus configuration is in place. You will find 4GB of GDDR5 on a 512-bit memory bus at 5GHz, just like the R9 290X. That means the memory bandwidth is exactly the same between the two video cards at 320GB/sec.

You will also find the same number of ROPs; 64 ROPs on both video cards. The R9 290 is in many ways like the R9 290X, and should provide excellent high resolution and AA performance.

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Here is what is different. Primarily, there are no separate BIOS profiles on the R9 290. There is no Quiet mode and no Uber Mode. The R9 290 video card runs in one performance mode regardless what position the BIOS switch is in. The fan is still capped at lower than 100% though. With the new Catalyst 13.11 Beta V8 driver, the fan is now capped at 47%. We will test to see if raising the cap will give more performance later in this evaluation.

The stream processors have been cut down from 2,816 on the R9 290X to 2,560 on the R9 290. The engine clock has a cap of 947MHz on the R9 290 versus 1GHz on the R9 290X. There are 160 texture units on the R9 290 versus 176 on the R9 290X. However, as we stated, the ROP count is the same at 64 on both video cards, and the Z/Stencil is the same at 256 on both cards. Those are the only differences: Stream Processor count, Texture Unit count, and slightly lower clock speed. This all means performance should be rather close to the R9 290X.

The same power connectors are required at one 8-pin and one 6-pin. The same built in hardware DMA engines are in place for CrossFire again without bridge connectors. The same software support is in place. The same display connections are available with the same Eyefinity support.

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