Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

AMD Radeon R9 290X CrossFire Video Card Review

Move aside TITAN SLI, Radeon R9 290X CrossFire just took over as the fastest 2-way video card performance in gaming across the board, period. For the price of one TITAN Radeon R9 290X CrossFire provides the most impressive performance we've seen to date, and beats not just one, but two TITANs.

Introduction

On October 23rd, 2013, the AMD Radeon R9 290X video card was launched. This is AMD's fastest single-GPU video card to date, competing with the likes of NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 780 and GeForce GTX TITAN. The AMD Radeon R9 290X may be competing with the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN on performance, but it is most certainly less expensive. AMD has declared war on NVIDIA by releasing the Radeon R9 290X at a mind blowing $549 MSRP. This has undercut NVIDIA. NVIDIA responded by dropping its pants and its prices to compete as you can read below, but as of writing this, we have no idea of true GTX 780 Ti specifications.

GeForce GTX 780 Ti will be available for sale starting on November 7th at a suggested e-tail price of $699.

As a result of GTX 780 Ti joining our lineup, the new suggested e-tail price for GTX 780 is $499 and GTX 770 is $329. These prices will be live in e-tail by 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 29th.

And while NVIDIA states it is restructuring its price scaling and stack due to the new GTX 780 Ti coming aboard, we all know that AMD has forced its hand. It seems that AMD dictates more changes on NVIDIA products than NVIDIA does. Certainly good news for all high end video card consumers.


In our evaluation, we found that the Radeon R9 290X performs closer to the GeForce GTX TITAN, than it does the GTX 780. It was neck and neck with the TITAN at 1080p and 1600p. However, when we pushed the single video cards up to Ultra HD 4K resolution, the tables turned, and the R9 290X took center stage. It overwhelmed the GeForce GTX TITAN, and provided a much better gameplay experience.

The next piece of the puzzle to find out is how two Radeon R9 290X video cards with CrossFire enabled compete. If one can outperform a TITAN at high resolutions, then what will two CrossFire R9 290X cards do against two TITANs and two 780s in SLI? This is what we must find out, and to do this, we must run at Eyefinity resolutions on three displays in a 3x1 configuration at no less than 5760x1200. We must also do some testing at 3840x2160 on an Ultra HD 4K display and see how the mighty video cards stand.

New CrossFire Technology

We must be reminded that CrossFire has evolved and improved on the Radeon R9 290 and 290X. Our complete overview of the new CrossFire is explained on this page. In summary, AMD has removed the need for an external bridge connector atop the video cards. Removing this removes latency and bandwidth constraints. Communication now takes places between the video cards completely over the PCI-Express bus slots. This is possible because of an added DMA engine in the AMD CrossFire compositing block, creating dual DMA engines.

In addition, this technology works with AMD's software based frame pacing technology. Currently, with Radeon R9 290X CrossFire you will get frame pacing support with the current driver at Eyefinity resolutions, and 4K resolutions.


Radeon R9 290X CrossFire Setup

Article Image Article Image

Article Image Article Image Article Image

Installing Radeon R9 290X CrossFire couldn't be simpler. You just place the video cards in the appropriate slots on your motherboard, connect the power connectors, and connect your display. With no bridge connector atop the video card you do not need any kind of connections between the video cards.

With Eyefinity on the R9 290X you can use any combination of the display connectors on the video card to setup your Eyefinity configuration. For ours, we utilized the two DVI ports, plus the DisplayPort to create our 3x1 Eyefinity configuration. We also tested the HDMI port along with the DVI ports, and this worked as well. Then, we tried one DVI, one DisplayPort and one HDMI, and this also worked just fine. All of the displays simply need to be plugged into one video card, you don't have to split these up between the two video cards like NVIDIA's Surround.

We also found that with multiple different types of displays connected, there was no tearing moving windows between displays. In the past, in Eyefinity if you had different panels on different output port types, you would get a sort of tearing of the window just like what you would see with VSYNC being disabled in games. This no longer occurs, we saw smooth desktop performance and no window tearing moving things across all three displays on different output connectors.

Once we had the hardware installed we simply installed the driver, and rebooted. Upon reboot CrossFire was enabled by default. All we had to do was create our Eyefinity 3x1 configuration, which after a few clicks was done. We did not have to reboot after configuring Eyefinity, we were able to game immediately. We had no issues running any games at Eyefinity resolutions, or 4K resolution.

To the user, enabling and disabling CrossFire is exactly the same as it was before. You can go into Catalyst Control Center and disable CrossFire, or enable it with a radio button. A reboot is not required. The software side is exactly the same. Though it is odd looking over and seeing no bridge atop the video cards, CrossFire worked perfectly with no issues, and we saw incredible CrossFire scaling as we will show later in this evaluation.

AMD recommends that if running CrossFire you run in the "Uber Mode." The uber mode will raise the fan capacity to 55% from 40%. If you want the most out of your CrossFire, and better heat dissipation with two cards close to each other, you want to run in Uber Mode and no less. In fact, we personally recommend manually setting your fan to 100% capacity anyway if running reference cooler R9 290X cards in CrossFire. One thing you don't want to do is sandwich these cards together. You want a motherboard configuration that allows a gap in-between these, like ours. We have a 1.5" gap in-between the video cards, and this allows these cards to breath. All of our tests on the gameplay pages are in "Uber Mode."