Out of the box you can see the overall look of the card is very similar to the reference R9 270X we looked at the other week. The overall fan and shroud design is pretty much identical. The main difference is the size of the card. The R9 290X comes in larger, as you'd expect.
When it comes to the power side of things, you can see we've got a single 6-pin and single 8-pin PCIe connector. This isn't anything too abnormal for a high-end card, and we're sure we'll see some companies offer dual 8-pin PCIe connectors for serious overclocking later down the track.
Moving across to the front of the card, you would normally expect to be greeted with a pair of CrossFire connectors here, and while you can see the points where they would go, they're clearly not present. The R290 and R290X both bring with it bridgeless CrossFire technology. Via the Hardware FMA engine inside the CrossFire compositing block, we no longer have the need for an external connector. Designed with Eyefinity and UltraHD resolutions in mind, direct access between the GPU display pipelines is now achieved over PCI Express.
This is compatible with the AMD frame pacing technology inside the Catalyst driver suite and brings with it no reduction in performance when compared to having an external bridge. Of course, the latter is something we'll most likely ever be able to compare, but we doubt AMD would've removed the connectors, if it was going to impact CrossFire performance.
Moving away from the CrossFire connectors, or lack thereof, and onto what is here. Above you can see a little switch. This isn't anything too new and we've seen this already on a number or R series video cards we've looked at so far. The main difference is that it is a bit more useful here. With the switch pushed to the left hand side (or the side towards the displays), the card is in "Quiet Mode".
"This mode is designed to optimally suit a gamer that wants to keep a tight lid on acoustics. If you do not play with headphones, you do not have a high-end gaming chassis, or your room's ambient noise level is extremely low this may be the mode for you."
And with the switch moved to the other side it's in "Uber Mode".
"This mode is designed to perform optimally under all performance and game testing. This includes crossfire."
We will be testing both modes today, and while the clock speed of the card doesn't change, it will be interesting to see what the difference between the two modes are.
Finally we finish our look at the card with the I/O side of things. The setup here is very standard. You can see we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors, along with the standard HDMI port and our DisplayPort, which supports Multi-Stream Transport with an adapter.
Compared to the R9 280X, we have a few areas that are similar. The 290X is based on a 28nm process and the core clock comes in at 1000MHz. It's here where we really see the similarities stop, though. The primitive rate is four per clock on the R9 290X, compared to two per clock on the 280X. Transistors are also up from 4.3B to 6.2B. Stream processors go from 2.048 to 2,816, while Texture Units move from 128 to 176, and ROPs from 32 to 64.
The memory side also changes. Instead of a 384-bit memory bus, we've got a larger 512-bit one, which means that instead of 3GB of GDDR5, this higher-end model supports 4GB. Like we often see when it comes to moving to a wider bus and more memory, the default clock speed is down with the 4GB of GDDR5 carrying with it a default clock of 5000MHz QDR, instead of 6000MHz QDR, like we saw on the smaller-width 3GB R9 280X.
Outside of the main specifications and the two big main features mentioned just before in the form of the Dual BIOS switch, which allows "Quiet Mode" and "Uber Mode" along with the new Bridgeless CrossFire technology, we've got support for both Mantle and AMD True Audio.
Both technologies were already covered in our other launch coverage. For more information on Mantle and TrueAudio, we recommend you head over to page two of our Radeon R7 260X review if you haven't already read up on the technology yet.