Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts
AMD's Radeon R9 290X 4GB is set to hit at $549. Considering the starting price for the GTX 780 3GB is $649.99, AMD, like the other R series based cards we've looked at, have managed to hit at the right price point. The launch of the HD 7000 series last year saw AMD miss the mark when it came to pricing some of its models. It appears AMD has learnt from their mistake and made sure that the top to bottom R Series comes in at the correct price point.
Quiet Mode and Uber Mode are an interesting concept, and to be honest at times, we really see quite a difference in performance between the two modes. Especially when we're under 60 FPS to over 60 FPS or move from the lower 60 FPS range to the higher-end of it. These are changes that really make a difference to your gaming experience and the testing can really change how you look at the card. In Quiet mode, the card feels overpriced as it falls short. Uber Mode, on the other hand, sees it perform much better.
The other thing is, Quiet Mode isn't all that quiet. Maybe "Quieter" Mode would've been a more appropriate name for it. Considering you're going to have to go into your case to switch modes, I'm not sure why you would really opt for Quiet Mode over Uber Mode when there's really quite a decent difference in performance, especially when it matters. Maybe that is just my personal opinion, though, and if you're gaming at a lower resolution, or really don't need that much power, then you could run it Quiet Mode. But if that was honestly the case, I'd point you in the direction of the cheaper Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC for instance, which is a truly fantastic card with fantastic performance and an unreal cooler.
I understand Quiet Mode, but I don't really accept it. With cards like the R9 280X 3GB TOXIC from Sapphire and the upcoming R9 290 coming, it feels like it's just a feature for the sake of saying they have the feature. It's fairly safe to say this will more than likely be the last time we test Quiet Mode - at least as in depth as today. Maybe in the future we just grab the noise levels and compare the numbers under a benchmark or two. How much use Quiet Mode will get when we move to non-reference coolers will also be interesting. Companies might choose to just offer two BIOS versions with different clock speeds, or a UEFI and non-UEFI one, like we've seen out of the switch on other cards.
Something we couldn't stress enough, though, is people need to make sure what mode reviewers are testing the card at. Out of the box our card was running in Quiet Mode. If a reviewer switches it over and tries Uber Mode under just 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Fire Strike, they will see little difference in performance, which in turn could cause them to not extensively test the difference. You can see looking through the numbers here today that Uber Mode has a real impact on performance under a number of games, especially as more and more pressure is placed on the card. With the clocks not changing, though, it could be a little difficult to spot the difference.
Today hasn't been the fairest comparison for the AMR R9 290X 4GB, though, and we'll be the first to admit that as it finds itself against the much more expensive SuperClocked GTX TITAN from EVGA and the heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 3GB Lightning. Against the odds, though, the AMD R9 290X 4GB really put out some amazing numbers, and while it looked a little bleak in Quiet Mode, when we turned it over to Uber Mode, you can see that some serious performance gains are on offer.
Like we've said all along, though, there's so much more to the R Series line up of video cards than just the performance numbers. True Audio is an amazing technology and we're so looking forward to having games take advantage of it. What we saw in Hawaii was amazing. Mantle is a fantastic sounding technology and we've got some huge players behind it. In time it feels like it's going to play a big part. At the moment, though, we can't really take advantage of the technology in a big way.
The new CrossFire technology is also really cool and we're fortunate enough to have a second R9 290X 4GB on hand. We will be testing out CrossFire soon and we really look forward to an extremely smooth experience with it. Outside of that, overclocking is also something we can't wait to test. While we don't have voltage adjustment yet, this is still something we're going to test as soon as possible in both single and CrossFire form. We want to see just how much we can get out of this new card from AMD.
We also can't forget that the R9 290 is due soon as well which will help fill the top-end bracket from AMD. The performance and price that hits at will be interesting. We've already seen companies do some fantastic things with the models that have launched with the Sapphire TOXIC variants standing out and the MSI HAWK, which we're yet to test.
For the money, it really feels like AMD is bringing more than just another video card that concentrates on pushing out a large amount of frames per seconds. For this reason, the new R series video cards stand out. We're sure that people are going to be excited to pick one up and see just how the new model goes on their own system. It's fairly safe to assume that NVIDIA is going to drop the price of the GTX 780 in the coming week or weeks, for one reason and one reason only. At $100 cheaper, they need to if they want to stay competitive. At $549, the R9 290X 4GB feels like the easier choice when compared against the GTX 780. Let's see what happens with the NVIDA offerings in the coming weeks, though.