4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB

In today's 4K Showdown, we take a look at the single GPU kings from both AMD (Radeon R9 290X 4GB) and NVIDIA (GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB) in stunning 2160p.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, Jun 3 2014 8:00 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT

Introduction

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 02 | TweakTown.com
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The other day, we got the chance to do our very first 4K Showdown article, a new series that has started thanks to our video card lab now having a permanent 4K monitor on hand in the form of a Dell P2815Q. The first article we did was focused on the AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB running in both its single card form and its dual CrossFireX form. The experience did not go smoothly. In the end, we really discovered that CrossFireX continues to be far from a perfect technology.

If you want to see just how a $3,000 video card setup goes, though, then I highly recommend you read our first 4K Showdown article.

Today, we're looking to have a whole bunch more success as we move away from those monster setups and check out something a bit more common for the gaming enthusiast. We're going to be checking out the performance of the GTX 780 Ti 3GB from NVIDIA and the R9 290X 4GB from AMD to see just who comes out on top.

I'm glad to say that we didn't run into any of the problems that we saw in our first article. That means today we'll have the full line up of benchmarks with the removal of just 3DMark 11 and 3DMark Fire Strike, due to the fact that benchmarking both those applications at 4K doesn't result in an overall score. We don't have a whole lot more to say as everything is fairly self-explanatory. So, let's move onto a quick look at our Test System Setup and then move straight into the benchmarking to see just which card performs better at 4K.

PRICING: You can find the R9 290X and 780 Ti for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The R9 290X (Sapphire) retails for $557.47 at Amazon.

Canada: The R9 290X (Sapphire) retails for CDN$534.53 at Amazon Canada.

Australia: The R9 290X (GIGABYTE) retails for $707.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The R9 290X (GIGABYTE) for $749.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

United States: The 780 Ti (EVGA) retails for $719.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The 780 Ti (EVGA) retails for CDN$790.98 at Amazon Canada.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 99 | TweakTown.com

We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, and Corsair.

We don't need to say much here as we've already covered most of the information in the previous page. Quickly, though, before we do move onto the benchmarking side of things, you can see below our two setups. Both are running at stock with the latest driver at the time of testing.

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 01 | TweakTown.com

Let's leave it at that and just get into it to see just who manages to come out ahead!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer more intensive games with benchmarks comes to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 20 | TweakTown.com

Starting off with Heaven, we can see that both setups perform very closely to each other. It doesn't come as much of a surprise that NVIDIA comes out ahead here due to the stronger Tessellation support. It does surprise us, though, that it comes out ahead by such a small amount.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 21 | TweakTown.com

PSO 2 performance heavily favors the NVIDIA offering here at the 4K resolution. What we know is that over 5,000 points is ideal, and while the R9 290X 4GB manages to just scrape past that, you can see our GTX 780 Ti 3GB manages to jump significantly higher.

Benchmarks – Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 22 | TweakTown.com

We knew Lost Planet 2 would favor the GTX 780 Ti 3GB here over the R9 290X 4GB. The difference is quite important, though, as you see the AMD offering fall below that 60 FPS number we require while the NVIDIA one moves a good 5 FPS past it. This is a clear win here for NVIDIA and its GTX 780 Ti 3GB.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 23 | TweakTown.com

Just Cause 2 paints the complete opposite picture to what we just saw above in Lost Planet 2. While the difference isn't as extreme, you do see that the R9 290X 4GB manages to just break past that playable 60 FPS barrier, while the GTX 780 Ti 3GB falls short.

Benchmarks – F1 2012 & Metro Last Light

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 24 | TweakTown.com

F1 2012 sees the GTX 780 Ti 3GB pull out another win here with a solid 10 percent lead over its AMD counterpart. The most important thing to take away from these results that hover above 90 FPS is that the game is playable on both setups.

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 25 | TweakTown.com

We go from a game being playable on both setups to a game not being playable on both. While our GTX 780 Ti 3GB manages a 10 percent lead over the R9 290X 4GB, the overall FPS, which falls under 30 on both, is just way too low for the game to be playable. This isn't a huge surprise given the intensity of Metro Last Light.

Benchmarks – Dirt Showdown & Nexuiz

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 26 | TweakTown.com

Looking above, you can see the R9 290X 4GB manages to get a good jump on the GTX 780 Ti 3GB. Unfortunately, you can see that both setups fall short of that 60 FPS number we're always-on the hunt for. If you did want to play at this resolution, though, the R9 290X 4GB could get those extra 6 FPS with a slight drop in graphics settings. The GTX 780 Ti 3GB, on the other hand, is going to need a greater detail drop.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 27 | TweakTown.com

While the GTX 780 Ti 3GB manages to get a win here, the 2 FPS extra to get a solid 15 FPS isn't anything to brag about. Numbers are far from playable here, which doesn't come as much of a surprise given the intensity of the game.

Benchmarks – Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 28 | TweakTown.com

Checking out Sniper Elite V2 performance, you can see that the R9 290X 4GB manages to get the win here. Both cards again fall under the 60 FPS number we're always looking for, though. Like Dirt Showdown, we can see that the R9 290X 4GB isn't all that far from the 60 FPS number we need. A small detail drop will get us those extra couple of FPS we're on the hunt for.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 29 | TweakTown.com

Sleeping Dogs, as you can see, finds both setups scoring over that playable 60 FPS number we want. We'd much prefer the GTX 780 Ti 3GB, though, as it manages to give us significantly more breathing room than the R9 290X 4GB that just scrapes past that 60 FPS number.

Benchmarks – Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 30 | TweakTown.com

Looking above, you can see that performance between the two setups is nearly identical. While the minimum for both setups is strong, the overall average is just a little too low. While we normally want 60 FPS, with this strong minimum, something around the mid 50 FPS range would be good enough. You can see above that we don't quite hit 50 FPS on both setups.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 31 | TweakTown.com

Like Hitman, you can see that both setups perform very closely to each other, with little separating them. Unlike Hitman, though, the overall FPS is a lot lower, and you can see that we don't even reach a playable minimum, with both setups scoring just 24 FPS.

Benchmarks – BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 32 | TweakTown.com

BioShock sees the GTX 780 Ti 3GB get a 30 percent gain on the R9 290X 4GB. Unfortunately, the extra 9 FPS isn't enough to bring us near that 60 FPS number we want, and both setups fall significantly short of playable numbers.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 33 | TweakTown.com

While under Battlefield 4, we see both setups offering a decent minimum FPS number. The overall average FPS is just a little too low. Playing just isn't smooth enough, which is the most important thing when it comes to a game that focuses on the Multiplayer side of things.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF Testing

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 34 | TweakTown.com

Turning on AA and AF brings both setups to their knees, and you see just 14 and 15 FPS, respectively.

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 35 | TweakTown.com

Just Cause 2 looks better than Metro Last Light, and you can see the R9 290X 4GB manages to pull out the win here. Overall, though, the average FPS is just too low, and both setups sit in the 40 FPS range.

4K Showdown: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB vs. AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB 36 | TweakTown.com

Finishing off with Sleeping Dogs, we see a slight improvement over the Metro Last Light numbers. Overall, though, the numbers are just way too low for the game to be playable with these settings on both setups.

Final Thoughts

Looking at the results, I must admit that they're really quite interesting. 3840 x 2160 is four times the amount of pixels as a standard 1920 x 1080 screen. That means that four times the amount of pressure is being placed on the video card. To put it into perspective, this one monitor, at this resolution, requires more power than a three monitor Eyefinity or Surround Vision setup.

I really felt that these high-end single GPU setups would offer us more playable numbers in our game line up. While some of the older games, like Just Cause 2 and Lost Planet 2, manage to scrape by, moving to new games like Hitman Absolution and Tomb Raider are just a big no go.

We can't deny the fact that, outside of AA and AF, all our games are running at the best possible settings, and you do have room to drop those settings to bring the FPS up. One would hope, though, that after spending the money associated with a 4K monitor and a high-end single GPU video card that you'd be able to run your games maxed out. Looking through our graphs, you can see that, for the most part, it isn't true.

Then you throw AA and AF into the mix, and you see the setups crumble under their own weight. Saying that, the bottom line is that AA and AF isn't really necessary. Having so many pixels crammed into a 28-inch screen means that, at the native resolution, everything looks so sharp.

As for who the overall winner is, at $150 cheaper, you'd have to say that the R9 290X 4GB is probably the overall winner when it comes down to price and performance. At this resolution, you're probably not seeing the extra money that is associated with the GTX 780 Ti 3GB come into play enough. What is going to be more appealing, though, is the fact that the NVIDIA offering does offer more overclocking headroom, and in that scenario, we could see the FPS we need. If you found yourself hoping that you'd know what card to buy after reading this, you're probably slightly disappointed and just as confused as us. In the end, 4K really needs a dual GPU configuration. No doubt, this will be something we look at in the near future.

PRICING: You can find the R9 290X and 780 Ti for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The R9 290X (Sapphire) retails for $557.47 at Amazon.

Canada: The R9 290X (Sapphire) retails for CDN$534.53 at Amazon Canada.

Australia: The R9 290X (GIGABYTE) retails for $707.99 AUD at Mighty Ape Australia.

New Zealand: The R9 290X (GIGABYTE) for $749.99 NZD at Mighty Ape NZ.

United States: The 780 Ti (EVGA) retails for $719.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The 780 Ti (EVGA) retails for CDN$790.98 at Amazon Canada.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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