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AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Reference Video Card Review

AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Reference Video Card Review

Another piece of the R series puzzle comes together. Today we check out the high-end Radeon R9 290X 4GB video card from AMD in full detail.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Oct 23 2013 11:01 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 97%Manufacturer: AMD

Introduction

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We're still missing a couple of pieces when it comes to having a look at the new R series from top to bottom. Today, though, one more of those pieces gets filled with the release of the new single GPU high-end option from AMD, the R9 290X. The other main piece we're missing is the R9 290, which is due to be released roughly a week after the R9 290X, and as the name might suggest, falls just below this model.

Along with these higher-end models, there's also a few lower-end ones we've got to look at including the lower-end R7 250 which we've also got on hand and carries with it a price tag of under $100. You can understand we're not exactly the most excited to test that model and it's probably the main reason we've focused on the other models we've currently got on hand. Saying that, we will of course be getting around to it soon.

Today, though, is all about the newest high-end GPU from AMD. Of course being a reference card, we don't have a package on our hands today, so we'll be moving from here into the card itself. Because it's also our first R9 290X, we'll be covering some of the main features that the new model brings to the table.

This is ultimately the main AMD video card everyone has been waiting for since we first heard about the new models coming, so let's not delay any longer, and see just what is new with the latest generation AMD high-end single GPU offering.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Specifications

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.

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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.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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

As you'd expect, as we climb higher up the mountain and test more and more video cards, the number of cards in our graphs continue to grow. As we mentioned earlier, the new R9 290X 4GB carries with it a switch that lets you choose between two BIOS modes. While the clock rates don't change, "Quiet Mode" focuses on keeping noise down, while "Uber Mode" focuses on keeping performance up. We will be testing the R9 290X 4GB in both modes to see if there's any kind of difference.

Along with comparing the card against itself, though, we've got a number of AMD offerings including the PowerColor PCS HD 7950 2GB overclocked to over 1100MHz, while the reference HD 7970 GHz Edition rounds off our collection of previous generation AMD cards.

We finish off the AMD side of things with the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC, which did an awesome job of impressing us, while we've also included the MSI R9 280X 2GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC cards in CrossFire.

As for the NVIDIA side of things, we've got the reference GTX 770 2GB, along with the MSI GTX 780 3GB Lightning we just finished looking at. Of course being a Lightning card, we overclocked it, and as you'll see in our graphs today, the core was pushed to 1020MHz, while the 3GB of GDDR5 was pushed to 6540MHz QDR. Finally we finish off the NVIDIA side with the pre-overclocked EVGA GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked.

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 - 3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Coming out the gate with 3DMark 11, you can see that when it comes to the Performance Preset, the R9 290X has no problems outperforming our other single GPU offerings here.

When we move to the higher Extreme preset, though, you can see that the higher-end NVIDIA offerings have a good 10%+ gain on it. As for the difference between Quiet and Uber mode, you can see very little difference.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Fire Strike

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark

Buy It Here

Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.

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Fire Strike is one of our more recent benchmarks, and for that reason, you can see not all our cards have been benchmarked. Compared to the quite heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning, you can see that both cards are fairly close to each other.

At stock the AMD R9 290X would outperform the GTX 780. As for Quiet and Uber mode, you can see again very little difference is seen in both presets. We're hoping this isn't a trend that continues throughout all of our testing here today.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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While Heaven sees a nice boost in performance when switching between Uber and Quiet mode, you can see that the top NVIDIA offerings come out ahead.

Of course the GTX 780 Lightning is heavily overclocked and that GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked is much more expensive.

We can't wait to throw overclocking into the mix on the new R9 290X soon.

Benchmarks - Phantasy Star Online 2

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.sega.com/?t=EnglishUSA

Product Homepage: http://www.pso2.com/us/html/index.html

Play Phantasy Star Online 2 and experience revolutionary combat in an action-driven, free-to-play multiplayer online RPG from SEGA. Take a journey into an immersive sci-fi fantasy narrative and explore mysterious worlds to unravel their secrets. Join fellow adventurers and fight against the legions of darkness to banish them from the galaxy.

Score explanation: Less than 2000: Please adjust your game settings because the processing load is quite heavy.

2000 through 5000: The game runs fine at the setting, if you have room, you can adjust some settings.

5001+: The game works wonderfully at this setting.

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PSO2 really sees a massive jump between the two modes here. You can see it's easily enough to get a good jump on the GTX TITAN SuperClocked. Not quite enough to come out ahead of our heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning, though.

PSO2 makes excellent use of overclocking, though, and I think when we throw overclocking into the mix on the R9 280X, we should see another large increase in performance.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Under Uber Mode, we get quite a good performance boost when compared to Quiet mode. At 2560 x 1600, you can see we move from a 78 FPS average to a more comfortable 88 FPS.

At all resolutions, though, you can see that the top NVIDIA cards come out ahead. This isn't a huge surprise as Lost Planet 2 has always leant towards NVIDIA, due to the tessellation aspect of the game.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Just Cause 2 in Uber Mode sees some excellent performance jumps when compared to the card running in Quiet Mode. The increases we see are easily enough to take it from trialing behind the top two NVIDIA offerings to coming out ahead of it easily.

Benchmarks - F1 2012

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com

In F1 2012 players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas and the return of Germany's famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

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F1 2012 also makes good use of Uber Mode with a decent jump in performance when compared to Quiet Mode.

It's enough to put the R9 290X out ahead of the GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://enterthemetro.com/ /

Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. Khan believes the Dark One is the key to humanity's future, and wants to make peace with it, while Ranger leader Colonel Miller wants to kill the creature due to its potential threat. Miller sends Artyom to the surface with a mission to kill the Dark One; he is accompanied by Anna, Miller's sarcastic daughter and the Rangers' best sniper.

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Apart from 2560 x 1600, we can see that the R9 290X comes out ahead of our heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning. It's not too important, though, as both cards struggle to hit 60 FPS at this resolution, and while in Uber Mode we see the R9 290X take out the win here, again, the card doesn't hit that playable 60 FPS number we want.

You can see the GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked manages to come out well ahead of all the other setups here under this particular benchmark.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/dirtshowdown/360/

DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series, uncaged in 2012. Pick up and play controls combine with electrifying events, frenzied crowds and stunning graphics to deliver high octane, dive in and drive thrills from event one.

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Dirt Showdown has always favored NVIDIA offerings, but you can see in Quiet Mode, we're sitting around the same level as the overclocked GTX 780 Lightning and GTX TITAN.

In Uber Mode, we see a decent jump again in performance and it is now able to outperform both NVIDIA offerings at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Nexuiz

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.alientrap.org/

Product Homepage: http://www.nexuiz.com/

Nexuiz is an Arena First Person shooter coming soon to consoles. Nexuiz is fast paced with extremely competitive game play. IllFonic brings Alientrap Software's Nexuiz to next-gen gaming consoles around the world while staying true to the game play refined over the years through development. IllFonic introduces a new Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated. Nexuiz for consoles is powered by CryENGINE 3.

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Uber mode under Nexuiz brings with it a nice performance increase and gives us a ton of breathing room at 1680 x 1050. Across the board, though, we do trail behind the NVIDIA offerings at all resolutions, even when running in Uber mode.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/age.html

Sniper Elite V2 features detailed sniping simulation with advanced ballistics, taking into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, aim stability and more. Guaranteed to provide players with the most realistic simulation of military sharpshooting yet available.

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Sniper Elite V2 trails the NVIDIA offerings at all resolutions, but continues to offer strong playable numbers across the board. When it comes to comparing Quiet and Uber modes on the R9 290X, though, you can see that little difference is really seen.

We see a bit of a jump at the lowest resolutions, but looking at the numbers, we would've preferred that at the highest resolution, then we probably would've also been able to outperform the NVIDIA offerings with an extra 10%.

Benchmarks - Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://eu.square-enix.com/en

Product Homepage: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/

The core gameplay of Sleeping Dogs consists of giving the player an open world environment in which to move around freely. Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. On foot, the player character has the ability to walk, run, jump, climb over obstacles and swim, as well as use weapons and martial arts in combat. Players also drive a variety of vehicles including cars, boats, and motorcycles.

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Sleeping Dogs performance is strong across the board, and you can see in Uber Mode, the card is ahead of both high-end NVIDIA offerings at all resolutions.

Comparing Quiet and Uber mode against each other, you can see at 1680 x 1050 little changes. As we move further and further up the resolution table, and more and more pressure is placed on the GPU, Uber mode starts to make a difference.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Not that it's needed, you can see that Uber Mode brings with it a bit of an increase in both the minimum and average department when compared to Quiet mode.

Compared to the top NVIDIA offerings, though, you can see the setups are fairly close to each other, with no major changes being seen.

Please Note: We still include Far Cry 2 in our benchmarks (we know it's old) as a way for our readers to get a general representation of how older games perform on new hardware.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.ioi.dk/

Product Homepage: http://hitman.com/

Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth game developed by I/O Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series, and runs on I/O Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. Before release, the developers stated that Absolution would be easier to play and more accessible, while still retaining hardcore aspects of the franchise. The game was released on 20 November 2012, which is in the 47th week of the year (in reference to the protagonist, Agent 47).

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Looking at Hitman Absolution, we can see that a wall is often hit, the good news for AMD is that the wall is hit later than on NVIDIA cards - for that reason we see the R9 290X outperform NVIDIA across the board.

Due to the wall, though, we see little difference between Quiet and Uber mode at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, we do see a nice jump in both the minimum and average.

Benchmarks - Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.nixxes.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.tombraider.com/us/base/agegate?refer=184&

Tomb Raider is an action-adventure platform video game. Published by Square Enix, Tomb Raider is the fifth title developed by Crystal Dynamics in the Tomb Raider franchise. As the first entry in a new Tomb Raider continuity, the game is a reboot that emphasizes the reconstructed origins of the culturally influential lead character Lara Croft. Tomb Raider was released on 5 March 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows to universal critical acclaim.

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With the R9 290X in Uber mode, you can see performance is very close to the heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning, which also sees that at the higher resolution, it's ahead of the much more expensive GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked from EVGA.

As for playable numbers go, you can see that at the highest resolution the 41 FPS minimum and 53 FPS average just isn't enough for us to consider the game playable. It is close, though, thanks to the high minimum, another 4 or 5 FPS would be all we really need to see.

As for comparing Quiet and Uber Mode against each other, you can see that there's really quite a difference as more and more pressure is placed on the card. At the lowest resolution, there's really nothing, moving to 1920 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600, though, you can really see quite a large increase in performance.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://irrationalgames.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.bioshockinfinite.com

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game and the third installment in the BioShock series. Previously known as "Project Icarus", it is being developed by Irrational Games and was released worldwide on the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013. BioShock Infinite is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games but features similar gameplay concepts and themes.

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Checking out BioShock Infinite, you can again see in this case the NVIDIA offerings come out ahead. We can't stress the overclock on both NVIDIA cards enough, though.

When it comes to comparing Quiet and Uber mode, though, you can see a bit of difference with an extra 10% performance being seen at the higher resolution. It's a pity we're still a few FPS shy of that 60 FPS number we're always on the hunt for.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

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 an 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.

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Turning AA and AF on under Far Cry 2 sees little difference between Quiet and Uber modes. In the end, the numbers are just extremely playable at both resolutions. Let's move onto some games that are more intensive.

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You can see moving to Uber Mode brings the R9 290X numbers in line with the heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 3GB Lightning. In the end, though, we're still a good chunk below the 60 FPS number we need for solid gameplay.

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Switching to Uber Mode, you can see that the card gets a nice boost in performance at both resolutions that puts it ahead of our heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 3GB Lightning at both resolutions.

You can see we're also ahead of the GTX TITAN SuperClocked at both resolutions. More importantly, though, we've got playable numbers at both resolutions, which is exactly what we like to see.

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Just like above, you can see when we switch to Uber Mode, we manage to get the jump on our overclocked MSI GTX 780 3GB Lightning at both resolutions. While we manage to get a playable 63 FPS at 1920 x 1200 in Uber mode, you can see moving to 2560 x 1600 gives us just an average of 39 FPS.

However, being above 60 FPS is something that every setup here has a problem with at this resolution, including the CrossFire 280X setup.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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When it comes to heat, the R9 290X 4GB is a warm running video card with 94c being seen at load. This is set under the Catalyst Control Center, though. If you're not happy with this number, you can head in and lower it, of course it's going to come at the cost of noise levels.

As for the difference between Quiet and Uber mode, the temperature was the same.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Reference Video Card Review 51 | TweakTown.com

At 65.6dB, Quiet mode isn't exactly all that quiet. Saying that, though, this isn't a terrible number at all and we see it's up there with many other high-end single and dual GPU video card offerings.

Turning to Uber Mode, though, that does bring a noticeable increase in load levels. We end up hearing as high as 75.9dB, and if you're in a quiet room, play with your speakers low, or have a poorly insulated PC case, this is a high number.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB Reference Video Card Review 52 | TweakTown.com

Power draw numbers are at almost 500w when under load. Switching between Quiet and Uber Mode brought no real difference in power draw. Uber Mode saw the load jump roughly 20 watts and the idle drop by around 20 watts.

With both numbers being so similar, we'd put it down to more fluctuation than anything else, as they were consistent measurements.

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.

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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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