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HIS Radeon R9 290X 4GB in CrossFire Video Card Review

HIS Radeon R9 290X 4GB in CrossFire Video Card Review

We pair a HIS R9 290X 4GB video card with our reference model and check out CrossFire performance in our full suite of apps and games.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Nov 4 2013 8:01 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 97%Manufacturer: HIS

Introduction and Package

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VIEW GALLERY - 33 IMAGES

We feel that AMD has done a really good job with the new R series video cards and everything we've looked at has managed to impress so far. It's not just the performance numbers that the video cards are putting out, though, the price that AMD has launched at alongside a large number of new features to the series makes for a model that really stands out.

This isn't the first time that we've looked at CrossFire performance on the new R series. The other week we got a chance to see what the R9 280X 3GB was capable of thanks to a pair of MSI Twin Frozr OC Gaming cards that made their way in.

Today is all about the higher-end R9 290X and the card that sits at the top of the pyramid when it comes to the new line up of AMD cards.

Thanks to HIS, we're able to pair their card with the reference R9 290X 4GB and see just what CrossFire looks like with the latest high-end model from AMD. If what we saw out of the MSI R9 280X 3GB cards are anything to go by, we should really see some strong performance here today. Before we do that, though, let's get stuck into the package and see what HIS is offering when it comes to their retail package.

Package

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We've got the brand at the top and the model across the bottom with a few of the key features mentioned. If we flip over to the back, you can see more of the main features are mentioned, along with the system requirements.

Due to the early nature of receiving the card, we didn't get a chance to receive the full package.

The Card and Specifications

The Card

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Unlike a lot of the other models that AMD has recently launched, the new R9 290X hasn't got the same special treatment yet from partners. Looking above, you can see we're dealing with the reference design, which means that we're not going to see anything different to what we saw from the AMD card we looked at recently when it comes to the overall design.

Looking above, though, you can see as you'd expect that HIS has thrown their logo on the fan.

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Taking a quick look around the card, you see exactly what you saw in our reference card review. That means that power comes in the form of a single 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connector. Staying across the top of the card and moving closer to the front, you can see we don't have a CrossFire connector.

What we do have is a switch that lets us switch between "Quiet Mode" and "Uber Mode". If you want to learn a bit more about this, then we recommend you head over to our launch review for full details.

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Finally we finish off with the I/O. Looking above, you can see we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors, along with a DisplayPort and HDMI connector.

Since companies can't move away from the reference design yet, we're really not seeing anything that we didn't see in our launch review.

Specifications

Really everything about this card is reference and looking below you can see we're dealing with the reference clocks too. That means when it comes to the core speed, it comes in at 1000MHz, while the 4GB of GDDR5 comes clocked in at 5000MHz QDR.

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The main thing we want to look at, though, in the image above is to make sure CrossFire is indeed enabled. As you can see it is and 2 GPUs are detected. The best way to make sure everything is working, though, is to simply benchmark the card, so let's do that now over the next pages.

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.

We've got a bunch of setups in our graphs today that sit alongside our HIS R9 290X 4GB CrossFire setup. On the AMD front, we've got the AMD HD 7970 GHz Edition, Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC, AMD R9 290X of course running in "Uber Mode", the same card overclocked to 1065 / 5252 QDR and finally the MSI R9 280X Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire mode.

When it comes to the NVIDIA side, we've got the reference GTX 770 2GB and the heavily overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3GB at 1020MHz on the core and 6540MHz QDR on the memory. We finally finish off our collection of NVIDIA cards with the 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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3DMark 11 starts out strong. It's always benefited from CrossFire and you can see very strong gains at both resolutions.

We see the best gain at the higher Extreme preset as more pressure is applied to the setup.

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 sees some strong performance gains at both presets and just some massive numbers period. We're of course still building our results for Fire Strike and hopefully we can add a higher-end NVIDIA setup in soon.

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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Heaven offers fantastic performance at both resolutions.

You can again see strong gains over the single card setup, and the setup sits well ahead of everything else. It's also the most expensive setup here.

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 doesn't benefit at all with CrossFire.

We're fortunate enough that with the settings of the game maxed out, we see numbers that are well above the recommended ones that SEGA suggest anyway.

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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Lost Planet 2 numbers are quite interesting - they're very strong and you can see impressive games. But across the board, they're behind the lower-end MSI R9 280X CrossFire setup.

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 performance is just massive at all resolutions and you can see that the best gains are seen at the highest resolution, when the most pressure is applied.

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 went extremely weird when it came to benchmarking. The numbers dropped way back and fell below 60 FPS at all resolutions.

This is kind of weird as the MSI R9 280X CrossFire setup didn't have this problem. We are using a different driver here and hopefully it's something that is fixed soon by AMD.

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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Metro Last Light numbers are great at all resolutions and you can see we're into the 70 FPS range at the highest resolution. The GTX TITAN 6GB SuperClocked from EVGA, though, performed exceptionally well coming out ahead at all resolutions.

This is a game that really loves video card memory and it seems that the GTX TITAN with its 6GB of memory can really stretch its legs in this case.

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 shows some good gains, but we hit an FPS wall at the lower resolutions. Fortunately, you're not really going to complain about getting 160 odd FPS.

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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Nexuiz hasn't always been kind to CrossFire setups and here is another instance of that.

You can see a small bit of movement with the average at 1920 x 1200 now moving into the 60 FPS range. We're talking about gains that are only in the 10 - 20% range, though, at the lower resolutions.

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 sees massive gains and just fantastic performance at both resolutions. You're really not going to run into any problems playing this game on this setup.

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 sees little movement as it hits an FPS wall. Maybe when we turn up the AA and AF, we will see the CrossFire setup really get made use of.

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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We don't see huge gains under FarCry 2 as we hit an FPS wall. With a 150 FPS minimum and a 270 FPS average, we're not worried about that FPS wall at all.

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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Hitman Absolution sees a bit of a boost in performance, but it's hitting an FPS wall with the minimum in the 70 FPS range and the average in the 90 FPS range.

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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Tomb Raider sees some excellent gains with the CrossFire setup and just some awesome performance overall. At the highest resolution, we've got a solid minimum of 78 FPS.

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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BioShock Infinite sees strong gains, but nothing like the 100% we see under others. We've got gains of around 50% across the board and that's good enough for a 94 FPS average at 2560 x 1600.

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 doesn't affect our ability to play at all with just massive performance at both resolutions.

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Metro Last Light sees some good gains, but not great ones. 1920 x 1200 with AA and AF on is strong with the average in the 60 FPS range. 2560 x 1600, though, is just too low at 42 FPS.

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Just Cause 2 sees some massive gains and just some massive performance overall. You're really not going to have an issue gaming under Just Cause 2 completely maxed out.

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With AA and AF on, we see that Sleeping Dogs sees stronger gains. If you remember when AA and AF was off, we saw only little movement with the second card installed, above, though, you can see we've got playable numbers at both resolutions.

It's not the strongest of gains, but more than enough to give us 64 FPS at 2560 x 1600 with AA and AF on.

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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The temperature on these new cards is extremely warm.

AMD has said already that the numbers they run at aren't an issue and the card is designed to run at this temperature without any problem.

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).

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Not only do the cards run quite warm, but the new R9 290X 4GB is quite a loud card.

We're really looking forward to seeing what partners do with the cooler in the coming weeks and months.

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.

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Power draw is pretty high at 750 Watt under load.

For this kind of setup, we'd recommend nothing less than a quality 1000-watt power supply.

Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts

The good news about the HIS R9 290X 3GB is that it carries the lowest price tag over at Newegg at $549.99. The bad news is that like every other R9 290X 3GB on the market, it's out of stock. This is one of the most common issues when it comes to new high-end cards from AMD and NVIDIA. On the bright side, if you throw in a pre-order, because stock is constantly coming in, the wait is never all that long.

While we didn't test the single card performance of the HIS R9 290X 3GB today, we know just how the card is going to perform due to the fact it follows the reference design. In a nutshell, we'd say the performance is great, but if you really want to read about our thoughts on the single card setup in more detail, then we highly recommend you head on over to our launch review.

What we really need to talk about today is the performance side of things when it comes to CrossFire. The large performance gains for these high-end setups are becoming harder and harder as the hardware side of things is moving at a faster rate than the software. We really hope that this is addressed more with the Mantle API that AMD launched with the new cards. Making games easier to code should hopefully bring with it higher-end everything, and that means that video cards are going to be pushed harder and harder.

You're only really going to be able to make full use of this kind of setup if you're packing a resolution of above 1920 x 1080. At 1680 x 1050, spending in excess of $1,000 on a video card setup is just crazy. If you've got that kind of money to spend on a video card setup, then you should also have enough to purchase a monitor with a minimum resolution of 1920 x 1080.

Even then, you'd want to make sure that you're gaming at max detail and you should more than likely be looking at your AA and AF settings. I think the biggest jump in demand for higher-end setups isn't going to come from the games, though, instead it's going to come from the monitors. As we see 4k monitors drop in price, the demand for video card setups that can push recent games at this resolution at a decent FPS is going to become greater.

Multi GPU setups are always something that people either like or don't. There's no denying that if you're looking for a setup that can push some serious FPS, then you need to go down the multi GPU path. If you're looking at spending around the $1,000 mark, then this is no doubt the setup that's going to get your attention.

Getting to the specifics of the HIS R9 290X 3GB, there's really not much that needs to be said about it as everything we feel about the new R9 290X 3GB was mentioned in our launch review, which we linked too just above. For the money, the HIS R9 290X 3GB is a mighty impressive video card, and if you've got even more cash to play with, going down the path of two is appealing.

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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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