AMD Radeon R9 290X review

Andrew Unsworth
24 Oct 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
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An exceptionally quick card that can play the latest games at very high resolutions



The R9 290X is a new breed of Radeon graphics card designed to provide gamers with all the power they need to play the latest games at very high resolutions and at the highest graphics settings. This AMD card clearly has the Nvidia GTX 780 firmly in its sights.

AMD R9 290X 3/4s

It's more than just a powerful graphics card, though. The R9 290X also contains an audio processor called TrueAudio. Instead of relying on the PC's CPU for audio processing, the R9 290X processes audio itself. This takes the load off the CPU and leaves headroom for fancy audio effects. For example, AMD says this technology could use positional data from the game you’re playing to produce properly rendered and more accurate 3D sound. That’s just one benefit, and as TrueAudio is a programmable system we’re sure talented game developers will put it to good use. We look forward to testing this out when TrueAudio-optimised games arrive.

Another neat new feature is the ability to use two R9 290Xs in CrossFire mode without the use of a CrossFire ribbon. Again, we couldn’t test the card in CrossFire mode because we only had one R9 290X, but AMD says there’s no drop in performance from not having the CrossFire ribbon bridge.

AMD R9 290X Uncased

The R9 290X’s graphics processor, codename Hawaii, can operate at a maximum clock speed of 1GHz and has 2,816 stream processors. This is paired with 4GB of GDDR5 memory running at a clock speed of 1,250MHz. The R9 290X also has a very wide 512-bit memory interface that allows a maximum memory bandwidth of up to 320GB/s.

When you’re working on the desktop the graphics processor ticks over at an economical 300MHz, but quickly boosts to 1GHz when running games to provide maximum performance. The R9 290X is very quiet, even when playing graphically challenging games, but it does have a tendency to emit a high-pitched whine occasionally, which can be annoying.

The card's graphics performance is phenomenal. It produced an average frame rate of 107fps in Dirt Showdown at a resolution of 1,920x1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and graphics quality set to Ultra. To put this frame rate in context, the excellent Nvidia GTX Titan produced an average frame rate of 91.2fps in the same test and the GTX 780 produced an average frame rate of 88.7fps. With the resolution lowered to 1,280x720 and graphics quality reduced to High, the R9 290X produced an average frame rate of 115fps, while the GTX Titan and GTX 780 weren’t far behind with an average frame rate of 113.2fps. You won’t notice any slowdown with average frame rates like these.

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