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AMD R9 290X Review (Ultra HD 4K testing – Part 2)

Rating: 8.0.

Last week AMD launched their flagship R9 290X and our review concluded that this was the new king of the high end graphics cards. The only issue we had was the somewhat shoddy AMD reference cooling system. We are confident however that Sapphire and other partners will fix this with custom cooled solutions over the coming months.

As promised, today we follow up with the second part of our review, highlighting 4K (3840×2160) test results on KitGuru’s new Asus PQ321QE monitor.

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The first part of our R9 290X article focused on primarily a 2560×1600 resolution  – because many wealthy enthusiast users will still be using a traditional 30 inch monitor.
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Today we supplement our initial tests by analysing performance at 3840×2160 (4k HD) on the Asus PQ321QE. We recently acquired one of these screens for all future high end graphics card reviews. Sure, the £2999.99 asking price will mean very few can afford the upgrade right now, but in the next year we expect the cost to drop.
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Setting up this monitor is simple with both AMD and Nvidia hardware (via DisplayPort cable) and we didn’t experience any issues. To achieve a refresh rate of 60hz after the Forceware or Catalyst drivers were installed we enable the Multi Stream Transport mode within a submenu of the Asus PQ321QE.

This review today will  feature comparisons against the fastest R280X card available today – the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition. We also include results from a reference clocked GTX780, a GTX Titan and the class leading MSI GTX780 Lightning – all of which we have reviewed in the past.

All cards on test today have been tested using the latest Catalyst and Forceware drivers (13.11 beta6 and 331.65 respectively).
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On paper there is no doubt that the R9 290X is a monster, clocked at 1GHZ. The Hawaii GPU is built on the 28nm process and the card comprises 6.2 billion transistors. The R9 290X has 64 ROP’s, 176 TMU’s and 2,816 unifed shaders. The 4GB of GDDR5 memory runs at 1,250mhz (5Gbps effective) and is connected via an ultra wide 512 bit memory interface.

The R9 290X, along with the R7 260X features a programmable audio pipeline. The R9 270X and R9 280X don’t. This new TrueAudio technology is designed for game audio artists and engineers, so they can ‘bring their artistic vision beyond sound production into the realm of sound processing’. This technology is intended to transform game audio as programmable shaders transformed graphics in the following ways:

  • Programmable audio pipeline grants artistic freedom to game audio engineers for sound processing.
  • Easy to access through popular audio libraries used by top game developers.
  • Fundamentally redefines the nature of a modern PC graphics card.
  • Spatialization, reverb, mastering limiters and simultaneous voices are only the beginning.

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The R9 290X also brings bridgeless Crossfire to the table as well. We will present some Crossfire test results next week.

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