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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.

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.
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.
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).
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.

crossfire setupDSC00664
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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  • Dan Steven

    You seem to have put dBa rating on power consumption by mistake 😛

  • Felix English

    Awesome, thanks – very very interesting!

  • Gggggas

    Just an amazing card, can’t wait for the custom coolers + OC editions

  • Ben

    Impressive performance, I can’t even get that at 1080p with my system :p

  • Terrible Terrance

    I want a 4K monitor badly, but I can only stretch to £2,000 savings. waiting patiently for this one to drop next year. fingers crossed!

  • Eran

    Nice review, very interesting to see how things go in the future. I prefer gaming on consoles recently, but PC’s are miles ahead, lets be honest about it.

  • Joe

    £3k for a monitor? holy crap on a stick. awesome though to drool over. I think this makes more sense long term for people as using three monitors needs such a massive desk it isn’t practical. a single monitor with super high resolution is the way forward.

    Do you find some of the textures on older games look really nasty though? I bet only the latest games with tight afflliation with AMD or NVIDIA look great. Which reminds me, I need to get that batman game soon!

  • jjj

    Did you really put 6 expensive pieces of hardware on your carpet? ..for photo purposes?
    That’s fairly outrageous. Your negligence puts me at a loss for words.

  • @ jjj – the cards with the slot directly on the ground are actually resting on a small clear plastic sheet. The other cards are side ways on the floor, and as you might imagine the plastic coolers won’t self destruct if they touch a carpet. We appreciate your concern, but we weren’t going to bill you, don’t panic.

  • Harris

    I was actually looking for a review on this and its just what Ineed

  • Greg

    Amazing to see such a useful article and some idiot complaining about negligence (probably owns a HD7770 and has some serious jealousy issues!), Shame his loss for words didnt translate into his hands moving away from the keyboard.

    Good review, got a lot of useful info from the results. GTX Titan is very good at this res, im sure the 6GB of memory helps in some games too.

  • Hank

    Lovely indeed, want that monitor for sure!

  • Slashwat

    well that was a great read, thanks. Wish I could afford the 290X, any news on the 290 pricing or release date yet? please?

  • Tim88

    Wow, even the 280x outperforms the GTX780 in many of the tests. It’s still early days for 4K gaming though, but definitely something I look forward to.

  • n.w.o.

    all the benchmarks i’ve seen so far Nvidia outperform Amd in low resolution, but as resolution increases beyond 1920×1080 ,AMD GCN outperforms Nvidia , even R7-280x pulls close to gtx 780 ,so $300 amd card matching $650 Nvidia card, wow.seems like AMD GCN is why superior to NVIDIA kepler.

  • ska

    just a 7970 GHz edition card notting more!

  • Frank

    I did not take jjj comment too seriously. Provided me with a nice dose of laughter.

  • Hal Gailey

    I’m not 100% on this but I’m pretty sure these aren’t the first AMD cards to offer crossfire without bridges… The bridges are almost an achilles’ heel anyways.