After weeks of skirting around the issue, Advanced Micro Devices has finally made the official introduction of its latest and greatest single-GPU graphics adapter: Radeon R9 290X.
This is one of those cards based on a new GPU (graphics processing unit) and barred from any sort of physical design modification by OEMs.
That means that AMD's many partners (Sapphire, ASUS, Gigabyte, MSI, Club 3D, etc.) won't be launching custom-made cards any time soon.
That doesn't mean factory overclocking is completely forbidden though. As we understand it, several of AMD's OEMs have implemented minor tweaks to the GPU frequency, despite not being able to change the cooler.
Spec-wise, AMD's Radeon R9 290X has a 28nm Hawaii GPU at 1 GHz, 4 GB of GDDR5 VRAM at 5 GHz, 176 texture units, 2,816 shaders (stream processors), 64 ROPs, a memory interface of 512 bits, memory bandwidth of 320 GB/s, and 6.2 billion transistors.
The adapter has a TDP (thermal design power) of 250W and an FP32 performance of 5.6 TFLOPs.
AMD Eyefinity multi-monitor technology is included as well, along with TrueAudio technology and, of course, support for both DirectX 11.2 and AMD's new Mantle application programming interface (API).
The Sunnyvale company has even bundled the Battlefield 4 game from EA Digital Illusions Creative Entertainment (DICE). BF4 is, after all, the first (and only, for now) game that supports Mantle.
According to reviews, the new product has a price of $549.99 / €549.99, which is “high” for AMD, but quite a bit lower than the $620 / €620 of the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 and definitely leagues apart from the $999 / €999 of the GeForce GTX Titan.
The consensus among testers is that the good outweighs the bad. The good is thus: great price, good performance, software voltage control, better multi-monitor support, Dual BIOS, TrueAudio and native full-size HDMI and DisplayPort support.
The less than good traits are the noise level, high temperatures, high power consumption and lack of VGA output.
For those wondering, the Dual BIOS feature isn't normal itself. Usually, there's a base/backup BIOS and one for tweaking, but here there's a Quiet BIOS (18% performance improvement over the R9 280X / HD 7970 GHz Edition) and an Uber BIOS (24% boost).
As for card comparisons, we'll give you the conclusion of tests against NVIDIA's GeForce Titan. The AMD card lost when in “Quiet” BIOS mode, but slightly overcame it in Uber settings. And for something at almost half the price, that's actually impressive.
Sure, different games and benchmarks returned different results, but this is the so-called summary. AMD's new card is definitely going to be a success.