Sound Levels and Conclusions
One thing the Radeon HD 7000 series wasn't really known for was quiet operation. It wasn't HORRIBLE but compared to what NVIDIA was able to do on the GTX 700 cards it was definitely a sore spot. With a 95C temperature base and power levels 50 watts higher than before, is there a chance AMD can improve?
Well, not really. The Radeon R9 290X generates quite a bit more noise than the GTX 780 or GTX Titan under a full load. It generates greater than twice the sound pressure (>+6db) and is nearly twice the perceived loudness when compared to the Titan.
AMD promised us that the Radeon R9 290X and the Hawaii GPU would be impressive where it counts, in performance, and the card definitely lived up to those claims. With a shader count 36% higher than the previous single-GPU flagship offering from the Radeon line, AMD was able to put enough horsepower into the R9 290X to push past both the GeForce GTX 780 and GTX Titan graphics cards in enough of our game tests to declare it the fastest single GPU card for PC gaming.
That is not an insignificant feat considering the hurdles AMD has had to jump through in process tech (lack of innovation at TSMC) and power consumption (Tahiti was already less efficient compared to Kepler).
The R9 290X doesn't run away with the performance crown, but it does it get it back, and for AMD that is something that it will be able to hang its hat on.
Power and Heat
If the performance is the advantage for Hawaii, power and heat are the negative, along with noise levels. Even though the Radeon R9 290X is an extremely fast graphics cards, it is also loud and hot. Drawing 50 watts over the GTX 780, while performing only a handful of percentage better in most games, indicates some significant efficiency differences. And running the GPU at sustained temperatures that are 15C higher than on NVIDIA Kepler might have the approval of AMD's technical and marketing teams, but it still makes me a bit nervous.
Pricing and Availability
If performance is king, then performance per dollar is like Hand of the king. The AMD Radeon R9 290X delivers here as well, coming in not only $450 less expensive than the GeForce GTX Titan, but $100 less than the GeForce GTX 780 as well. Just as we saw with the R9 280X review earlier this month, AMD has aggressively gone after NVIDIA on the cost front. NVIDIA has yet to react, yet.
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB – $549 (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB – $299 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB – $999 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB – $649 (Newegg.com)
It's pretty clear looking at the benchmarks on these pages and the prices right here that NVIDIA needs to make an adjustment to be competitive. Even with a game bundle (which AMD will surely match), the GTX 780 is at least $100 over priced; hopefully NVIDIA sees that and makes a change sooner rather than later.
AMD has put itself in a great position with the Radeon R9 290X based on the new Hawaii GPU. The R9 290X is faster than the GTX 780, just about on par with the GTX Titan, all while coming in at a price well under what NVIDIA has on the shelves today. It isn't perfect and the warts of noise, power, and heat will bother some. Still, users looking for a top performing single-GPU graphics card will find the R9 290X at the top of their list.