Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X OC & R9 290 OC Review: Immense potential lost to GPU shortages and inflated prices

By on January 8, 2014, 10:56 PM

AMD's Radeon R9 290 and 290X made a strong case against Nvidia's GTX 780 and Titan late last year, but that position soon weakened with unexpectedly high prices and limited options from board partners. Both issues reportedly stem from a Hawaii GPU shortage, partly due to the series' popularity for litecoin mining.

Like many enthusiasts, we were mostly impressed by the R9 290 because its $400 MSRP was almost 30% cheaper than the R9 290X while only being 5% slower, and the R9 290X's $550 MSRP didn't seem crazy next to Nvidia's $1,000 single-GPU flagship. In reality they are fetching around $550 and $700, respectively. We've finally received production cards from Gigabyte which should give us a better idea of how good of a deal AMD's offerings are in terms of third-party performance and actual retail pricing instead of its pre-launch MSRP.

Read the complete review.




User Comments: 37

Got something to say? Post a comment
veLa veLa said:

Shortage has also effected the price of the R9 280x, hence why I purchased a GTX 770 WindForce instead.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

That's hilarious. AMD really hit the ball out of the park on price/performance for these, especially R9 290. The inflated prices and lackluster cooler means people are forced to custom solutions as above.... yet an NVIDIA card is better value? Gg, thank you for playing.

Guest said:

We'll see how this reflects on the roll-out of Mantle. Game studio's aren't going to be jumping on the bandwagon if most of the hardware is going to be used for non-gaming purposes.

Guest said:

Was really looking forward to this. Litecoin and bitcoin miners buying all these cards smh. At least AMD is making money from that.

Guest said:

"Gigabyte has slightly shortened the PCB by 1cm (0.3in) but with the WindForce cooler the card is actually slightly longer at 28cm (11.0in)."

Uhm, are you sure? They are listed as 294 mm on the Gigabyte website:

[link]

Staff
Steve Steve said:

"Gigabyte has slightly shortened the PCB by 1cm (0.3in) but with the WindForce cooler the card is actually slightly longer at 28cm (11.0in)."

Uhm, are you sure? They are listed as 294 mm on the Gigabyte website:

[link]

Uhm, yes we are its 28cm long. Not sure why the Gigabyte website lists 29.4cm but that's wrong.

That's hilarious. AMD really hit the ball out of the park on price/performance for these, especially R9 290. The inflated prices and lackluster cooler means people are forced to custom solutions as above.... yet an NVIDIA card is better value? Gg, thank you for playing.

They hit the ball out of the park with a suggested retail price that we are yet to see. The inflated prices affect all R9 290 cards so it shouldn't be a surprise that the board partner cards are expensive as well.

Peter Farkas said:

No more starcraft 2 benchmarks?

Staff
Steve Steve said:

No more starcraft 2 benchmarks?

Not for at least a year no. It hardly tests modern graphics cards.

TitoBXNY TitoBXNY said:

I was really excited about the 290 after reading all the rave reviews. The bloated prices are a huge disappointment. If prices don't go down by mid February, I will have to just go with NVIDIA again.

theBest11778 theBest11778 said:

I got lucky enough to pickup an R9 290 around Thanksgiving for $400, and free BF4 which I wanted anyway. So to me I paid $340 for it. Once I saw the crazy prices on eBay I had to sell it. I've never bought a PC component, used it, benchmarked it, and sold it at a profit. I figured I'd wait for the aftermarket cards, but with these ridiculous prices I just ended up getting an MSI GTX 780 Lightning for $400 after rebate and selling free games.

I know it's not AMD's fault, but I was really excited to Crossfire 2x R9 290's, and pickup a 4K/UHD monitor in a few months. At this point I might just wait till later this year and get a next gen GPU.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Why don't they release a card specifically designed for Bitcoin processing? A card that wouldn't be of much use elsewhere. I mean obviously there is a market for such a card.

Sunny87 said:

Got an R9 280x coming this month got it massively discounted from amazon £180 so going to test out it's mining capabilities then buy a few more with litecoins.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

AMD's ace in the hole is price for performance, without this there isn't much reason to go red. If your spending that much money you must as well get the best and buy a GTX 780/780Ti. (Damn I hate that name, the 780Ti should be called a GTX 785!)

But to anyone who isn't sure, the Windforce cooler is awesome and one of the best available for a stock air cooler IMO.

1 person liked this | GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Why don't they release a card specifically designed for Bitcoin processing? A card that wouldn't be of much use elsewhere. I mean obviously there is a market for such a card.

They do, its called Asic miners, the problem is there are only asicminers available for bitcoins right now and the asic miners for litecoin/dogecoin/etc are not to be out till march.

At this point, the prices have started to drop finally though retailers like amazon maintained the 550 and 400 price points of the reference cards. Newegg was one of the primary retailers jumping the price up on these cards because of the demand and right now because the mining hit to high because everyone jumped on that stupid bandwagon thinking ZOMG IZZ GOING TO GEIT RIIIIIICH. In reality, the only people who got rich were the retailers and electric company. You can actually grab peoples mining rigs on ebay now for retail price.

Great Review as always, @Steve how far were you able to push the 290X overclocks on that cooler?

Guest said:

Price hike is hurting gaming now -- for example a 280x at launch was $329 here where I live, now it's $429 or more money then a 770... so effectively more money for less performance.

JC713 JC713 said:

If only it had a backplate!

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

If only it had a backplate!

I know right, I love backplates and I cant understand why at this day and age when GPU (At least at the top end) weigh this much why we don't get a backplate to reinforce the card.

JC713 JC713 said:

I know right, I love backplates and I cant understand why at this day and age when GPU (At least at the top end) weigh this much why we don't get a backplate to reinforce the card.

Yeah not just that, but for the price you should be getting a nice backplate to protect your investment. This came as a shock to me when nVidia released the Titan without a backplate. Come on, you pay $1000 to get a GPU that doesnt even have a protected PCB.

1 person liked this | GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Yeah not just that, but for the price you should be getting a nice backplate to protect your investment. This came as a shock to me when nVidia released the Titan without a backplate. Come on, you pay $1000 to get a GPU that doesnt even have a protected PCB.

Especially when you count that the only difference between a 780 and a 780ti is that they dont use a laser to cut the GPU same as the 290 to 290X. If your charging a premium for the GPU, for 150 bucks more (Or more), then I want a 5-10 dollar backplate free.

Guest said:

Or you can buy a 290, mine LTC to pay off for it in full and keep the card that compares to 780 Ti. Then game away (difficulty rise will make this loophole profitable only so long). That's what I'm doing anyway, so far so good. 25LTC and counting in just two weeks. Do the math.

As far as temps, 290s were made to be water cooled. With WC you'll get no more than 50C at full throttle.

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

^Guest

So you have made $300USD in two weeks? I highly doubt that.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

These are the reviews that lured me to TechSpot, and kept me here, through my adolescence. Juicy, big, powerful hardware reviews, showing the nuts of bolts of what makes computer hardware great.

shm0wie shm0wie said:

I don't understand how you can review the AMD reference cards and score them 91 and 92 when these Gigabyte cards out-perform and out-cool those cards and you only scored them an 80.

I understand that this is because the price due to miners snatching them up and retailers taking advantage.. but the price will go back down eventually, and it's not Gigabyte's fault for the price increase, is it?

St1ckM4n St1ckM4n said:

AMD reference cards were reviewed with the RRP. These cards have an artificially inflated RRP due to recent price hikes, so are scores appropriately.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Especially when you count that the only difference between a 780 and a 780ti is that they dont use a laser to cut the GPU same as the 290 to 290X.

:smh:

All modern GPUs regardless of manufacturer feature two methods of logic block disablement.

1. If the logic blocks are on the perimeter of the die they can be laser cut if the cut wouldn't produce an irregular die shape (non-square/rectangle)

2. Most die disablement is accomplished by fuses laid down in the late metal layer stages of fabrication. If the logic blocks exhibit aberrant behaviour (faults, excessive current leakage), the fuses are blown electrically during the die testing process.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

:smh:

All modern GPUs regardless of manufacturer feature two methods of logic block disablement.

1. If the logic blocks are on the perimeter of the die they can be laser cut if the cut wouldn't produce an irregular die shape (non-square/rectangle)

2. Most die disablement is accomplished by fuses laid down in the late metal layer stages of fabrication. If the logic blocks exhibit aberrant behaviour (faults, excessive current leakage), the fuses are blown electrically during the die testing process.

Edit: Nvm I dont feel like arguing, too much effort.

[link]

The 290 is a 290x with laser cuts to disable the cores from cards that either did not meet the requirements or whatever.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Edit: Nvm I dont feel like arguing, too much effort.

[link]

The 290 is a 290x with laser cuts to disable the cores from cards that either did not meet the requirements or whatever.

Maybe you should actually read what you linked to. How do you suppose people unlocked the additional cores on a 290 if the die was laser cut?...or had fuses blown for that matter?

What that OCN thread is talking about is fully functional Hawaii XT dies being binned down to Hawaii Pro due to either shortages of Pro parts, and/or fully functional XT parts not meeting the power envelope decreed by AMD.

The unlocked 290's are not laser cut, they are full blown 290x chips. - Post #2056 on the very page you linked to

On 2: I doubt 28nm chip could have laser fuses. I'd bet on effuse. Post #2061 on the very next page

Of course, feel free to disagree...just because my opinion coincides with the [link] and a host of other fairly well informed individuals - and the small fact that all GPUs come out of the same foundry (TSMC) on the same process node...maybe we're all wrong :'(

1 person liked this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

I don't understand how you can review the AMD reference cards and score them 91 and 92 when these Gigabyte cards out-perform and out-cool those cards and you only scored them an 80.

I understand that this is because the price due to miners snatching them up and retailers taking advantage.. but the price will go back down eventually, and it's not Gigabyte's fault for the price increase, is it?

You know what they say about assumptions right?

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

Maybe you should actually read what you linked to. How do you suppose people unlocked the additional cores on a 290 if the die was laser cut?...or had fuses blown for that matter?

What that OCN thread is talking about is fully functional Hawaii XT dies being binned down to Hawaii Pro due to either shortages of Pro parts, and/or fully functional XT parts not meeting the power envelope decreed by AMD.

Of course, feel free to disagree...just because my opinion coincides with the [link] and a host of other fairly well informed individuals - and the small fact that all GPUs come out of the same foundry (TSMC) on the same process node...maybe we're all wrong :'(

XFX themselves confirmed they LASER cut the GPU to disable some of the Cores thus creating the 290. This is done to the GPU's that either don't live up to the standard of the 290x or whatever. How about you read about half way down the page, here ill even assist you.

Dear XFX Team,

what are the dangers of flashing a R290X BIOS on a R290A card. I purchased an XFX 290A card and after reading about this possibility I flashed the R290X BIOS and was able to unlock the additional Shaders and ROPs.

Could you tell me whether I actually have an R290X card which was labelled as R290?

Why would this happen by the way?

Also, are there any risks? As far as I can tell, there aren't any because I am running an R290X card with a R290X BIOS.

Your help would be much appreciated.

Kind regards,

Hey , this seems to be the question of the week.

Here's the short explanation.

1. Voids your XFX 2 year warranty.

2. You cannot Unlock the shaders, they are cut off by laser

3. The 290A's were just failed versions of the 290x, Basically AMD tests every Hawaii GPU and if the GPU can take the 290x speeds, they Pass. If not, they get downclocked, lessened shaders, and tested again at 290A speeds.

Forcing a 290A to be a 290X works for about 2 weeks, some claim longer, but I don't believe them. This month alone there are over 50 units permanently bricked that we've had to reject.

290A's are not 290X's, the flash will not stand and I won't be able to help you.

Be safe.

Play Hard!

The reason that the GPU's in some cases came where you could unlock the extra shaders was merely because the companies XFX, powercolor, sapphire, and I forget who else were rushed to get some 290's on the market due to the limited window of opportunity thrown in by the quick release of the 290 after the 290x. Thus they picked the chips that may or may not have passed the 290X tests with flying colors but failed to send them to have them cut to permanently disable the cores thus we got some cards that could be unlocked to 290X.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I don't care whether it is a software or hardware disable. What difference does it make to us forum members? Knowing these detail are not gonna help us use our computers. As long as the final product is released and I can reap the benefits of someone else's hard work, I will be very happy.

GhostRyder GhostRyder said:

I don't care whether it is a software or hardware disable. What difference does it make to us forum members? Knowing these detail are not gonna help us use our computers. As long as the final product is released and I can reap the benefits of someone else's hard work, I will be very happy.

Agreed @cliffordcooley In the long run it wont matter.

You know what they say about assumptions right?

I snickered at this response, well played sir, well played.

Guest said:

I bought the Gigabyte GTX 780 GHZ from newegg for 540 with the holiday bundle so it came with the new batman, assassins creed and splintercell games. When you compare the numbers for the 780 ghz versus the 290x in this review (both reviews done by this site) the 780 GHZ comes out on top as much as 7-10 fps in games like crysis far cry bio shock and matches it or comes close in other games like metro last light. This card wasn't available when I purchased the 780 towards the end of December. It is now available on newegg for 700. I was really hoping to get a 290x since last fall when they were announced but at the price it just didn't make sense and I didn't feel like waiting for the price to drop. Since I got it I've been very pleased getting consistent boosts at 1163 core. The fans never went above 58% with a max temp of 74.

Guest said:

Well , for what is worth , I see that Gigabyte AMD Radeon R9 290, 4096MB is priced at 430 Euro (Romania), which is not far from the official price, 400$ = 400 Euro in EU (taxes and stuff). Is available on order.

Gigabyte nVidia GeForce GTX780, 3072MB is priced at 500 Euro and out of stock.

Guest said:

Jeeze, I am wondering how you could possibly be so biased as to compare a custom cooled windforce R9 290 to a bone stock GTX 780. Were there no custom cooled 780s available?

Then I noticed that you did almost an identical review 2 months earlier with the same windforce cooler on a GTX 780. Why the heck would you not include those results in your R9 290 and R9 290x review?

Were you paid to make the AMD cards look better than they are?

Good news. GPU scrypt mining is almost dead. The AMD GPUs that have been running flat out 24/7 are now starting to flood the classifieds and cheaper and cheaper levels. Understandably so, as many of those are questionable as to their warranty status, having been abused and such.

This flood of cheap R9s is going to drive the price of them down quickly. One month from now, you'll be seeing MSRP priced R9s on dealer shelves, and the GTX 780s and 780tis will start dropping in price again to match relative values.

This drop in GPU prices may be 5 months late, but we always knew GPU 'coin' mining was going to be a flash in the pan, as custom ASICS were always going to take over eventually.

'Bout frickin' time.

3 people like this |
Staff
Steve Steve said:

Were you paid to make the AMD cards look better than they are?

How else would the review end up being so bias, jeeze.

Thanks I needed that to get through the rest of my day.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@Steve, keep up the great work!

1 person liked this | dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Jeeze, I am wondering how you could possibly be so biased as to compare a custom cooled windforce R9 290 to a bone stock GTX 780..

I'm actually wondering how you could jam in five mentions of the GTX 780.

Why worry about the review at all - you obviously have no interest in the boards being reviewed

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.