R9 290 vs. GTX 780: Fight!
AMD surprised everyone with the R9 290X's unexpectedly low asking price of $550. Of course, that's not a small sum, but remember the card was able to challenge the otherwise impressive $1,000 GTX Titan. Now, once we were spoiled by the 290X's breaking release we weren't sure what to expect from the flagship's follow-up. Just how much cheaper could the R9 290 be?
Quite a bit as it turns out. The R9 290 has been set at $400, 27% less than the 290X. That's fantastic when you consider that the R9 290 should never be more than 9% slower than the R9 290X while averaging 5% slower in our tests. In a sense, the R9 290 has kind of made the R9 290X redundant, much like the GTX 780 did to the GTX Titan.
If you go further down the food chain, the R9 290 was almost 30% faster than the R9 280X, though it costs about 30% more, giving them an equal price to performance ratio. This addresses a problem we had with the R9 290X, which was also considerably faster than the 280X but not enough to justify the 70% price premium.
Along with looking great against AMD's own lineup, the R9 290 holds strong against Nvidia, which is now charging $330 for the GTX 770 and $500 for the GTX 780. The R9 290 is 21% pricier and 29% faster than the former as well as 20% cheaper and 8% quicker than the latter, offering the best value of any $300 to $500+ graphics card available right now -- and enough performance to play Battlefield 4 on ultra quality at 2560x1600.
In a sense, the R9 290 has kind of made the R9 290X redundant, much like the GTX 780 did to the GTX Titan.
The R9 290 isn't without shortcomings, though you're probably already aware of them if you read our R9 290X review. Both of AMD's new cards run very hot, with the latest hitting 95 degrees in a matter of minutes when gaming. Naturally, this causes the card's fans to spin up, but if that's not enough to keep its temperatures in line the GPU could be downclocked, even if that didn't happen to us with either 290.
It's worth noting that thermals have always been an issue for high-end GPUs, so this is nothing new nor is it something that should scare a PC enthusiast. We eagerly await upgraded cooling solutions from board partners, and that's bound to happen sooner rather than later because if any card can get away with charging for extras, it's one that already costs $400. In the meantime we've only seen the AMD's reference design at work. Update: We ran a short test with aftermarket cooling and it did wonders for the R290's, reducing stress test temperatures from 95 degrees to 76 degrees.
Before we close out, we should note that AMD is still making noise over its yet-to-be-seen Mantle API, which should be patched into Battlefield 4 next month. The company recently told us that Eidos-Montreal's upcoming Thief game will also support the API, as will Cloud Imperium's upcoming Star Citizen. Certainly looking forward to see if Mantle lives up to the promise when time comes.
Pros: A strong follow-up to the R9 290X, the R9 290 currently offers the best value of its class, beating the competing GTX 780.
Cons: The R9 290's thermal results were less than desirable, adding to our anticipation of third-party designs.