WindForce Cooler Is Great, But What About Pricing?
We're both impressed and disappointed by the production versions of AMD's R9 290 and 290X. In addition to reducing temperatures by a little over 10 degrees, Gigabyte's WindForce cooler runs much quieter than AMD's reference design and for whatever it's worth, they're a lot more attractive to look at. So, what's the catch?
Unfortunately, the R9 290 series' Hawaii GPU remains in limited supply and you can expect to pay a 30% premium over AMD's MSRP. We were initially excited about the R9 290X because of its $550 price, and things only got sweeter when the R9 290 arrived for $400. The latter could almost be seen as a must-have at that price.
However, the R9 290 is currently $500 to $550 while Gigabyte's R9 290 OC is $580 -- the same price as the only other modified R9 290 listed, which is made by MSI. For $510, you could also buy Gigabyte's own GTX 780 WindForce card, which ships with an 18% overclock that should outperform or at least match the R9 290 OC.
Things are even worse for Gigabyte's R9 290X OC. Although the card is a tad faster than the R9 290 OC, at $700 it costs over 20% more. For the same price, you could buy Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 Ti, while a card such as Palit's GTX 780 Ti JetStream is $730, runs 11% faster and uses less power. That's a hard sell for the 290X.
As much as we want to recommend the R9 290 series and Gigabyte's upgraded versions, it's tough to be excited about inflated prices. Limited supply means you're getting a poor value, which is possibly the biggest factor in our conclusions. If you're looking for a flagship GPU, Gigabyte's GTX 780 OC or GTX 780 Ti OC make more sense.
Pros: Gigabyte's WindForce cooler keeps the Radeon R9 290 and 290X's temperatures and noise in check more effectively than AMD's reference design.
Cons: Limited availability has jacked up pricing and you'll likely have to overpay if you want an R9 290 series card, regardless of whose cooler is attached.