When Nvidia launched the GeForce GTX 970 last month it was positioned as the ideal candidate for multi-GPU 4K gaming rigs, offering 16% more performance than the Radeon R9 290 at high resolutions while costing 20% less.
After such a strong launch, AMD was forced to cut prices. The Radeon R9 290 was dropped from $399 to $299 (10% cheaper than the GTX 970), the R9 290X moved from $549 to $399 and the R9 285 is now around for as low as $229.
Folks looking to game at 4K now have some pretty capable multi-GPU options for as little as $600. Considering not even the GTX 980 can handle 4K gaming in the most demanding titles, that's great news.
For a slight premium over the GTX 980, the R9 290 or GTX 970 could be doubled up for $600 or $660 -- either should outperform a lone GTX 980, though we bet the GTX 970 will outdo the R9 290 in 4K performance and in power consumption.
Test System Specs
As usual, we tested each card with Fraps to record its average frame rate in seconds over a set amount of time. We typically run tests for 60 seconds. Reporting the average frames per second is how things have been done for... well, forever. It's a fantastic metric in the sense that it's easy to record and easy to understand but it doesn't tell the whole story.
To get a fuller picture you need to factor in a card's frame latency, which looks at how quickly each frame is delivered. Regardless of how many frames a graphics card produces on average in 60 seconds, if it can't deliver them all at roughly the same speed, you might see more brief jittery points with one GPU over another -- something we've witnessed but didn't fully understand.
Assuming two cards deliver equal average frame rates, the one with lowest stable frame latency is going to offer the smoothest picture, and that's a pretty important detail to consider if you're about to drop a wad of cash. As such, we'll be including this information from now on by measuring how long in milliseconds it takes cards to render each frame individually and then graphing that in a digestible way.
Test System Specs
- Intel Core i7-4770K (3.50GHz)
- x2 4GB Crucial DDR3-2400 (CAS 11-13-13-28)
- Asrock Z97 Extreme6 (Intel Z97)
- OCZ ZX Series (1250W)
- Samsung SSD 850 Pro 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
- HIS Radeon R9 290 (4096MB) Crossfire
- HIS Radeon R9 290X (4096MB)
- HIS Radeon R9 290 (4096MB)
- Gainward GeForce GTX 970 (4096MB) SLI
- Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 (4096MB)
- Gainward GeForce GTX 970 (4096MB)
- Palit GeForce GTX 780 Ti (3072MB)
- Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
- Nvidia GeForce 344.16
- AMD Catalyst 14.9