Two weeks ago AMD launched its new flagship graphics card, the Radeon R9 290X. A slightly slower version, the Radeon R9 290, finally comes out today. It's cheaper, has fewer active shader units and runs at a lower clock frequency.
Originally AMD had planned on releasing the R9 290 on Halloween. We had already finished testing the card on the 29th. AMD apparently didn't expect Nvidia to lower the prices of the GeForce GTX 770 and 780 as much as it did on Monday, the 28th. Because the day after, we received an email from AMD that it was changing the positioning of the 290. Instead of competing with the GTX 770, AMD now wanted the 290 to go against the GTX 780 in terms of performance. A new driver - Catalyst 13.11 beta 8 - was supposed to make this possible.
AMD's specs indicate that the 290 is faster than the GTX 780 in most benchmarks, and this claim we will of course put to the test. And even after Nvidia slashed the price of the GTX 780, the 290 is still significantly more affordable with a recommended retail price of £319. The cheapest 780s will still cost you at least £400. The GTX 770 is more affordable now, however.
Initially, the R9 290 will be available in limited numbers.
The Radeon R9 290 has the exact same hardware as the Radeon R9 290X and is based on the same Hawaii GPU. Please refer to our review of the 290X for the details. The features such as Mantle, TrueAudio, PowerTune and the updated CrossFire all make their return, with one exception. The 290 does not have an Uber and Quiet Mode, and instead has a single setting. However, with the new PowerTune feature you can configure the maximum settings yourself for power usage, temperature and fan speed.
The Radeon R9 290 has the same PCB, cooler and 4GB of GDDR5 video memory running at the same speed of 1250 MHz. There are two differences in the GPU compared to the 290X, however. The 290 has 2,560 shader units instead of 2,816, a reduction of about 10 percent. The maximum clock frequency is lower as well: 1 GHz on the 290X, and 947 MHz on the 290, which is a decrease of about 5 percent. It's likely that the 290 is about 15 percent slower than the 290X therefore, but the benchmark results will tell us exactly what the performance difference is.
Here are the main specs of the Radeon R9 290 and 290X side by side: