PowerColor R9 290 Review
Published: 18th November 2013 | Source: PowerColor | Price: from £300 |
Firstly we have to thank PowerColor for stepping in to the rescue. It's nice to know that there are companies willing to accept that they might receive some constructive criticism. Label aside this is identical to any other R9 290 you might purchase, so you can be confident that out thoughts apply to all of them, even the AMD one we weren't allowed to review.
It's impossible to look at the R9 290 without considering the price, and where that fits in the grand scheme of things. As alluded to in our introduction, the R9 290 is priced at around £320 which puts it slap bang between the GTX770 and GTX780. Or, if you want to look at it another way, slightly nearer the R9 280X than it is the R9 290X. So if we forget the numbering for a moment it's a 285X or a GTX775, and in the synthetic benchmarks at least that's exactly how it performs. Naturally with the ridiculous, and we don't care about the design ethos, 95° is too high, temperatures and below average cooler there is zero headroom left for overclocking. So all of our results are at stock and the results we obtained were nothing if not inconsistent.
At times during our testing it looked as if the R9 290 would make a mockery of its reduced Stream Processor count and push the R9 290X hard. Yet in other tests it was almost feeble, but with no rhyme nor reason as to why one would be good and another bad. We'd expect the 2560x1440 Crysis 3 test to emphasise the slower architecture of the 290, and yet Resident Evil 6, a gentle game if ever there was one, struggled mightily. Conversely in Hitman Absolution it gave the GTX780Ti a clip round the ear.
If we didn't know any better we'd have assumed that AMD trimmed just enough from the Hawaii GPU until it fit exactly where they wanted it to be in their product range. This isn't a card with hidden performance, it almost perfectly mirrors what you pay for it. There is almost a cynical underpinning to the R9 290. In 1920x1080 you could look at the GTX770 and the GTX780, average the frame rate and low and behold, the R9 290 is right on point. Designed by a marketing team and shareholders, rather than people looking to make the best possible card for the money. It leaves a rather bitter taste in the mouth. We always want hardware to be the best it can be, not exactly as good as is necessary to turn a profit without eating into the market share of other products in the range. The problem here is we are idealist ranting and this is sadly how most GPU ranges are put together, its only cards like the 780 Ti that seem to ruin this format!
Now this is with the paltry standard, and as always we are limited to testing what we have in front of us. However, we know enough people in the industry to know that with a water block to free up the temperature headroom, the R9 290 is capable of some excellent overclocks and the performance easily surpasses the R9 290X. It's not something we can take into account in our scoring, but we know that some of you will be interested. Especially as a R9 290 and a water block costs less than a 290X. We cant help feeling that its just the fan boys wanting to buy water blocks for these, you could spend less money on a GTX780 and not have to bother with water blocks, if you did overclock you can get leave both the 290 and the 290X for dust.
You have to be very careful with knowing what games and what resolution you'll want to run before purchasing the R9 290. It can be a diamond and a dog. In general it hasn't got enough puff to run higher resolutions, and the lack of overclocking harms it when compared to the nVidia offerings. That cooler is still bobbins. If you want a card that is slightly better than the 280X but not as good as the 290X then the 290 is just the ticket. Quelle Surprise. Anyone would think it was designed that way. Oh wait, it was. Silver.