MSI R9 290 Gaming Review
We'd wrapped up testing the R9 290 Gaming just as Mantle was released by AMD, so we've only had a chance to test the supplied demo, but initial indications are that this can be a boon in CPU limited scenarios. We look forward to seeing how this technology evolves over time, and if games produce the same big performance boosts that we see here.
As we said in our introduction, we've been itching to discover if the R9 290 could be unleashed with a better cooling solution than the asthmatic reference option and bring it closer to its big brother the R9 290X. MSI have stepped up by adding the R9 290 to their excellent Gaming range and bedecked it with their Twin Frozr cooler. If that wasn't enough it also has a factory overclock and a third setting added to the regular and silent options.
The Gaming range is one of our favourites here at OC3D, combining excellent performance with great looks and, perhaps most importantly, affordability. The R9 290 Gaming only adds to this long list of quality products. It's the best of the R9 290's we've reviewed, with great stock performance and consistent overclocking in every title. It's the consistency that is the most impressive element. Many cards are capable of a good score in certain offerings, and looking through our graphs the do swap places regularly. The MSI Gaming though was rock solid whether we were running the simplicity of a 3D Mark P score, or the complexity of Unigine Valley.
Cooling was our biggest bug-bear with the AMD reference option, which was a cooler in name only, but the Twin Frozr whoops it with a 10°C temperature reduction, vastly quieter, and by being so cool it enables us to manually overclock which was impossible on the reference model.
But the big question is, when overclocked can the 290 match its bigger brother? We think the answer is yes. Now of course there are a few caveats. Namely the extra Shaders available on the 290X are enough that, in particularly intense or higher resolutions tests, it is enough to make up for any clock speed deficiencies. Also an overclocked R9 290, even the MSI Gaming model, is only a match for a stock R9 290X. You are saving a lot of money though.
So it looks fantastic, at a relatively small price tag of £360 it's quiet, capable of some good overclocking, and when overclocked is the equivalent of a R9 290X. There is almost nothing not to like about the MSI R9 290 Gaming, and for that it wins our OC3D Gold Award.