Although it may not be able to compete in the high-end CPU market with Intel, AMD’s latest GPUs may be able to compete against Nvidia and its enthusiast GPUs. For a long time this has not been the case but the R9 290X from AMD offers a significant performance boost over the company’s previous graphics cards.
If you were to judge a graphics card solely by its ability to perform well in video games, the 290X would seem like one of the best cards on the market. However, there are other things to consider when buying a graphics card, such as how much energy it uses, how loud it gets, and how hot it runs. Unfortunately for AMD, the 290X does not stack up as well against its competitors once you take the other performance factors into account.
For the average gamer, the $550 price point that AMD has hit with the 290X will be a bit overboard. Although, if you are planning on gaming on a 4K monitor or you are looking to hook up multiple monitors for surround gaming, the 290X may be worth it.
CPU: Intel Core i7 4960X @ 4.3 GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Drive: OCZ Vertex 256GB
Memory: G.Skill 32GB DDR3 2133
Case: Fractal Design Arc XL
At the price point that AMD has hit with the 290X, its performance is quite impressive and tends to go directly against the GTX 780 and Titan from Nvidia. However, the downsides of the 290X come in the form of heat output and noise, both of which are higher than on most graphics cards.
When under an intense load, the GTX 780 tends to sit around 48-50 dB which means that you can hear the graphics card running but it is not an overpowering sound which will keep you up at night. The 290X on the other hand, sits around 55 dB which is noticeably louder than Nvidia’s cards.
The noise level difference between the 780 and 290X is even less interesting than the heat output. Without a doubt, it is safe to say that the AMD 290X is one of the hottest cards on the market and therefore, it does draw more power than some of its competitors.
In Celsius, the 290X runs at 94 degrees under load. This is significantly hotter than the Titan and 780 which run between 81 and 85 degrees. These temperatures would normally be considered dangerous for the card, but AMD has continued to insist that those temperatures are fine. From our testing, AMD appears to be correct since no matter how hot the 290X got, there were no issues with the computer shutting off or the GPU failing in any other way.
It is hard to recommend the AMD 290X over the GTX 780 primarily because the cards are available for nearly the same price. That being said, there are some situations in which the 290X is clearly a better option than the 780. If you plan on using the card to power a machine running one or more 4K monitors, the 290X is one of the best cards on the market. For the vast majority of gamers however, the 290X is either more than necessary or simply not different enough from the 780.