33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Great gaming performance and benchmarks BUT........
, 19 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Sapphire AMD R9 290 TRI-X OC Graphics Card (4GB, HDMI, PCI-E) (Accessory)
There are some niggling issues which quite frankly are a pain in the ass to deal with (for example heat issues, some software issues particularly having to disable ULPS - see below). Back in January 2014, I needed a new GFX card for my high spec gaming rig (I had a 7990HD but I wanted to sell it on because that thing was too hot). Ideally I wanted 2x780GTX but the prices were so stupidly high and after much online research I decided to go for a pair of Zotac 770GTX from Novatech (which was available at offer price of £240 plus 3 free games). I got 6 games in total which I sold on ebay for £60, bringing down my outlay to £420. Read my Amazon review of the Zotac 770GTX (great value for money and my SLI rig trounced my previous Palit 780Ti in performance and price). However, my intention was to use the 2x770GTX-SLI as a stop gap until prices of 780GTX come down. Alas, 5 months on and the cheapest 780GTX I could find was a good quality Zotac for £340 (again Novatech). I was going to go for it but then I saw a special offer on Amazon for the Sapphire TRIX R9-290 for £284. That is £56 cheaper than the cheapest 780GTX. So I went for it and bought two. Both 290's arrived next day but one turned out faulty (defective Hynix RAM). I RMA'd it for a replacement, which arrived three days later.
As mentioned by other reviewers, the 290's are of good build quality. But no-one has mentioned the underside, which should have a metal back plate. This one does not. However, upon close inspection, the metal plate is actually found internally (the pcb is attached to it, so it is giving internal rigidity and the hefty heatsink is attached to the other side of this internal metal plate). The 290's are very good performers (similar benchmarks to stock Titan Z and that thing costs £2300 and I am getting almost identical FPS to Titan Z in crysis3 maxed out settings), BUT the 2x290's put out a huge amount of heat. My Alpenfohn K2 mount doom heatsink was absorbing ambient heat not only from my FX-9590 but also from the two 290's, so it was quickly overheating to 71c and BIOS safeties was shutting down pc (no doubt, current hot weather had large role to play in this, as even my 2x770GTX were hitting high temps of 70c-80c).
I also decided to check the specs for the stock fans that came with the K2. Only 61CFM each!. So I ordered the latest 3000rpm industrial fans from Noctua (£21 each). Both fans arrived yesterday, installed and wow, massive drop in cpu temps - 37c idle, with boinc/seti in background is 43c-46c (whereas with Alpenfohn fans was 55c-58c). With boinc/seti running in background and playing crysis3, cpu was 54c-58c. All with MSI afterburner fan speed at 50%.
I also noticed massive reduction in 290 glitches whilst gaming (reduced stuttering, white patches, etc). Clearly heat output has adverse effect on 290 gaming and benchmarking performance.
But in a nutshell, the 290 even as a single card was giving very good FPS in gaming. In Xfire I am getting solid 80FPS in crysis3 ultra settings (often FPS shoots up to 100-146FPS). Compare this to my 2x770GTX-SLI which was giving 60FPS in crysis3 ultra settings (with a high of 88FPS). I am very pleased with the 2x290's but the catalyst software can be a headache to deal with. You also have to disable ULPS in regedit (otherwise it interferes with GFX card fan speed and burns out motor). Took quite a few hours trying to figure out how to disable ULPS (please see my comments page on how to disable ULPS).
Here are my benchmarks -
FIRE STRIKE EXTREME -
score = 7562
graphics score = 9056
physics score = 8647
combined score = 3119
3D Mark Sky diver:
Score = 28851
Graphics score = 58552
Physics score = 9307
Combined score = 17439
CPU: Before = 52c. After = 68c.
GPU1: Before = 55c. After = 64c.
GPU2: Before = 41c. After = 53c.
Score = 3178
FPS = 76
Min FPS = 25.9
Max FPS = 122.2
Score = 2224
FPS = 88.3
Min FPS = 25.2
Max FPS = 173
My Zotac 2x770GTX-SLI:
FIRE STRIKE EXTREME -
score = 5856
graphics score = 6701
physics score = 8583
combines score = 2418
Score = 2912
FPS = 69.6
Min FPS = 25.7
Max FPS = 123.9
Score = 1655
FPS = 65.7
Min FPS = 21.8
Max FPS = 158.6
The 290 series are very good cards and if you are willing to deal with software and heat issues every now and then, it's a reasonable compromise (but you can resolve heat issues, as I finally managed to).
Yes, Nvidia cards run noticeably cooler and software is more stable (with better perks) but prices are stupidly high for 780GTX and 780Ti (This sapphire 290 TRIX was £56 cheaper than the cheapest 780GTX and only £54 more than the Zotac 770GTX which is a rebadged 680GTX!).
You can also get similar real life gaming performance with a single card or significantly better performance with a pair of 290's for a damn sight cheaper than a 780Ti. Let me put it this way, my pair of TRIX 290's cost me £568, whereas an MSI 780Ti costs £510 and the Asus directCUII 780Ti costs £540 (and the Zotac 780Ti costs £530).
Dont forget, I sold off my pair of Zotac 770GTX, so I recouped £370. Therefore my pair of 290's cost me £198. Almost forgot to mention but I am getting similar benchmark scores with my pair of 290's (£568!) compared to Titan Z which costs £2300!. So the Titan Z is over 4 times more expensive than my pair of 290 TRIX.
Initially Nvidia were demanding a price tag of £3k for the Titan Z, but after benchmarks of AMD 295X2 were published, the Titan Z release date was delayed by 5 weeks (it was too late for Nvidia to recall stock for fine tuning and modifications) so the only thing they could do was decrease rrp to £2300.
Plus Nvidia cards are no good for crypto-currency. Will try my hand at it with these two 290's as I would like to recover the initial costs. I read online that AMD are releasing a new GFX card this summer to take down the 780Ti. Also, AMD are releasing the new gen 390X in November 2014 (it will have 4000 stream processors, 20nm architecture, 7GHz VRAM speed and I think a total of 6GB stacked VRAM).
In the past I always preferred Nvidia GFX cards as I felt AMD were just not good enough. Since the release of the Hawaii gpu with custom coolers, I am pleased to say that AMD GFX cards are now good enough to challenge and take down Nvidia (and a damn sight cheaper too!).
UPDATE 1: 23/06/14 - I read a month ago that AMD is planning to release an upgraded 290X (one that will topple the 780Ti). Well it seems the rumours are true. Apparently, AMD never disclosed how powerful the 290/X really is. It actually has 3072 processing cores! (the extra cores have been disabled but will be enabled in the 290X+). It has been calculated that this 'all cores activated version' will even bring down the Titan Black. See my comments page for the article.
UPDATE 2: Tuesday 01/07/14 (7.30pm). Okay, some weird things have been happening with these GFX cards every so often over the last 2 weeks, but twice today. Sometimes when gaming, I noticed that when I run FRAPS whilst gaming, I am only getting 30-40FPS with both cards. Very odd. I usually turn off the game and restart my pc. Then I get proper FPS (in crysis3, ultra settings I normally get 86-94FPS, but it often shoots up to 140FPS). However, today, I was running 3D Mark diver and about 1 minute into the benchmark, the screen mysteriously just went black. I switched off my pc. Did some other things and came back after 30 minutes. Only 15 minutes ago I was just surfing the net and for some reason, the web page just crashed, screen went black and then some white dotted lines came across the screen. This does not sound good at all. Will have to trouble shoot. I hope it is something simple and fixable. As a comparison, in the 5 months I had my pair of Zotac 770GTX-SLI, I never had any problems with them. From the very first day, they worked brilliantly.
UPDATE 3: Tuesday 15/07/14. I was able to identify and resolve the strange glitches and crashing of the 290's. It was due to heat!. I had them in a Coolermaster Storm Trooper case (poor cable management as all the cables are congested in the main cabin and diminishes airflow. Also the two huge HDD cages block airflow from the front fans). I finally resolved this by getting the CM HAF932 Advanced. Great airflow on front, top, rear, bottom and side. I placed 4x120mm CM jetflo fans (2000rpm/95CFM each) on the side panel so they blow air directly on to my 290's. Had it up and running for 7 days now and I have not had a single problem with my 290's. So yes, the 290's are very good performing cards but heat build up can cause issues.
UPDATE 4: Thursday 11/12/14. Hey guys, AMD have just released their new 14.12 omega drivers. It is AMD's answer to the new Nvidia DSR and VXGI drivers (and I suspect it is a working platform for the upcoming 380X in February 2015 (and 390X sometime in 1H of 2015). I will put the new AMD drivers link in the discussion page with an article from HEXUS about the new drivers.
UPDATE 5: Sunday 01/03/15. Hey guys, I am sure you have heard all about the nvidiot 970GTX fiasco (they said 4GB memory but turns out it only has 3.5GB useable memory). Well, nvidiot is being sued for hundreds of millions $. AMD has used this opportunity to advertise to disgruntled nvidiot fans that if they return their 970GTX to NVidiot for a full refund, the AMD will let them have a 290/X at a discounted price!. I was told this by a friend. Will find the link and post it in the comments page.
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