R9 290 gpu z: AMD Radeon R9 290 Specs

AMD Radeon R9 290 Videocard


The little sister of Radeon R9 290X launched two days ago…

AMD Radeon R9 290 full specifications

  • GPU: Hawaii (GCN 1.1) @ 947MHz boost clock, 662MHz core clock, 6,2-billion transistor
  • Stream processors: 2560
  • Memory: 4GB GDDR5 @ 5GHz effective, 512-bit memory bus width
  • Texture units: 160
  • ROP units: 64
  • TrueAudio: YES
  • TDP: 300W
  • Launch price: USD $399
  • 3D APIs: OpenGL 4.4, Direct3D 11.2
  • Computing: OpenCL 1.2, DirectCompute


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ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II Review

by XbitLabs Team

Last update 27 May 2021

XbitLabs participates in several affiliate programs. If you click links on our website and make a purchase, we may earn a commision. Learn More

ASUS made the first original Radeon R9 290 videocard which eliminates all disadvantages of reference design. But people always want something more.

AMD’s Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 graphics cards which were released in late October and early November 2013 had only two significant and interrelated shortcomings. They were too noisy in 3D applications and they would drop their GPU clock rate and, consequently, performance upon reaching a GPU temperature of 94°C.

The only way to avoid the GPU throttling is to manually set the fan speed at 3100 RPM and higher. Of course, the noise level will rise even higher then, making reference samples of these cards unsuitable for home users.

Loyal AMD fans were not bothered, though. They were absolutely sure that there would appear original versions with efficient coolers that would avoid the frequency drop problem without producing much noise. Even though they have had to wait for a few months, they can welcome such products now. ASUS, in particular, has unveiled its Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II model (R9290-DC2OC-4GD5) and we’re going to cover it in this review.


Specifications and Recommended Price

The specifications and recommended price of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II are listed below in comparison with those of the reference Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 780 Ti and GeForce GTX 780 as well as AMD’s Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290.

Packaging and Accessories

The graphics card is shipped in a large dark-colored cardboard box with the marks of Wolverine’s claws on the front. You can also read the card’s model name and cooler’s name there. The amount of onboard memory and supported technologies are mentioned as well.

The back of the box is somewhat more informative. The card’s video outputs and power-saving technologies are listed. You can also see descriptions of the DirectCU II cooler and ASUS GPU Tweak utility.

There’s a robust cardboard box inside the colorful wrapper. The card is fixed within a foam-rubber corset inside, so the packaging is overall most reliable. Besides the graphics card, the box contains a power adapter, a CD with drivers and utilities, and a brief installation guide.

Alas, we can’t find any games or extras among the accessories although the Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is a premium-class product. It is currently priced at $529 in online stores. Manufactured in China, the card comes with a 3-year warranty.

PCB Design and Features

The Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is easily identifiable as an ASUS product. Its face side is covered by the cooler’s stylish casing with two fans of different types. The metallic plate on the reverse side of the card serves to reinforce the PCB and protect its components but doesn’t play any role in dissipating their heat.

There’s a 10mm heat pipe sticking out of the heatsink. The card measures 281x137x41 millimeters, which is a mere 5 millimeters longer than the reference Radeon R9 290(X).

It offers dual-link DVI-I and DVI-D outputs, one HDMI 1.4a connector and a DisplayPort 1.2. There’s a vent grid in the card’s mounting bracket to exhaust the hot air out of the computer case.

AMD’s Radeon R9 290 and 290X card have no CrossFireX connectors. As for power connectors, they are turned around on the ASUS card and feature LED highlighting:

The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is specified to consume up to 300 watts, which is 25 watts more than the reference card needs.

Although massive, the cooling system is only secured with four screws around the GPU, so it is very easy to take off:

After unfastening a few more elements, such as a top stiffening rib and a small aluminum heatsink on the power system components, we can take a closer look at the PCB:

The custom-design PCB features ASUS’s Super Alloy Power technology and a 10-phase power system (with 6 phases for the GPU, 2 for memory chips and 2 for PLL).

Like all other ASUS products of this class (including GeForce-based ones), the card employs Japan-made solid-state tantalum capacitors, DrMOS transistors and ferrite-core chokes.

The premium components are supposed to substantially improve the product’s efficiency, stability and service life. The small BIOS switch you can see in the photo selects one of two operation modes: Silent or Performance. They define the regulation algorithm of the cooler’s fans.

The GPU voltage regulator is based on an ASP1300 controller.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any information about it.

There are ROG Connector check points on the PCB for measuring voltages.

Judging by the marking, the GPU of our sample of the card was manufactured in Taiwan on the 44th week of 2013:

The GPU is clocked at 1000 MHz in 3D applications, which is 53 MHz (or 5.6%) higher compared to the reference Radeon R9 290. That’s not the best factory overclocking we’ve seen as some manufacturers pre-overclock their R9 290 to 1040 MHz. In 2D applications the ASUS card drops its GPU clock rate to 300 MHz and lowers its voltage. The ASIC quality of our GPU chip is 68.4%:

The graphics card comes with 4 gigabytes of GDDR5 memory in Elpida’s W2032BBBG-6A-F chips.

The chips are rated for 6000 MHz but the reference Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X have a memory frequency of 5000 MHz. ASUS increases it to 5040 MHz, which can hardly be even called overclocking. The peak memory bandwidth is 322.6 GB/s.

The GPU-Z screenshot below summarizes the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II specs:

Now we can proceed to testing its cooler.

Cooling System: Efficiency and Noise Level

The DirectCU II cooler claims to be 20% more efficient and 3 times quieter than AMD’s reference solution. It really seems to be capable of that, featuring a large aluminum heatsink with heat pipes and two fans covered with a metal casing.

There are as many as five nickel-plated copper pipes here, two of which are 6 mm in diameter. Two more pipes are 8 mm and there’s also a 10mm pipe there.

The heatsink features direct-touch technology meaning that the heat pipes have direct contact with the GPU.

The thermal grease imprint indicates that the GPU only contacts with the two 8mm pipes and with one half of the 10mm pipe. The outermost 6mm pipes transfer heat from the sides of the adjacent pipes only, which is hardly an efficient solution. The pipes and heatsink fins are soldered to each other. The power components in the back part of the PCB are equipped with a small aluminum heatsink with a thermal pad. The solid-state capacitors (located near the video outputs) and the memory chips have no heatsinks and are cooled by the air flow from the fans.

The fans have identical motors but different impellers. They are both about 95 mm in diameter.

The fan above the GPU has a dual impeller with two sets of differently shaped blades. ASUS calls it CoolTech and showcases its benefits in the following demo:

The original fan is indeed more efficient than the ordinary one. The question is why didn’t ASUS install two such fans on the card? The fans are PWM-regulated in a range of 1000 to 3000 RPM.

To measure the temperature of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II graphics card we ran Aliens vs. Predator (2010) five times at the maximum visual quality settings, at a resolution of 2560×1440 pixels, with 16x anisotropic filtering and with 4x MSAA.

We used MSI Afterburner 3.0.0 beta 18 and GPU-Z version 0.7.7 to monitor temperatures inside the closed computer case. The computer’s configuration is detailed in the following section of our review. All tests were performed at 25°C room temperature.

With the fans regulated automatically, the GPU is 80°C hot while the fans rotate at 1800 RPM (47%).

This is 14-15°C better than the result of the reference AMD Radeon R9 290 tested under the same conditions. Most importantly, the ASUS version doesn’t drop its GPU frequency in this test, so the DirectCU II copes with its job very well.

If the fans are manually set at their maximum 3000 RPM, the top GPU temperature is only 69°C.

The graphics card becomes rather noisy at that, though.

We measured the level of noise using an electronic noise-level meter CENTER-321 in a closed and quiet room about 20 sq. meters large. The noise-level meter was set on a tripod at a distance of 15 centimeters from the graphics card which was installed on an open testbed. The mainboard with the graphics card was placed at an edge of a desk on a foam-rubber tray. The bottom limit of our noise-level meter is 29.8 dBA whereas the subjectively comfortable (not low, but comfortable) level of noise when measured from that distance is about 36 dBA. The speed of the graphics card’s fans was being adjusted by means of a controller that changed the supply voltage in steps of 0.5 V.

We’ll compare the noise level of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II with that of the reference R9 290 from AMD. We also include the results of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti and the original MSI GeForce GTX 780 Ti Gaming for the sake of comparison. The vertical dotted lines mark the top speed of the fans in the automatic regulation mode. Here are the results:

As you can see, the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is quieter than the reference card but only because its fans have lower speed when regulated automatically. Thanks to the efficient cooler design, the fans rotate at 1800 RPM, making the ASUS version much quieter than the reference R9 290. We wouldn’t call the ASUS comfortable in 3D applications, though. It is persistently audible against the background noise of a quiet computer. It is only in 2D applications when the GPU and graphics memory are clocked at 300 and 600 MHz that the card calms down. The fans with EBR bearings don’t produce any unwanted sound at any speed, at least when the graphics card is new. We can’t vouch for their behavior in a year, for example.


We overclocked the GPU and memory of our ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II by 110 and 600 MHz, respectively, without adjusting its voltage or fan speed.

The resulting clock rates are 1110/5640 MHz, which is good for the GPU but mediocre in terms of memory clock rate. Well, we couldn’t really expect much from Elpida chips.

The overclocked card had a 4°C higher GPU temperature while its fans accelerated from 1780 to 1900 RPM in the automatic regulation mode.

There was no frequency throttling with the overclocked card and we didn’t even have to manually increase the cooler’s fan speed.

Testbed and Methods

Here is the list of components we use in our testbed.

  • Mainboard: Intel Siler DX79SR (Intel X79 Express, LGA 2011, BIOS 0594 dated 06.08.2013)
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3970X Extreme Edition 3.5/4.0 GHz (Sandy Bridge-E, C2, 1.1 V, 6x256KB L2 cache, 15MB L3 cache)
  • CPU cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PЕ (2xCorsair AF140 fans, 900 RPM)
  • Thermal grease: ARCTIC MX-4
  • Graphics cards:
    • Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti (3GB, 876-928/7000 MHz)
    • AMD Radeon R9 290X (4GB, 1000/5000 MHz)
    • MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning (3GB, 980-1033/6008 MHz)
    • ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II (4GB, 1000/5040 MHz)
    • AMD Radeon R9 290 (4GB, 947/5000 MHz)
  • System memory: DDR3 4x8GB G.SKILL TridentX F3-2133C9Q-32GTX (XMP: 2133 MHz, 9-11-11-31, 1.6 volts)
  • System disk: SSD 256GB Crucial m4 (SATA 6 Gbit/s, CT256M4SSD2, BIOS v0009)
  • Games/software disk: Western Digital VelociRaptor (SATA-2, 300 GB, 10000 RPM, 16 MB cache, NCQ) in a Scythe Quiet Drive 3. 5″ enclosure
  • Backup disk: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI (SATA-2, 2 TB, 5400 RPM, 32 MB cache, NCQ)
  • Sound card: Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD
  • Computer case: Antec Twelve Hundred (front panel: three Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe S-Series MF12-S2 fans at 1020 RPM; back panel: two Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilentPRO PL-1 fans at 1020 RPM; top panel: one preinstalled 200mm fan at 400 RPM)
  • Control & monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3
  • Power supply: Corsair AX1200i (1200 W), 120mm fan
  • Monitor: 27″ (DVI-I, 2560×1440, 60 Hz)

We’ll compare the original ASUS card with AMD’s reference Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X.

The graphics cards work at their default clock rates without fan speed adjustments. Thus, GPU throttling may occur in some of our tests.

The Nvidia camp is represented by a reference GeForce GTX 780 Ti (at its default clock rates) and an MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning (whose retail price is already comparable to that of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II).

We set Power Limit at its maximum on each graphics card.

In order to lower the dependence of the graphics cards’ performance on the overall platform speed, we overclocked our 32nm six-core CPU to 4.8 GHz by setting its frequency multiplier at x48 and enabling Load-Line Calibration. The CPU voltage was increased to 1.38 volts in the mainboard’s BIOS.

Hyper-Threading was turned on. We used 32 GB of system memory at 2.133 GHz with timings of 9-11-11-20_CR1 and voltage of 1.6125 volts.

The testbed ran Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 with all critical updates installed. We used the following drivers:

  • Intel Chipset Drivers – WHQL dated 21.09.2013
  • DirectX End-User Runtimes, dated 30 November 2010
  • AMD Catalyst 14.2 Beta v1.3 dated 25.02.2014
  • Nvidia GeForce 334.89 WHQL

We benchmarked the graphics cards’ performance at two display resolutions: 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 pixels. There were two visual quality modes: “Quality+AF16x” means the default texturing quality in the drivers + 16x anisotropic filtering whereas “Quality+ AF16x+MSAA 4x(8x)” means 16x anisotropic filtering and 4x or 8x antialiasing. In some games we use antialiasing algorithms other than MSAA as indicated below and in the diagrams. We enabled anisotropic filtering and full-screen antialiasing from the game’s menu. If the corresponding options were missing, we changed these settings in the Control Panels of the Catalyst and GeForce drivers. We also disabled Vsync there. There were no other changes in the driver settings.

The graphics cards were tested in two benchmarks and 14 games updated to the latest versions.

  • 3DMark (2013) (DirectX 9/11) version Cloud Gate, Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme scenes.
  • Unigine Valley Bench (DirectX 11) version 1.0: Maximum visual quality settings, 16x AF and/or 4x MSAA, 1920×1080.
  • Total War: SHOGUN 2 – Fall of the Samurai (DirectX 11) version 1. 1.0: integrated benchmark (the Sekigahara battle) with maximum visual quality settings and 8x MSAA.
  • Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark (DirectX 11) version 1.05: Adrenaline Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark Tool v1.0.0.2 BETA with maximum graphics quality settings (“Ultra” profile), Advanced Shadows: HIGH, Ambient Occlusion: ON, Stereo 3D: OFF, Supersampling: OFF, two sequential runs of the test.
  • Sleeping Dogs (DirectX 11) version 1.5: Adrenaline Sleeping Dogs Benchmark Tool v1.0.2.1 with maximum image quality settings, Hi-Res Textures pack installed, FPS Limiter and V-Sync disabled, two consecutive runs of the built-in benchmark with quality antialiasing at Normal and Extreme levels.
  • Hitman: Absolution (DirectX 11) version 1.0.447.0: built-in test with Ultra settings, enabled tessellation, FXAA and global lighting.
  • Crysis 3 (DirectX 11) version maximum visual quality settings, Motion Blur – Medium, lens flares – on, FXAA and MSAA 4x, two consecutive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the “Swamp” mission (110 seconds long).
  • Tomb Raider (2013) (DirectX 11) version 1.1.748.0: we used Adrenaline Benchmark Tool, all image quality settings set to “Ultra”, V-Sync disabled, FXAA and 2x SSAA antialiasing enabled, TessFX technology activated, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • BioShock Infinite (DirectX 11) version we used Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool with “Ultra” and “Ultra+DOF” quality settings, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • Metro: Last Light (DirectX 11) version we used the built-in benchmark for two consecutive runs of the D6 scene. All image quality and tessellation settings were at “Very High”, Advanced PhysX technology enabled, with and without SSAA antialiasing.
  • GRID 2 (DirectX 11) version we used the built-in benchmark, the visual quality settings were all at their maximums, the tests were run with and without MSAA 8x antialiasing with eight cars on the Chicago track.
  • Company of Heroes 2 (DirectX 11) version two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark at maximum image quality and physics effects settings.
  • Total War: Rome II (DirectX 11) version 1.9.0 build 9414.489846: Extreme quality, V-Sync disabled, SSAA enabled, two consecutive runs of the integrated benchmark.
  • Batman: Arkham Origins (DirectX 11) version 1.0 update 8: Ultra visual quality, V-Sync disabled, all the effects enabled, all DX11 Enhanced features enabled, Hardware Accelerated PhysX = Normal, two consecutive runs of the in-game benchmark.
  • Battlefield 4 (DirectX 11) version update 8: Ultra settings, two successive runs of a scripted scene from the beginning of the Tashgar mission (110 seconds long).
  • Thief (DirectX 11) version 1.1 build 4110.1: Maximum visual quality settings, Parallax Occlusion Mapping and Tessellation enabled, a double run of the in-game benchmark.

We publish the bottom frame rate for games that report it. Each test was run twice, the final result being the best of the two if they differed by less than 1%. If we had a larger difference, we reran the test at least once again to get repeatable results.


The results of the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II are colored lilac. The color of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti and MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning is light green whereas the color of the Radeon R9 290X and R9 290 is AMD’s traditional red. The cards are listed in the order of descending retail price.

3DMark (2013)

The five graphics cards have close results in this synthetic benchmark, the difference between the fastest (GeForce GTX 780 Ti) and the slowest (Radeon R9 290) being a mere 11.2% in the heaviest scene (Fire Strike Extreme). The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is a mere 2.8% faster than the reference R9 290 and 4% slower than the Radeon R9 290X. Such a small difference can hardly be noticed while playing.

Unigine Valley Bench

We’ve got a different picture in Unigine Valley:

The Nvidia-based products are superior to their AMD-based opponents. Interestingly, the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is a little faster than the more advanced R9 290X at the AA-less settings. Of course, it beats the reference R9 290, too.

Total War: SHOGUN 2 – Fall of the Samurai

The Nvidia-based cards are also superior in the first game on our test program:

They are especially good with enabled antialiasing, which is what such top-end cards are actually bought for. The ASUS is 3 to 4% ahead of the reference AMD Radeon R9 290 and 2 to 5% slower than the Radeon R9 290X.

Sniper Elite V2 Benchmark

The GeForce GTX cards win this test, too.

The three Radeon R9 series products have very close results here.

Sleeping Dogs

All of the tested cards have similar results in this game irrespective of the visual quality settings:

The reference GeForce GTX 780 Ti is a little ahead of the others with the exception of the easiest settings. The remaining four cards differ by less than 4%.

Hitman: Absolution

AMD-based solutions have always been superior to their opponents in Hitman: Absolution.

The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is 6 to 23% ahead of the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning, following close behind the Radeon R9 290X.

Crysis 3

When it comes to Crysis 3, the cards differ less at 2560×1440 with 4x MSAA than at the lower settings. The ASUS is 2-3% faster than the reference Radeon R9 290 and 3-7% slower than the Radeon R9 290X.

Tomb Raider (2013)

We’ve got the same picture as in the previous game:

BioShock Infinite

The Nvidia-based cards are better in terms of average frame rate but have a much lower bottom speed. BioShock Infinite players report that the game runs smoothly on both Nvidia and AMD-based products, so the occasional bottoming-out of the frame rate must be a peculiarity of the benchmark. We can also note that there’s very little difference between the AMD-based cards here.

Metro: Last Light

First we run this game with Advanced PhysX turned on:

There’s no need to comment here as the results are obvious. When the additional physics effects are turned off, the Radeon R9 290(X) cards become more competitive:

There’s almost no difference between the reference AMD cards and the original ASUS.


Here’s one more game where the cards have close results at the higher visual quality settings. The only exception is the GeForce GTX 780.

Company of Heroes 2

This game is won by the AMD-based cards.

The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is a little faster than the reference AMD Radeon R9 290 and a little slower than the Radeon R9 290X.

Total War: Rome II

The GeForce series cards are ahead of their Radeon opponents in this game, but the gap is small, especially at 2560×1440. The three Radeons have almost identical results here.

Batman: Arkham Origins

The Nvidia-based cards are unrivalled in this game when antialiasing is turned off. With 8x MSAA enabled, AMD triumphs:

The three Radeons deliver the same performance.

Battlefield 4

It’s not easy to choose the best graphics card for playing Battlefield 4 because the five tested products deliver the same performance and we didn’t use the Mantle API which doesn’t work well with the latest Catalyst.

The cards are comparable to each other, the three Radeons having almost identical results.


It’s the first time we use the recently released Thief for our tests, so here are the graphics quality settings we enable in it:

So the settings are all at their maximums to put high load on the graphics subsystem. The resolution and SSAA level were varied depending on the test mode. Here are the results:

The reference GeForce GTX 780 Ti wins this test but is closely followed by the AMD Radeon R9 290X. Then we see the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning and ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II which have similar results. The AMD Radeon R9 290 takes last place, but isn’t really much slower. We can note that the AMD-based products have a higher bottom speed than their Nvidia-based rivals, which is important for smooth gameplay.

Here is a table with the full test results:

Now we can move on to our performance summary charts.

Performance Summary

In the first pair of summary charts we compare the original ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II (pre-overclocked to 1000/5040 MHz or by +5. 6/1%) and the reference AMD Radeon R9 290 (947/5000 MHz), the latter serving as the baseline.

Despite the small difference in their clock rates, the ASUS is an average 3.1 to 3.2% faster at 1920×1080 and 2.4 to 2.8% faster at 2560×1440. The largest gap can be observed in Batman: Arkham Origins whereas in Metro: Last Light, Crysis 3, Hitman: Absolution and in some other games at the lower visual quality settings the two cards deliver similar performance. We guess the difference may be due to the ASUS’s efficient cooler. Thanks to it, the original card from ASUS never enables frequency throttling as the reference Radeon R9 290 may do.

The second pair of our charts helps compare the ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II with the reference AMD Radeon R9 290X, the latter serving as the baseline:

The gap is smaller than between the ASUS and the reference R9 290. The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is an average 2.1 to 3.6% slower at 1920×1080 and 1.8 to 2.1% slower at 2560×1440. The ASUS can be said to deliver the same speed as the reference Radeon R9 290X.

We also want to compare the ASUS with the original MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning:

As opposed to the previous two pairs of summary diagrams, there is no clear winner here. The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is ahead in Hitman: Absolution, Company of Heroes 2 and Batman: Arkham Origins (with 8x MSAA). Meanwhile, the MSI GeForce GTX 780 Lightning is faster in Total War: SHOGUN 2, Sniper Elite V2, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider (2013), BioShock Infinite, Metro: Last Light (with Advanced PhysX), Total War: Rome II and Batman: Arkham Origins (without 8x MSAA). In the rest of the games these two graphics cards are close to each other, although the MSI enjoys an advantage of 3-5% on average across all of them.

Power Consumption

We measured the power consumption of computer systems with different graphics cards using a multifunctional panel Zalman ZM-MFC3 which can report how much power a computer (the monitor not included) draws from a wall socket. There were two test modes: 2D (editing documents in Microsoft Word and web surfing) and 3D (the intro scene of the Swamp level from Crysis 3 running four times in a loop at 2560×1440 with maximum visual quality settings but without MSAA). Here are the results:

Interestingly, all of the tested configurations are comparable in terms of their 3D power draw. The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II is somewhat more economical than the others, yet not by much. Each configuration can be powered by a high-quality 600W PSU.


The ASUS Radeon R9 290 DirectCU II graphics card we’ve tested today is surely worth your consideration if you’re choosing an original R9 290. Thanks to factory overclocking, it is somewhat faster than the reference solution whereas its high-efficiency DirectCU II cooler ensures consistent performance without any frequency drop. The ASUS card is quieter than the reference one, features good packaging and comes at a competitive price.

As for downsides, the Elpida memory chips aren’t very overclocker-friendly but other batches of the card may come with memory from Hynix or Samsung. The factory GPU and memory overclocking – by 5.6% and 1%, respectively – might have been higher. The cooler is not really silent, yet the Radeon R9 290(X) cards are so hot that we can hardly expect any cooler to be silent with them. The accessories bundled with the card are rather scanty for a premium-class product.

AMD Radeon R9 290

Hawaii has even smaller islands: slightly slower speed, but the price is much lower!


  • Part 1 — theory and architecture
  • Part 2 — Practical acquaintance
    • Features of the video card
    • Stand configuration, list of test instruments
    • Synthetic tests
  • Part 3 — results of game tests (productivity)

We continue the saga about «crabs». The beginning can be read here. So, the “reddish crab” made a “big ball” and successfully rolled it into the “mink”, which caused some nervousness in the “greenish crab”, which became even more green with anger and went to conjure something with his “balls”.

However, the “reddish crab” decided that such a huge “ball” was not enough, and, having trimmed the already existing “balls”, slightly reducing them, began to roll them into the “mink”. Smart — yes understands, quick-witted — yes savvy. The rest — read below 🙂

Part 1: Theory and architecture

Following the release of detailed theoretical material on the current line of AMD graphics solutions, consisting of the Radeon R7 and R9 families, as well as a full review of the older solution of the line — Radeon R9290X, which was the first video card based on a new graphics chip codenamed Hawaii, was followed by material about the junior model of the top line based on the same chip, which AMD decided to release a little later.

The release of such a video card after the older version is not typical for AMD. First, the release of a video card one step below the top one was scheduled a week later, and then it was postponed again, already due to military cunning. AMD still could not finally determine the strategy and tactics of the fight against the Radeon R9 family290 with its competitors from the Nvidia camp, for which this company reduced prices after the release of the top model Radeon R9 290X, also announcing the release of a new top — Geforce GTX 780 Ti. In this regard, AMD decided to further refine the drivers, squeezing out a few more percent of performance and at the same time bring the date of the announcement of the Radeon R9 290 closer to the date of the actual appearance of the announced video cards on sale.

Let’s recall once again which video cards are included in the new families of AMD Radeon video cards. The current line of the company contains several series: R9and R7. The company’s new lineup includes the following models covering most market segments:

The R7 250 and R7 260X graphics cards are for the $90-$140 price range (US market prices), the R9 270X sells for $200 and the R9 280X for $300. The recommended price of the flagship of the line — the R9 290X model — in the US market is $549, and for the R9 290 they decided to ask for another hundred and fifty less, and it is located between the R9 280X and R9 290X (it is not on the diagram).

Model Radeon R9290 is not much different from the top-end R9 290X, as it is based on the same Hawaii GPU of the Graphics Core Next architecture. In this GPU, the number of execution units has been increased while keeping the power consumption of solutions within acceptable limits. The main task in developing a new GPU for AMD was to increase its energy efficiency, which was achieved, as we saw in the corresponding review.

It is clear that the new solution supports all the company’s technologies, including ZeroCore, updated PowerTune, Eyefinity, etc. etc. R9The 290 simply costs less than the top-end R9 290X and provides an even better performance-price ratio, as it is not much inferior in speed, but has a noticeably lower price. So, let’s take a look at the AMD Radeon R9 290 graphics card.

Let’s see how AMD itself positions its new solution on the market using the traditional Fire Strike tool in two different versions (Performance and Extreme) from the latest version of the Futuremark 3DMark benchmark. This benchmark is great for modern AMD graphics cards, and the number of points scored by the Radeon R9 graphics card in it290, slightly exceeds the performance of the main competitor — Geforce GTX 780.

Since the new model of the Radeon R9 290 video card is almost a twin of the R9 290X video card, and the Hawaii graphics processor largely repeats the features of the GPU of the previous Radeon HD 7000 series, before reading this material it will be it is useful to read detailed information about AMD’s early solutions:

  • [10/28/13] AMD Radeon R9 290X: Reach out to Hawaii! Get new heights of speed and functionality
  • [10/08/13] AMD Radeon R7 and R9 — an updated line of video cards: new families so far without their flagship HD 7970: the new single-socket leader in 3D graphics

Radeon R9 290 graphics accelerator

  • Chip codename: «Hawaii»
  • Manufacturing technology: 28 nm
  • 6.2 billion transistors
  • 6.2 billion transistors
  • common array processors for stream processing of numerous types of data: vertices, pixels, etc.
  • DirectX 11.2 hardware support, including Shader Model 5.0
  • 4 geometry processors
  • 512-bit memory bus: eight 64-bit wide controllers, supporting GDDR5 memory
  • Core clock up to 947 MHz (dynamic)
  • 40 (out of 44 physically present in the chip) GCN computing units, including 160 (out of 176) SIMD cores, consisting of a total of 2560 (out of 2816) ALUs for floating point calculations (integer and floating formats are supported, with FP32 precision and FP64)
  • 160 (out of 176) texture units, with support for trilinear and anisotropic filtering for all texture formats
  • 64 ROP units with support for full-screen anti-aliasing modes with the ability to programmatically sample more than 16 samples per pixel, including at FP16- or FP32- framebuffer format. Peak performance up to 64 samples per clock, and in no color mode (Z only) — 256 samples per clock
  • Integrated support for up to six monitors connected via DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort

Radeon R9 graphics card specifications 290

  • Core clock: up to 947 MHz
  • Number of universal processors: 2560
  • Number of texture units: 160, blending units: 64
  • 5 MHz effective memory frequency (4002 MHz)
  • Memory type: GDDR5
  • Memory capacity: 4 gigabytes
  • Memory bandwidth: 320 gigabytes per second
  • Compute performance (FP32) 4.9 teraflops
  • Theoretical maximum fill rate: up to 60.6 gigapixels per second.
  • Theoretical texture sampling rate: up to 152 gigatexels per second.
  • PCI Express 3.0 bus
  • Two Dual Link DVI, one HDMI, one DisplayPort
  • Power consumption up to 275 W
  • One 8-pin and one 6-pin power connector;
  • Double-slot design
  • Recommended price for the US market — $399 (for Russia — 13,990 rubles).

We continue to get used to the new AMD video card naming system, but once again we express doubts about the correctness of the Radeon R9 model naming solution290 and 290X, which differ only by an additional character in the name of the older model. Both video cards belong to the top R9 family and have the maximum serial number in the series — 290, but the older one also has an additional “X” index in the name, although the previous family used numbers. In our opinion, names like R9 2950 and R9 2970, as before, would be more logical and understandable.

As usual, the recommended price for the Radeon R9 290 is lower than the price of the corresponding competitor’s solution from the same price segment, even taking into account Nvidia’s price cut announced the other day. Radeon R9290 is clearly aimed at fighting the Nvidia Geforce GTX 780, based on the GK110 chip, which is the competitor’s junior top-end board (after all, there has been a Geforce GTX Titan for a long time, and the GTX 780 Ti has already been announced and will be released soon). Nvidia’s model has a higher MSRP ($499 vs. $399), but in games it can deliver better performance — it’s not AMD’s 3DMark-friendly Fire Strike. However, we will explore all such issues in the third part of the material.

The second top model of the AMD video card, which we are reviewing today, as well as the older board, has four gigabytes of GDDR5 memory. Because the Hawaii graphics chip has a 512-bit memory bus, which is not truncated in the Radeon R9290, it was possible to put 2 GB, but for a top-end solution, this amount is too small, because modern projects are already starting to use large amounts of video memory, which will only get worse in the coming months, when multiplatform games designed for next-generation consoles begin to be released: PS4 and Xbox one.

Unlike the older model, which has a special switch on the card that allows you to select one of two BIOS firmwares: (quiet mode and super mode), which differ in power consumption and performance, the younger model Radeon R9290 there is no such possibility, only one mode is available for it. It is clear that power consumption has decreased compared to the R9 290X, especially when compared with the latter’s super mode, but the official specific numbers are unknown.

Architectural Features

We’ve already covered in detail the new Hawaii graphics chip that powers the AMD Radeon R9 290X and 290 graphics cards. all the features of DirectX 11.2, similar to the Bonaire chip (Radeon HD 7790 and R7 260X). Architectural changes also include support for more concurrent command streams and a new version of AMD PowerTune technology.

We already know that the Hawaii graphics chip differs from Tahiti in a large number of execution units. But how is the Hawaii version used in the Radeon R9 290 different from the full version? Let’s see exactly how AMD engineers «slowed down» the junior top model so that it does not compete too strongly for the R9.290X:

The Hawaii graphics processor consists of four Shader Engines, each of which physically contains 11 enlarged Compute Units, including texture units, a geometry processor and a rasterizer, as well as ROP units. In total, the Hawaii graphics chip includes: 44 Compute Units containing 2816 stream processors, 64 ROPs and 176 TMUs.

But this refers to a full-fledged chip with all active blocks, which is used in the Radeon R9290X. The younger R9 290 received a chip with 40 active Compute Units, containing 2560 stream processors and 160 texture units. But the number of ROP blocks was not cut, there are 64 of them left. The same applies to the memory bus, it remains 512-bit, consisting of eight 64-bit controllers.

In our review of the Radeon R9 290X, we took a closer look at the internals of the GPU, the shader engines that make it up, and the Compute Unit (CU). The only difference between R9290 from R9 290X in that the shader engine in this case does not include 11 CUs, but less (for example, 10 pieces, if one CU is disabled in each of the engines). And already each CU computational unit contains functional units: 16 texture fetch units, 4 texture filtering units, a branch prediction unit, a scheduler, four vector and one scalar computational units, memory for vector and scalar registers, 16 KB cache memory of the first level and 64 KB of shared memory.

Note that the Hawaii chip has four geometry processing units and rasterization engines and can process up to four geometric primitives (triangles) per clock. Also in Hawaii, buffering of geometric data has been improved and caches for parameters of geometric primitives have been increased, which provides a significant increase in performance with large amounts of calculations in geometric shaders and the active use of tessellation.

The Hawaii chip includes 16 Render Back Ends (twice as many as Tahiti) containing 64 ROPs capable of processing up to 64 pixels per clock. This GPU has 1 megabyte of L2 cache, which is divided into 16 sections of 64 KB each, and their internal bandwidth has also been increased by a third. Memory is accessed using eight 64-bit controllers, and since the memory chips in the Radeon R9290 also operate at a frequency of 5.0 GHz, as in the older model, the total memory bandwidth has not changed and is equal to 320 GB / s.


It is quite logical that the new Radeon R9 290 graphics card supports exactly the same technologies as the older model. We have already covered all the new technologies supported by the Hawaii graphics chip in the related Radeon R9 290X review, and we will repeat this information here in a very brief way.

The solution introduced today has support for the new graphics API Mantle , which is able to use all the hardware capabilities of AMD GPUs, without being limited by the software limits of existing graphics APIs like OpenGL and DirectX and using a thinner software shell between the game engine and GPU hardware resources, similar to how it is done on game consoles . Mantle was developed at AMD with significant input from leading game developers DICE, and Battlefield 4 is the first game to use Mantle.

Theoretically, the use of Mantle can provide an advantage in the execution time of drawing function calls compared to other graphics APIs up to nine times, but such an advantage is possible only in artificial conditions, in real games it’s good if ten percent is typed (which is also not bad). Mantle API support in Battlefield 4 is expected in December with a free update optimized for AMD Radeon graphics cards. On systems with GCN graphics cards, the Frostbite 3 engine will use this API to reduce the load on the CPU by parallelizing work on eight cores, and will also introduce special low-level performance optimizations for AMD video chips.

Another important technology supported by the Radeon R9 290 is the AMD TrueAudio «sound» technology , which we also already talked about. With the release of the Radeon R7 and R9 series, AMD introduced a programmable audio engine, which is supported only by the AMD Radeon R7 260X, R9 290 and R9 290X video cards, since the Bonaire and Hawaii chips are the only company developments that have received the most modern technologies. .

TrueAudio is AMD’s built-in programmable audio engine on GPUs that enables real-time processing of audio tasks regardless of the installed CPU. Several Tensilica HiFi EP Audio DSP cores are integrated into Hawaii and Bonaire chips, and their capabilities are accessed using popular audio processing libraries, whose developers use the resources of the built-in audio engine using a special AMD TrueAudio API.

PowerTune power management technology has also been improved in the new top-end video cards . We wrote about these improvements back in the Radeon HD 7790 review, for more efficient power management, the latest AMD graphics chips have multiple states with different frequencies and voltages, which allows you to achieve higher clock speeds. The Hawaii GPU integrates a second-generation serial voltage regulator interface and the GPU always runs at the optimal voltage and frequency for the current GPU load and power consumption, which is the basis for switching between states.

In addition, the transitions between states themselves have become very fast, the GPU switches PowerTune states 100 times per second, and there simply cannot be any single operating frequency for Radeon R9 290 series solutions, there is only an average over a certain period of time. Based on such global changes, modified overclocking and PowerTune settings appeared in the Catalyst Control Center driver settings in the OverDrive tab: which makes overclocking settings more logical and understandable. In addition, the diagram reflects the fully dynamic GPU frequency control that has appeared in the solutions of the series. The increase in GPU frequency is now indicated by increasing the corresponding value (GPU Clock) by a certain percentage, and the ability to specify a specific frequency remains.

The fan speed control has also been seriously changed in the new OverDrive interface. Unlike the previous ability to set a fixed fan speed, the new interface has a «Maximum Fan Speed» setting that sets only the upper speed limit for the fan. In this case, the fan speed will change based on the load of the GPU and its temperature, and will not remain fixed, as it was before.

The most interesting innovation in the AMD Radeon R9 290 series video cards is support for AMD CrossFire technology without the need to connect video cards to each other using special bridges. Instead of dedicated communication lines, the new GPUs communicate with each other over the PCI Express bus using the built-in hardware DMA engine. The performance and image quality is exactly the same as with connecting bridges.

In the case of a pair of Radeon R9 graphics cards290, CrossFire technology provides excellent scaling in multi-chip systems when taking into account the average frame rate. The following chart compares the performance of a single AMD Radeon R9 290 and two such cards running AMD CrossFire rendering:

The games shown in the chart show a very good increase in average frame rate when a second graphics card is connected, up to almost 2x. In the worst case, these applications show 80% CrossFire efficiency, and average over 85%.

We also wrote about changes in display output, AMD Eyefinity technology and support for Ultra HD resolution. The new graphics card provides connectivity for two possible Ultra HD display options: TVs that only support 30Hz and below at 3840×2160 resolution and connected via HDMI or DisplayPort, as well as monitors whose image is split into two halves with a resolution of 1920×2160 at 60Hz .

A new VESA Display ID 1.3 standard has been introduced to support «split» monitors, which describes additional display capabilities. The standard allows automatic «gluing» of the image for such monitors, if it is supported by both the monitor and the driver. And in the future, AMD Radeon graphics cards will also support a third type of UltraHD display, which requires only one thread to run at ultra-high resolution at a refresh rate of 60 Hz.

The Radeon R9 290 provides sufficient 3D performance for multi-monitor configurations, which is essential at the highest gaming settings and highest rendering resolutions on such systems. The novelty has a clear advantage over the Nvidia Geforce GTX 780, expressed in a larger amount of video memory, which is important at ultra-high resolutions, which can be seen in the comparison of performance in Ultra HD-resolution:

As you can see, the performance of the new solution makes it possible to play at maximum settings in this resolution, getting an acceptable average frame rate above 30 FPS (and you won’t be able to see more with some displays) even in demanding games like Crysis 3 and Battlefield 3.

The AMD Eyefinity technology has also been updated for the Radeon R9 series. The new top-of-the-line Radeon R9 290 graphics card supports up to six display configurations using all available connectors, and up to three HDMI/DVI displays. For the latter case, without using DisplayPort connectors with hubs, you will need three displays that support identical timings. The output setting is done only at system startup, and it does not support hot-plugging the display for a third HDMI/DVI connection.

Theoretical performance and conclusions

Let’s take a look at the theoretical performance of the novelty, estimating how much the new Radeon R9 290 should be slower than the top Radeon R9 290X in reality and how it compares to the R9 280X, formerly known as the Radeon HD 7970 GHz. We compare all the most important theoretical indicators for GPUs:

Peak geometry processing speed for solutions based on Hawaii (R9 290 and R9 290X) is almost twice as high as Tahiti-based solutions (R9 280X and HD 7970 GHz), and in terms of computing and texture performance, the new product is located exactly in the middle between R9 290X and R9 280X. The video memory bandwidth of both top boards is the same and it is 20% higher than that of the R9 280X, and the filling rate (fillrate) of the R9 290 almost corresponds to that of the R9 290X (it is equal on the plate, but this is an error — in the case R9 290 this figure is 60.6 gigapixels per second).

To confirm the capabilities of the novelty, especially in terms of memory bandwidth and fill rate, AMD cites the average frame rates achieved in the latest game Battlefield 4, the continuation of the most popular series developed by DICE. The game is part of the AMD Gaming Evolved Partner Program, and therefore it has no problems optimizing Battlefield 4 for GCN architecture GPUs. Let’s see what happens in the version of the game without Mantle support:

In this game, the latest Radeon R9 290, albeit slightly, still outperforms the more expensive competing Nvidia Geforce GTX 780 card in both modes with different (but high in both cases) resolutions. Perhaps the Nvidia graphics card at such high resolutions is hindered by the lack of video memory, which it has only 3 GB, as opposed to 4 GB in the Radeon R9 290, so more video memory is another undeniable advantage of AMD’s new product.

We will test the performance of the new solution in later parts of the article. Summing up the results of the theoretical part, we note that the model of the AMD Radeon R9 video card announced today290 should be one of the best deals in single-chip 3D accelerators, and one of the best buys in the top end enthusiast segment. It is also very important that the new model should not lag far behind the Radeon R9 290X in speed, which is the most expensive and powerful single-chip solution in the company’s lineup.

AMD brought to the market a video card with a very competitive price and features. Already by theoretical indicators, it can be argued that this video card model has an excellent price-performance ratio. Yes, and with the functionality of the novelty, everything is in order, it has a built-in sound DSP engine, supports TrueAudio technology and the new Mantle graphics API, as well as all the other technologies already familiar to us that we are already tired of listing.

After we got acquainted with the characteristics and theoretical capabilities of the Radeon R9 290 video card, it’s time to move on to the next part of our material, which is traditionally devoted to examining the rendering speed of the new AMD video card in a set of synthetic tests. It will be interesting to compare the performance of the new product from the upper price segment with the top-end Radeon R9 290X, as well as with the speed of competing Nvidia video cards.

AMD Radeon R9 290 — Part 2: Video cards and synthetic tests →

PCI-E Radeon R9 290 in the category «Technique and Electronics»

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