Until recently, Nvidia has been running roughshod over AMD at the premium end of the graphics card performance spectrum, as the GTX 780 had essentially no competitior in that price bracket. That’s changed with the R9 290, a card that now fills the upper gap in AMD’s lineup, offering enthusiasts a very compelling option for their hard-earned cash.
In terms of performance, the R9 290 competes extremely well against Nvidia’s GTX 780, and in several cases handily beats the latter, though there are several other instances where they’re in a dead heat. The reality is performance is very close between the two cards, and both will provide excellent gaming goodness. So it’s a toss up there, and on to features we move.
In terms of features, the R9 290 provides support for OpenGL, DirectX11.2 and AMDs Mantle API. You also get 1080p gaming at high settings and of course the 4K UltraHD gaming & movie capabilities. The 290 likely won’t have enough horsepower on its own, but CrossFire is certainly recommended. But the point is you get the option, and it’s a push in the right direction by AMD to try to stay ahead of the curve. Nvidia gives several features that offer counterpoints, so it’s also a bit of a toss up on that front as well.
So then what about price? Sapphire has the R9 290 currently retails for $500, which is higher than we’d hope, due to strong demand and low stock with the holiday buying season in full swing. But that’s also the same price as the GTX 780, so Sapphire is positioned directly against Nvidia. However, you do get some free games out of the deal here, as AMD provides popular game titles for free with the purchase of this card. Based on that, we’ll give the nod to the R9 290 on the value analysis.
The only real detraction here is the cooler; frankly, it’s a disappointment. It’s loud and allows the card to run hot. It’s not Sapphire’s fault, however, as it is AMD’s reference design. Nvidia clearly has the edge in this department, but that could easily change if Sapphire goes to market with a custom design. We’ve seen some amazing Sapphire designs in the past, and this would transform the R9 290 from a great card into a “must have” killer card. We remain cautiously optimistic we’ll see a custom R9 290 from Sapphire, as that would bring excellent performance, low temperatures, and a quiet cooler to the gaming elite in the market. That is a very tantalizing proposition, but for now we’ll have to settle with “almost awesome” with this Sapphire card.
Sapphire R9 290