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Sapphire R9 290

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Posted December 20, 2013 by Jake in Video Cards

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WHAT WE LIKED:

Excellent performance; Bonus game offer; 4GB memory for high resolution gaming;
 

WHAT WE DISLIKED:

Noisy cooler; High load temperatures
 
BOTTOM LINE:
Powerhouse card with lots of potential that's a bit handcuffed by its reference cooler design.
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by Jake
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TrueAudio and CrossFire

TrueAudio

One of the exciting features of the new line of Volcanic Island cards is TrueAudio. TrueAudio is an integrated positional audio DSP that will be included on select models of R7 and R9 series GPUS. For years developers have been implementing PC game audio through software to make effects accessible to all gamers, not just those with discrete sound solutions. This approach almost guarantees the same audio playback on a $2000 system as it will on a $500 if no discrete solution is in play. The downside is that it takes a good amount of CPU processing power to produce some of the better sound effects. In a lot of cases the effects that will immerse you further into a game are left out completely because of the CPU hit.

AMD partnered with a little known company named GenAudio, makers of AstoundSound technology to develop TrueAudio. The hardware based DSP is able to produce 3D audio effects like real-time reflections, reverb, phantom speakers and 3D audio in 2.1 speaker systems without adding the CPU penalty since it is all processed on the DSP. Remember the TrueAudio DSP is not a sound card replacement or substitute; it is a dedicated audio processor developers can choose to take advantage of for a more immersive experience.

Since it is optional, AMD has been reaching out directly to the developers to educate and help execute TrueAudio implementations. Two big names in gaming have already committed to using TrueAudio in their upcoming releases. Xaviant: Lichdom and Eidos: Thief pledged support for the new audio technology and had game demos on hand at the GPU14 product showcase.

Will this change the way we game and will enough developers get onboard to make it a feature worthy of being included on Volcanic Islands? Since the first is solely reliant on the second, it will all come down to how much AMD puts into working with developers and ease of use. I would love to hear a difference in realistic sound when a grenade is tossed into a room vs. tossing a grenade in an open field. That is called convolution reverb, just one of the many benefits AMD’s TrueAudio can bring to the forefront of PC gaming without relying on your precious CPU clock cycles.

As you can see, the Sapphire R9 290 comes with a factory overclock of 1111MHz on the Core, while most other specs remain the same as the reference. However, that only tells part of the story though, so let’s continue on with a discussion about GPU Boost 2.0 to delve a bit deeper and find out what this card is capable of doing.

CrossFire

Multi-monitor support has been become even more important to gamers over the last few years. Eyefinity has propelled multi-monitor usage to the forefront of gaming. One way to push all of those monitors is to add additional GPUs using Crossfire. Crossfire technology has also seen an update with the new series of AMD Hawaii GPUS. Some will no longer require the use of an external Crossfire bridge to sync multiple GPUs.

The hardware DMA engine was designed for Eyefinity, UltraHD resolutions and allowing direct access between GPU pipelines over PCI express. This eliminates the performance penalty that comes with using an external bridge while maintaining its compatibilities with Catalyst frame pacing technologies. Say goodbye to the ugly external Crossfire Bridge but don’t throw it away; you may still need it with some cards.

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