Wednesday, November 6, 2013

[Rant] Price wars reloaded: AMD R9 290 is only $399!!!!

Nobody expected AMD to price their flagship R9 290X card at $549. But they did. Then everybody thought this would be a replay of HD7900 series launch - HD7970 at $549 and HD7950 at $449. No, AMD had other plans. They released the R9 290 at just $399. That's insane. 

OK, $399 is still not cheap. Not many people is going to spend that much money on the graphics card. Heck, most people are trying to get away with $399 for the entire PC. 

But if you are into this sort of thing, you would know that this is crazy. For $399, you are not getting a 20% slower card than the flagship. You are getting a card that is only 5% or less slower than the flagship card that costs $150 more. Basically, AMD only cut down the Stream Processors from 2,816 to 2,560 and maximum clock speed from 1000MHz to 947MHz. (Note: the gap widens if you put the R9 290X to Uber mode though.)

Funny thing is though, AMD was not anticipating that NVidia would respond with such soon price cuts on the GTX770 and GTX780 when the R9 290X came out. AMD didn't seem to have had any other price point targetted, but they seem to have a different performance point targeted. AMD delayed the R9 290's launch by a week, because they thought they had to do counter the counter act from NVidia. Instead of dropping the prices, they increased the performance of the R9 290. But what's interesting is how they did it. They didn't release a BIOS update or change any chip specific. They simply raised the max fan speed of the card from the default 40% to 47%. You must be wondering how that could affect the performance. But that mere 7% increase in fan speed made the card throttle less due to high temperature and allowed the core clock to stay at the max clock speed more often than not. It's actually amazing how much the card throttled at 40% max fan speed. Look at the chart below.


That last minute tuning made the card beat the stock GTX 780 most of the times. Sometimes even beating the $1000 NVidia Titan. Insane, right?

But the problem that I had with the R9 290X still persists with this card as well. Heat ⇒ Temps ⇒ Noise. With the R9 290 running at 47% at stock, it is significantly louder than the rest of the pack. But the good news is that cards with custom designed coolers are coming out at the end of this month. People that don't want to use a custom water loop probably are better off waiting for these cards. But at $399, I think you can excuse the card being a bit too loud. Use some headphones when you are gaming, dammit!

You can read a comprehensive review about the new card @ anandtech.com




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