Final words and conclusion
Final Words & Conclusion
AMD has a very impressive product at hand with the new 290 series. And amongst the things they did right they kept the pricing level rather competitive. With that 499 EUR price-tag in mind we have no doubt that several of you guys will go for Crossfire. And yeah, it is impressive to see what kind of number a R9-290X combo poops out in terms of framerates. Two of these cards are priced roughly similar to say a GeForce GTX Titan, yet you'll gain a good chunk in performance. Obviously though, Crossfire is not for everybody. Even myself, I'd rather have the fastest single GPU based graphics card over a multi-GPU solution. Then again, over time things like micro-stuttering are slowly becoming a thing of the past. On that note the latest frame-pacing drivers definitely seem to work nicely. And if you get a 290/290X then the new XDMA Crossfire interface eliminates this in Ultra HD as well. That's a win-win.
Is Multi-GPU gaming worth it ?
Well, if you are going to stick with one monitor then the reality is that with graphics cards as powerful as the R9-290X really is that 2-way Crossfire could only be a viable solution with multiple screens, or QHD and Ultra HD.
- Our recommendation as such is simple, with a single monitor setup up-to 2560x1440 you'd honestly be good to go with just one card.
- Now, if you have that nice Ultra HD monitor with a 3840x3160 resolution, that's where a 2nd card will make a lot of sense. Also with three screen Eyefinity setups the same logic applies.
Processor power then. Each time we publish an article on multi-GPU solutions we read it on the forums, "you should be using a faster test platform". Hence we moved to a X79 / Core i7 3960 Extreme processor clocked at 4600 MHz. The two components alone cost 1200 EUR (excluding the liquid cooling), with multi-GPU gaming they do show an increase in performance. You do need to wonder though if the 10~15% performance increase in lower resolutions really justifies that money, but obviously if you can afford two or three R9-290X cards, you probably will go for the best and fastest infrastructure as well.
Performance wise, up-to 2-way Crossfire little negative can be said about the Radeon R9-290X
Noise and Heat
So I stated that up-to 2-way Crossfire little negative can be said about the Radeon R9-290X. That is however different when it comes to temperatures and noise levels. These cards are allowed to peek to 95 Degrees C and trust me, they'll happily do that. As such they will produce and exhaust incredible amounts of hot air. Please try to leave as much space in-between the cards as your PCI-E slot configuration allows you to do so. Heck, you are not tied to the Crossfire connector any longer. With heat comes noise, one card can be heard already, two of them simply becomes rather noisy. You do need to keep that in mind. Perhaps waiting until board partners release custom cooled models would be the wiser thing to do. Then again, I am anal when it comes to noise levels, others would be perfectly fine with what we measured.
Power consumption then, honestly it's not good but not that bad either. I mean do we in this enthusiast class / level really card about a 50 Watts extra ? The two GPUs consume suck up roughly 550 Watts under full stress, add to that the rest of your system (processor, chipset peripherals) at say 200 Watts and you'll find yourself in the 750 Watt power consumption region tops when playing a hefty game with two cards. If you plan to overclock CPU and GPUs, then make sure you add at least another 200W onto your PSU requirements. Keep that in mind okay? Increased voltages means increased power consumption. To be able to operate two or more cards in Crossfire mode you'll need a Crossfire compatible motherboard, most if not all Intel X58, P67, Z68, Z77, Z87 and X79 motherboards are compatible, basically look for two mechanical x16 PCI-Express slots that can run x8 Gen 2.0 PCI-E each. BTW AMDs 900 series also has multi-GPU support and sure, upcoming Haswell (Z87) solutions will all run fine too.
Driver compatibility - in all our tests we had no driver issues whatsoever. All games worked straight out of the box including good Ultra HD compatibility. We see a bit of a bottleneck with Hitman Absolution being capped. But other than that, seriously props to that.
With an MSRP pricing for R9-290X at EUR 399 excl. VAT, (means roughly 499 EUR incl VAT depending on your country) we feel this product is priced fair. It is a very reasonable price, especially when you consider that it is the suggested retail price. Shave off another 10% in about four weeks and that will be the final pricing (roughly). Two cards set up in Crossfire will still cost you say 900 to a 1000 EUR, for that money you'll gain a truckload of performance kicking your configuration into the highest gear performance wise. We'll admit it though, if you are on a single monitor up-to 2560x1440 then there's just no need for it unless you like to break 3DMark scores. Realistically, once you reach multi-monitor gaming with three monitors or Ultra HD at 3840x3160, that's where a Crossfire configuration makes more sense. We hope you enjoyed this review, we had a blast making it with the cool gear at hand of course.
Read our AMD Radeon R9-290X reference article right here. Until next time.