As something of a counter-event to NVIDIA’s gaming showcase taking place in Montreal, Canada this week, AMD has organized an early, brief reveal of their forthcoming Radeon R9 290X video card. The card won’t be launching until sometime in the future, but for today we’re being allowed to confirm that we have the card and are being allowed to publish a single benchmark: Bioshock Infinite at 3840x2160 (4K).

AMD has purposely kept the public details on the R9 290X sparse so far, so we know little other than that it’s a larger GPU rated for 5 TFLOPS of compute performance, and paired with 4GB of memory for a total memory bandwidth of over 300GB/sec. Like most segments of the consumer electronics industry AMD has been gearing up for 3840x2160 (4K) displays, so the Radeon 290X is AMD’s flagship card geared towards gamers using 3840x2160 or 2560x1440 monitors.

Consequently AMD is seeking to draw attention to their 4K performance with today’s benchmark reveal. AMD named the game, the cards, and the resolution – Bioshock at 4K against the GTX 780 – so this is a very limited subset of our full results. And as with all controlled benchmark releases we’d advise not reading too much into any single benchmark here, as the relative performance of NVIDIA and AMD cards changes with the game being tested, at times rather wildly..

Bioshock Infinite - 3840x2160

The biggest problem with 4K displays for at least the intermediate future, other than price of course, will be that you’re either going to need a lot of GPU power to drive them or will have to take a quality hit to achieve acceptable performance. Neither the R9 290X nor the GTX 780 are powerful enough to stay above 30fps on Bioshock with everything turned up. For that you will need to drop down to Medium quality, which gets performance past 30fps and up into the 60fps range. The fact that we’re even talking about playing a game at 60fps this high of a resolution – with 2.25 times as many pixels as 2560x1440 – is a big accomplishment right there, it’s just not one that will come without tradeoffs. For little-to-no compromise 4K gaming we’ll undoubtedly need to turn to multiple GPUs and Crossfire/SLI.

Moving on, it’s interesting to note in this case that both cards are essentially tied at Ultra quality, but when we dial down to medium the 290X takes a very decisive 14% lead. At the highest quality settings we should be shader/texture bound due to the significant use of shader effects on Bioshock’s highest quality settings, whereas at lower quality settings at least some of the bottleneck will shift to elements such as ROP throughput, memory bandwidth, and the geometry pipeline.

Wrapping this preview up, we’ll have more details on the 290X in the near future. AMD has made it clear that they are aiming high with their new flagship video card, so it will be interesting to see what they can pull off as we approach Tahiti/7970’s second birthday.

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  • haukionkannel - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Yep! i agree. When you read anything from monitor, the 4K and even 8K are just fine! When gaming it all depends on how much GPU power you have. I am guite sure that in the beginning running the game in 1080p mode and upscaling it to 4K will be enough! I have read several test reports from TV sets that are 4K. The reports say that native 4K material is indeed very good, but upscaled 1080p material does look good too, better than in normal 1080p resolution TV sets (just like upscaled DVD movies in the distant past). So there definitely is need for 4k and even 8k monitors. Just run the games in resolution that can give you enough fps and upscale from that!
  • c4toast - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Each of the 8 ACE's can manage up to 8 compute queues for a total of 64 compute commands, in comparison the HD 7970 only has 2 ACE's that could only queue 2 compute commands for a total of 4 is that true? if so what kind of perf we get wen dev fully optimize.
  • psuedonymous - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    With AMDs current issues ( regarding frame rating with multiple monitors (and that all current UHD 60fps displays are driven by two separate 1920x2160 streams), are you allowed by AMD to publish the frame timings in addition to the raw framerate? AMD promised a 'fix' with the R290x, but it would be interesting to see how much things have actually improved.
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Frame pacing with multiple monitors over a single GPU has never been an issue. It's only a remaining issue for multiple GPUs in conjunction with multiple monitors. So the 290X would not be affected here.
  • SeeManRun - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    One thing of interest is that ultra quality includes AA. What happens if you turn off AA since it shouldn't be needed at UltraHD?
  • Principle - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    You can see it at Toms, where they did something more reasonable and just put it on very high settings instead of medium and could manage nearly the same frame rates.
  • Wreckage - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    So any old factory overclocked off the shelf 780 will be better. Sigh.
  • TwiSparkle - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    You mean I can't overclock the 290X? :( /sarcasm. And really it will come down to price. If this is 550-600 it is a LOT better than a 780.
  • TheJian - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Umm, did you look at the watts and heat it puts off already at stock?
    94 temps (titan had 84, 780 82), and 404watts vs titan 342. For that extra 62watts this thing should be blowing away Titan. It's not.

    You're under the mistaken impression NV's pricing is stuck in stone. They now offer 3 free games and $100 off shield coupon. Also considering all the driver problems this year/last and still going, NV's reasonable asking for a premium for stuff that "just works" right? ;) You buy AMD you MAYBE get a working driver at some point. Or buy NV and forget about it. I'm sure the shoe will be on the other foot eventually but right now they haven't fixed everything with the last gen. To me, this kind of crap is why AMD has to give more free games away usually and can't get NV's 65% discrete share down one bit for years.
  • just4U - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Or just throw in a NV and it works? lol.. Driver related problems across both companies are fairly equal from what I can tell and have been for a long time. I am surprised people still tout this argument after 12 years...

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