AMD is on a hot streak in the industry these days, after successfully securing the deals to power both of the upcoming next-gen consoles, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Now, they’ve lifted the veil on what’s next for PC gamers with details on the new R9 290X video card. For good measure, they also released information about the other R9 and R7 series of video cards. The line starts with the R7 250 ($89) and moves upward to the R7 260X ($139), R9 270X ($199), R9 280X ($299) and the R9 290X ($549). AMD is also introducing new technologies such as Mantle and GCN (Graphics Core Next) and touts both as huge advancements in graphics performance technology for next-gen game development. The R7 and R9 line are also, as it turns out, the first and only line of graphics boards to offer complete support for DirextX 11.2.
Next-Gen Gaming, True Audio, and Ultra HD Resolution
Our team spoke with both AMD PR Manager Robert Hallock, and AMD Product Manager, Simon NG about the new line. Hallock made no bones about it, telling Gaming Illustrated, “With the console wins, AMD is now the backbone of high end gaming… Now that we are the standard platform for all major gaming development it’s never been easier to develop games – be it on PC, Xbox One or the PlayStation 4.”
Clearly, the biggest announcement are the details around the $549 R9 290X video card and the new Project Mantle technology used in Battlefield 4 (and other upcoming games), and the GCN architecture. AMD has heavily invested in video game content, as they employ many former game developers and game engineers who are building video game effects. These effects, such as “TressFX” which was used in Ubisoft’s Tomb Raider game, can be plugged into game code. AMD has made a catalog of effects designed by AMD game developers available to game developers, with the net result being better looking PC games.
There are some powerful games coming that will leverage much of the new technology that the R9 and R7 boards offer. Murdered: Soul Suspect (Square Enix), Theif (Ubisoft), and Lichdom (Xaviant) are all games that will leverage AMD’s TrueAudio technology. This new technology works in the background with any existing audio hardware (be it on-board or a third-part card) to improve the overall audio experience. The biggest news that most gamers will be interested in is support for “Ultra HD” resolution specific to the R9 290X cards. UltraHD, which has been commonly referred to as “4k Resolution” offers stunning detail at a whopping 3840×2160 resolution. The new R9 290X board is being aimed at this group of power users, stating that Battlefield 4 is able to run with full details on at 3840×2160 resolution with this video card.
AMD Radeon R9 290X
Fortunately, a good amount of information about the R9 290X was released, specifically an MSRP price of $549. According to the presentation Gaming Illustrated was given, the R9 290X boards are “a new GPU for the next generation of gaming” and have “4GB (of memory) for 4K” gaming. Simon Ng explained, “For gamers, 1440p has been great but gamers want something next generation. The leap to 1440p is not that big from standard 1080p, but here comes Ultra HD. [The monitors] might be expensive now but mass production is happening and prices are really dropping. It’s a great sign for people that want to push the envelope of next-gen gaming.”
While there is a general lack of reasonably priced 4K monitors that run at 3840×2160 at this time, it’s expected that affordable monitors from Dell and Monoprice should hit the market in 2014. The R9 290X will have 2,816 stream processors, up to 1 GHz clock speed, 5.6 TFLOPS of performance and 5.0 GHz of memory speed, armed with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. AMD stated that, “The R9 290X is specifically designed for 3840×2160 and is the first video card to exceed 5 at 5.6 TFLOPS.” Another innovation with the R9 290X is that it no longer requires the bridge connector to set up a Crossfire (multi-video card) environment.
The AMD Radeon R9 290X will support EyeFinity technology in a unique way. The board will support 3×1 configuration with any three outputs, be it one of the DisplayPorts (with multi-streaming support), an HDMI port, or the two Dual-Link DVI ports.
AMD Radeon R9 280X
The R9 280X will be offered at a $299 price-point and is marketed to gamers that want to play at a 2560×1440 resolution, common to 27 and 30-inch monitors. AMD makes no bones about, as they state in the promotional deck we were given that this card was “built for 2560×1440 and Battlefield 4 with 3GB” in mind. In terms of dollar-per-performance value, the R9 280X scored 7,046 in 3DMark, while their older HD 6970 card ($369) scored 3,790. In AMD’s tests, the R9 280X outscored the NVIDIA 760 in games such as BF3, FarCry 3, Skyrim, Tomb Raider and The Witcher 2. The board has 2,048 stream processors, up to 1 GHz engine clock speed, 4.1 TFLOPS of computing performance and 6.0 Gbps memory speed.
AMD Radeon R9 270X
This board will have a $199 price point and aimed at 1080p (1920×1080 resolution) gaming at the highest quality settings. In comparison, AMD ran a benchmark in 3DMark with the R9 270X hitting a score of 5,557, with the HD Radeon 6870 ($239) scoring at 3,052. In their lab tests, the R9 270X also consistently scored higher than the NVIDIA GTX 660 for games such as Battlefield 3 (no surprise considering the Dice-AMD relationship), Bioshock Infinite, Crysis 3 and Skyrim. The unit offers 1,280 stream processors, an engine clock up to 1.05 GHz, 2.69 TFLOPS of computing power and 5.6 Gbps memory speed.
No More Crossfire Bridge
A surprising advancement in technology is the announcement that there is no more “bridge” required for Crossfire technology for the R9 290X. For gamers not familiar with it, Crossfire technology allows gamers to pair two or even three video cards together for improved performance. Enthusiasts just need to pop in the boards and no special connector for both boards is required. The R9 290X will be the only board in the R9 or R7 series that will not require a bridge connection for a Crossfire configuration.
Cards Under $199
A fact that most enthusiast gamers might not be aware of is that, according to AMD’s market research, a whopping 90% of the graphics market is under the $150 (USD) price point. To attack this large segment of the estimated 50 million worldwide market for graphics cards, AMD has built the R7 260X, R7 250 and the R7 240. The R7 260X offers 2GB of GDDR3 memory and is designed for 1080p gaming at a low price point of just $139. It actually outperforms the ATI Radeon HD5870, which was the top performing card in 2009. All of the cards support DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, and Mantle.
Never Settle Bundle
When asked about the Never Settle Bundle, which has been extremely popular for the 7900 and 7800 line of cards, AMD stated that there are no announcements for the R9 or R7 series of cards. However, Hallock added that AMD remains committed to the Never Settle Bundle and that they look forward to continuing it into the future.
Grid Breakdown of the AMD R9 Series Video Cards
|R9 270X||R9 280X||R9 290X|
|1,280 Stream Processors||2,048||2,816|
|Up to 1.05 GHz Engine||Up to 1 GHz||Up to 1 GHz|
|2GB or 4GB GDDR5||3GB||4GB|
|5.6 Gbps Memory Speed||6.0 Gbps||5.0 Gbps|