XFX R9 290X 8GB DD Review
Published: 26th May 2015 | Source: XFX | Price: |
It might seem like an odd thing to revisit the R9 290X so long after its initial release, and indeed so soon before the next version appears. However, to best judge the improvements of High-Bandwidth Memory - coming soon to a Radeon GPU near you - it was important for us to see how well a giant heap of the 'old' GDDR5 did. We have to thank XFX for coming to our rescue and enabling us to carry out these tests.
Forgetting the '8GB' aspect for a moment the XFX R9 290X is a very good version of the Hawaii XT GPU. We particularly like the design of the Double Dissipation cooler. We're so used to nearly every cooler these days combining high fin density, a giant heatpipe or more and a couple of big PWM fans that it's easy for us to notice how they all look, approximately, the same. XFX have gone a different route and kept everything within the shroud and so we end up with a card which is unique to XFX in its looks. If you're in the mood for something more stealthy than the shouty aluminium of other cards then this certainly should pique your interest. It works very well too. We saw a maximum of 72°C in our testing which, considering we've seen many 290X's in the 90+ range, is extremely good.
As to the question of whether the additional 4GB of GDDR5 actually helps us out, we have to conclude that it doesn't make a jot of difference. There are a couple of tests in which the higher resolution option showed some performance increase, but it was very much the exception rather than the rule. Particularly as we did our 4K testing, something where you would assume that the more memory available the smoother your experience would be, the 8GB didn't allow the XFX to rise above other 290Xs we've tested and once you have turned all the eye candy up to a level that you may need more than 4GB of vram on those games that can take advantage of it the Hawaii XT core is then the limiting factor. Its because of this that we feel if you ~need more than 4GB of Vram for your game / resolution settings then we honestly feel that you would need a pair of these cards in crossfire to make the best of it. A single 290X just doesnt have enough graphical power on the big Vram gaming titles to cope with the demands that the extra Vram usage would bring. If you did run two 8GB card you still only have a total of 8GB per card but you would have two 290X's sharing the graphical work and thus massively increasing the usefulness of all of that extra frame buffer.
That isn't a fault of the XFX card of course. It's the way the world works. Developers want to ensure their game is playable on the largest possible userbase and thus they give us a bunch of textures more suited to the miniscule memory on a Xbox 360 and then port that to the PC, rather than forcing everyone to own a decent graphics card. So most of the GDDR5 available to today's review card is left twiddling its thumbs, even in 4K tests. It is becoming increasingly common recently that games (GTA5 and Witcher 3) have so much eyecandy available that with it all turned on and up it can totally rape your Vram. So although we personally do not test with too many crippling games as yet we have a funny feeling that this may become a lot more common.
For its sleek looks, excellent cooling capacity, and having enough RAM to ensure that you're not left behind when the game developers catch up, the XFX R9 290X wins out Performance Award.