When AMD introduced its new Radeon 290 and 290X flagship cards at the end of 2013, the cards were welcomed by many hardware enthusiasts. As usual with new releases there were minor flaws and points to be improved, the biggest one being temperature and noise levels of the new cards. This has caused many to wait for cards with aftermarket coolers to be introduced, we already tested ASUS' offering of the R290X some time ago, but now we have also received their version of the 290 as well as 290 and 290X versions by Gigabyte and Sapphire. As usual we did a comparative test between the new cards to see how their cooling solutions hold up.
By now we can conclude that AMD's introduction of their high end Radeon 290X has been a success, most online shops tell us that sales of the new cards have been very high and certainly well above their expectations. Maybe even more popular than the 290X flagship is the radeon R9 290, as these cards are much cheaper than the 290X models, but only perform around 5% slower. The price/performance ratio of the 290 is excellent, this is something even the biggest nVidia fanboy can not deny.
One of the issues that the Radeon 290 has however is its operating temperature and subsequent noiselevel. The reference card has been set to run up to 95 degrees celcius, not a problem according to AMD, but a lot of users are feeling a bit uncomfortable with tempratures that close to 100 degrees. Not only high temperatures, but also noiselevels to keep it cool are not the best we have seen, we measured 40.5 dB(A) idle and 55.6 dB(A) under load on a reference 290 card. The 290X running in Über Mode manages to be 1 dB(A) louder than the 290 under load, values that we think are too high for consumer cards. A big opportunity for AMD's partners improve both temperature and noise with better coolers.
This review is purely of the ASUS, Gigabyte en Sapphire Radeon cards, if you want to find out more about the 290 and 290X performance in general please look at our extensive Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 reviews.