Ok, you know how this goes. We'll magically compress our test results into a couple of our famous price-performance scatter plots. The performance scores are a geometric mean of the results from all the games we tested. We've converted our 99th-percentile frame time results into FPS for the sake of readability. As always, the better values will be situated closer to the top left corner of the plot. The worse buys will gravitate to the bottom right of the plot. Since the Radeon HD 5870 and 6970 aren't current products anymore, we've shown them at their starting prices for comparison.
Well, that was easy. The Radeon R9 290X is a bit faster than the GeForce GTX 780 and costs a hundred bucks less. Beats the Titan for nearly half the price, too. So yeah. AMD has substantially reduced the cost of graphics processing power in this category, and it has grabbed the overall performance crown from Nvidia in the process. What's not to like about a faster-than-Titan graphics card for just over half the price?
Unfortunately, there are some pretty good answers to that question. I have to admit, I was more impressed with the Hawaii GPU's architectural efficiency—it is a much smaller chip than the GK110, remember—before seeing the 290X's power draw and temperature readings. Looks to me like AMD has captured the performance crown through a combination of newfangled architectural prowess and the time-honored tactic of pushing its silicon to the ragged edge. The Hawaii GPU brought the 290X to the cusp of success, but a bigger power envelope and a really aggressive PowerTune profile ensured the victory. That victory comes at a cost: a relatively noisy card, whether on the default or uber fan profiles, and positively toasty GPU temperatures. 290X owners will also see more variable clock speeds (and thus performance) than they've come to expect. These aren't deal-breaker problems—not when there's a $100 price difference versus the GTX 780 on the table—but they're still hard to ignore.
More seriously, if you have any intention of using a Radeon R9 290X in a multi-GPU configuration at some point down the road, I'd advise you to put down the credit card and step away from the Newegg browser tab until we can test XMDA-based CrossFire thoroughly. Hopefully, we can do that soon, along with some additional single-card testing at 4K resolutions. If only we could raise the PowerTune limit on my frail human flesh, I'd have done some 4K testing already.
Of course, Nvidia has already signaled that it has a multi-pronged response to the 290X in the works. Most notably, something called the GeForce GTX 780 Ti is coming soon. We expect the 780 Ti to outperform the Titan, but the precise details about it are something of a mystery. Beyond that, the green team is taking a page from AMD's book and rolling out a triple game bundle for the holiday season, along with some discount coupons for its Shield handheld gaming console doohickey. There's also some GeForce-specific goodness in the works, including the amazing G-Sync and some low-overhead game recording and streaming features. All of those things sound great, and I truly do prefer the GTX 780's muted acoustics and slick all-metal cooler. But just like the 290X's rough edges aren't deal-breakers, the GTX 780's perks aren't deal-makers. Not when one of those crisp new Benjamins is on the table. Nvidia desperately needs to cut prices, or AMD wins this round on sheer value.
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