Today marks the launch of AMD's Radeon R9 290 graphics card. This card has the same basic design and cooling solution than the Radeon R9 290X. Whereas the R9 290X has 2816 shader processors, this cut-down version has only 2560 shader processors and the core clockspeed has been reduced from 1000MHz to 947MHz. This still leaves a powerful card and with a MSRP of $399 it's a bit more affordable than the $549 290X.
Lets take a look at some reviews to get a sense of how the 290 performs. The Tech Report concludes the card offers outstanding value, it's just ever so slightly slower than the 290X and manages to beat the $100 more expensive NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780. The only major con of the card is its high noise level.
Remember how I said up front that my task was simple this time around? Here's why. The R9 290 is just ever so slightly slower than the R9 290X and essentially matches the GeForce GTX 780. Yet it costs $150 less than the 290X and a hundred bucks less than the GTX 780. This card's value proposition is outstanding. AMD clearly wants to win in this product category, and they've practically sacrificed the viability of the R9 290X in order to do so. The R9 290 is virtually the same thing as the 290X at a handsome discount—and it's a way better value than the GeForce GTX 780, too.
AnandTech on the other hand acknowledges that the card offers amazing price/performance but recommends against buying this card because of the extreme noise level. The site measured noise levels of 57.2dBA in load, which makes it very clear that AMD prioritized sheer performance over noise when creating this card.
On a final note, with the launch of the 290 and AMD’s promotional efforts we can’t help but feel that AMD is trying to play both sides of the performance/noise argument by shipping the card a high performance configuration, and using its adjustability to simultaneously justify its noise as something that can be mitigated. This is technically correct (ed: the best kind of correct), but it misses the point that most users are going to install a video card and use it as it's configured out of the box. To that end adjustability is a great feature and we’re happy to see such great efforts made to offer it, but adjustability cannot preclude shipping a more reasonable product in the first place.