Nvidia's $ 1,000 GeForce GTX Titan, the $ 650 GTX 780, and the $ 400 GTX 770 stayed unimpeded for months. Although AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz was available for $ 450, it turned out to be slower than the GTX 770, while the company's dual-GPU HD 7990 was a little pointless as two 7970s were faster, cheaper, and easier to cool.

With the enthusiast community asking for an answer, AMD responded last month with titanium-like performance for almost half the price. At $ 550, the new Radeon R9 290X is set as high as the HD 7970 on its debut two years ago. With its centuries-old opponent swinging at full force, Nvidia's back hit the ropes and it quickly countered by hitting the prices for its affected upper tier products.

Five days after the R9 290X landed, Nvidia cut the price of the GTX 770 from $ 400 to $ 330, while the GTX 780 dropped from $ 650 to just $ 500, 10% cheaper than the R9 290X instead of 15% more expensive, which is they made about equivalent value. That changes a lot, as does the upcoming GTX 780 Ti, which should be closer to the speed of the R9 290X.

Before Nvidia can strike back, however, it must take another blow in the form of the new Radeon R9 290, a non-X version of the company's flagship GPU that has fewer SPUs and TAUs and the same number of ROPs.

The R9 290 still has the 5 GHz GDDR5 memory of the 290X and a 512-bit bus for 320 GB / s bandwidth. On paper, it should be in direct competition with the GeForce GTX 780, which now costs $ 500.

Radeon R9 290 in detail

The reference design R9 290 from AMD is practically indistinguishable from the R9 290X. The same 27.5 cm long circuit board is used with an identical cooler that ventilates hot air from the back of a case. The same 4 GB GDDR5 image memory is provided as standard, while the memory is clocked at 5 GHz. In short, almost all of the major changes were made to the core configuration of the GPU.

The R9 290 is equipped with 2560 SPUs and 160 TAUs – 9% less than the 290X – and 64 ROPs. Compared to the HD 7970 GHz Edition, the R9 290 has 25% more SPUs and TAUs and 100% more ROPs.

The "Hawaii Pro" GPU is cooled by a massive heat sink made of an aluminum vapor chamber with 41 ribs 15.0 cm long, 8.5 cm wide and 2.5 cm high. As mentioned earlier, this is the exact same cooler that you'll find on the R9 290X. The heat is dissipated by a 75 x 20 mm fan, which sucks air out of the housing and pushes it backwards.

Of course the R9 290 supports Crossfire, but this card does not contain any bridge connectors. This is the same design implemented by the R9 290X that enables Crossfire without the need for a hardware strap. The only other ports are on the I / O control panel. Our example has two DL-DVI connections, an HDMI 1.4a connection and a DisplayPort 1.2 socket.

The R9 290 supports a maximum resolution of 2560 x 1600 on up to three monitors as well as Ultra HD (also known as UHD or 4K) via HDMI 1.4b (low update) and DisplayPort 1.2.

Many Ultra HD / 4K monitors can achieve a refresh rate of 60 Hz with a tiled display configuration. AMD Eyefinity technology can be used to support these tiled displays by having two 2Kx2K tiles acting as one 4Kx2K monitor. AMD has taken steps to make this easier for end users by providing an automated AMD Eyefinity configuration facility. This feature enables automatic plug-and-play configuration of the supported Ultra HD / 4K tile displays when a display port cable is connected.

When you hot-plug a 4K tiled monitor (e.g. the Sharp PN-K321 or the Asus PQ321Q), a 2×1 display group is automatically created and the two tiles are combined into one monitor. This configuration is saved and reactivated when the display is disconnected from the mains or the system is restarted.

It is also possible to manually disable the display group in CCC and the two tiles to act as independent monitors. In addition, the card can supply power to up to six monitors with a multi-stream hub using the Mini-DisplayPort 1.2 sockets.