(This evaluation was originally published by this author on Alienbabeltech in November and was subsequently lost in their database crash and has been restored here)
As a follow up to ABT’s GTX 980 launch article, we have identified the three fastest gaming single-GPU cards – the GTX 980, the GTX 780 Ti, and the R9 290X. We originally tested them each at stock in 28 games, and only overclocked our GTX 980. At stock, the GTX 980 won decisively over the 290X, and marginally over the GTX 780 Ti. Now we’d like to also see how the overclocked GTX 780 Ti and the overclocked R9 290X compare with each other and with the overclocked GTX 980.
Since we have a reference version of the 290X, a very capable PowerColor overclocked card, we are going to need to run it with extra voltage and with the fan at 100% to prevent throttling when it is overclocked +150MHz to 1150MHz core and +200MHz to 1450MHz on the memory. The GTX 980 is overclocked +200MHz on the core and +500MHz on the memory, while the GTX 780 Ti is overclocked +175MHz core/+400MHz memory – but they are run at stock voltage and fan profile since they don’t throttle like the 290X does.
We have pitted the PowerColor R9 290X OC against the GTX 780 Ti at least three times before, with the GeForce taking the crown. It takes a strongly overclocked R9 290X to match a GTX 780 Ti, and the GTX 780 Ti can also overclock well. This evaluation will feature the PowerColor card, and this time we shall overvolt, lock the fan speeds to 100%, and drop the ambient temperatures for each card to declare an overall performance winner.
The PowerColor R9 290X OC vs. the GTX 980 & vs. the GTX 780 Ti
The reference version of the R9 290X is clocked up to 1000MHz while the PowerColor 290X OC Edition is clocked up to 1030MHz . Memory clocks are 1250MHz at stock GDDR5 5000 speeds. The regular R9 290X is priced rather right now, as AMD appears to be waiting to see if Nvidia has a good supply of GTX 980 and 970 video cards before they begin price cutting. At Newegg, there are no GTX 980s in stock, although they are generally priced at $550.
For example, the HIS R9 290X which is clocked at 1100MHz is priced at $680 after a $30 mail-in rebate, and it slower than the $550 reference GTX 980. AMD is bundling two games from their “Never Settle” bundle while Nvidia has no bundle with the GTX 980/970.
Being able to overclock the PowerColor R9 290X to 1150MHz puts it in the same category as the very fastest factory overclocked 290X cards which do not usually have much headroom left unless they are watercooled.
The reference GTX 780 Ti can be found for as little as $449 and it is currently sold with a coupon for Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel as a bundle. We have already found that the stock 290X is faster than the GTX 780 and the TITAN, although the stock GTX 780 Ti slots above the mildly overclocked PowerColor 290X.
What about overclocking?
Our evaluation sample of the reference GTX 780 Ti overclocks well on stock fan profile and stock voltage so that it performs significantly faster than the mildly overclocked PowerColor R9 290X. We are able to add +175MHz offset to the core and +200MHz to the memory. For GTX 980 results, we used the same overclocked results from our GTX 980 evaluation which used on a +200MHz offset to the core and +500MHz to the memory.
Since we do not want any chance of our CPU bottlenecking our graphics, we are testing all of our graphics cards by using our Intel Core i7-4770K at 4.0GHz, 16 GB Kingston “Beast” HyperX DDR3 at 2133MHz, and an ECS Golden Z87 SLI/Crossfire motherboard. The Core i7-4770K at 4.0GHz is fast enough to differentiate even high-end video cards at high resolution and at high detail settings.
Before we look at our test bed and run benchmarks, let’s check out test configuration.