What do you do when you see your enemy twisting in the wind? You strike, of course, and that's exactly what AMD predictably decided to do as rival Nvidia goes into damage control concerning the memory controversy on its GeForce GTX 970 graphics card. AMD and its partners have lowered the price of their Radeon R9 290X graphics cards to as low as $280 after rebate, or $300 without.
Sapphire was the first company to release an 8GB version of AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card, though it's no longer the only one -- a handful of other graphics card players jumped on board after AMD gave them a reference design to play with. Be that as it may, Sapphire is intent on standing out from the crowd, so it went and retooled its 8GB R9 290X with a triple fan cooler and some other changes.
While still a rumor until we catch wind of an official statement or product, there are multiple reports that AMD is planning to launch a version of its Radeon R9 290X graphics card with a massive 8GB of GDDR5 memory on-board. We've actually already seen this with Sapphire earlier this year, though it appears AMD wants to see more hardware partners offer an 8GB SKU, including MSI, hence the upcoming relaunch.
Where have all the Radeon R9 290X graphics cards gone?
Back in December of last year, we noticed that AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card was hard to find, which we (and the rest of the web) ultimately surmised was due to the virtual coin mining craze. With the rapid rise in value of Bitcoins, miners who were late to the party started looking at Litecoin mining in hopes of making some easy money. Since AMD's cards do a better job at mining these virtual gold nuggets, the 290X became a hot commodity. Fast forward to today and the card is still in short supply, but is mining still to blame?
Less than a week after teasing a shot of a liquid cooled AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card on its Facebook page, Powercolor has gone and introduced a retail version to market. The Powercolor LCS R9 290X uses an EK water block, the same as identified in the Facebook photo, and comes factory overclocked to 1060MHz for the core, up 60MHz over AMD's reference blueprint.
Getting wet and wild with AMD's rare Radeon R9 290X
Riddle us this: What's even harder to find than an AMD Radeon R9 290X graphics card? The answer is a liquid cooled version, which doesn't yet exist in retail (to the best of our knowledge). Even if it did, it would probably be as hard to find as every other Radeon R9 290X part, as Litecoin miners have been hording these (and other Radeon) GPUs in hopes of cashing in on the virtual currency craze.
Where have all the the Radeon R9 290X graphics cards gone?
AMD threw down the gauntlet when it introduced its Radeon R9 290X graphics card. Its aggressive price point in relation to performance (bang-for-buck, in other words) impressed us most, and apparently it's a big selling point among Bitcoin miners. If you're not familiar, Bitcoin is a virtual currency that's surging in value and Bitcoin mining is a resource intensive task that involves adding transaction records to Bitcoin's public ledger of past transactions.
Some variance in performance is to be expected, AMD says
Following the launch of AMD's Radeon R9 290X graphics card, a handful of sites noticed that the sample cards sent to the press were performing faster than their retail counterparts. It has been suggested by some that AMD essentially cherry picked the best cards for reviewers, though AMD says there's a valid reason for the performance gap. According to AMD, it has to do with the new PowerTune mechanism in the R9 290 Series.
Nvidia is hosting a two-day press event in Montreal, but it's AMD that's stealing some of the headlines. The Sunnyvale chip designer decided to crash Nvidia's party by setting up shop in a hotel across the street to showcase its Radeon R9 290X graphics card and compare benchmarks against Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 part. It's a brazen tactic and we hear Nvidia isn't real happy with AMD's stunt, but GPU politics aside, we have some benchmarks AMD is allowing the media to share.