As something of a counter-event to NVIDIA’s gaming showcase taking place in Montreal, Canada this week, AMD has organized an early, brief reveal of their forthcoming Radeon R9 290X video card. The card won’t be launching until sometime in the future, but for today we’re being allowed to confirm that we have the card and are being allowed to publish a single benchmark: Bioshock Infinite at 3840x2160 (4K).

AMD has purposely kept the public details on the R9 290X sparse so far, so we know little other than that it’s a larger GPU rated for 5 TFLOPS of compute performance, and paired with 4GB of memory for a total memory bandwidth of over 300GB/sec. Like most segments of the consumer electronics industry AMD has been gearing up for 3840x2160 (4K) displays, so the Radeon 290X is AMD’s flagship card geared towards gamers using 3840x2160 or 2560x1440 monitors.

Consequently AMD is seeking to draw attention to their 4K performance with today’s benchmark reveal. AMD named the game, the cards, and the resolution – Bioshock at 4K against the GTX 780 – so this is a very limited subset of our full results. And as with all controlled benchmark releases we’d advise not reading too much into any single benchmark here, as the relative performance of NVIDIA and AMD cards changes with the game being tested, at times rather wildly..

Bioshock Infinite - 3840x2160

The biggest problem with 4K displays for at least the intermediate future, other than price of course, will be that you’re either going to need a lot of GPU power to drive them or will have to take a quality hit to achieve acceptable performance. Neither the R9 290X nor the GTX 780 are powerful enough to stay above 30fps on Bioshock with everything turned up. For that you will need to drop down to Medium quality, which gets performance past 30fps and up into the 60fps range. The fact that we’re even talking about playing a game at 60fps this high of a resolution – with 2.25 times as many pixels as 2560x1440 – is a big accomplishment right there, it’s just not one that will come without tradeoffs. For little-to-no compromise 4K gaming we’ll undoubtedly need to turn to multiple GPUs and Crossfire/SLI.

Moving on, it’s interesting to note in this case that both cards are essentially tied at Ultra quality, but when we dial down to medium the 290X takes a very decisive 14% lead. At the highest quality settings we should be shader/texture bound due to the significant use of shader effects on Bioshock’s highest quality settings, whereas at lower quality settings at least some of the bottleneck will shift to elements such as ROP throughput, memory bandwidth, and the geometry pipeline.

Wrapping this preview up, we’ll have more details on the 290X in the near future. AMD has made it clear that they are aiming high with their new flagship video card, so it will be interesting to see what they can pull off as we approach Tahiti/7970’s second birthday.

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  • A5 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    If you think a controlled benchmark release is unethical, you should probably just quit following pretty much all product coverage of anything ever.
  • brucek2 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    A5 - Name one other video card review in recent memory where the manufacturer was allowed to pick the single game that would be benchmarked? As far as I can recall this is unprecedented.

    Its unclear who picked the single game. If it was AnandTech, fine, I guess. But if it was AMD who told AnandTech the one game and specific setting(s) they were allowed to cover, the only responses with journalistic integrity would either have been to tell them "no thanks" or to run it as a paid ad and label it as such.

    Controlling the release date via emargoes is routine and works out in everyone's best interest. Controlling the content of supposed pieces of journalism is not at all routine and in no one's interest but the manufacturers.
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Dunno. Tom's Hardware has both Bioshock and Tomb Raider.
  • cmikeh2 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    They did say: "And as with all controlled benchmark releases we’d advise not reading too much into any single benchmark here, as the relative performance of NVIDIA and AMD cards changes with the game being tested, at times rather wildly." That's a pretty straightforward disclaimer if you ask me. They don't make any recommendations off of this single benchmark and just use it as a starting point and a general realm of performance.
  • brucek2 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    Yes, they adequately disclosed the situation as to what happened. But why did they accept the situation as all? To most mainstream journalists, these conditions would be unacceptable and simply result in no story until it was possible to adequately prepare one.

    What will they agree to next? They can publish the review 48 hours early, as long as AMD gets to strike any sentences it doesn't approve of? Or 96 hours early, if they agree to include verbatim several paragraphs provided by AMD's PR department? Or a full week early, if they do the above and agree not to disclose any of the conditions?

    Maybe AnandTech felt as a one off, they were better off getting some early coverage in. But since they and others went for it, they can assume more of these trades of journalistic integrity for early publish date will be coming their way in the future. It may be a short term gain but in the end they are selling off the things they have that matter most, their reputation and credibility.
  • Drumsticks - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    How is that at all related? They aren't striking out any part of the review and are in no way allowing AMD to "approve" what they're writing. AMD said they could release a benchmark, which they did, along with a hefty disclaimer. That's no reason for alarm at all. They aren't sacrificing the integrity of the benchmark or preview. It's just that - a preview.

    There will still be a full 290X review. Every company is going to want to portray their products in a positive light, and the same is true for AMD. That doesn't make it unethical. It would be unethical if they fudged the numbers, which didn't happen. It's equally possible that they wanted a limited preview so they could *provide* a preview, but simultaneously give them time to actually prepare the other games for which drivers or other factors might not be ready.

    Also, in a preview that AMD allowed where one of the data points is virtually even, I don't think they were too focused on cheating us out of "ethical" journalism.
  • brucek2 - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    AMD's unwarranted approval power was preemptive, in that they approved one (or two?) specific games potentially at specific settings, while disapproving all other games/settings. That is way over the line of an unacceptable amount of journalistic control to give up in exchange for access to materials or sources.

    If AMD wants to issue a press release touting overly specific performance numbers / controlled cases, then just forward the release as is and label it accordingly (if judged newsworthy), or don't. But don't attach your journalistic brand to something so obviously unbefitting of an actual independent act of reporting.
  • HisDivineOrder - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    It's very fugly when a company chooses the game and the scenario and the system that plays the game for the "limited comparison" point for a previously unbiased neutral third party. People expect Anandtech to be above the fray, unbiased, and certainly not playing favorites.

    Here's something obvious. nVidia has a show today, but they said virtually nothing about it today. Meanwhile, other sites don't have a problem mentioning it. They mentioned it, but only in the AMD article and only briefly with next to no description of said event.

    Meanwhile, they spent this entire article talking about AMD's limited comparison point made only under AMD's exacting requirements that ensured they looked great during the comparison.

    This reminds me of what AMD did last year with Piledriver's launch. Allowing limited "reviews" of certain, favorable parts. Imagine how loud and constant the howls of fury would be if nVidia launched a new product with "limited reviews" or "comparisons" based on nVidia-selected games and/or benchmarks.

    Say, nVidia is launching the new nVidia Geforce Titanic. They make a whole show at the Caribbean Islands. They have a special Green section at Anandtech that does nothing but report on news favorable to nVidia. Anandtech suddenly is virtually ignoring or going completely dark on the fact that nVidia's prior cards (686 series) are having massive problems with 4K in Crossfire despite being cards "designed for 4K." So every article in this "Green Section" is incredibly positive.

    Then the new Titanic is coming. Journalists all in the Caribbean are drinking pina coladas and are fed new proprietary technologies like nVidia PureAudio DSP's limited only to nVidia cards and only a select group of the new cards. Plus, nVidia Glide 2.0, an initiative to lock in developers to only CUDA-based video cards built in the last year. Imagine then that said "Green Section" clinked glasses and danced in a loop, making a much-read, much-spread article about how the new Glide 2.0 is in fact a low level API from one of the next generation consoles that is about to hit without a shred of proof or much more than a hope and a dream.

    Now imagine nVidia implies to all those reviewers that they'll open up more information about said upcoming Titanic in... a week, maybe two. Then three weeks pass and no one says anything. Waiting longer, they re-fresh and re-release the same products they previously released almost two years ago but with completely new names and similar pricing to what they'd already dropped to. Yet no one says anything but "Wow, the value is great" despite the bundle having been axed.

    Now imagine they offer said "Green Section" a new benchmark for a very specific game guaranteed to give them a "win." Everyone is hungry for benchmarks, for the final answer to whether the card is better, and you have a seemingly unbiased review site popping up with an "early benchmark" that shows the new card in that "Green Section" winning at 4K.

    Man, it looks like the "Green Section" has the goods and the Green Team has the cards, right? Except if they had the goods, then why are they only showing a very limited review instead of being brave and showing everything they got right now when they very clearly can?

    Because showing everything would show everything, warts and all. AMD wants to show you only one specific thing, to choose the battleground, the benchmark, and win out completely in that one place. They're aiming to mislead because if they weren't, they wouldn't need to choose the game, choose the benchmark, and stack the deck.

    That's just another part of how far Anandtech has gone away from ethical. That's what's not ethical. How can anyone NOT question their "unbiased" status now?

    If I buy you a trip to a tropical island and I buy a section in your site and I get preferential treatment that seems suddenly to forget or just not mention any problems I have when they are rather widespread in being discussed and then I buy a free early benchmark of my choosing and design and somehow manage to get you not to talk about what my chief opponent is doing even when what they're doing is so much bigger than that benchmark for that day...

    ...then I have question if I wouldn't have you in my back pocket, right?

    If it were nVidia or Intel doing all this and not AMD, you'd see a howling fit the likes of which the intarwebz would never cool.
  • mycardbrokedown - Thursday, October 17, 2013 - link

    i get your point but there is a falacy to it... this product is not yet released so any and all info is given out under nda. if the product was a launched and sold one you would be right in this case however not. plus all sites may now publish their results for the given games. on the other hand i get it why they did it... the srivers arn't there yet and i think they want to launch with fairly good drivers this time around.
  • Principle - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    You guys are ridiculous. You don't want any info, fine, dont read it, now shut up. There is nothing unethical about what happened, nothing. Making a mountain out of a non-issue in the name of Nvidia fanaticism.

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