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Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 v AMD Radeon R9 290

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GTX 970 vs R9 290
GTX 970 vs R9 290

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 v AMD Radeon R9 290: Which is best?

A graphics card is one of the most expensive upgrades you can buy for a PC, but it also has one of the biggest impacts on gaming performance – it’s possible to turn a system from a sub-console chugger into a next-gen marvel with one new component.

The latest £250-£300 cards from Nvidia and AMD are tempting slabs of silicon that can do wonders for an older system – or give a new build the grunt to outpace the current consoles.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 is the newer and more expensive GPU, with prices that run from £260 to £316. It’s a reply to AMD’s Radeon R9 290, which has been cut in price and now looks like a plucky underdog, with prices that start at £220 before topping out at £287.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 v AMD Radeon R9 290: Under The Bonnet

The GTX 970 deploys Nvidia’s Maxwell architecture, which was first introduced in the mid-range GTX 750 Ti earlier this year. This time around it’s in a high-end product, which means a boosted specification: 1,664 stream processors, a base clock of 1,050MHz, a boost peak of 1,178MHz and 4GB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 7GHz. It’s the same GPU that’s found inside the range-topping GTX 980, but here it’s had some of its stream processors disabled to produce a cheaper, slightly slower card.

SEE ALSO: Nvidia GeForce GTX Ti vs AMD Radeon R7 265

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970

Maxwell isn’t just about performance, though – it’s also about reducing power consumption. Nvidia has done that by reconfiguring how its stream processors are deployed, with work now divided between smaller, more efficient groups rather than big chunks of hardware.

As for the AMD’s R9 290, it shares the Hawaii GPU found inside the flagship R9 290X card but, like with the GTX 970, not all of it is being used. It’s been cut down to size – it’s now got only 40 computer units, rather than the 44 used in AMD’s top-end product.

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AMD Radeon R9 290

It’s somewhat meaningless to compare the underlying numbers of these cards as they use such vastly different internal structures to perform their calculations, but for what it’s worth, the R9 290 has more stream processors than the Nvidia card – 2,560 – but its 947MHz core clock is a tad slower.

The memory situation is interesting: AMD’s card has 4GB of GDDR5 memory, like the GTX 970, and it’s addressed using a 512-bit memory bus – twice the width of the bus used on the Nvidia GPU. However, AMD’s R9 290 runs its RAM at 5GHz rather than 7GHz.

SEE ALSO: AMD Radeon R9 280X vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 770

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 v AMD Radeon R9 290: How We Tested

We’ve tested these powerful cards with five games: Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4, Bioshock Infinite, Crysis 3 and Metro: Last Light. Each title is run at its highest settings, and we’ve tested each game at 1,920 x 1,080, 2,560 x 1,440 and 3,840 x 2,160 – 4K.

We’ve also used a selection of synthetic benchmarks to test the raw horsepower of these GPUs, with 3D Mark Fire Strike and Unigine Heaven 4.0 both used to test the raw horsepower of these GPUs.

We’ve measured the idle and peak temperatures of the two cards, and noted the idle and peak power requirements of our test rig, which comprises of an Asus X79-Deluxe motherboard, Intel Core i7-4960X processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk.

To get prices for each card we visited www.scan.co.uk and noted down the range of prices for each card, although we will be referring to the various overclocked and tweaked models available for each GPU, which will be more expensive.

Tim Sutton

November 17, 2014, 1:44 pm

Solid review, and I agree with the conclusion too.. which I why I bought a 970 and then picked up a AMD Never Settle Gold voucher code on eBay :-)

However, the AMD 290x is now cheaper than the 970 just about everywhere and that's a much tougher call to make. (eBuyer has an overclocked MSI Gaming 290x with Civilisation: Beyond Earth and the three game bundle for just £243.99)

I would certainly prefer the 290x to the 970 if I was going to be playing at anything over 1080p.

You don't need anything remotely as powerful as any of these cards to exceed the PS4 or Xbox One though!

torjs99

November 18, 2014, 9:52 am

Surely comparing cards in the same price range would have made for a better review and stop people inferring that this is little more than advertising for nvidia. the 290x is available for way less than GTX 970 even on expensive sites like overclockers (£269)

khoa

November 20, 2014, 9:01 pm

this review is pretty biased since a 290 reference is far cheaper a custom cooler 970. A fairer comparison would be a 290x asus to a 970 asus since they are in the $330ish range.

AndroidVageta

December 9, 2014, 1:00 am

Seemed biased.

Plus, if you are into buying used on eBay or forums, etc you can get 290's for incredibly cheap. I just picked up dual 290's a few months ago (even then) for $225 each.

So yeah, the 970 is a good card, for sure, but the costs don't quite equal it's performance

RR

February 12, 2015, 9:11 am

Wow, so many amd fanboys. Both cards are 350$ on newegg and even gpuboss and other websites say gtx 970 is better.

Gamer

February 19, 2015, 11:22 pm

Just got my gtx 970 after running a 3-way 660 ti in sli nd I am so impressed with the card so far. Even better, I sold the 3 cards on ebay and they paid for my new 970. The little power it uses (but gives so much) and the heat (or lack there of) are incredible with the 970. I highly recommend it. The only problem is my full case looks so empty with only 1 card. I can't wait until I can get another 970 and run it in sli. I will be good for a while and at a very reasonable price. No question go with a 970 if you want a great card for a great price!

Cow Scrubington

February 21, 2015, 9:40 am

970 is more expensive and newer. gpuboss is a terrible website for reviews. only reason i would go with 970 is because of the lower power

Saro

February 27, 2015, 5:35 pm

Got 2 970s, amazing cards. My friend has 2 290s and... Well, if a single 970 usually outpacing a 290 isn't enough reason to get it, then consider that when getting two you have the "faster" technology (SLI vs Crossfire). But I wouldn't recommend GPUBoss, it's a terrible website and a lot of the stuff I saw there was just a flat-out lie. While I prefer nVidia, GPUBoss generally marks AMD cards lower even if they're better in every way (say, a really new Radeon vs old GTX).

Kif12345

February 28, 2015, 10:37 am

gpuboss? gpuboss is a terrible website!!!
R9 290 is around 270 euro and GTX970 is 350 euro...

Shran

March 17, 2015, 8:40 pm

Just bought the Radeon R9, better card overall.

escv

March 21, 2015, 2:56 pm

nope, its definitly the worse card speaking from the technical side, congrats.

Heimdal

April 11, 2015, 5:24 pm

nooo. . . , no it's not

alman1234

April 18, 2015, 10:05 pm

Im sorry haha, but the 290 boasts generally similar FPS reports as well an actual 4GB of Vram. Anything over 1080p and I'd not consider the 970 since that half GB missing will cause stutter galore. Although if you've built yourself a rig with an inadequate PSU, then yes maybe the 970 is also a consideration, otherwise put your extra $100 towards something else, maybe another 290 to slam the 970 into the ground that this filler architecture has belonged in all along. It's also worth mentioning that the increased memory bus could have massive FPS effects in dual card configs at higher resolutions.

Dexter Greer

May 21, 2015, 9:51 pm

idk i think this is situtational i have both cards, i have the direct oc 2 asus r 290 and a strix 970 and my friend has the i7 4770k vs my 3150 fx, with my pc i have a msi gaming motherboard and the r9 performs better like 6-7 frames on most of these games and on his its kinda has the results listed above except higher Resolutions the r9 performs better. I think its all about what you put together, amd gpu with amd cpu will communicated more efficiently, and a good motherboard can make a difference, amd cards require alot of power and if your psu struggles to hold it then it will underclock itself. You also have to make sure you turn off nvidia settings in these games, they cause problems with amd/ati gpus and alot of the companies nvidia is known to buy out, meaning they make their games work better with nvidia cards. I like nvidia but just from personal testing i went amd this time. and it worked in my favor.

Dexter Greer

May 21, 2015, 9:53 pm

also the better comparison is the 290x not the 290, the fact the older 290 can keep up with the 970 is a testiment to amd lol

PedzP

May 23, 2015, 7:57 pm

a

PedzP

May 23, 2015, 7:59 pm

snip

Schmidtsan

May 31, 2015, 10:29 pm

290 gets rekt on most games. Pretty much everyone agrees that 970 is the better card. Here they are almost the same price anyway.

Dexter Greer

May 31, 2015, 10:38 pm

rekt? lol ive done enough research, and seen plenty of pro videos, the 290 has never been rekt by the 970 secondly everyone used to say the earth was flat. learn to lead not follow kid. If your 290 is underpeforming its because you are an idiot who shouldnt be building a computer, you cant just tie cheap motherboards and psu or cpu with a expensive gpu and expect max performance, i just recently got the new 9590 and saw a 8 fps avg increase, and my gpu is still left underclocked. i dnt even overclock my gpu

Schmidtsan

June 1, 2015, 3:23 pm

The 290 still gets rekt.

ckpinkham

June 18, 2015, 4:41 am

Except this just showed the 970 beats the 290 in almost every category... I assume you're thinking of the 290x.

Legion495

August 30, 2015, 1:50 pm

Well I go for a 290, I own a 970 run a Multimonitor Setup get crashes all the time Win10 latest drivers are nuts and I hat that the4 software is locked down by Nvidia.

The 290 is able to outperform the 970 and if you know Graphiccards you know AMD is the Raw-performance master. DX12 crushes Nvidia cards and AMD sees a big increase of FPS.

But wait there is even more. If you have a 290 you can search in the web for an unlocker to the Units that are active on the 290X version. So you are able to unlock this card if there are no sectors damaged.

AMD struggles and I believe we all don't want that there is going to be an Monopol so everyone should just buy 1 AMD card for 1 or 2 years just to keep AMD over water and get Nvidia out of there lazyness.

Benji

November 2, 2015, 12:00 am

Lmao, obviously you're somebody who got the gtx 970 before discovering the cheaper 290/x. Sorry your fanboy pride is hurt.

Benji

November 2, 2015, 12:05 am

Anyone who references gpuboss is clearly a novice and has no foundational understanding of video cards. You don't have any creditability to label someone a fanboy of any sorts.

Ali Husain

November 19, 2015, 6:22 am

Some people say that there is better performance in AMD cards and some say that there is better performance in Nvidia cards, that is because some games favour card manufacturers, yes, its true, for example in some games there is a PhysX option (only 4 Nvidia cards) and on some Intel cards (only 4 Nvidia) there is an advanced graphic option for increased graphic quality - my conclusion - ITS NOT REALLY ABOUT PERFORMANCE AND HARDWARE, JUST ABOUT THE GAME YOU ARE PLAYING - very difficult to tell which is better

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