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Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 v AMD Radeon R9 290X


Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 v AMD Radeon R9 290X

GTX 980 vs R9 290X: Which should you buy?

The two cards in our latest head-to-head battle are the supercars of the GPU world – high-end products that represent the pinnacle of the current market and show off the very latest technology.

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 is the newer of the two cards, and it represents the culmination of the Maxwell technology used in the GTX 750 Ti and GTX 970 – the first time it’s been deployed in its complete form, without parts of the chip disabled or with lowered clock speeds. It’s also the priciest of the two cards here – to get the GTX 980 you’ll have to spend between £420 and £527.

AMD’s card launched at similar prices in October 2013, but it’s since seen price cuts – so now it costs a more palatable £256 to £400, depending on the card you buy. That means it’s got a great chance of upsetting Nvidia’s hardware when it comes to pure bang-per-buck performance.

SEE ALSO: GeForce GTX 750 Ti vs Radeon R7 265

AMD's older card is much cheaper at between £250 and £400

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 v AMD Radeon R9 290X: Under the Hood

The GTX 980 uses the GM204 core that’s also found inside the GTX 970, but it’s able to access the full complement of sixteen streaming multiprocessors, rather than the thirteen used in the lesser card. That means it’s got 2,048 stream processors and 128 texture units – both more than the cheaper GPU.

That’s not the only area where the GTX 980 pushes the boundaries. Its base clock starts at an enviable 1,126MHz and rises to a Boost peak of 1,216MHz, and its 4GB of GDDR5 RAM is clocked to an effective 7GHz.

Maxwell also places huge emphasis on power efficiency, which means this high-power card requires two six-pin power connectors rather than the six- and eight-pin requirements of AMD’s alternative.

The R9 290X is an older part, and it’s significantly cheaper than its rival. It doesn’t use a new architecture, instead relying on the Graphics Core Next system that was also used for the last generation of GPUs – and the Hawaii core inside the R9 290.

This is AMD’s most powerful single-GPU card, so the Hawaii GPU is unfettered, with 2,816 stream processors divided into 44 larger compute units. It’s clocked to 1,000MHz, and it’s got 4GB of memory that’s clocked to 5GHz. That’s slower than the GTX 980, but it’s accessed with a 512-bit bus that’s twice the width of Nvidia’s card, so total memory throughput sits at 320GB/s, which is higher than the GTX 980’s 224GB/s bandwidth.

SEE ALSO: Nvidia GeForce GTX 270 vs AMD Radeon R9 290

Nvidia's new card goes for anywhere between £420 and £530

Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 v AMD Radeon R9 290X: How We Test

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, 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.

Frederick Flynn

December 12, 2014, 1:21 pm

So the R9 290X has better price to performance (15% less performance, 30% less price)

When testing AMD GPU's, maybe games that support it should be benched using the mantle driver. This would be fair because some of these games are build using Nvidia Gameworks which is deliberately designed to favor Nvidia cards.


December 12, 2014, 6:57 pm

You should also consider the TDP difference between cards, the nvidia support is better, with AMD you will have lags recording with fraps, and shit drivers

Giorgio Lo Cicero

December 12, 2014, 9:11 pm

I thought that the best AMD Card was the R9 295x2 instead cause this is the one I bought... My R295 is great...the temperature is never above 65C° and the performance is really great..Actually I have never tried the Nvidia 980 Gtx so I can't say anything but I had a Nvidia quadro 3000M inside a HP Elite Boook and I didn't like it that much...Several Problems with the drivers and not a great performance. I hope it can help.


December 12, 2014, 10:17 pm

Couple of things to note about the GTX980. Firstly my Palit JetStream has the 4+6 power connectors, not 4+4. Secondly the free games are only available if you buy from specific retailers, and you only get to pick one of the games.

I grabbed one from Maplin after the tip on here about the Black Friday deal for £370. Unfortunately that's not one of the retailers where you get the free game. Still a good deal though.

Matthew Bunton

December 12, 2014, 11:28 pm

Nvidia all the way for me quieter less power draw and thus cooler. Besides in my experience the Nvidia drivers were always updated quicker and more stable.

But I know that some people prefer AMD for other reasons.


December 12, 2014, 11:46 pm

I love my R9 290X. I was able to get 2 for about $350 total after all the discounts, rebates, credit card cashback, and selling the included game codes.

Hard to beat that.


December 13, 2014, 12:13 am

R9 295x2 is a great card. I use one from time to time with a 4K monitor. Good stuff. :D

The R9 295x2 is basically two R9 290X's put on one board with a water cooler. That's why most sites compare R9 290X to 980. Because they're the flagship "single GPU" cards.


December 13, 2014, 12:51 am

Efficiency is kind of a moot point for gamers it takes years for it to add up by the time a GTX980 pays for it's self your likely buying a new GPU in the end you save nothing over the life of your card. People rub there hands together thinking 2x power efficacy not realizing that it equates to about $3 saving on your bill. It will never add up.

In the end look at the benchmarks of the games you play the most & pick the card that gives the higher FPS in your price bracket. It's that simple... don't worry about power efficiency or features. Noise can be an issue but you can always pick a 3rd party cooler instead which should remove most of the problem.


December 13, 2014, 1:27 am

I bought two non-reference 290Xs at $700 per card back when the litecoin stuff was inflating prices. I just couldn't wait anymore and it was the first non-reference board out. I really didn't feel bad until the 980 hit and completely killed the 290X pricing. Now just thinking about the 290X makes me so sad. I guess I got what I deserved for being impatient.

Giorgio Lo Cicero

December 13, 2014, 2:12 am

Ok...thanks.. :)


December 13, 2014, 2:20 am

Ouch. But to be fair, that price was still pretty good considering price and performance compared to 780 / Titan prices if I remember correctly


December 13, 2014, 5:30 am

Yeah. The 780 was not an option at all. Anything less than 4GB of RAM was a no go. I made my wife hold on to her 680 until nVidia released the 980 with 4GB. I like to stay with AMD if I can. Nothing but AMD since the 3870.


December 13, 2014, 5:48 am

Very cool. I'm a big AMD fan as well. I'm fairly confident that by 2016 we're going to see the fruits of their new labor, and a more tenacious AMD.

I only ever had one Nvidia GPU. It was in a laptop and it completely burned up at the worst time. I had just arrived in Germany where I was going to study abroad for 5 months. Suddenly found myself in a foreign country trying to find a laptop that didn't have a weird keyboard. :P

The new one definitely had ATI and is still going 4 years strong. :D

Carl Ellis

December 13, 2014, 12:41 pm

The synthetic bar-charts are biased in design as they don't start from 0, thus portraying the 980 bar to be two to three times that of the 290x; however in actuality the results are very similar, with the 980 just taking the lead.


December 13, 2014, 1:56 pm

Good point, I missed that when creating them. I'll redo them.


December 13, 2014, 2:07 pm

Vailid point, however to "Gamers" power efficiency = A potencial higher overclock = Higher fps/setting etc.

Bascially lower thermal temps allow it to be pushed more. I think the gtx 970 is a good example of this.


December 14, 2014, 3:35 am

IDGAF about efficiency. If its a laptop, yes efficiency is important. But if am I am going for a desktop GPU than performance is much more important to me.

Arnab Debbarma

December 15, 2014, 3:48 am

Why are people still comparing an year old tech vs a brand new 1?


December 17, 2014, 12:15 am

Comparing a $350 card with year old tech vs a new $550 card? :/
Anyway, also important to consider SLI vs. crossfire benches, where the 290x doesn't fare so poorly.


March 23, 2015, 10:21 pm

You live in the previous century. AMD fixed their driver issues years ago...

Matthew Bunton

March 24, 2015, 3:11 am

Of course they have and?

Hugh G. Johnson

April 9, 2015, 1:10 pm

I am not sure what 290x they were using, but I've got the Gigabyte oc guru 2 290x. Bf4 ultra settings @ 2560 x 1440. fps never drops below 100. If they were using a reference card for the test then that's the problem. They overheat too quickly and then throttle down.


April 22, 2015, 11:59 am

It's called Metro: Last LIGHT


April 23, 2015, 10:53 pm

"SEE ALSO: Nvidia GeForce GTX 270 vs AMD Radeon R9 290"? was this a typo?


June 2, 2015, 5:57 am

Actually; price aside, they are comparing the two fastest available from each provider, sans dual GPU.

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