R9 290X Reference Design Comparison
Hello everyone! Sorry, newbie here. I'm looking into the possibility of using GPU-based computing for machine learning in an ongoing project and learning some pentesting skills on the side. I still have a lot of reading to do before building my server, but I'm ready with a couple questions re: the Radeon R9 290X.

Around mid October, Radeon R9 290X prices fell in reaction to the release of NVIDIA's GTX 980 and GTX 970. As bitcoin mining operations switch to ASICs or give up the trade entirely, online marketplaces are becoming saturated with pre-owned 290X cards. Nowadays, used 290X cards are going for $190-240 on eBay. I had my eye on this card since last December, and it seems like the perfect time to snag one or two for my server.

I know that I should buy a reference design, not an OEM design. I'm not clear on all of the reasons, but from what I understand, this is due to two factors. First, the main exhaust vent in the 290X reference design is located at the rear, which should help avoid overheating whenever multiple cards are used in a server. Second, it seems that a lot of OEMs are not fully implementing Powertune 2.0 on their cards (src). This will interfere with temperature control.

But what about buying reference design cards from OEMs? (Or otherwise rebranded?) Is there a difference between, say, Sapphire's and XFX's reference R9 290X?

Here is a list of all of the R9 290X reference design cards I could find:
Battlefield 4 versions were excluded from this list. There's also VisionTek (900653 or 900654). Their current version is an OEM design, but if you search around, you should be able to find a few with the same id but in reference design. Additionally, I've seen quite a few used 290X reference design cards that have an AMD brand sticker on the fan, but I could not find a product listing for them on AMD's website. I am guessing that they are the oldest of the bunch.

If I'm looking to buy one of the above cards, does it matter what brand I buy? Are some more reliable / perform better than others for our purposes? Has anyone had any major issues with any of the above 290X reference cards? Or is there really no difference at all aside from price, warranty, and customer service? (I'm not at all concerned about warranty, for what it's worth.)

I'm currently strongly considering buying one or two used XFX 290X Core Edition cards. They tend to sell for cheaper than Sapphire, which seems to be the go-to brand for the 290X. Is this purely a matter of reputation, or should I be concerned? (Aside: related thread re: running 4x XFX 290X.)

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Messages In This Thread
R9 290X Reference Design Comparison - by Burr - 12-07-2014, 12:52 PM
RE: R9 290X Reference Design Comparison - by Burr - 12-08-2014, 12:22 PM