AMD's board partners have officially launched variants of its high-end R9 290X graphics card design with 8GB of GDDR5 video memory, with the extra RAM causing a significant bump in price over the existing 4GB models.
There's no denying that AMD's Hawaii-XT graphics processor is powerful, as demonstrated in our March review
, but with Ultra HD 4K resolution displays dropping in price all the time and the commercial release of the Oculus Rift head-mounted virtual reality display expected within months many gamers are considering 4GB of video memory a trifle restrictive. As the resolution increases, so too does the video memory required to display a given image - leading to a verdict of no surprise when rumours spread that AMD was planning on releasing 8GB variants of the card.
Those variants are now available to buy from a variety of board partners, and come with few surprises: the Hawaii-XT chip, with its 2,816 stream processors and 512-bit memory bus, is present and correct, albeit with marginally boosted default clock speeds. The biggest change is in the memory, which is doubled from 4GB to 8GB of high-speed GDDR5 - giving the boards the ability to handle higher resolution displays without difficulty.
While 8GB board variants have been released by both Nvidia and AMD in the past, these typically existed only as dual-GPU boards which split the memory in half - providing higher overall performance but the equivalence from a program perspective of just 4GB of memory. The new R9 290X 8GB variants provide the full 8GB of memory to the single GPU.
UK pricing for the boards has been published by Overclockers UK, which has A Sapphire variant of the new graphics cards available for immediate despatch today with other models on pre-order, at between £359.99 and £379.99 - a considerable premium over the 4GB variants, which start with a Powercolor R9 290X 4GB at £221.99. All versions come with a copy of Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth along with a choice of three other games as part of AMD's Radeon Gold Reward programme.