AMD Radeon R-200 series review roundup

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AMD’s new Radeon R-200 series has launched and it is the start of the company’s journey into the gaming industry dominated on the console side by Radeon graphics cards. In this article we’ll take a look at the specifications of the new cards as well as see what reviewers have been saying about them.

The lineup today is not based on the new Hawaii chips. Those will be fully detailed on 15 October, which gives reviewers time to get to grips with the hardware and fully flesh out their reviews and complete all their testing. The cards on offer today are rebrands of cards from the outgoing Radeon HD7000 series.

Despite the architectural similarities, the thing that has most changed is the launch price. The R9 280X starts at $299, the R9 270X starts at $199, and the R7 260X starts at $139. With the exception of the R7 260X, Nvidia has no counters for the new cards today and will have to do some serious price drops to compete.

Specification
Radeon HD7970 GHz Edition Radeon R9 280X Radeon HD7870 GHz Edition Radeon R9 270X Radeon HD7790 GHz Edition
Radeon R7 260X
Stream processors
 2048 2048  1280 1280  896 896
Raster Operators
 32 32  32 32  16 16
Clock speed  1000MHz 820MHz  1000MHz 1000MHz  1000MHz 1100MHz
Boost speed  1050MHz 1000MHz  — 1050MHz  —  —
Memory speed  1500MHz 1375MHz  1200MHz 1400MHz  1500MHz 1625MHz
VRAM buffer  3GB 3GB  2GB 2GB  1GB 2GB
Bus width  384-bit 384-bit  256-bit 256-bit  128-bit 128-bit
AMD TrueAudio support
 No No  No No  No Yes
TDP  250W 250W  180W 180W  115W 115W
Launch price  $499 $299  $349 $199  $149 $139

The new cards basically chop off a lot from the original launch price and are pretty similar to their outgoing cousins. There are differences in clock speeds for both the GPU and memory. In the case of the R7 260X and the R9 270X, this makes the cards both cheaper and much faster, but the R9 280X is actually a tad slower than the GD7970 GHz Edition.

This is so that value-seekers will buy remaining stock of the HD7970 but also so that AMD has open space in its product stack for newer and better cards. As far as the competition goes, the table below shows which Geforce cards that AMD is targeting with the R-200 series.

Graphics card
Geforce GTX760
Radeon R9 280X Geforce GTX660
Radeon R9 270X Geforce GTX650 Ti Boost
Radeon R7 260X
Stream processors
1152 2048 960 1280 768 896
Raster Operators
32 32 32 32 24 16
Clock speed 980MHz 820MHz 980MHz 1000MHz 980MHz 1100MHz
Boost speed 1032MHz 1000MHz 1032MHz 1050MHz 1032MHz
Memory speed 1502MHz 1500MHz 1502MHz 1400MHz 1502MHz 1625MHz
VRAM buffer 2GB 3GB 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Bus width 256-bit 384-bit 192-bit 256-bit 192-bit 128-bit
TDP 170W 250W 140W 180W 134W 115W
Launch price $249 $299 $229 $199 $169 $139

The R9 280X is only $50 more than the GTX760 but offers performance that can approach a GTX770, which costs on average $100 more. It isn’t as power-efficient as the GTX760 but that’s acceptable considering it is a big value play for AMD. The GTX660 is likewise trampled by the R9 270X and actually comes pretty close in terms of power usage.

The only card that doesn’t offer the same benefit is the R7 260X. Based off Bonaire, which powered the Radeon HD7790, it loses out in both performance and efficiency compared to the GTX650 Ti Boost, but perhaps AMD will have an answer to that card in the future.

The benchmarks show this almost precisely, although the only outlier in PC Perspective’s tests is Skyrim, which might be memory frequency-sensitive in the areas they were using for benchmarking. That being said, the R9 280X is not only cheaper for AMD to make, its also much cheaper than the GTX770 it typically hangs with.

What the reviews say:

PC Perspective gave the Radeon R9 280X and the R9 270X both Silver awards, citing their solid performance at a lower price than their Geforce competitors as a key point to their success.

The R7 260X had an honorable mention, but isn’t as competitive with the GTX650 Ti Boost as was expected. PC Perspective also noted that the cards don’t win Gold awards just because of lingering issues with frame-rating on Eyefinity and older games.

Tom’s Hardware welcomed the rebranding and price drops because it put AMD in a stronger overall position in the market. They awarded the R9 280X the Smart Buy award, but felt that the R9 270X and the R7 260X weren’t special enough to be a better choice than the HD7870 and the HD7790.

Anandtech were hesitant to give the new cards any awards because the R-200 series doesn’t yet qualify for the Never Settle Forever bundle. This is a calculated effort, they say, to get stock of the HD7000 series out before they can do bundles on the new cards again. Anandtech liked the performance on offer at lower prices, however.

TechpowerUp liked all three cards but noted that the R9 270X and the R7 260X needed price drops to be truly attractive. They reviewed a non-reference version of the R9 280X and were disappointed in the cooler’s performance, which was made by MSI. They did caution users to not expect high overclocking headroom even though the cards may be theoretically able.

Hexus awarded the R9 280X and the R9 270X with their Good Value award and noted that the reference coolers are well-made and perform on par with reference designs from Nvidia.

Sources: PC Perspective, Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech, TechpowerUp, Hexus

More Hardware news:

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Radeon R9-290X benchmarks give GTX Titan a run

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AMD Radeon R-200 series review roundup

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