A slightly new architecture
Last month AMD brought media, analysts, and customers out to Hawaii to talk about a new graphics chip coming out this year. As you might have guessed based on the location: the code name for this GPU was in fact, Hawaii. It was targeted at the high end of the discrete graphics market to take on the likes of the GTX 780 and GTX TITAN from NVIDIA.
Earlier this month we reviewed the AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and the R7 260X. None of these were based on that new GPU. Instead, these cards were all rebrands and repositionings of existing hardware in the market (albeit at reduced prices). Those lower prices made the R9 280X one of our favorite GPUs of the moment as it offers performance per price points currently unmatched by NVIDIA.
But today is a little different, today we are talking about a much more expensive product that has to live up to some pretty lofty goals and ambitions set forward by the AMD PR and marketing machine. At $549 MSRP, the new AMD Radeon R9 290X will become the flagship of the Radeon brand. The question is: to where does that ship sail?
The AMD Hawaii Architecture
To be quite upfront about it, the Hawaii design is very similar to that of the Tahiti GPU from the Radeon HD 7970 and R9 280X cards. Based on the same GCN (Graphics Core Next) architecture AMD assured us would be its long term vision, Hawaii ups the ante in a few key areas while maintaining the same core.
Hawaii is built around Shader Engines, of which the R9 290X has four. Each of these includes 11 CU (compute units) which hold 4 SIMD arrays each. Doing the quick math brings us to a total stream processor count of 2,816 on the R9 290X.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 17, 2013 - 04:37 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, amd
The NDA on AMD R9 290X benchmarks has not yet lifted but AMD was in Montreal to provide two previews: BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider, both at 4K (3840 x 2160). Keep in mind, these scores are provided by AMD and definitely does not represent results from our monitor-capture solution. Expect more detailed results from us, later, as we do some Frame Rating.
The test machine used in both setups contains:
- Intel Core i7-3960X at 3.3 GHz
- MSI X79A-GD65
- 16GB of DDR3-1600
- Windows 7 SP1 64-bit
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 (331.40 drivers) / AMD Radeon R9 290X (13.11 beta drivers)
The R9 290X is configured in its "Quiet Mode" during both benchmarks. This is particularly interesting, to me, as I was unaware of such feature (it has been a while since I last used a desktop AMD/ATi card). I would assume this is a fan and power profile to keep noise levels as silent as possible for some period of time. A quick Google search suggests this feature is new with the Radeon Rx200-series cards.
BioShock Infinite is quite demanding at 4K with ultra quality settings. Both cards maintain an average framerate above 30FPS.
AMD R9 290X "Quiet Mode": 44.25 FPS
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780: 37.67 FPS
(Update 1: 4:44pm EST) AMD confirmed TressFX is disabled in these benchmark scores. It, however, is enabled if you are present in Montreal to see the booth. (end of update 1)
Tomb Raider is also a little harsh at those resolutions. Unfortunately, the results are ambiguous whether or not TressFX has been enabled throughout the benchmarks. The summary explicitly claims TressFX is enabled, while the string of settings contains "Tressfx=off". Clearly, one of the two entries is a typo. We are currently trying to get clarification. In the mean time:
AMD R9 290X "Quiet Mode": 40.2 FPS
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780: 34.5 FPS
Notice how both of these results are not compared to a GeForce Titan. Recent leaks suggest a retail price for AMD's flagship card in the low-$700 market. The GeForce 780, on the other hand, resides in the $650-700 USD price point.
It seems pretty clear, to me, that cost drove this comparison rather than performance.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | October 17, 2013 - 03:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, radeon
In summary, "We don't know yet".
We do know of a story posted by Fudzilla which cited Roy Taylor, VP of Global Channel Sales, as a source confirming the reintroduction of Never Settle for the new "Rx200" Radeon cards. Adding credibility, Roy Taylor retweeted the story via his official account. This tweet is still there as I write this post.
The Tech Report, after publishing the story, was contacted by Robert Hallock of AMD Gaming and Graphics. The official word, now, is that AMD does not have any announcements regarding bundles for new products. He is also quoted, "We continue to consider Never Settle bundles as a core component of AMD Gaming Evolved program and intend to do them again in the future".
So, I (personally) see promise in that we will see a new Never Settle bundle. For the moment, AMD is officially silent on the matter. Also, we do not know (and, it is possible, neither does AMD at this time) which games will be included and how many users can claim if there will even be a choice at all.
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 10, 2013 - 03:29 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, r9 270x, GCN, sapphire, toxic edition, factory overclocked
We saw the release of the reference R9s yesterday and today we get to see the custom models such as the Sapphire TOXIC R9 270X which Legit Reviews just finished benchmarking. The TOXIC sports a 100MHz overclock on both GPU and RAM as well as a custom cooler with three fans. While it remains a two slot GPU it is longer than the reference model and requires a full foot of clearance inside the case. Read on to see what kind of performance boost you can expect and how much further you can push this card.
"When it comes to discrete graphics, the $199 price point is known as the gamer’s sweet spot by both AMD and NVIDIA. This is arguably the front line in the battle for your money when it coming to gaming graphics cards. The AMD Radeon R9 270X is AMD’s offering to gamers at this competitive price point. Read on to see how it performs!"
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte Radeon R9 270X WindForce OC 2GB @ eTeknix
- ASUS Radeon R9 270X Direct CU II TOP 2GB @ eTeknix
- MSI Radeon R9 270X Hawk Edition Video Card Review @HiTech Legion
- Gigabyte R9 270X Windforce @ LanOC Reviews
- Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition OC 3GB @ Kitguru
- MSI Radeon R9 270X GAMING 2GB @ Benchmark Reviews
- AMD Radeon R9 280X / R9 270X from ASUS and MSI @ Hardware.info
- ASUS R9 270X Direct CU II TOP @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte Radeon R9 270X OC 2GB Video Card Review @ HiTech Legion
- ASUS R9 280X Matrix Platinum @ Kitguru
- Will it Crossfire? R9 280X & HD 7970 Scaling Tested @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD Radeon R9 280X Graphics Card Review @ Techgage
- AMD Radeon R7 260X Versus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost @ Legit Reviews
Subject: Graphics Cards | October 8, 2013 - 05:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, GCN, graphics core next, hd 7790, hd 7870 ghz edition, hd 7970 ghz edition, r7 260x, r9 270x, r9 280x, radeon, ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP
AMD's rebranded cards have arrived, though with a few improvements to the GCN architecture that we already know so well. This particular release seems to be focused on price for performance which is certainly not a bad thing in these uncertain times. The 7970 GHz Edition launched at $500, while the new R9 280X will arrive at $300 which is a rather significant price drop and one which we hope doesn't damage AMD's bottom line too badly in the coming quarters. [H]ard|OCP chose the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP to test, with a custom PCB from ASUS and a mild overclock which helped it pull ahead of the 7970 GHz. AMD has tended towards leading off new graphics card families with the low and midrange models, we have yet to see the top of the line R9 290X in action yet.
Ryan's review, including frame pacing, can be found right here.
"We evaluate the new ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP video card and compare it to GeForce GTX 770 and Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. We will find out which video card provides the best value and performance in the $300 price segment. Does it provide better performance a than its "competition" in the ~$400 price range?"
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- AMD's Radeon R7 260X @ The Tech Report
- AMD's Radeon R9 280X and 270X @ The Tech Report
- AMD Radeon R9 270X & R7 260X Review @ Neoseeker
- AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB @ eTeknix
- AMD Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X and R9 280X @ Hardware.info
- Sapphire AMD Radeon R9 280X Vapor-X OC 3GB @ eTeknix
- Radeon R9 270X and R7 260X @ TechSpot
- AMD Radeon R9 270X & R7 260X @ Legion Hardware
- AMD Radeon R9 270X & R7 260X Review @ Hardware Canucks
- AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Sapphire R9 280X Vapor X @ Kitguru
- AMD R7 260X @ Kitguru
- AMD R9 270X @ Kitguru
The AMD Radeon R9 280X
Today marks the first step in an introduction of an entire AMD Radeon discrete graphics product stack revamp. Between now and the end of 2013, AMD will completely cycle out Radeon HD 7000 cards and replace them with a new branding scheme. The "HD" branding is on its way out and it makes sense. Consumers have moved on to UHD and WQXGA display standards; HD is no longer extraordinary.
But I want to be very clear and upfront with you: today is not the day that you’ll learn about the new Hawaii GPU that AMD promised would dominate the performance per dollar metrics for enthusiasts. The Radeon R9 290X will be a little bit down the road. Instead, today’s review will look at three other Radeon products: the R9 280X, the R9 270X and the R7 260X. None of these products are really “new”, though, and instead must be considered rebrands or repositionings.
There are some changes to discuss with each of these products, including clock speeds and more importantly, pricing. Some are specific to a certain model, others are more universal (such as updated Eyefinity display support).
Let’s start with the R9 280X.
AMD Radeon R9 280X – Tahiti aging gracefully
The AMD Radeon R9 280X is built from the exact same ASIC (chip) that powers the previous Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition with a few modest changes. The core clock speed of the R9 280X is actually a little bit lower at reference rates than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition by about 50 MHz. The R9 280X GPU will hit a 1.0 GHz rate while the previous model was reaching 1.05 GHz; not much a change but an interesting decision to be made for sure.
Because of that speed difference the R9 280X has a lower peak compute capability of 4.1 TFLOPS compared to the 4.3 TFLOPS of the 7970 GHz. The memory clock speed is the same (6.0 Gbps) and the board power is the same, with a typical peak of 250 watts.
Everything else remains the same as you know it on the HD 7970 cards. There are 2048 stream processors in the Tahiti version of AMD’s GCN (Graphics Core Next), 128 texture units and 32 ROPs all being pushed by a 384-bit GDDR5 memory bus running at 6.0 GHz. Yep, still with a 3GB frame buffer.
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Shows and Expos | September 25, 2013 - 05:23 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, R9, R7, GPU14, amd
The next generation of AMD graphics processors are being announced this afternoon. They carefully mentioned this event is not a launch. We do not yet know, although I hope we will learn today, when you can give them your money.
When you can, you will have five products to choose from:
- R7 250
- R7 260X
- R9 270X
- R9 280X
- R9 290X
AMD only provides 3D Mark Fire Strike scores for performance. I assume they are using the final score, and not the "graphics score" although they were unclear.
The R7 250 is the low end card of the group with 1GB of GDDR5. Performance, according to 3DMark scores (>2000 on Fire Strike), is expected to be about two-thirds of what an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti can deliver. Then again, that card retails for about ~$130 USD. The R7 250 has an expected retail value of less than < $89 USD. This is a pretty decent offering which can probably play Battlefield 3 at 1080p if you play with the graphics quality settings somewhere around "medium". This is just my estimate, of course.
The R7 260X is the next level up. The RAM has been double over the R7 250 to 2GB of GDDR5 and its 3DMark score almost doubled, too (> 3700 on Fire Strike). This puts it almost smack dab atop the Radeon HD 6970. The R7 260X is about $20-30 USD cheaper than the HD 6970. The R7 is expected to retail for $139. Good price cut while keeping up to date on architecture.
The R9 270X is the low end of the high end parts. With 2GB of GDDR5 and a 3DMark Fire Strike score of >5500, this is aimed at the GeForce 670. The R7 270X will retail for around ~$199 which is about $120 USD cheaper than NVIDIA's offering.
The R9 280X should be pretty close to the 7970 GHz Edition. It will be about ~$90 cheaper with an expected retail value of $299. It also has a bump in frame buffer over the lower-tier R9 270X, containing 3GB of GDDR5.
Not a lot is known about the top end, R9 290X, except that it will be the first gaming GPU to cross 5 TeraFLOPs of compute performance. To put that into comparison, the GeForce Titan has a theoretical maximum of 4.5 TeraFLOPs.
If you are interested in the R9 290X and Battlefield 4, you will be able to pre-order a limited edition package containing both products. Pre-orders open "from select partners" October 3rd. For how much? Who knows.
We will keep you informed as we are informed. Also, the announcement is still going on, so tune in!
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 21, 2013 - 11:58 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, leak, hawaii, amd
What better way to spend your weekend than to comb over photos and graphs to try and figure out everything you can about the upcoming AMD Hawaii GPU just days before they announce it during a live stream? A collection of leaks including pictures and benchmarks made their way onto the web (they have a way of doing that) from our friends in China. I spotted a post from our buddy Hassan at WCCFTech that detailed much of the information available so far.
The first picture was actually posted by Johan Andersson, lead developer at DICE over Twitter with a not-too-vague comment about Hawaii and Volcanic Islands.
— Johan Andersson (@repi) September 21, 2013
A website with the convenient name of udteam.tistory.com posted images with quite a bit more detail including some with the cooler removed.
The GPU here is apparently going to be called the AMD Radeon R9-290X as AMD shifts to a completely new naming scheme with this generation. We already discussed an interview with AMD's Matt Skynner in which he said the die of Hawaii was 30% smaller than NVIDIA's GTX TITAN and would be more efficient per die area than the GeForce option.
Other specifications that have been compiled (that are still rumors really at this point) include a 512-bit memory interface (quad 128-bit controllers more than likely based on the memory layout), 4GB of GDDR5, 5+1 phase power and 8+6 pin power connections (very reasonable for a flagship). The die size is being estimated at 424 mm2 (larger than Radeon HD 7970 but smaller than TITAN) and price estimates are sitting at $599.
We even found a couple of benchmarks claiming to have performance results of this new beast of a GPU. Though the name of the card on the result is blocked out we are supposed to believe these are results from the AMD R9-290X and they are impressive if true. In both of the graphs here the new Hawaii GPU is faster than the $999 GeForce GTX TITAN at a significantly lower price!
All signs are pointing to AMD's next 28nm GPU to be a high end gamer's dream graphics card. That is, IF all these rumors and leaks turns out to be accurate. We still don't know the key data points like stream processor count, but we'll know it all in due time. (Maybe next week?) We still have concerns about the status of AMD's multi-GPU fixes but if the company can get that worked out in time for this relesae, I expect AMD to make a big splash this fall with a revamped Radeon brand.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 17, 2013 - 10:28 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: amd, radeon, hawaii
As we get closer and closer to the reveal of AMD's next generation graphics chip code named Hawaii, details will find their way out.
Tonight I came across an interview with AMD's Matt Skynner on Forbes.com that offered up one confirmation that we all suspected: AMD's Hawaii GPU will keep the same 28nm process technology utilized with the Radeon HD 7000 parts.
Another thing I can tell you is about the process node: this GPU is in 28nm. Some have speculated that it was 20nm and it’s not for a specific reason: At 28nm for an enthusiast GPU, we can achieve higher clock speeds and higher absolute performance.
Straight from the horses mouth. Based on those comments we can also assume that clock speeds will be higher than 1.0 - 1.1 GHz we are seeing today with the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition so performance increases will not be the sole result of shader count changes and increases.
Skynner also assures gamers they are not targeting the $999 price range, at least not initially.
They’re coming in Q4. I can’t reveal a pricepoint but we’re looking at more traditional enthusiast GPU pricepoints. We’re not targeting a $999 single GPU solution like our competition because we believe not a lot of people have that $999. We normally address what we call the ultra-enthusiast segment with a dual-GPU offering like the 7990. So this next-generation line is targeting more of the enthusiast market versus the ultra-enthusiast one.
AMD is targeting a much smaller die size that NVIDIA has with GK110, the latest iteration of NVIDIA's massive GPU offerings.
It’s also extremely efficient. [Nvidia's Kepler] GK110 is nearly 30% bigger from a die size point of view. We believe we have the best performance for the die size for the enthusiast GPU.
The rest of the interview is a little cookie-cutter though he does briefly reference some of the issues that have caught the Radeon HD 7990 by surprise.
Sorry, still no details on if/when Battlefield 4 will hit the Never Settle bundles!
Summary of Events
In January of 2013 I revealed a new testing methodology for graphics cards that I dubbed Frame Rating. At the time I was only able to talk about the process, using capture hardware to record the output directly from the DVI connections on graphics cards, but over the course of a few months started to release data and information using this technology. I followed up the story in January with a collection of videos that displayed some of the capture video and what kind of performance issues and anomalies we were able to easily find.
My first full test results were published in February to quite a bit of stir and then finally in late March released Frame Rating Dissected: Full Details on Capture-based Graphics Performance Testing which dramatically changed the way graphics cards and gaming performance was discussed and evaluated forever.
Our testing proved that AMD CrossFire was not improving gaming experiences in the same way that NVIDIA SLI was. Also, we showed that other testing tools like FRAPS were inadequate in showcasing this problem. If you are at all unfamiliar with this testing process or the results it showed, please check out the Frame Rating Dissected story above.
At the time, we tested 5760x1080 resolution using AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA Surround but found there were too many issues and problems with our scripts and the results they were presenting to give reasonably assured performance metrics. Running AMD + Eyefinity was obviously causing some problems but I wasn’t quite able to pinpoint what they were and how severe it might have been. Instead I posted graphs like this:
We were able to show NVIDIA GTX 680 performance and scaling in SLI at 5760x1080 but we only were giving results for the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition in a single GPU configuration.
Since those stories were released, AMD has been very active. At first they were hesitant to believe our results and called into question our processes and the ability for gamers to really see the frame rate issues we were describing. However, after months of work and pressure from quite a few press outlets, AMD released a 13.8 beta driver that offered a Frame Pacing option in the 3D controls that enables the ability to evenly space out frames in multi-GPU configurations producing a smoother gaming experience.
The results were great! The new AMD driver produced very consistent frame times and put CrossFire on a similar playing field to NVIDIA’s SLI technology. There were limitation though: the driver only fixed DX10/11 games and only addressed resolutions of 2560x1440 and below.
But the story won’t end there. CrossFire and Eyefinity are still very important in a lot of gamers minds and with the constant price drops in 1920x1080 panels, more and more gamers are taking (or thinking of taking) the plunge to the world of Eyefinity and Surround. As it turns out though, there are some more problems and complications with Eyefinity and high-resolution gaming (multi-head 4K) that are cropping up and deserve discussion.