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AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X Review

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

Closing Thoughts

Even though we are looking at the same GPUs and performance levels that are consistent with products that have been available since 2011, there is a lot of information to digest and discuss.  Hopefully you paid attention to our performance results on the previous page as we go into summation mode.

 

Performance

Yes, it is very true: the R9 and R7 cards we tested here today are essentially the same hardware we have had on the market since Tahiti was first released in December of 2011.  Need more proof?  Check out the table of specification comparisons below.

  R9 280X HD 7970 GHz R9 270X HD 7870 GHz R7 260X HD 7790
Process 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
Transistors 4.3 billion 4.3 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion 2.08 billion 2.08 billion
Shaders 2048 2048 1280 1280 896 896
Clock Speed 1000 MHz 1050 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz 1100 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Width 384-bit 384-bit 256-bit 256-bit 128-bit 128-bit
Memory Clock 1500 MHz 1500 MHz 1400 MHz 1200 MHz 1625 MHz 1500 MHz
Compute Perf 4.1 TFLOPS 4.3 TFLOPS 2.69 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS 1.97 TFLOPS 1.79 TFLOPS
Texture Units 128 128 80 80 56 56
ROPs 32 32 32 32 16 16
Frame Buffer 3GB 3GB 2GB 2GB 2GB 1GB

Interestingly, the only card that takes a step back in performance is the R9 280X, running just about 50 MHz slower than the HD 7970 GHz Edition it is replacing.  Many (if not most) retail cards will run at overclocked settings so the differences will be minimal but obviously AMD made this decision to improve yields and reach the best margins they could with the price drop they were targeting.  The R9 270X and the R7 260X are actually increases in specifications and performance with higher clock speeds and higher theoretical compute levels. 

So while the performance of all three new cards was very predictable, the performance gaps created by the repositioning of the product stack from AMD create some very glaring problems for NVIDIA.  At the $299 price level NVIDIA has no direct competitor and instead the R9 280X finds itself sandwiched by the GTX 760 at $249 and the GTX 770 at $399.  In many cases, the R9 280X is performing as well as or better than the GTX 770 that also has 50% less memory as well; not a good spot to be in if you're NVIDIA.

The R9 270X is in similarly good shape - at $199 the GTX 660 2GB competition (also at $199) falls behind in our game testing consistently and dramatically.  The GTX 760 is a strong contender to it but at a price increase of 25%.

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NVIDIA did get some good news with the R7 260X as it wasn't able to really push ahead of the GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB card.  With price cuts that were announced on Monday by NVIDIA, the 2GB model of the card is currently selling for $149 outright and as low as $129 with rebates.  You can find 1GB models for $129 or $109 with rebates. Clearly the crowded market under $150 makes stand-out performance without cutting into your higher margin GPUs difficult. 

 

Performance per Dollar

As I like to do with new card releases, I made a few graphs to demonstrate the relative performance per dollar of the R9 280X and R9 270X as well as the competing NVIDIA products.  The prices these graphs are based on are seen below in the Pricing and Availability section.

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These graphs show you the FPS per dollar investment for a single graphics cards, though with a 100x multiplier to make it all easier to read.  The winner in all three results is the Radeon R9 270X for all competitors.  The R9 280X is significantly more efficient than the GTX 770 and comes out ahead of the GTX 760 in all three cases as well. 

 

Features and Updates

While we were definitely hoping that with this new product stack update would be a driver release to fix frame pacing in Eyefinity and 4K resolutions, that isn't in the cards quite yet.  The company has committed to get the fix in sometime this fall, but that still doesn't help HD 7000 users or buyers of these new R9 cards. 

The best update that finds its way across the entire lineup is the easier Eyefinity integration that can now be configured without the need for a DisplayPort enabled monitor or active DisplayPort adapter.  That might not seem like a big deal for most users it brings the technology to parity with NVIDIA and its Surround integration options.  I am also a fan of the move to a more standardized output configuration with a pair of dual-link DVI connections and full-size HDMI and DisplayPort.

AMD TrueAudio seems exciting but without games that really take advantage of it or even demos that we can run locally, I am going to withhold judgment on the capabilities of programmable audio.  Perhaps we'll have more information by the time the R9 290X makes its way out the door...

 

Pricing and Availability

We have been talking about the pricing of these news cards throughout the story as it really is the key to AMD's success.  But let's recap:

UPDATE: AMD tells me that the R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X will be in stores on October 11th. 

You may notice some lower than expected prices on the HD 7000 series analogs to the cards above, but those are going to be very short lived as the 7970, 7870 and 7790 find their way out the door.  I don't expect there to be any kind of stock issues for these cards as the 28nm process and GPU demand are well known for AMD at this point in the Tahiti lifespan. 

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But what about those incredibly successful Never Settle bundles?  Well apparently they are taking a break as none of the new cards will be included in any game bundle offers at all.  Considering the huge push that AMD has made with Never Settle packages and the emphasis the company put on the marketing efforts during the Hawaii tech day I find the lack free games slightly confusing...

Clearly NVIDIA needs to make some adjustments to remain competitive in the battle of performance per dollar with the GTX 660, GTX 760 and GTX 770.  When they will do so, and how aggressive they get, is still up in the air.

 

Closing Thoughts

There is very little new about the technology behind the R9 and R7 series of graphics cards.  But the price drops alone would be a huge story even if AMD wasn't also rebranding everything to a new naming scheme at the same time.  The R9 280X is clearly and without question the best graphics card for $299 and the same is clear for the R9 270X at $199.  NVIDIA has no option today that is currently priced to compete with the performance these two cards can now flaunt.  AMD is definitely going to get some attention with this release.

The R7 260X is just fine and is competitive against the likes of the GTX 650 Ti Boost but loses the performance battle more than it wins it, leaving me much less impressed with the positioning AMD has put it in. 

At this point I would normally give a product with this much praise our highest awards but there is one issue that prevents me from doing so.  The ugly words that AMD hates: frame pacing.  AMD still has some work to do to match the multi-GPU scaling capabilities of NVIDIA's GeForce line especially in the fields of Eyefinity and 4K gaming.  Single monitor issues have been mostly addressed and once AMD's driver team can release an update for single large surface resolutions then the products being showcased today are going to burst into the spotlight again.

As it stands today though, if you know you are a single GPU gamer, or have no plans to go beyond a single panel display configuration, the Radeon R9 280X and R9 270X are the best GPU options I can point you to.

Now if only we could start talking about this R9 290X that keeps getting teased...

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AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB

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AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB

 

 

October 8, 2013 | 12:03 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

PS. Like the photo spread of the cards....size and shots.
Very good work.

October 8, 2013 | 09:39 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks!

October 8, 2013 | 12:12 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

I am looking at those slides from AMD comparing R9 and R7 to HD5000 and HD6000 for 10 minutes and I try to understand what the hell is going on here? Was HD7000 never existed or is AMD feeling that it's customers have the memory of a goldfish and no brain at all?

October 8, 2013 | 12:43 AM - Posted by Humanitarian

This 290(x) better not be stillborn, I really want some top-end competition.

October 8, 2013 | 06:55 AM - Posted by snook

me too. It has to directly compete with the GTX780 or it's a loss in my mind.

October 8, 2013 | 01:25 AM - Posted by Howie Doohan (not verified)

Something odd about these prices, if the 280X is around $300 and the 290X is according to rumours around $600-700 what will fill the large gap? Could there be a 290X cutdown chip on the horizon?

October 8, 2013 | 06:58 AM - Posted by snook

I'll bet the 290X come in at $500-550. no way they price it equal to higher than the GTX780.

unless, they are retarded.

October 8, 2013 | 09:40 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

That is my concern as well.  A huge price gap between the 280X and 290 series would leave a gap in product stack that NVIDIA could go after.

October 8, 2013 | 02:45 PM - Posted by nobody special (not verified)

Did they really lower the price when you don't get 3-4 AAA games now? NV cards still come with Batman Arkham Origins (AAA surely and not even out yet) and a few with Rise of the Triad also (evga's come with both).

Not to mention only a fool buys stock when you can get 3 cards on newegg that are 100mhz faster for $249, and for $259 you can get the Zotac that is 140mhz faster and has memory OC'd 200mhz too over what you're testing here. So basically add another 12% to your scores and remember 1 or 2 free games vs 0. When I can get an OC card that is the same price as a company's set price I call that the new ref card :) You wouldn't buy a ref clocked card for the same price would you? $249 is the cheapest.

Evga, MSI, Gigabyte ($249) and Zotac at $259 at newegg, all are over 100mhz faster. Who buys these ref clocked cards? Newegg displays the speeds for everyone to see on one page. I'm surprise anyone can sell a ref clocked card. Zotac's is 1111/1176 as opposed to your tested 980/1033 probably.

At the same time, I suspect most card makers will clock 280x the same as ghz editions anyway. Having said that, people should just buy OC'd 7970's and take the games if they want AMD. But I don't think the situation is quite as bad as said here considering the games and price for an OC 760 card out of the box (many brands). NV will just adjust prices, uplock a model or two and drop everything else down in a few weeks (before black friday no doubt). They have profits they can take a dip on, AMD cutting just means break even or losses yet again. AMD on the other hand owes $200mil note to GF in Dec which will likely wipe out any profits from these cards and xmas console sales. I hope for their sake, Hawaii is phenomenal.

October 8, 2013 | 12:40 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

There are rumors of a "R9 290" but I haven't read much on the rumors except the name.

October 8, 2013 | 09:08 PM - Posted by snook

Tim, this would be cool. If the 290 competes with the 780 and the 290X with the titan. then the 290X price could be as high as they want, lol

October 8, 2013 | 01:31 AM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Hrm, good to see that the 280x is at least on par with the GTX 770. But doesn't seem like i need to upgrade from my GTX 680 yet.

October 8, 2013 | 03:34 AM - Posted by WantT100 (not verified)

after 2 years we receive the same cards again. what a yawn fest.

October 8, 2013 | 07:00 AM - Posted by snook

except for the one I suspect they have tested (290X), but an NDA keeps us from knowing the results.

October 8, 2013 | 12:06 PM - Posted by icebug

Do you think that vendors will continue selling the "soon to be forgotten about" cards such as the 7950? I don't see any mention of the cards in between the cards "released" with this new series.

October 8, 2013 | 12:12 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

They will continue to sell them as long as they last but I think the HD 7000 series is soon going to MIA and EOL.

October 8, 2013 | 03:15 PM - Posted by icebug

Let's just hope that they get a solid fix in place for Eyefinity CF before all of these cards are out of stock.

October 8, 2013 | 02:21 PM - Posted by option25

I'm wondering why they would release they're slower-rehashed cards first and sit on the 290X/290. With the big games coming soon you would think they would be pushing them as much as possible now as the green team has nothing to counter. I hope I'm wrong but maybe AMDs upcoming flagship won't compete directly with Nvidia's existing top end chips, hmm, but that has to be wrong right. It's got to be more powerful then the GTX 780, we hope for the sake of the consumer anyway. I guess AMD could be waiting to see what Nvidia is going to do about these new parts. Let's play the waiting game again! Anyone know when we'll have (exciting) news or release dates on new AMD top end card(s)?

October 8, 2013 | 02:43 PM - Posted by sosna (not verified)

Since the article mentions that the video outputs of the 280x have changed to similar to the 700 nvidia series,can a 280x do 120hz eyefinity with the use of only one dual link display port to dvi adapter -or is it the same like the 7970 which required 2 adapters-?

thanks

October 9, 2013 | 10:11 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Interesting question, I'll check!

October 8, 2013 | 03:09 PM - Posted by Daniel Masterson (not verified)

Except for the 290X these cards are very underwhelming. I was really hoping for something different instead of more 7000 cards.

October 8, 2013 | 03:36 PM - Posted by Eradikation (not verified)

It's amazing 2 years later they still can't get multi gpu configurations right but they can re release old hardware as new. None of the offerings can compete with sli 670s or higher. Gtx 700 series may not be quite the new but they directly replaced their elders with price while boosting performance. What good is releasing new cards with crossfire capabilities when it still doesn't work.

What good is eyefinity when no amd card has enough power to play newer games at that resolution and multi gpu just plain don't work correctly at any resolution. I always bought amd cards since it was ati when 3dfx folded. I always believed they were the better value but their has been trash support the past years and to believe they just recently acknowledged crossfire to be a problem is beyond me. So glad I spent saved a few extra and went with the company who provides real support and real fixes for their problems. Scary to think amd is leading us into a new console generation with sub-par gpus. Eeek

October 9, 2013 | 10:13 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

To be fair AMD has addressed frame pacing CrossFire issues on single monitor (2560x1600 and under) configurations since August 1st.  It's not perfect yet, but it's much better than it was.

October 8, 2013 | 06:05 PM - Posted by Nacelle

I don't supposed they mentioned anything about Crossfire + Eyefinity working correctly this time around?

October 9, 2013 | 10:14 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

I do mention that in the story.  CF + EF still isn't fixed on these cards yet.

October 8, 2013 | 09:04 PM - Posted by snook

Ryan, your next article should just be blank with instructions
to fill out the information as we please. That way we can all be satisfied we are glorious opinions.

October 9, 2013 | 10:14 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

LOL  :D

October 9, 2013 | 06:21 AM - Posted by snook

ugh, pre-order sites have it at $650-729.

this is not good. hope they are wrong

October 9, 2013 | 11:54 AM - Posted by PapaDragon

Great Review and Video Showcase Ryan. That Asus 280x looks amazing. The price /performance of the 7970, I mean the 280X makes it even better as Im looking to upgrade from my 1gb 7850 to play Battlefield 3 at Ultra at 1080p, which is essentially the only game I play. Bf4 beta isnt to kind to it(7850) either, hopefully I will upgrade son.

Anyhow, keep up the great work, waiting anxiously for the Juggernaut 290X and 290 review!

October 9, 2013 | 04:16 PM - Posted by dredz1985 (not verified)

I don't understand what all the hate with these cards is about. If you are someone that is coming from say a card 3 gens ago then this is a good deal. The price is 300 for a card that can max out any game right now at 1080p and even at 1440p depending on the game.if your not going to buy it then just Waite for the 290x which is expecting to be 600. Not everyone has that type of money

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