AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X Review
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.
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|
|Transistors||4.3 billion||4.3 billion||2.8 billion||2.8 billion||2.08 billion||2.08 billion|
|Clock Speed||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||1050 MHz||1000 MHz||1100 MHz||1000 MHz|
|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|
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%.
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.
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:
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB - $399 (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB - $299 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 2GB - $249 (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB - $199 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 2GB - $189 (Newegg.com)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB - $149 (Newegg.com)
- AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB - $139 (Newegg.com)
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.
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.
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...
AMD Radeon R9 280X 3GB
AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB