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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 | 12:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

isn't it 512 bit for Memory interface (or something)??

October 8, 2013 | 12:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That's the 290x which will be unveiled a little later on.

October 8, 2013 | 12:57 AM - Posted by Eradikation (not verified)

Has anyone not figured out that Bioshock uses more then 2 gigs of ram yet at ultra? Those performance hitches are the ram swapping constantly. I have gtx 670 sli 2gb and a single gtx 770 4gb in two different systems. The gtx 770 plays completely hitch free on ultra using over 2.4 gigs at times smooth as butter. I have to drop texture quality and ambient occlusion to even get close to the same smooth results with my gtx 670 sli even though framerate is almost doubled. Why nvidia is even bothering with 2gb on high end cards is beyond me.

October 8, 2013 | 01:05 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks for the tip - hopefully this is something NVIDIA can address sooner rather than later.

October 10, 2013 | 01:00 PM - Posted by BBMan (not verified)

Yes, memory is becoming a bigger issue all the time. In my case Rome Total War II. The rendering of myriads of objects has gotten to the point where the game points out the graphic memory inadequacy of my 1.5GB board and degrades the battle rendering accordingly. A title like this would invalidate some of these tests.

October 8, 2013 | 01:13 AM - Posted by biohazard918 (not verified)

The skip the skip the frame rating explanation link on page 5 takes you to the 7990 review.

October 8, 2013 | 01:30 AM - Posted by biohazard918 (not verified)

Also the transistor count on the 7970 and the 280X is wrong is should be 4.3 billion not 2.8

October 8, 2013 | 04:06 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Fixed this last night, thanks!

October 8, 2013 | 07:58 PM - Posted by ea1985 (not verified)

Also on the 3DMark page, last sentence...

"...it gets beat at the Normal preset by a $100 more expensive GPU."

LESS expensive??

October 8, 2013 | 01:42 AM - Posted by jake (not verified)

any release date specified yet?

October 8, 2013 | 12:37 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Looks like 10/11.

October 8, 2013 | 02:05 AM - Posted by capawesome9870

this will be my first crossfire build. i currently already have a FX8350 and a HD7870. i will not be able to buy a second 7870 for at least 4 months;

If newegg is not selling the 7870 anymore could i pickup a R9 270x and crossfire it to a 7870?

they are the same GPU or is it locked to the same generation of card?

October 8, 2013 | 03:34 AM - Posted by Humanitarian

Why not just buy another 7870? They're identical.

October 8, 2013 | 09:42 AM - Posted by snook

his question is related to the fact that 7870 may not be available by the time he has the money. discontinued basically.

October 8, 2013 | 09:48 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

I believe in the article Ryan says that you can CrossFire the different generations of cards.  So the R7 270X will be compatible with the HD 7870.

October 8, 2013 | 04:30 PM - Posted by capawesome9870

thanks, after you said this i went and read the pages i did not read. i found it on page 3.

October 8, 2013 | 03:01 AM - Posted by Irishgamer01

Noticed your value for money graphic doesn't have the 7970?

An opps we forgot moment or Amd are big advertisers and we will help them make this relaunch of old cards seem exciting.

Clearly people with older cards not in the know could well purchase these cards as an update, when they are not.

You should be shouting from the roof tops this is a con job of the highest order.

Having said that there is no doubt they are a value option in their respective segments and as such should stand alone on that point alone. Not Rehashed.

This comment is in memory of my 7990 which caught fire and died three days ago. (Yes I do mean caught fire, flames and all)

RIP

October 8, 2013 | 09:50 AM - Posted by snook

you didn't read the article. Ryan: "(BTW, you will likely find deals on Radeon HD 7000-series cards while inventory is cleared, so you might want to jump on them.)"

that is after clearly stating they are essentially the same card. with a different eyefinity setup.

Nvidia did the same thing: GTX760, GTX770 are not new.

but, at least you are accusing them of pay-offs from AMD, while most claim it's Nvidia.

October 8, 2013 | 03:37 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yeah, we must be dong something right if we are being accussed of pay offs from both sides hah!

October 8, 2013 | 06:04 PM - Posted by Irishgamer01

Since you didn't answer the question then I take it the answer is yes?

October 8, 2013 | 11:57 PM - Posted by snook

it was answered, in the article

October 9, 2013 | 02:07 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

What was the question? The 7970s are being EOLed so they will not be available at retail after stock is depleted afaik. It is detailed on the first page that the 280X is essentially the same card as the 7970...

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

As an AMD fan I was expecting too much from these new cards. It turns out that we have nothing new and I would have to wait for Nvidia hopping that they will do something better. Disappointed....

October 8, 2013 | 03:38 AM - Posted by Humanitarian

A true AMD fan would know these are refreshed cards. Nothing new has come out as of yet.

Dayum, step up your fanboyism.

October 8, 2013 | 04:15 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

A true AMD fan is expecting more from his favorite company. If not better hardware at least a price war. Nothing happened. Now Nvidia is lowering the prices of Ti boost and 660. Instead of AMD being on the offensive you have Nvidia doing that. I guess AMD can not give fast HD7000 cards at lower prices than.... yesterday AND Mantle together to the PC user. It will be a disaster for Sony AND Microsoft in the end a disaster for AMD.

October 8, 2013 | 04:48 AM - Posted by Remon (not verified)

The R9 280X is competing with the 770 and is 100$ cheaper. The 270X is competing with a card that costs 50$. Were you expecting them for free maybe?

October 8, 2013 | 05:11 AM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

R9 280X is the same as 7970, 270X is the same as 7870, 260X is the same+audio as the 7790 and the smaller cards are worst than 7770/7750/7730.
Also this is 2013, not 2012.
If you like buying last year's cards with new names at the same prices they where yesterday, well, it's your money, no problem for me.

October 8, 2013 | 09:53 AM - Posted by snook

again, Ryan stated that the 280X is lower in price than the 7970 Ghz edition it replaces, compared to last months pricing.

it's like you guys just want to hate, fuck reading

October 8, 2013 | 12:43 PM - Posted by JohnGR (not verified)

I am not talking about 280X only, but you are write, F%^& reading just go and find hate in a post that you don't approve.

October 9, 2013 | 12:01 AM - Posted by snook

understood, the 280X was an example. the article lays out, how and what, they match up to (280X, 270X, 260X) from the previous cards (7970...etc.)

the article is clear that these are rebrands and that the 290X is the real card we are waiting on.

hence, RTFA

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