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

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Manufacturer: AMD

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.

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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.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X and R7 260X!!!

The most important change for the R9 280X is price.  Starting at $299 for reference clocked models this is essentially giving Tahiti a discount of $60-80 compared to prices from just last month.  (BTW, you will likely find deals on Radeon HD 7000-series cards while inventory is cleared, so you might want to jump on them.)  Let’s also consider than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition card launched in June 2012 with a price of $499, $200 higher than the cost for essentially the same product today. 

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Because we are basically looking at the same ASIC and board design for the R9 280X as with the HD 7970, board partners like ASUS are ready with custom designs out of the gate. 

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For our R9 280X testing AMD sent along an ASUS TOP model that comes overclocked out of the box at 1070 MHz core and 1600 MHz memory.  Obviously for our testing today I turned down the clock speeds to match reference specifications but we'll spend more time with the ASUS model in an upcoming review.

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The R9 280X requires a 6+8 power configuration and ASUS has made the decision to turn them around 180 degrees to keep the cooler shroud from interfering with installation or removal. 

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The output configuration is ideal with the ASUS R9 280X as well - with a pair of DL-DVI outputs, a full-size HDMI port and a full-size DisplayPort.

 

AMD Radeon R9 270X – Pitcairn to Curacao

The next card down the updated AMD Radeon products stack is the R9 270X and will hit a price point of $199.  The analog card from the previous product stack is the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, otherwise known as the Pitcairn GPU.  The reference card I received from AMD actually had a label on the back that indicated a new ASIC name of Curacao, though when prodded for an answer AMD finally admitted that it was in fact NOT a new chip at all.  Oh well, take that for what you will.

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The core clock speed of the R9 270X is 1.05 GHz (up to, thanks to Turbo clocks) which gives it a 50 MHz increase over the HD 7870 GHz Edition.  As a result, the theoretical peak performance jumps a bit from 2.56 TFLOPS to 2.69 TFLOPS as does board power from 175 watts to 180 watts.  The 256-bit memory bus is running at a noticeably higher speed though: up to 5.6 GHz from 4.8 GHz which should push memory bandwidth up to 179.2 GB/s. 

But again, the other specifications remain the same.  That means a 2.8 billion transistor 28nm chip with 1280 shader cores, 80 texture units and 32 ROPs.  The memory bus is backed by 2GB of frame buffer by default but you can expect to see 4GB options for about $30 more.

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I mentioned the price of $199 above, and while that is lower than the HD 7870 GHz Edition was selling for last month, it’s not by much.  A quick look at PC Part Picker showed several models selling for $215-225 in early September.

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Our AMD Radeon R9 270X testing was done with a reference sample that keeps the rather nice black/red design theme shown off at the GPU14 tech day event and live stream last month. 

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The 270X only requires a 6+6 configuration for power.

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AMD is definitely pushing this updated output configuration as the R9 270X reference card uses it as well.

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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