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AMD Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X, and R9 280X Tested
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Date: Oct 08, 2013
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Related Information

A ton of AMD related news hit over the last couple of weeks, thanks in no small part to a multi-day event AMD held in Honolulu, Hawaii the company held to showcase all of its upcoming GPU technology. GPU14 Tech Day, as AMD called it, began with a quick talk from AMD’s Corporate Vice President, Visual Computing Division Raja Koduri at Diamond Head state monument, in which Mr. Koduri dismissed much of the recent doom and gloom—directed at both AMD and the PC market in general—and claimed AMD was poised for a comeback in his opinion. He also said it was his goal to better intermingle AMD’s hardware and software development teams to ultimately improve the company’s products, both in terms of performance and user experience.

But Koduri’s early talk was just a precursor to much bigger news that broke at the event. During a live webcast, a number of AMD execs and partners were brought out on stage to reveal myriad of new products and technologies, including the three graphics cards we’ll be showing you here, the Radeon R9 280X, the Radeon R9 270X, and Radeon R7 260X.


AMD's Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X and R9 280X

A few other lower-end cards, namely the R7 260 and R7 250, and the uber-powerful Radeon R9 290 and 290X were also revealed during the webcast, we be weren’t able to procure them just yet. It’s going to be a little while longer before we can show you what AMD’s latest high-end card can do, unfortunately.

In addition to the new graphics cards, AMD also used GPU14 Tech Day to unveil some new features, like the TrueAudio engine, and software tools, namely the AMD Gaming Evolved App and the programming API, codenamed Mantle.

Before we show you the Radeon R9 280X, the Radeon R9 270X, and Radeon R7 260X we want to quickly recap some of the software-related news that came out of GPU14, because it pertains to today’s launch as well. We’d suggest taking a look at these articles in particular:

AMD’s Mantle is a low-level API that’s designed to allow game developers to work ‘closer to the metal’ so to speak, to easier exploit the features and performance capabilities of AMD’s GCN-based graphics processors. Mantle is being co-developed with DICE, the makers of the Frostbite engine, and will debut in a patch coming in December for Battlefield 4.

The AMD Gaming Evolved App powered by Raptr gives AMD graphics card owners the ability to easily optimize their in-game settings with customized, optimal game profiles. Users of the utility will also accumulate real-life and digital rewards and will have the ability to live stream their games via sites like Twitch. The goal of the utility is to provide a simple, more console-like experience for PC gamers, looking to optimize the look and/or performance of their games without having to manually fiddle with complicated in-game menu systems.


TrueAudio Is Not Available On All Upcoming Radeons

And finally there’s TrueAudio. TrueAudio is a new positional and 3D spatial audio engine that will be available on the R9 290X, R9 290, and the R7 260X. To enable TrueAudio, AMD is working with audio middleware providers like Firelight Technologies (FMOD) and AudioKinetics (Wwise) to enable better positional audio that leverages a programmable audio pipeline that resides on the GPU.
 

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The Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X, and R9 280X

We’re going to compare and contrast the Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and Radeon R7 260X to their most closely-related cousins in the Radeon HD 7000 series, since the cards are ultimately very similar. In case you missed the news that hit last week, we should mention that the Radeon R9 280X is built around AMD’s Tahiti GPU, which also powers the Radeon HD 7970. The R9 270X features the same piece of silicon as the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and the Radeon R7 260X is powered by AMD’s Bonaire GPU, which first arrived on the Radeon HD 7790. These new cars, however, have been tweaked and enhanced in a number of ways.


  
Radeon R7 260X

  Radeon R7 260X Radeon HD 7790
Stream Processors  896 896 
Engine Clock  Up to 1.1GHz 1GHz
Compute Performance  1.97 TFLOPS 1.79 TFLOPS 
Memory Configuration  2GB / 128-Bit 1GB or 2GB / 128-Bit 
Memory Speed  6.5Gbps 6 Gbps 
Power Connectors  1 x 6-Pin 1 x 6-Pin 
Typical Board Power  115W 85W
PCI-E Standard  PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
API Support DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle
DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle

First up we have the Radeon R7 260X. As you can see in the spec table above, the Radeon R7 260X sports higher engine and memory clocks than the HD 7790 and 260X’s default memory configuration is 2GB as well. The card’s higher clocks result in increased compute performance (1.97 vs. 1.79 TFLOPS) and memory bandwidth, and an increased TDP as well. Outputs on the card consist of dual, dual-link DVIs, a full sized HDMI, and a DisplayPort. Though there are only four ports, the card can power up to 6 monitors through the use of a DisplayPort MST hub. This is true for the other cards shown here as well.


  
Radeon R9 270X

  Radeon R7 270X Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
Stream Processors 1280 1280
Engine Clock Up to 1.05 GHz 1GHz
Compute Performance  2.69 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS 
Memory Configuration  2GB or 4GB / 256-Bit 2GB / 256-Bit 
Memory Speed  5.6 Gbps 4.8 Gbps 
Power Connectors  2 x 6-Pin 2 x 6-Pin 
Typical Board Power  180W 175W
PCI-E Standard  PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
API Support DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle
DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle

Next up we have the Radeon R9 270X. The comparison between it and the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition also yields a number of similarities, and the R9 270X’s clocks have been goosed up as well. The R9 270X’s GPU clock peaks at up to 1.05GHz and its memory clock has been increased to an effective 5.6Gbps. Versus the 1GHz and 4.8Gbps of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, the Radeon R9 270X offers slightly higher compute performance (as seen in the table), but much more memory bandwidth--179.2GB/s vs. 153.6GB/s to be exact.

Other improvements to the R9 270X include tweak to its fan shroud, which is notched to allow for better airflow when two cards are installed in adjacent slots and the same output configuration as the Radeon R7 260X.


  
Radeon R9 280X

  Radeon R7 280X Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
Stream Processors 2048 2048
Engine Clock Up to 1GHz Up to 1.05GHz
Compute Performance 4.1 TFLOPS 4.3 TFLOPS 
Memory Configuration 3GB / 384-Bit 3GB / 384-Bit 
Memory Speed 6Gbps 6 Gbps 
Power Connectors 1 x 6-Pin, 1 x 8-Pin 1 x 6-Pin, 1 x 8-Pin
Typical Board Power 250W 250W
PCI-E Standard PCIe 3.0 PCIe 3.0
API Support DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle
DirectX 11.2
OpenGL 4.3
Mantle

And finally we have the Radeon R9 280X. The large image above is of a reference card, but word on the street is that virtually all R9 280X cards sold by AMD’s AIB partners will feature custom designs, like the XFX card also pictured above.

Unlike the Radeon R9 270X and R7 260X, however, the Radeon R9 280X isn’t clocked any higher than AMD’s current flagship Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. In fact, the R9 280X has a slightly lower peak engine clock, though memory bandwidth is similar.

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v4.0

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard powered by a Core i7-3960X six-core processor and 16GB of G.SKILL DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" default settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the hard drive was then formatted and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-3960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
Asus P9X79 Deluxe
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon R9 280x
Radeon R7 270x
Radeon R7 260x
Radeon HD 7790
Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition
Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost
GeForce GTX 660
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 770
GeForce GTX 780

16GB GSKILL DDR3-1866
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v13.11b1
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v331.40

Benchmarks Used:
Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Bioshock Infinite
Hitman: Absolution
Alien vs. Predator
Metro Last Light
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3
FRAPS + FCAT

Unigine Heaven v4.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming


Unigine Heaven v4.0

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v4.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.



We have a boatload of performance data to share with you all on the proceeding pages.  We thought it would be best to test AMD's newest cards alongside the models they'll be replacing using the same set of drivers--in this case the Catalyst 13.11 betas--along with competing products from NVIDIA, ranging from the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost to the GeForce GTX 780. We'd also like to point out that all of the GeForces were tested with the just recently released v331.40 drivers too. What all that means is that these numbers are as up-to-date as they could be as of this publication. If you'd like to see how everything from the Radeon HD 7790 to the GeForce GTX 780 perform with identical settings, we've got you covered.

With that said, AMD's new Radeon R9 and R7 series cards performed as expected in the Unigine Heaven benchmark. The Radeon R9 280X was just a hair faster than the Radeon HD 7970, the R9 270X snuck past the Radeon HD 7870, and the R7 260X outpaced the Radeon HD 7790. Sitting untouched at the top of the charts, however, were NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 770 and 780.

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3DMark Fire Strike Test

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike

Fire Strike has two benchmark modes: Normal mode runs in 1920x1080, while Extreme mode targets 2560x1440. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Extreme mode is explicitly designed for CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. And 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices and the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.



3DMark Fire Strike paints AMD's latest Radeon cards in a favorable light. The Radeon R9 280X performed right about on par with (though slightly behind) the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and just a hair better than the GeForce GTX 770. The Radeon HD 760X had no trouble outpacing the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and GeForce GTX 660, though the GTX 760 was markedly faster. The Radeon R7 260X, however, was only able to overtake the outmatched Radeon HD 7790.
 
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Alien vs. Predator Performance

Alien vs. Predator
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Alien vs. Predator

The Alien vs. Predator benchmark makes use of the advanced Tessellation, screen space ambient occlusion, and high-quality shadow features available with DirectX 11. In addition to enabling all of the aforementioned DirectX 11-related features offered by this benchmark, we also switched on 4X anti-aliasing along with 16X anisotropic filtering to more heavily tax the graphics cards being tested.



Our Alien vs. Predator numbers look very much like the 3DMark Fire Strike numbers on the previous page. The performance trend was identical, though the Radeon R7 260X came somewhat closer to the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost this time around.

Click for full resolution


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The performance data recorded with FCAT (Frame Capture Analysis Tools) doesn't show any major issues with any of the cards. The cadence was similar from card to card, though obviously the higher-performing products offered much lower frame latencies across the board.
 

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Metro Last Light Performance

Metro Last Light
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light is your typical post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment; rather, you’re left to deal with life, or lack thereof, more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. Metro Last Light boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform and includes a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with its in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.



The performance trend in the Metro Last Light benchmark looks much like Alien vs. Predator on the previous page. The Radeon R9 280X was slightly faster than the Radeon HD 7970, the R9 270X outran the Radeon HD 7870, and the R7 260X essentially tied with the Radeon HD 7790. Sitting in the pole position, however, was NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 780.




Click For Larger View

Save for some inconsistency about in the middle of the run with the lowest-end Radeons (the R7 260X and HD 7790), our FCAT data doesn't show anything to be concerned about.
 
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Bioshock Infinite Performance

Bioshock Infinite
DirectX Gaming Performance


Bioshock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is clear game-of-the-year material. The floating city of Columbia is one of the most evocative, intense, and gorgeous environments we've ever seen in a PC game -- but how much you like it may depend on what sort of visual wizardry you prefer. BioShock Infinite is built on Unreal Engine 3, and while it pushes that framework's capabilities into the stratosphere, there's a clear difference between BioShock Infinite and, say, Crysis 3. BioShock Infinite emphasizes light, color and motion, and while the characters look more exaggerated and cartoon-like than some other games, they still look great. We tested the game at various resolutions with its DX11 code path with DOF effects enabled.



The new Radeon R9 and R7 series cards performed relatively well in Bioshock Infinite, but didn't particularly impress. The R9 280X trailed the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition and high-end GeForces, while the Radeon R7 260X performed right about on-par with (though somewhat better than) the Radeon HD 7790. The Radeon R9 270X, however, showed measurable gains over the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and hung right alongside the GeForce GTX 660.




Click For Larger View

The Radeons showed a number of large spikes in frame time about 3/4 of the way into the benchmark run, and a few of the cards showed some weirdness at the beginning as well.  Save for the GTX 650 Ti, no such problems to report with the GeForces, however.
 

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Sleeping Dogs Performance

Sleeping Dogs
DX11 Gaming Performance


Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside. In the game, you have to fight your way up in the organization and take part in various criminal activities without blowing your cover. We tested Sleeping Dogs at two resolutions, with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values with FXAA enabled.



The Radeon R9 280X performed relatively well in this benchmark, outpacing the GeForce GTX 770 overall. The R9 270X also performed well and clearly outperformed the GeForce GTX 660. The extra frame buffer memory also helped the Radeon R7 270X here and allowed it to outshine the Radeon HD 7790 and GeForce GTX 60 Ti Boost at the higher resolution.




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Save for the Radeon HD 7790's big spike in frame time at the beginning of the run, there's not much to report on in these FCAT results.
 

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Hitman: Absolution Performance

Hitman: Absolution
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted - and now hunted by the police - he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world. We tested the game at multiple resolutions, with all in-game options set to their maximum values and global illumination and 4X anti-aliasing enabled.



The results from our Hitman Absolution tests are a mirror of many others we've seen up to this point. The new Radeon R9 280X trailed the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition by a small margin, the Radeon R9 270X performed right about on-par with or slightly better than the GeForce GTX 760, and the Radeon R7 260X clearly outpaced the Radeon HD 7790, but fell victim to the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. 




Click For Larger View

With the exception of the Radeon HD 7790, which was saddled with only a 1GB frame buffer and had some significant swings in frame latency, all of the cards pumped out frames with a similar cadence in this game. Though, obviously, the higher-performing cards cranked out the frames at a quicker rate.
 

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Crysis 3 Performance

Crysis 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Crysis 3

Crysis 3, which is powered by Crytek’s proprietary CryENGINE 3 technology, is the third installment in this popular franchise. Crysis 3 is the sequel to 2011’s Crysis 2 and follows Prophet as he returns to New York a few years after the events of Crysis 2. Like previous games in the franchise, Crysis 3 has impressive visuals that can tax even the most powerful PCs when cranked up to their maximum values. We tested this game at various resolutions with all in-game graphics options set to Very High, with 4X MSAA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled and motion blur set to high.



The performance trend in Crysis 3 was very similar to some of the other games we tested. Here, the Radeon R9 280X finished right alongside the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, but the Radeon R9 270X and R7 260X had no trouble dismantling (get it!) the 7870 GHz Edition and 7790.




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Once again, the Radeon HD 7790's 1GB frame buffer significantly hindered its performance, as evidenced by the rocky frame times. Nothing out of the ordinary to report with the other cards, though.
 

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Power Consumption and Noise
Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely, power consumption, temperatures, and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea of how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Under both idle and load conditions, the new Radeon R9 and R7 series cards all consumed somewhat less power than their closest Radeon HD 7000-series based counterparts, though the differences weren't dramatic. Considering how similar the cards are, it should come as no surprise that power consumption is similar as well.

The noise output from the new Radeon R9 and R7 series cards, however, is a different story. All three of the cards we tested were clearly quieter than the previous generation. The XFX Radeon R9 280X we tested was much quieter than the reference Radeon HD 7970, and the R9 270X and R7 260X were quieter than 7870 and 7790, respectively, as well.
 

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The new Radeon R9 and R7 cards we tested performed right in-line with our expectations coming into this article.  Considering the fact that the Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, and R7 260X are all based on GPUs previous available in the Radeon HD 7000 series, it's not surprising that the cards performed similarly to their most closely-related cousins, specifically the Radeon HD 7970, HD 7870, and the HD 7790.

Versus NVIDIA's offerings, the Radeon R9 280X performed somewhere in between the GeForce GTX 760 and GTX 770 in most of our tests, while the Radeon R9 270X typically fell in line somewhere between the GeForce GTX 760 and GTX 660. The Radeon R7 260X generally trailed the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, however, the R7 260X did manage to overtake the GeForce in the Sleeping Dogs benchmark.


AMD's Real Next-Gen Part, The Radeon R9 290X, Isn't Quite Ready For Prime Time Just Yet...

AMD’s latest salvo of Radeons don’t feature new silicon or blaze new trails through our benchmarks, but rather are refinements of an existing architecture that improve upon the company’s previous generation products in a number of key ways.

As we, and likely many of you, expected, the Radeon R9 280X performed right about on par with the Radeon HD 7970 throughout our tests. Though somewhat faster, the Radeon R9 270X was in the same ballpark as the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, as was the Radeon R7 260X with the Radeon HD 7790. These new Radeon R9 and R7 series products were quieter overall, consumed slightly less power, and they also offer more flexible output configurations. Perhaps the best news, however, is that all of these new Radeons are arriving at very competitive price points.

The Radeon R9 280X will be priced around $299, the Radeon R9 270X at around $199, and the Radeon R7 260X at $139. At those prices, the R9 280X is priced in-line with the GeForce GTX 760, which the R9 280X handily outperformed. In fact, the R9 280X performed more like the pricier GeForce GTX 770. The Radeon R9 270X is priced in-line with the GeForce GTX 660, which it too had no trouble outperforming overall, though recent price drops have brought the GTX 660’s price down 10% or so. The Radeon R7 260X is priced on-par with the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, but this matchup easily went to NVIDIA according to our numbers. We should also point out that the GTX 650 Ti Boost’s price was recently lowered, which certainly helped NVIDIA’s value proposition at the card’s new price point (which has dropped to as low as $129 after rebates).

In the end, AMD has done some good with these new Radeon R9 and R7 series cards. They’re more refined than their Radeon HD 7000 series counterparts, offer similar or better performance, more features, and they’re quieter too. Oh, and their highly competitive price points make them all the more attractive.

We must admit though, we eagerly await the Radeon R9 290X, which will be the company’s true next-gen product. If the scuttlebutt turns out to be true, the R9 290X could inject some fire into the high-end graphics card space. We can’t wait to find out for ourselves...


Radeon R9 280X
Radeon R9 270X
Radeon R7 260X

 



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