Logo   Banner   TopRight
TopUnder
Transparent
ASUS Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II Review
Transparent
Date: Nov 13, 2013
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
Transparent
Introduction and Specifications

The seemingly never-ending onslaught of new graphics cards as of late continues today with the official release of the AMD Radeon R9 270. Like the Radeon R9 270X that came before it, the Radeon R9 270 isn’t a totally new product. This mainstream graphics card actually leverages the same GPU that powered last-year’s Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition. AMD, however, has tweaked the clocks and through software and board level revisions updated the card to allow for more flexible use of its display outputs (using Eyefinity no longer requires the use of a DisplayPort).

Because the Radeon R9 270 isn’t totally new, AMD’s add in board partners are already intimately familiar with the technology as well. And as a result, the majority of Radeon R9 270 cards due to arrive will be custom products that differ from AMD’s reference design. In fact, the Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II, doesn’t resemble AMD’s reference design at all.


The Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II 

AMD Radeon R9 270
Specifications & Features


AMD Radeon R9 270 Series Cards On Amazon


Before we give you the full scoop on Asus’ Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II, we wanted to share AMD’s reference specifications (in the chart above).

If you were to compare the Radeon R9 270’s reference specifications to the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, you’d spot a number of similarities, which is to be expected considering the cards are powered by the same piece of silicon. The R9 270’s GPU and memory clocks are somewhat different, however. According to AMD’s reference spec, the Radeon R9 270’s GPU frequency peaks at up to 925MHz (slightly lower than the 7870 GHz Edition), but its memory clock has been increased to an effective 5.6Gbps. Versus the 1GHz (GPU) and 4.8Gbps (memory) of the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, the Radeon R9 270 offers slightly lower compute performance (2.37 TFLOPS vs. 2.56 TFLOPS), but much more memory bandwidth--179.2GB/s vs. 153.6GB/s to be exact. Also note that the Radeon R9 270 is only a 150W card. As such, it requires only a single PCIe 6-pin supplemental power connector. That's something to consider if upgrading an older rig with a middling power supply.

  

  
More Shots Of The Asus Radeon R9 270 and its Accessory Bundle

As we’ve mentioned, a large number of Radeon R9 270 cards due to arrive from AMD’s AIB partners are fully custom, like the Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II you see here. The Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II is a custom card from top to bottom. It features a unique PCB design, with a beefed up digital / programmable VRM, and an elaborate dual-slot / dual-fan cooling solution that’s quieter and performs better than reference designs.

There is also a custom VRM on the ASUS Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II, which is designed to last longer and provide more stable power than reference solutions under load. The ASUS Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II also features Asus’ “Super Alloy Power” technology. According to Asus, the Super Alloy components on the card are reinforced with special alloy formula and manufactured under high temperature and pressure to provide more stable power and noise-free operation.

As you may expect, considering its custom design, the Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II is also overclocked from the factory. The card’s GPU is clocked at 975MHz—50MHz higher than the reference spec. Its 2GB of GDDR5 frame buffer memory has the same 5.6Gbps data rate of reference models, though.
 

Transparent
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)

ASUS Radeon R9 270 DCU II
Radeon R7 270X
Radeon R9 290X
Radeon R9 290
Radeon R9 280X
GeForce GTX Titan
GeForce GTX 760
GeForce GTX 770
GeForce GTX 780
GeForce GTX 780 Ti

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/b8/b9
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v331.40/v331.70

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.

The Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II drops in just behind the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, but is able to just barely nudge past the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. The similarly, though every-so-slightly higher, priced GeForce GTX 660, however, finishes well ahead here.
 

Transparent
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.



The Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II had no trouble dispatching the GeForce GTX 660 and GTX 650 Ti Boost in 3DMark Fire Strike. Here, AMD's latest Radeon just misses the mark set by the R9 270X, but it outruns last year's Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition.
 

Transparent
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.



The performance trend in the Alien vs. Predator benchmark roughly mirrors those of 3DMark on the previous page. Here, once again, the Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II finishes right in between the Radeon R9 270X and Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition, but well ahead on NVIDIA's more mainstream GeForces.



Click To Enlarge

And there is absolutely nothing exciting to report in terms of frame times. All of the cards exhibited similar behavior and didn't suffer from any large frame time variations.
 

Transparent
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 GeForce GTX 660 climbed the ladder a bit in the Metro Last Light benchmark, but ultimately the Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II still came out ahead but a few percentage points.



Click To Enlarge

There were not major anomalies to report according to our FCAT results either. The low-end Radeon R7 260X and Radeon HD 7790 shows some significant frame time variation in the middle of the run, but the higher end cards all performed similarly, with each one showing a handful of frame time spikes, i.e. stutter.
 

Transparent
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 Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II trailed the GeForce GTX 660 in our Bioshock Infinite testing, at both resolutions. Asus' card skipped past the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition and GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, however.



Click To Enlarge

There were some issues delivering those frames to the screen, though. All of the Radeons (and the GTX 650 Ti Boost) suffered from some major spikes in frame times at about the 60% mark.
 

Transparent
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 Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II clearly outpaced the GeForce GTX 660 and GTX 650 Ti Boost in the Sleeping Dogs benchmark, especially at the higher resolution. Notice the huge jump in performance with the higher-end cards like the GTX 760 and R9 280X.



Click To Enlarge

With the exception of the Radeon HD 7790, all of the cards delivered fairly consistent frame times across the board in this benchmark. The Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II in particular shows very small variations from frame to frame.
 

Transparent
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.



Hitman Absolution proved to be somewhat of a strong point for the Asus Radeon R9 270 DirectCU II. In this game, the card was able to outpace even the GeForce GTX 760 at the lower resolution and it was significantly faster than the GeForce GTX 660 across the board.



Click To Enlarge

Save for the entry-level Radeon HD 7790, there were no major frame time-related issues to report in this game. All of the mainstream cards showed very little frame time variation throughout the run.
 

Transparent
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 Asus Radeon R9 270  DirectCU II and GeForce GTX 660 were evenly matched in our Crysis 3 tests, with only a fraction of a frame per second delta separating the cards. The GeForce eked out a victory at the lower resolution, while the Radeon came out ahead at 2560.



Click To Enlarge

Disregarding the Radeon HD 7790 for a moment, there were no major frame time variations in Crysis 3. The mainstream cards may not put up the highest frame rates here, but the frames they do deliver are paced evenly (relatively speaking, of course).

Transparent
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

The Asus Radeon R9 270  DirectCU II's power consumption numbers put it between the Radeon HD 7790 and R9 270X, as you would expect looking at its performance throughout our testing.

With its relatively low power consumption, and an oversized cooler with dual fans, it should come as no shock that the Asus Radeon R9 270  DirectCU II is as quiet as they come. The card was barely audible in our test system over the minimal noise produced by the machine's PSU and CPU cooler.
 

Transparent
Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: The Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II’s performance fell right in-line with expectations. Considering the cards similarities to the Radeon HD 7870 and R9 270X, it no surprise to see all three of the cards performing similarly—give or take a few percentage points here and there. Versus competing cards from NVIDIA, namely the GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 60 Ti Boost, the Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II is generally the faster the card. The new Radeon clearly outpaced the less expensive GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, but it traded blows with the GTX 660. More often than not, however, the Radeon R9 270 came out ahead.


The Asus Radeon R9 270 Direct CU II

AMD and its add in board partners are launching the Radeon R9 270 today, with prices starting at $179. As has been the case with virtually all of AMD’s recent GPU launches, the Radeon R9 270’s starting price is somewhat aggressive and puts some pressure on NVIDIA. GeForce GTX 660 cards, which typically performed lower than the Radeon R9 270, are priced right around the $190 mark, currently (though you can find some cards with mail-in rebates for roughly $170). That means a piece cut may be in order. There are another couple of wrinkles to consider, however. Along with this card, AMD is also announcing and update to its game bundle, and beginning November 13 Radeon R9 270 – R9 290X cards will include a free copy of Battlefield 4. NVIDIA, on the other hand, is offering Splinter Cell: Blacklist and Assassins Creed – Black Flag, plus $50 off a SHIELD portable gaming device with GTX 660 and 760 cards.

In the end, the Radeon R9 270 is another strong product from AMD that stands out at its price point. If you’re in the market for an affordable graphics card that’ll let you play virtually any title with decent frame rates at 1080p, the Radeon R9 270 is worthy of consideration.



  • Decent Performer
  • BF4 Included
  • Aggressive Pricing
  • Leverages Last-Gen GPU
  • No TrueAudio Like 290/260 Cards



Content Property of HotHardware.com