So, AMD has had their little song and dance about TrueAudio and the new generation of GPUs they have released. We have reviewed from the R9 290, almost all the way down the row to the R7 250. While these are (mostly) rebrands in their ‘new’ generation, a few news ones hit the scene like the R7 250 and R9 290/290x. In this review, as I am sure anyone that is breathing noticed, we will take a look at the offerings from HIS. We’ll cover the iCooler R7 250, followed by the R7 260X IceQ X2, and last but not least, the R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo. This should give us a good idea of how the lineup sits from nearly head to toe. Let’s get to it!
Specifications and Features
First up, we will take a look at the hard specifications of these cards. You will be presented with all three cards in the roundup, from the R7 250, R7 260X, and finally the R9 270X. Sourced from the HIS website (along with the icons located below).
|HIS R7 250 iCooler Boost Clock 1GB|
|Memory Size||1024 MB|
|Memory Type||GDDR5 / 128bit|
|Memory Clock||4.6 Gbps|
|Core Clock||1000 MHz (1050 Boost)|
|Power Supply Requirement||400 W (or greater) power supply|
|Max. Resolution (per display)||HDMI – 4096×2160
Dual-link DVI with HDCP 2560×1600
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|Outputs||DLDVI-D + HDMI + VGA|
|HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² 2GB|
|Memory Size||2048 MB|
|Memory Clock||6.5 Gbps|
|Core Clock||1100 MHz|
|Power Supply Requirement||500 W (or greater) power supply with one 75 W 6-pin PCI Express power connector recommended. 600 W power supply (or greater) with two 75 W 6-pin PCI Express power connectors recommended for AMD CrossFire™ technology.|
|Max. Resolution (per display)||DisplayPort 1.2 – 4096×2160
HDMI – 4096×2160
Dual-link DVI with HDCP – 2560×1600
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|Outputs||DLDVI-D + DLDVI-I + DisplayPort+ HDMI|
|HIS R7 270X IceQ x2 Turbo Boost Clock 2GB|
|Memory Size||2048 MB|
|Memory Clock||5.6 Gbps|
|Core Clock||1100 MHz (Boost to 1140 MHz)|
|Power Supply Requirement||500 W (or greater) power supply with two 75 W 6-pin PCI Express power connector recommended. 600 W power supply (or greater) with four 75 W 6-pin PCI Express power connectors recommended for AMD CrossFire™ technology.|
|Max. Resolution (per display)||DisplayPort 1.2 – 4096×2160
HDMI – 4096×2160
Dual-link DVI with HDCP – 2560×1600
|Interface||PCI Express 3.0 x16|
|Outputs||DLDVI-D + + 2 DisplayPorts + HDMI|
Next up we will take a look at some of the features that these cards offer. HIS has taken the reference cooler off and replaced it with their iCooler to keep things cool and quiet. They also supplemented the power on the R7 260X with what they call their iPower design.
Photo Op – Meet the HIS 250, 260X, and 270X
Because of the ’roundup’ nature of this review, and because I am not a huge fan of the scrolling… and scrolling we sometimes need to do here, I am going to put the pictures of the cards in the slide show to shorten things up a bit.
In the first section, we will of course be looking at the R7 250 and its retail packaging. This is an updated version of the packaging found on the HD 7750 and HD 7770 essentially, with a nice Excalibur looking broad sword on the front. On the back is the marketing goodies, which show the features of the card. In this case, it highlights the Gen 2 GCN architecture, as well as DX11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 support.
The R7 260X and R9 270X packaging is much of the same, but with their IceQ theme of white and light blue. More features and marketing information on these packages as well.
I won’t get in to too much detail here as the R7 250 didn’t come with anything. Not a driver disk, or even a random converter. The R7 260X came with a DVI to VGA adapter, while the R9 270X came with a more typical accessory stack and included a driver disk, DVI to VGA adapter, and a quick setup guide. I have to assume that at least driver disks will be in these retail packages. If not, they are available online at AMD.com of course.
We will first take a close look at the R7 250. As this card is budget/HTPC minded, we do not find fancy coolers, or formidable power planes. We just see a card that does what it needs to, without many frills. The fan and heatsink are quite simple and are made from what appears to be aluminum. Not too much of anything to see on the back side of course. Next, we look at the outputs this card has. And to my initial surprise, we see a VGA port on this little unit. There is also a HDMI (with 7.1 audio output), and a DVI port that round out the display options.
When I take apart the card, we see that this one is only powered by the PCIe slot. No six pin PCIe power cable is needed. We can also see the 1 GB of GDDR5 Elpida memory ICs and the tiny core powering this card. I wiped off the properly applied thermal paste and did not find any markings. But we know this is an “Oland” core with 384 Stream Processors supported by the 128bit memory bus, and using 1 GB of GDDR5 memory.
Next, we take a peek at the R7 260X. This card is a bit more robust in the cooler department with its IceQ X2 cooler, and the dual fans blowing down through the fin array. It’s a bit different than the high end IceQ coolers, but the card is physically smaller so they couldn’t strap them on. No worries as it looks fine, if a little blocky. It actually requires external power in the form of a single 6 pin PCIe plug. As usual, there is not much on the back to see.
As far as the outputs go, the HIS R7 260X was created with a more typical set of options. They include a full size DisplayPort, HDMI, and two DVI outputs (one DL DVI). Plenty of options to get you going I am sure. With it being a little more powerful, a better cooler was used than found on the R7 250. This cooler uses a copper base with three heatpipes situated right above the core, which span through the heatsink fins to help whisk away heat. As you can see, the power plane seems a bit more robust with its six total phases (guessing 5+1).
Last up, is the HIS R9 270X IceQ x2 Turbo. Our first look at this card shows the more typical IceQ cooler, as opposed to the boxed-in plastic version on the R7 260x IceQ X2 above. Its dual fans blow down through the heatsink fin array and also help to cool the memory and VRMs. On the back of the card, there is still not too much to see there either. As far as display outputs, you can see two Mini-DisplayPorts, one HDMI, and one DVI (DL). The next picture shows the card’s power plug requirements of two 6 pin PCIe. Sharp looking card overall, and I do like the the cooler that is used here… As long as you are not taking off and putting on the PCIe power frequently, as there is little room to do so.
Performance and Overclocking
As we all know by now, Overclockers.com utilizes multiple resources to review their hardware. In order to ensure the results are the same no matter who reviews the item, we have a specific test system set up and methods/settings as follows:
- Intel i7 4770K @ 4 GHz, 1.1 V
- Gigabyte Z87-OC
- Kingston Hyper X Predator 2 x 4 GB 2666 MHz CL11 @ 1866 MHz 9-9-9-24
- 240 GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD
- Seasonic 1000 W PSU
- HIS R7 250 – Stock 1050 MHz / 1150 MHz (4600 MHz GDDR5), Overclocked @ 1250 MHz / 1403 MHz
- HIS R7 260X – Stock 1100 MHz / 1625 MHz (6500 MHz GDDR5), Overclocked @ 1274 MHz / 1855 MHz
- HIS R9 270X- Stock 1140 MHz / 1400 MHz (5600 MHz GDDR5), Overclocked @ 1195 MHz / 1595 MHz
- Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
- AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 1 drivers
Other cards used for comparison are as follows (links are to the reviews):
- All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) was run with the “extreme” setting
- Alien vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation HIGH, Detail Level: Extreme
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, Vysnc OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures
Below are the screenshots of GPU-Z from each card in this roundup. We can see that any card with boost shows the boost clock out of the gate as default. Outside of horrendously high temperatures it will stay planted at the boost clock. Again, we see that Catalyst 13.11 Beta 1 was used.
Overclocking Software – HIS iTurbo
HIS has had their own GPU overclocking software for quite a while now, named iTurbo. Not much has changed with it since its release. It shows information about the card, BIOS, drivers, etc. It will overclock with voltage control (where applicable) and saves fan profiles. In its large form, it still feels too big for my tastes, but I like the little button when minimized. Anyway, here are pictures of iTurbo in action. You can download this utility at the HIS website.
Due to the sheer amount of cards in this test and how I normally orient my graphs, I had to change things up a bit for this review. Now, each benchmark has its own graph. One of the things that you may notice off the bat is that essentially, the R7 260X is 2x as fast as the R7 250, while the overclocked R7 270X we have have shows around 50% more performance of the card below it (benchmark specific, it is not a perfect line through the benchmarks). I do not recall seeing such gaps between lines of cards honestly, but then again, I am not sure I stood them up side by side to compare either. What this does though, is seemingly leave plenty of room for other SKUs to come in and fill those gaps at a later time (non “X” versions?).
First up is the oldest synthetic benchmark in our testing suite, 3DMark Vantage. Here we see the budget entry R7 250 pull out 12,185, while the 260X IceQ X2 manages 22,086, and the R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo shows off with 31,325. The R7 260X matches the reference model as we expected, considering they had the same clock speed. The HIS turbo version of the R9 270X has a higher clock than the reference card, and of course beats it out by a few percent.
Next up in our synthetic suite is another Futuremark product in 3DMark 11. Here we see the same type of results across this line of cards as we did above. Each card gave around 50% more performance than its lower classed offerings, with scores of 3,141, 6,450, and 8,995 for the R7 250, R7 260X, and R9 270X respectively.
Next up is the latest 3DMark…. 3DMark. Not 3DMark 13 or whatever else we have seen it called, just plain old 3DMark. As we all likely know at this point, we use the Fire Strike test to come up with the values below. Again we see the same exact trend as previous benchmarks in that the R7260X at 3,707 almost doubles the R7 250 at 2,006, while the R9 270X scoring 5,681 is around 50% faster than the R7 260X.
Moving on to the heavily tessellated Unigine Heaven Extreme (Hwbot version) the trend continues. The R7 250 scores 540.2, the R7 260X IceQ X2 hits 1,129.3, while the R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo leads the pack with 1,734.9.
Now we get to the games. What you will see trend here is basically what we have seen above. For the most part, each GPU will give about 50% more FPS than its lower classed family member. The R7 260X and R9 270X can play most games at 1080p with good FPS, while the R7 250 really shows its not a 1080p gaming card, at least at the settings we run at.
So, as we can see the R7 250 brings up the rear hitting 16.6 FPS in AvP, which for all intents and purposes is not playable. Moving up to the R7 260X IceQ X2, we see that average more than double and it manages 34.4 FPS, which is over the magic ’30 FPS’ mark that some hold so dearly. Last up, the R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo manages very playable FPS with this game maxed out, averaging 55.8 FPS.
Moving on to Batman: Arkham City, the R7 250, R7 260X, and R9 270X hit 23, 48, and 81 FPS respectively. The R7 250, try as it may, still cannot eclipse the 30 FPS mark on average, even when overclocked. So, if you plan on gaming with this card, image quality sacrifices will need to be made. Otherwise, its ‘full go’ for the others as far as I am concerned. Again, we are seeing the approximate doubling of performance with each step up here.
Ahh, my favorite game, Battlefield 3 is next! Here again, we see the R7 250 as not playable with our settings with 21.3 FPS. The R7 260X IceQ X2 follows up with a quite playable for most, 43.7 FPS. The R9 270X comes in ‘brushing its shoulders off’ and manages 72.2 FPS. Still we see the doubling of R7 250 to R7 260X, and a ~75% increase from the R7 260X to R9 270X.
Next up, we move to an older, but still relevant(ish) RTS game in Civilization V. Guess what is ALMOST seeing playable results here? You guessed it, the R7 250 which managed 24.8 FPS in this test. The R7 260X managed 54 FPS and the R9 270X hit 80.2 FPS. Plenty playable for the latter two cards in this round up.
Dirt 3 is one of my favorite rally racing games, even though it is a bit long in the tooth. This game, as pretty as it looks, is usually pretty easy on modern hardware for the most part. With that said, we see the first game we tested where the HIS R7 250 actually manages to hit 30 FPS (30.2 to be exact) at our settings!
Last up is our resident GPU killer, Metro: 2033. Does anyone want to take bets if any of these cards get over 30 FPS on this? Surprisingly, the overclocked HIS R9 270X IceQ X23 Turbo does… by 1 FPS. The R7 260X comes in at 18.1 while the R7 250 manages a slideshow looking 11.3 FPS. Clearly, one cannot play this game without turning some settings down a bit with the two lower end cards.
As I mentioned in the MSI R9 280X Gaming review, we are moving over to more modern titles in the near future. So I had an opportunity to bench a lot of those new games on these cards to show what they will do. I will not talk about them in detail, but you can see the results below.
Outside of Grid 2 and Final Fantasy XIV:ARR, it is not until you get to the R7 270X level that these modern titles become ‘playable’ as far as FPS go at our settings. Again, the R7 250 is just simply not capable of playing these titles with the settings we use at 1080p resolution.
|R7 250||R7 260X IceQ X2||R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo|
|FF XIV: ARR||3,390||5,791||9139|
To summarize our results on the ‘old’ benchmarks, the HIS R7 250 (any R7 250 for that matter) just does not have enough behind it to play most modern(ish) games at their max settings. You will have to lower the settings and/or the resolution in order to get things playable. Then again at its price point, quite frankly it isn’t supposed to be doing that well, so I can’t really hold it against the card.
The HIS R7 260x IceQ however, outside of Metro: 2033 was able to average well over 30 FPS at our settings, which should make games playable for the most part. Not bad for a $140 card really.
The R9 270x, though, is really where you get into what I would call a true gaming card. While it will not last years into the future, it should handle most titles at 1080p with high settings on a lot of modern titles. A good showing for $200.
Pushing the Limits
Since there is no voltage control and the clocks I used for each card in the ‘overclocked’ section of the benchmarks were pushed pretty hard, there just isn’t a point to do this kind of testing. All it will show is the gains made by just overclocking the CPU.
Cooling and Power Consumption
When we talk about power consumption, the gist of things here is that these are not power hungry cards. They are, after all, budget to mid-range type cards and not high end. Idle wattage was just about the same across the board at 88 W. The 1 W difference in the R7 260X can easily be attributed to margin of error on the device (Kill-A-Watt). We see stock power draw of 144 W, 176 W, and 223 W for the R7 250, R7 260X, and R9 270X respectively while running 3DMark 11. When we move to Unigine Heaven, there is not a lot of difference there either with the highest value hitting 236 W while overclocked for the R9 270X, 196 W for the R7 260X, and 148 W for the R7 250. A quality 400 W PSU would be plenty to run these cards and overclock the heck out of your CPU, even a AMD FX octo core.
As far as temperatures go, these coolers all do a good job at keeping things in check throughout our testing. The aluminum block, err, excuse me, cooler on the R7 250, does a more than admirable job. Temperatures hit a maximum of 63 °C with the fan ramping up to 63% as well. Since this is a low powered card that appears slated for HTPC use, the noise levels are important, and this thing was quiet all the way through. I can tell you that this card will replace the HD 7770 in my HTPC as I can barely hear the fan at times.
Next up is the R7 260X IceQ X2. This cooler did let things get warmer than the rest, but its fan really never spun up too fast either. At the max temperatures we saw of 69 °C, the fan hit 33% and was essentially silent. Do note though, if this card’s fans spin up past 45% or so, you can definitely hear it.
Last, but not least, is the heavy hitter in this crowd, the R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo. We can see good temperatures from this card’s cooler with it hitting only 63 °C when overclocked in Unigine Heaven. It reached those temperatures with the fan spinning up to around 46%. The fans were pretty quiet overall at this level, so there shouldn’t be any worries there. About the only irritating thing about the cooling on this card is the heatpipes getting in the way of the PCIe power connectors, so they are not as easy as they should be to remove.
So, AMD has brought a slew of new cards to market since their webcast about TruAud…, shoot, apologies, their GPU release in Hawaii. The R9 270X is based off the Pitcairn GPU core (think HD 7870), while the R7 260X rides on the back of the Bonaire cores (think HD 7790), and last is the R7 250 that uses the Oland core. For those not familiar with this core, it was used in the 8 series OEM cards. The R7 260X (as well as the R9 290X and R9 290) support the new TrueAudio functionality, which should improve the audio experience by taking that load off of the CPU and bring it on the die. In the case of the R7 260X, there are three dedicated cores to handle this functionality.
The HIS iCooler Boost Clock R7 250 is currently priced at $89.99 at newegg.com. This essentially puts it head to head with the HD 7750 and the GT 640 from NVIDIA, which we have not tested. As far as performance goes between the two, it really is a toss up with the R7 250 coming out slightly ahead on the synthetic side. We do not have a HD 7750 in house to test with our current suite, so we could not compare games. But make no mistake about it, this card will not be able to play modern games at 1080p without image quality sacrifices… a lot of them. But the reality is, the card is really made to be an HTPC card and it should excel at this functionality, being nice and quiet at idle and under load.
The HIS R7 260X IceQ X2 comes in at $149.99 at newegg.com. This puts the R7 260X up against the venerable GTX 650 Ti Boost from the green camp. We can see head to head comparison in Lvcyote’s great review of the reference R7 260X. And in that review, it generally takes an overclocked R7 260x to match and beat the GTX 650 Ti Boost, which is similarly priced. So, the performance is a bit behind in that respect. However, if you are an audiophile, or just enjoy a better audio experience, the R7 260X supports TrueAudio. That could help sway some decisions over to this side of the tracks. As far as performance goes, this card is the first in this bunch that gives you the ability to play modern titles (we’ll exclude Metro: 2033) over 30 FPS at 1080p with a few image quality sacrifices. It tends to struggle a bit with the newest titles, and some high quality settings will need to drop.
Last up is the HIS R9 270X IceQ X2 Turbo, which is currently priced at $219.99 at newegg.com. This pricing puts it in line with the ‘old’ HD 7870, or a GTX 660. Again, looking at another of Lvcyote’s reviews, this time of the 270X, we can see that it really puts a hurting on the GTX 660. And looking at past reviews, it spanks the HD 7870 as it should (they are priced less, but the closest). If you go above that to the HD 7950, we can see that the HD 7950 beats it out across the board, but with a $30 premium (not including rebates). The R9 270x is the first card in this lineup that can play all games and easily break the 30 FPS minimum, and also comes close with the latest titles we will be moving to. There you will have to lower the settings a bit to get playable.
To wrap things up, all of these cards are going to be approved even though the R7 260X and R9 270X are rebrands. The price and performance is right, and they fit within the current lineup of cards. AMD’s release of these cards, and its bigger siblings, have really changed the landscape of performance and pricing for GPUs. Make sure you take a look at the new cards, know what you are buying, and go get yourself that pre-holiday mid-range upgrade.
– Joe Shields (Earthdog)