AMD R7 260 Video Card Review

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In my last single card review (AMD R9 270), I mentioned that AMD and its partners are beginning to fill in the blanks in the pricing and performance holes left by only having the 250, 260x, 270x, and 280x lines out (290/290x do not matter in this context). If you recall from my ‘roundup‘, the performance gaps between those cards were pretty significant, on the order of 50% between them. Today, we have a reference model R7 260 to continue to fill in those blanks. It is time to see if this card can do accomplish it like its big brother did.

Specifications and Features

Below we see what is actually under the hood of this mid-range/budget card. The 260 is of course based off the Bonaire core of the 260X but with two CU’s chopped off bringing the Stream Processor count down to 768 (from 896 in the 260X).

Memory capacity takes an expected hit and drops down to 1GB at 128-bit bus while power consumption drops to 95W from 115W of the 260X. Of course the card supports Mantle (whenever we see implementations of that hit the wild…) and TrueAudio as well.

Our card came in 1000 MHz core and 1500 MHz vram speeds. I will imagine that some AIB’s, along with putting their own cooler on, will also overclock these from the factory as well, so keep an eye out come mid-January for such cards to hit the market.

Specifications (Slide Courtesy of AMD)

Specifications (Slide Courtesy of AMD)

Of course we know of Mantle and TrueAudio. I would definitely like to hear more of these technologies in more and bigger titles to see how things will shake out. We heard rumors that Mantle implementation was delayed in the initial and headlining title, Battlefield 4 so Dice/EA could iron out the issues that are still plaguing some users.

Mantle

Mantle

TrueAudio

TrueAudio

 

Photo Op – Meet the AMD R9 260

One of the first things you may notice is a lack of retail packaging that we normally cover. This being a reference card, it did not come with retail packaging, just a small card measuring a bit over 6.5″ with a reference cooler strapped to the top. AMD tells us not to worry about cooling performance as the AIB’s will be bringing forward their own designs which I imagine will work better than what we have. There is a CrossfireX connector on the top of the card for adding another 260 if you so choose.

Nothing much to see on the back side either really. A simple four screw backplate holds on the cooler, and you can see the solder points for the 6 pin PCIe plug this card requires (95W TDP).

AMD R7 260 - Front

AMD R7 260 – Front

Rear

Rear

Bottom

Bottom

Top

Top

Next up are the outputs and the power requirements. As you can see, this card offers a full sized DisplayPort and HDMI port, as well as DVI-d to round out the outputs. Sorry folks, no VGA here!

As far as the power required, again it is a 95W TDP card which is over the 75W the PCIe slot can willingly provide, and therefore does require a 6 pin PCIe plug to function.

Outputs - DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI

Outputs – DisplayPort, HDMI, and DVI

6 pin PCIe power Required

6 pin PCIe power Required

 

And some alternate shots…

cardalt2 cardalt1

A Closer Look

We were told not to worry about the cooling solution for this reference model so, we won’t. We can see the board has a total of four phases for power, perhaps in a 3+1 configuration. That seems to be plenty for a card of this caliber, especially since, at least with this sample and versions of software, I am unable to change the voltage to further increase overclocking.

AMD is using Elpida memory, specifically, W2032BBBG-6A-F (6 Gbps) for this card. I do not expect a terrible amount of headroom in these Elpidas really. But as we know, it is all a silicon lottery so we will see. As we know from above, this is one of the new silicon from AMD so we show a picture of the core, not that you can tell what the heck it is from the picture anyway.

Heatsink Removed

Heatsink Removed

Card Alone

Card Alone

Elpida - W2032BBBG-6A-F (6 Gbps, 1.35v)

Elpida – W2032BBBG-6A-F (6 Gbps, 1.35v)

Not a Refreshed Core

Not a Refreshed Core

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:

Test System

  • 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
  • AMD R9 270 @ 1000 MHz/1500 MHz, Overclocked @ 1070 MHz/1650 MHz
  • Windows 7 64 bit Operating System
  • AMD Catalyst 13.12 Beta drivers

Other cards used for comparison are as follows (any links are to the reviews):

Benchmarking Method/Settings

Note all testing below are using 1920×1080 resolution.

  • All Synthetic benchmarks were at their default settings
  • Unigine Heaven (HWbot) –  Extreme setting
  • Crysis 3 – Very High settings with 8xMSAA/16xAF (2nd level when you procure and use the Crossbow to get across the level and kill the Helicopter)
  • Metro:LL – DX11, Very High, 16xAF, Motion Blur – Normal, SSAA Enabled, DX11 Tessellation – Very High,  Advanced PhysX – Disabled, Scene D6
  • Battlefield 4 – Default Ultra setting (Tashgar level – ‘on rails’ car scene)
  • Bioshock: Infinite – Ultra DX11, DDOF (through Steam – option # 2, then option #1 assuming your are at 1080p)
  • Batman: Arkham Origin – 8xMSAA, Geometry Details/Dynamic Shadows/DOF/Ambient Occlusion: DX11 Advanced, Hardware PhysX: OFF, the rest On or High
  • Grid 2 – 8xMSAA, Ultra defaults + Soft Ambient Occlusion: ON
  • Final Fantasy XIV:ARR – Default Maximum setting
  • More detail is in our article: Overclockers.com GPU Testing Procedures

GPU-Z

Below is the latest version of GPU-Z and what it has to say for the card. It does confirm she is a 28nm Bonaire with 768 Shaders, 16 ROPs and 48 TMUs. On the memory side of things, the 260 sits with 1GB of GDDR5 running at 1500 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The clockspeed for the core comes in at 1000 MHz. I am using the drivers AMD gave us which the file name said 13.12, but GPUz shows 13.11 for whatever reason.

GPUz v7.5

GPUz v7.5

 

Overclocking Software – Catalyst Control Center (AMD Overdrive)

Since this is the reference card, we will show you Catalyst Control Center and its overclocking section called AMD OverDrive. There are limited but enough options in here to get a lot, but not necessarily the most, out of your AMD-based GPU. We see the sliders to adjust the GPU clock, Memory clock and the now infamous Power Control. This card gives you a value of 20% more on the power limit. Remember, this is not a voltage adjustment but a power limit adjustment. As always with overclocking, just crank this value and worry about the clockspeeds.

I tried with the latest version of MSI Afterburner as well but did not have any luck there either.

AMD Overdrive

Synthetic Benchmarks

On to the benchmarks! The first synthetic benchmark is Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage. In this now oldie but goodie, the AMD R7 260 scores 19,254 points putting an absolute hurting on the 250 (as most expected of course), but falling over 15% behind the 260X. Overclocking (1070 MHz core/1650 MHz memory) helps close the gap, but not by much, around 6%.

Moving on to 3DMark 11, the 260 scored 5,574 points here, still considerably ahead of the 250 and again 15% behind the 260X. This time around however, overclocking brought it to within 5% of the 260X.

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

Next up is 3DMark Fire Strike. In this test, the 260 scored 3,328 points at stock and 3,829 overclocked. In this result the overclocking brought it even or a bit about the stock 260X.

In the heavily tessellated Heaven, we hit 977.8xx points stock and 1,052.6xx overclocked again coming very close to the 260X.

Something I didn’t mention is how it compared to the much more potent and expensive R9 270 and 270X. For the most part these were around 40-68% faster. But again, they are priced higher so we expect that sort of difference.

3DMark (Fire Strike) and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

3DMark (Fire Strike) and Unigine Heaven (Hwbot)

Gaming Benchmarks

Moving on to the games, we start out with Bioshock: Infinite. Here the AMD R7 260 hit 31.7 FPS. That is a playable frame rate for a lot in this genre but not really optimal with these settings. You really need to be at R9 270 territory to run this well when settings are maxed out.

For Batman: Arkham Origins, again we see that 31 FPS number and the remarks are remarkably close to the Bioshock ones as well so the story remains the same here. One will need some IQ sacrifices for better FPS.

Last up in this graph is my favorite racer, Grid 2. In this game the 260 pulls almost 40 FPS coming in at 39.8. Playing this game it actually felt pretty smooth at these FPS. Not too bad here at all!

Bioshock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Grid 2

Bioshock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham Origins, and Grid 2

Now, our GPU killers. Crysis 3, Metro: Last Light, and Battlefield 4. In the first title, this card, and many costing much more, will not hit playable FPS. Here the mid-range 260 only managed 13 FPS. Not remotely playable with the settings cranked. Even the 270X could only reach a paltry 20 FPS and it costs more than twice as much as a 260.

Metro: LL shows the same story here as well hitting 13 FPS stock and 14.5 FPS overclocked. Still not playable, same with the 270X.

In Battlefield 4 the R7 260 hit 23.8 FPS. Turning some settings down like MSAA off, HBAO to SSAO and the  overall quality from Ultra to High did manage to break the 30 FPS barrier making this game quite playable. Here the overclocking did help it come close to the 270 being just over 1 FPS behind.

Crysis 3, Metro: Last Light, and Battlefield 4

Crysis 3, Metro: Last Light, and Battlefield 4

Last up is the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn benchmark score. At stock speeds she hit 5,347 total frames while overclocked it actually passed up the 270X scoring 5,779 there.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Pushing the Limits

No voltage control here on this card either with MSI AB or any other application for that matter, so we will not push the limits because I already pushed pretty darn close with the overclock settings used above. That would only leave the CPU doing most of the work and not really showing too much of anything real world.

Cooling and Power Consumption

As AMD mentioned to us via email, do not judge the temperatures on this card as AIBs will have their own solution on them upon release in mid-January. But here we are anyway. I will leave it at that.

Temperatures

Temperatures

As far as power consumption goes, this 95W TDP card fell right in to where I thought it would based on other cards in the family. At peak my test system hit 170W at the wall in 3DMark 11 combined test. And mind you that was overclocked. At stock I hit 162W. The fan didn’t think of spinning on the Seasonic PSU!

Power Consumption

Power Consumption

 

Conclusion

Part of AMD’s goals with the R7 260 is an “entry point” to capture gamers ready to upgrade that “need more performance and features” out of their GPU. The new line of GPUs from AMD have the second generation of GCN (Graphics Core Next) under the hood and have added their TrueAudio features on this card as well. The TrueAudio technology ‘sounds’ promising (I know.. I know, terrible joke there…) and I do hope that more support for it churns up so we can really see what a AAA title is all about. Along with AMD’s new API, Mantle, which we also hope to take a firm hold soon, you have a well-rounded entry level card at a feature level at least.

We see performance of this card filling in the gaps I spoke of earlier pretty well by easily handling the 250 that sits below it by an average of around 40%+. The card above it in the pecking order, a 260X, seems to be easily beating it as well outside of what appears to be some anomalous results in Crysis 3 and Metro:LL tend to beat it out by several percent. The 270X is in a class by itself, a card truly made for 1080p gaming with most games run with their “ultra” settings and getting great FPS.

With 1080p and the 260, there will need to be some sacrifices made with image quality to get your FPS playable on some modern titles but after knocking things down a notch, specifically getting rid of any Anti-Aliasing, the performance improved. Part of the problem is the 1GB of vRAM at 1080p. Here is a thread (CLICK!) made by a dedicated benching team member, Funsoul, that goes over several games at 1080p. You can see most of them easily break the 1GB of vRAM use at the settings he used. Perhaps this card is best suited for 1680×1050 with higher settings.

As far as the cooling goes, remember that the AIB’s will have their own solutions out when they release in a couple weeks.

Pricing is also important in figuring out if the card is a good deal. MSRP on this card will be $109. The 250 can be found for as little as $80 after MIR but average around $85-$90. The 260X comes in as low as $125, but it averages around $140. So we see about a $25 to $30 gap between the cards which seems appropriate for the performance you are getting.

The card comes out in the middle of this month from AIB’s so keep an eye out if this card tickles your fancy. It falls where it should performance and price wise so AMD has a good ‘filler’ card in this segment. This card is Overclockers.com Approved!

Overclockers_clear_approved

– Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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