Though AMD really announced five products today, they released three for review. Aimed at a price of roughly 139 USD to 299 USD AMD tries to fill the gamers product line-up for the coming winter season. The one product series left will obviously be the much anticipated Radeon R9-290 and 290X, these really are the products that everybody is waiting on. That said, AMD positioned the 260X, 270X and 280X pretty good especially against NVIDIA's latest line-up. But sure realistically, these are refresh products mostly, and quite honestly we had slightly higher hopes for each and every product released today in terms of performance. The pricing is excellent though.
AMD Radeon R7-260X
The R7-260X is a fun, almost entry-level product that is going to allow you to game at 1280x720 to say 1600x1200. If you stick to these resolutions then you may apply good image quality settings. At an MSRP of 139 USD however it is a good deal. You'll be looking at perf in-between say a Radeon HD 7790 and Radeon HD 7850. It also would be a really excellent HTPC card quite honestly. The small PCB footprint and cooler would even allow Mini-ITX setups. Then again at 75 Degrees C it does run a bit hot for such a setup. Overall though, a fun little card but don't expect to game properly at 1080P.
AMD Radeon R9-270X
Next in line is the R9-270X. This card is a beefed up Pitcairn based product (R7870). It's interesting to see what AMD can do with this card performance wise in the long run. Realistically when you enable good image quality settings and restrict yourself to 2x or 4x Anti-aliasing then gaming at 1920x1080P is a sweet-spot for this card (for the money). Performance wise you should imagine this card to be just under or above the R7950. That brings in good value for money at an MSRP of 199 USD. So withing a few weeks shave off another 10% maybe 20% and yeah, that's a good deal. Competition wise, realistically though it is not able to compete with the GeForce GTX 760, which is a little weird to observe anno 2013. Then again the GTX 760 is a few tenners more expensive.
AMD Radeon R9-280X
With the AMD R9-280X things get a little more interesting. Honestly, this really is the Radeon HD 7970 GHz edition (the one that can boost the clock frequency). With a few tweaks we see it perform slightly faster than that Radeon HD 7970 GHz edition. Now NVIDIA refreshed its product as well, so both parties did this. It does make this release a bit dull to be honest. Overall it remains a very pleasing card to work with. But the harsh reality is that this is a Tahiti XT2 GPU plastered on a PCB with another cooler and a different label on the box. You'll maybe able to see 5 to 10% performance differences but overall that's it. Next to that AIB/AIC partners will all launch their own factory tweaked products as well, so performance numbers will go up here and there. But think in the order of 10% here.
Fact remains though that the AMD R9-280X is a very capable card with its 3GB graphics memory partition. You can play games easily at FullHD and have a sure thing at QHD 2560x1440; as such the card remains to be in a sweet spot. The pricing will remain fairly equal towards the R7970 GHz. AMD is launching the AMD R9-280X at an MSRP of 299 USD. It really is a fair price, but with many board partners jumping on this card that price will go down really fast we predict. I'm rather confident that you'll see the product at say 269 USD real soon. And at that price level the card is mighty intersting really.
Overclocking then, we see nice results. Though we had the AIB product from TUL, we could fairly easily set the card at 1150 MHz. Unlike the many regulations from NVIDIA, AMD is leaving the voltage bandwidth treshold much wider. Up-to 1.3 Volts, and that really is enough for a nice air-cooled overclock experience. I'll say this once, NVIDIA took away the fun from proper overclocking, AMD still is allowing a lot of stuff. Though slowly they are getting on the same path with power, load and voltage limiters.
Since we did not test the reference card we can hardly comment on the final possibilities in terms of overclocking. However with voltage tweaking we think 1200~1250 MHz can be achieved just as well. Overall tweaking this card should get you anywhere from 10 to 20% additional performance out of the card.
AMD inserted a pretty nice series of graphics card. They all are priced fair, and these prices all are based on MSRP, meaning you can deduct another 10-20% of that price in the weeks to come (once volume availability kicks in). For this refresh we had hoped to see a little more boom-boom-pow in terms of additional performance. We feel that the R7-260X could have been a notch faster. The R9-270 really is performing nicely at say the R7950 level. At 199 USD you can't complain there either.
The most interesting product for us guru's will be the R9-280X, this rebadged and slightly tweaked R7970 GHz edition graphics card will be sold in the 269~299 USD price range bracket. For that kind of money it is an attractive product with 3GB of graphics memory. BTW fun fact, when the R7970 launched in December 2011 it was tagged at an MSRP of roughly 500 USD. Any game will play 1080P perfectly with the best image quality settings. Even 2560x1440 should not be a big deal. But for anybody who bought their Radeon HD 7970 back in December 2011, there really is no reason to upgrade just yet and AMD might have shot themselves in the foot for that.
That said perhaps the current R7970 / GHz owners are on the lookout for something called the R9 290 and 290X eh ? That product under codename Hawaii will be released real soon. So stay in touch as that card series will drive performance towards a whole new level for AMD. Yes Sir - the best has yet to come!
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