Graphics Cards Guide

AMD Radeon R9 Series Performance Examined

AMD Radeon R9 Series Performance Examined


AMD Radeon R9 Series Examined (Part II) + Test Setup

R9 270 Cards - Sub US$200 Offerings

Round up the Radeon R9 series are the R9 270 pair of cards featuring the Pitcairn XT core; this GPU first made its appearance in the Radeon HD 7800 series. For some reason, AMD has renamed the codename of the core to Curacao and there has been no official notice on what has changed, leading us to believe it's a name change for the sake of it. However, compared to the older series, the R9 270X sports a core with a slightly higher clock speed as it's purported to have a performance ceiling of 1050MHz, against the 1000GHz clock speed of the older Radeon HD 7870 GPU. The R9 270 is rated to perform lower, up to 925MHz. The newer R9 270 cards have speedier video memory modules, rated up to 5600MHz. They also have a more attractive SRPs at launch; the R9 270X is going for US$199, and the R9 270, US$179.

From a performance standpoint, we expect the Radeon R9 270X to give the US$249 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 a good run for its money despite the fact AMD has chosen to officially compare against the older GeForce GTX 660. And while the plain jade Radeon R9 270 is meant to go up against the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, in this article we intend to check how the new 'performance class' Radeon R9 series ranks against the equivalent new 'performance class' GeForce GTX 700 models (and as such we'll not be bringing in older cards for this comparison).

We managed to get the R9 270X reference card and its appearance is similar to the 290 cards; however, it doesn't come with the dual BIOS feature. At a glance, the card's length is slightly shorter than the R9 290 cards; therefore, it's possible to tell them apart from their physical appearances. In fact, it sports the same reference board length of 9.5 inches long as the old Radeon HD 7870.

The video connectivity options are made up of the usual, now familiar suspects of a pair of dual-link DVI ports, one HDMI port and one DisplayPort ports. Like their 290 counterparts, they offer 3x DVI/HMDI connections simultaneously. With the DisplayPort port in use, the card can drive 4 displays simultaneously (or up to six with a DisplayPort MST hub).

 

The PowerColor R9 270 2GB GDDR5 OC stood in for our missing R9 270 reference card. According to PowerColor, its Pitcairn XT core has a base clock of 930MHz, and a boost clock of 955MHz. However, its memory modules operate at the default 5600MHz clock speed.

 

 

The video connectivity ports have been pared down with the removal of one DVI port. There is a single DVI-I port, one HDMI, and one DisplayPort port.

 

Test Setup

These are the specifications of our graphics testbed:

  • Intel Core i7-3960X (3.3GHz)
  • ASUS P9X79 Pro (Intel X79 chipset) Motherboard
  • 4 x 2GB DDR3-1600 G.Skill Ripjaws Memory
  • Seagate 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (OS)
  • Western Digital Caviar Black 7200 RPM 1TB SATA hard drive (Benchmarks + Games)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Below is the list of cards we'll be testing. We used the ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP card to represent the R9 280X reference card; while the PowerColor R9 270 2GB GDDR5 OC stood in for the R9 270. Part of the resultset of the ASUS Radeon R9 280X card was obtained while the card was operating on the AMD Catalyst 13.9 drivers; the results from 3DMark, Crysis 3, and overclocking were obtained when the card's drivers were updated to AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 8. But that said, the differences are marginal, if any.

At the same time, we fielded the listed NVIDIA GeForce GTX cards; the GTX 780 Ti reference card was reviewed in early November. The other reference card included was the GTX Titan that was tested with updated drivers (ForceWare 331.65). The rest of the NVIDIA candidates were the ASUS GeForce GTX 780 DirectCU II 3GB GDDR5 that was clock down to the default operating values of the GeForce GTX 780 reference card. The Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 Windforce 3X OC was throttled down to represent a reference GTX 770; while the MSI GeForce GTX 760 Twin Frozr IV OC was used to represent the GTX 760.

  • AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2)
  • AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2)
  • ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP 3GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.9 / AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 8)
  • AMD Radeon R9 270X 2GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2)
  • PowerColor R9 270 2GB GDDR5 OC (AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.2)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.70)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan 6GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.65)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 3GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.65)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.40 Beta)
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 2GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.40 Beta)

Note:  The purpose of the article is not squarely an AMD vs. NVIDIA article, but more about how the new performance series from each side ranks. As such, even though we're aware that the plain jade Radeon R9 270 is meant to go up against the GeForce GTX 650 Ti, we intend to find out how the five new 'performance class' Radeon R9 series ranks against the equivalent five new 'performance class' GeForce GTX 700 models. As such, we'll not be bringing in older cards for this comparison.

 

Benchmarks

Here's the full list of benchmarks that we'll be using for our assessment:-

  • Futuremark 3DMark 2013
  • Crysis 3
  • Unigine 4.0 "Heaven"
  • Hitman: Absolution
  • Far Cry 3

For our temperature and power consumption tests, 3DMark 2011 was used.