AMD and NVIDIA Fight For The $139 Price Point

 Of all the R7 and R9 series cards that were released today, the AMD Radeon R7 260X is the most intriguing for a variety of reasons. This card is essentially a re-brand of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 with some unlocked goodies that were previously unknown. For example the Bonaire XT GPU used on the AMD Radeon HD 7790 was the first GPU to feature AMD TrueAudio and advanced CrossFire technologies. When the AMD Radeon HD 7790 was released in March 2013 there was no disclosure of these advancements, so it came as a shock to everyone that AMD had new technologies in this brand new GPU. We aren't sure if AMD will 'allow' the Radeon HD 7790 to be 'unlocked' through the drivers or a BIOS update to get some of these new features, but time will tell.

r7-260x

Since the new AMD Radeon R7 260X uses the same exact 28nm Bonaire GPU as the Radeon HD 7790, it should come as no surprise that it features 896 stream processors and 2 GB of GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit memory bus. The only big change here is the clock frequency has been increased from what it was on the AMD Radeon HD 7790. The AMD Radeon HD 7790 was clocked at 1000 MHz on the core and 1500 MHz on the memory.  The new AMD Radeon R7 260X runs at 1100 MHz on the core and 1625 MHz for the memory.  These new clock speeds help the card have 1.97 TFLOPS of compute performance versus 1.79 TFLOPS before. and is aimed at gamers that play at 1920x1080. Other than the clock speeds you have a new GPU cooler design and that is it!

Let's take a look at the AMD Radeon R7 260X reference card!

amd-r7-270x

The AMD Radeon R7 260X is a dual-slot video card that measures right at 6.8-inches in length, which makes it ideal for small form factor PCs where space is a premium.

amd-r7-270x-video

When it comes to video outputs you have a pair of DVI connectors (DVI-I and DVI-D), Display Port and HDMI. The AMD reference card has a high-flow hot air exhaust bracket that is identical to the one we saw on the Radeon HD 7790, which is said to reduce air noise and improve airflow for better cooling.

amd-r7-270x-power

The AMD Radeon R7 260X has a single 6-pin PCI Express power connector located at the end of the video card for 75 Watts of additional power. AMD recommends a 450W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin power connector for this video card to operate properly.

270x-crossfire

The AMD Radeon R7 260X has a single CrossFire interconnect on top for pairing it with another graphics card.

amd-r7-270x-back

The back of the card doesn't have a backplate and none of the memory chips for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory are located on the back. Our board did have a 'press board' sticker on it, so hopefully we don't have a cherry picked board or something!

270x-650Boost

The AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB is priced at $139, which means that it is direct competition for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB video card. NVIDIA cut the price on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST video cards this week down to $129 on the 1GB model and $149 on the 2GB version. NVIDIA did this ahead of the release of the AMD Radeon R7 260X release. We checked Newegg and found a GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 1GB card for $109.99 shipped After Rebate (AR) and an overclocked GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB for $119.99 shipped AR. Before the $20 rebate the AMD Radeon R7 260X and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB are priced the same at $139.

Let's see if the AMD Radeon R7 260X is faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost!

 

Test System

Before we look at the numbers, let's take a brief look at the test system that was used. All testing was done using a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit and benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

test-system

Test System Settings

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 0305 that came out on 12/25/2012. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 1T memory timings. The OCZ Vertex 3 240GB SSD was run with firmware version 2.25.

 

The Intel X79 Test Platform

 

Component

 

Brand/Model

 

Live Pricing

 

Processor

 

Intel Core i7-3960X

 

Motherboard

ASUS P9X79 Deluxe

 

Memory

16GB Corsair 1866MHz

 

Video Card

 

Various

 

Solid-State Drive

 

OCZ Vertex 3 240GB

 

Cooling

 

Intel RTS2011LC

 

Power Supply

Corsair AX1200

 

Operating System

 

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

 

AMD Radeon R7 260X Video Card GPU-Z Information:

r7-260x-gpuz

r7-260x-gpuz-idle

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST Video Card GPU-Z Information:

650boost-gpuz

650boost-idle

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

bf3

Benchmark Results: The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB video card straight up owned the AMD Radeon R7 260X reference card at both 2560x1600 and 1920x1080. These cards are designed to run at 1920x1080 and the Radeon R7 260X averages 38FPs and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST averages 47FPS! This means that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST was 24% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

Bioshock Infinite

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite is the third installment in the BioShock series, and though it is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games, it does feature similar gameplay concepts and themes. BioShock Infinite uses a Modified Unreal Engine 3 game engine and was released worldwide on March 26, 2013.

Bioshock Infinite

We tested BioShock Infinite with the Ultra game settings.

bioshock

Benchmark Results: In Bioshock Infinite the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST was 13% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

Far Cry 3

Farcry3 Game Screenshot

Far Cry 3 is an open world first-person shooter video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It is the sequel to 2008's Far Cry 2. The game was released on December 4th, 2012 for North America. Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.[11] After a vacation goes awry, player character Jason Brody has to save his kidnapped friends and escape from the islands and their unhinged inhabitants.

FarCry 3 Quality Settings

FarCry 3 Video Quality

Far Cry 3 uses the Dunia Engine 2 game engine with Havok physics. The graphics are excellent and the game really pushes the limits of what one can expect from mainstream graphics cards. We set game title to 8x MSAA Anti-Aliasing and ultra quality settings.

fc3

Benchmark Results: In Far Cry 3 the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST was 33% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth DirecX 11 video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series, and runs on IO Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. This game title uses the Glacier 2 game engine and was released on November 20th, 2012.

hitmanabsolution_550.

We benchmarked Hitman: Absolution with Ultra Settings.

Hitman Absolution Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: Hitman Absolution is a game title that eats up the frame buffer on your card and destroys 1GB video cards at anything beyond 1920x1080. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST was 16.6% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

Metro Last Light

Metro: Last Light is a first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay with a combination of survival horror elements. It uses the 4A Game engine and was released in May 2013.

Metro: Last Light

Metro Last Light was benchmarked with Ultra settings

metro

Benchmark Results: In Metro: Last Light the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST was 13% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

On March 5th, 2013 Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.

Tomb Raider Settings

The game has been built on Crystal Dynamics's game engine called the "Crystal Engine" and the graphics look fantastic. AMD and Crystal Dyanmic's worked on a new technology called TressFX Hair, which AMD describes as “the world’s first in-game implementation of a real-time, per-strand hair physics system” for this game title. We set the image quality to ultimate for benchmarking, but we disabled TressFX Hair under the advanced tab to be fair to NVIDIA graphics cards that don't support the feature.

tombraider

Benchmark Results: In the new Tomb Raider PC game we found the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST to be 12.2% faster than the AMD Radeon R7 260X at 1920x1080.

3DMark 2013

3Dmark Fire Strike Benchmark Results - For high performance gaming PCs

Use Fire Strike to test the performance of dedicated gaming PCs, or use the Fire Strike Extreme preset for high-end systems with multiple GPUs. Fire Strike uses a multi-threaded DirectX 11 engine to test DirectX 11 hardware.

3DMark Fire Strike

 

Fire Strike Benchmark Results:

firestrike

Benchmark Results: The 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark has the Radeon R7 260X scoring 3751 and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST scoring 4024. This gives the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST over a 7% performance advantage.

Fire Strike Extreme:

firestrike-extreme

Benchmark Results: 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme benchmark found the AMD Radeon R7 260X scoring 1800 and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST 2GB scoring 1970 for a difference of nearly 10%.

Catzilla

Catzilla is a relatively new benchmark that is made the Polish demoscene group Plasticis. It is being produced in collaboration with Polish post production company, Plastige. Plastige is the company that worked on Witcher 2 Enhanced Edition and some of the developers there were behind the PlayStation Network game Datura. The benchmark uses a parallel graphics engine that takes advantage of multi-core CPUs. This isn't a benchmark being made in some kids basement and it doesn't appear to be bought off by any companies yet, so it should be a good benchmark to use.

catzilla-benchmark

While this benchmark is in beta phases, we still have found that Catzilla is a good cross-API benchmark. You also can't go wrong with a benchmark that has a giant animated cat nuke cities with its laser eyes as you do. You can watch a video of the benchmark in action below.

We purchased Catzilla Advanced and ran the full Catzilla benchmark at 2560x1440.

catzilla

Benchmark Results: The Radeon R7 260X scored 2174 points in the 1440P Catzilla benchmark and the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost scored 3186.

Temperature & Noise Testing

Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on the AMD Radeon R7 260X and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST.

AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB Video Card Idle Temperature:

r7-260x-gpuz-idle

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Video Card Idle Temperature:

650boost-idle

The AMD Radeon R7 260X had an idle temperature of 26.0C in a room that was 22.0C (72F) and the single fan was spinning ~1150 RPM. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB was a tad hotter and idled at 32C with a fan speed of ~1100 RPM.

AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB Gaming Temperature:

r7-260x-gaming

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB Gaming Temperature:

650boost-gaming

When playing Far Cry 3 and Battlefield 3 for about 30 minutes each, we hit 73C on the AMD Radeon R7 260X  and 77C on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST.  Notice the fan speed was only 1500 RPM on the AMD Radeon R7 260X versus 1800 RPM on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST 2GB.

temp

Both cards fall in the middle of the pack when it comes to noise, but keep in mind that these are both reference coolers. The AMD Radeon R7 260X runs cooler at both idle and load when compared to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost 2GB.

Sound Testing

We recently upgraded our sound meter to an Extech sound level meter with ±1.5dB accuracy that meets Type 2 standards. This meter ranges from 35dB to 90dB on the low measurement range, which is perfect for us as our test room usually averages around 36dB. We measure the sound level two inches above the corner of the motherboard with 'A' frequency weighting. The microphone wind cover is used to make sure no wind is blowing across the microphone, which would seriously throw off the data.

noise
If you read the part about temperatures, you should already know where this is headed.  The AMD Radeon R7 260X was quieter at both idle and load!

Power Consumption

r7-270x-Ti650-Boost

For testing power consumption, we took our test system and plugged it into a Kill-A-Watt power meter. For idle numbers, we allowed the system to idle on the desktop for 15 minutes and took the reading. For load numbers we ran three games at 1920x1080 and averaged the peak results seen on the power meter.

power consumption

Power Consumption Results: The AMD Radeon R7 260X was very power efficient and our entire test system at the wall was observed at 99 Watts at idle and then hit a maximum of 272 Watts when gaming. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB card was found to use slightly more power at both idle and load. Our testing showed that the  AMD Radeon R7 260X topped out 35 Watts below that of the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost.

AMD Radeon R7 260X GPU Overclocking

To take a quick look at overclocking we fired up AMD Catalyst Control Center and used AMD Overdrive to overclock the AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB video card.

260x-overclock-ccc

The AMD Radeon R7 260X 2GB comes clocked at 1100MHz on the core and 1625MHz on the memory. You can go up to 1320MHz on the core and 1800MHz on the memory in AMD OverDrive. We were easily able to overclock the AMD Radeon R7 260X to 1225MHz on the core and 1800MHz on the memory. With these clock speeds we were able to get solid gaming performance without any tearing or artifacts.

260x-overclock-gpuz

Let's take a look at some Futuremark 3DMark scores with the Fire Strike preset to see what happens with performance when the card is overclocked.

260x-overclocked

With this overclock we ran a quick run of 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme and found our score went up from 1,800 3DMarks to 2,011 3DMarks, which is an improvement of 211 3DMarks or 11.7%. This is a solid overclock, but it is pretty common for the AMD Radeon HD 7790 to reach 1200MHz on the core clock. The memory overclock is excellent at 7200MHz effective! The bummer is that this card only has a 128-bit memory bus, so you start with a memory bandwidth of 104GB/s and we were able to get it up to 115.2GB/s. Not a huge increase, but we'll take a free gain!

This AMD Radeon R7 260X versus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost review wouldn't be complete without some NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti overclocking, so let's see what that card can do.

650boost-oc

We used EVGA Precision X and was able to get the core clock up to 1095MHz (1148Mhz boost) and the memory up to 1752MHz (7008MHz effective). With this overclock on the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB video card we were able to get 2,180 3DMarks in Fire Strike Extreme. This gives the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST an 8.4% performance advantage over the AMD Radeon R7 260X!Both cards are easy and fun to overclock, but they both overclock to about the same level over stock clock speeds!  These cards might be from different companies, but they are very similar!

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

 The AMD Radeon R7 260X graphics card is affordable at $139, but we quickly discovered that it faces tough competition against the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. In our benchmark the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST 2GB was clearly faster across the board at both 1920x1080 and 2560x1600 screen resolutions. That said, the AMD Radeon R7 260X video card is surprisingly powerful and was able to play pretty much every game we threw at it on a 1080P panel. We found that you can't blindly crank up all the image quality settings with the Radeon R7 260X, but if you are okay with medium image quality settings in most 'Tier 1' game titles, you would be okay with this card. The AMD R7 series is supposed to be about causal gamers that want to be able to run DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 game titles and this card can certainly do that.

270x-650Boost

While the AMD Radeon R7 260X didn't beat the NVIDIA GEForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST in our performance testing, it was able to run cooler, quieter and use less power at both idle and load. Is this enough to make up for the slower gaming performance? Most gamers would likely say not a chance as they'd take performance over a bit of noise or heat as long as it is within reason. You are the one that needs to answer that, but you have all the data here in this review to come up with your conclusions.

Overclocking performance on the AMD Radeon R7 260X didn't disappoint as we were able to overclock the core from 1100MHz to 1225MHz with ease.  This is inline with what we have seen on the AMD Radeon HD 7790, which uses the same exact Bonaire XT GPU.  The 2GB of GDDR5 memory by SKHynix overclocked all the way up to 7200MHz effective, which was very impressive and higher than we've ever taken any Radeon HD 7790 in the past!

amd-200-lineup

The one thing we wish we knew about the AMD Radeon R7 260X and the performance of the card is how it will perform with Mantle. Once some game titles come out that are optimized for Mantel, like Battlefield 4, will that make up for the performance gaps that we saw between these two competing cards? The same can be said about AMD TrueAudio as programmable audio is sure to be amazing, but we won't be able to try it out until 2014.  Unusable features on a video card make it tough to review and will likely make your purchasing decision tougher as well.

The AMD Radeon HD R7 260X wasn't able to beat the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST when it comes to gaming performance right now, but we don't know what AMD Mantle will bring to the table when the Battlefield 4 patch comes out in December. Will we see the AMD Radeon R7 260X performing better than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 TI BOOST in that game title? How many more Mantle supporting game titles will be coming out? The same goes for AMD TrueAudio. How many games will be supporting AMD TrueAudio in 2014? Right now the list we have been shown only shows 3-4 game titles. AMD will need more than a few game titles to come out with support for both to help sway buyers at certain price points like this one at $139. We aren't sure how this will play out just yet.

At the end of the day the AMD Radeon R7 260X is a re-brand of the AMD Radeon HD 7790 that came out in March 2013. The performance is a bit behind the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB, but it is quieter, cooler and more efficient. It also brings new technologies to the table and that we like that. AMD TrueAudio and the Mantle API look good on paper, so we can't wait to see how successful they are. The AMD Radeon R7 260X might not have won the battle today, but the innovative features make it an interesting card. If you want AMD TrueAudio it is either this card or having to jump up to the AMD Radeon R9 290 for hundreds of dollars more. 

 

innovation award

 

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon R7 260X isn't faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST 2GB, but it wins in some areas and contains unproven features that could change things down the road.