AMD Targets Video Cards At The $179 Price Point

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has been keeping us extremely busy launching new graphics cards and this week is no different. AMD announced the Radeon R9 270 graphics card this morning at the $179.99 price point. This is the sixth video card that AMD has added to the Radeon R7 and R9 series of  video cards since October! This 'new' card is interesting as it reduces the entry price into the high-end R9 series down to the $179 price point and uses the same exact Pitcarin GPU found on the AMD Radeon R9 270X!

AMD R9 Series Lineup

The AMD Radeon R9 270 is pretty much the same thing as the Radeon R9 270X, but it features a lower GPU clock speed and power envelope. The AMD Radeon R9 270X had a typical board power of 180 Watts and required two 6-pin PCIe power connectors.  The new AMD Radeon R9 270 has a typical board power of just 150 Watts, which means it can get away with a single 6-pin PCIe power connector.  This is significant as many older systems and the vast majority of store bought systems can only handle a modest discrete graphics card. 

  Radeon R9 270 Radeon R9 270X Radeon HD 7870 GHz
Release Date November 2013 October 2013 March 2012
Original SRP $179 $199 $349
GPU Pitcarin Pitcarin Pitcarin
Process 28nm 28nm 28nm
Transistors 2.8 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion
Stream Processors 1280 1280 1280
Clock Speed 925 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz
Frame Buffer 2GB 2GB 2GB
Memory Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Clock 1400 MHz 1400 MHz 1200 MHz
Compute Perf 2.37 TFLOPS 2.69 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS
Texture Units 80 80 80
ROPs 32 32 32
Typical Board Power 150W 180W 175W

The AMD Radeon R9 270X was clocked at 1050 MHz on the core and 1400 MHz on the GDDR5 memory. The new AMD Radeon R9 270 runs at 925 MHz on the core and 1400 MHz on the GDDR5 memory. This means the core clock speed has been lowered 75MHz, which is right around a 7% clock speed reduction from the R9 270X.  The lowered clock speed means that the card has just 2.37 TFLOPS of compute performance versus 2.69TFLOPS before. This is a decrease of 11.9-percent, so it looks like lowering the clock speeds and board power will certainly have an impact on gaming performance and thus the $20 price cut.

Here is a quick table that compared the key specifications for some of the Pitcarin based graphics cards. Now that you know what the key changes are between the 'old' AMD Radeon R9 270X and the 'new' AMD Radeon R9 270, we can dive into the review! 

msi-sapphire-270

AMD did not send us their Radeon R9 270 reference card, but we were able to get our hands on a pair of retail cards from our friends at MSI and Sapphire!  MSI sent over the Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC 2GB video card (part number R9 270 GAMING 2G) and Sapphire sent the Dual-X R9 270 2G GDDR5 with Boost (Part number 11220-00-40G).

  MSI R9 270 Gaming OC Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC
SRP $179 $179
Clock Speed 975 MHz 945 MHz
Memory Clock 1400 MHz 1400 MHz

As you can see from the table above both the MSI and Sapphire Radeon R9 270 cards that we were sent are factory overclocked cards.  The MSI R9 270 Gaming is 50MHz over stock and the Sapphire Dual-X OC is 20MHz over the reference cards speeds set by AMD. This is a modest overclock by all means, but remember we are likely going to be overclocking limited by the power envelope on this card and the single 6-pin PCie power connector. 

sapphire-r9-270oc

Both AMD Raedeon R9 270 video cards feature dual-slot GPU coolers with twin cooling fans and share the same GPU and amount of memory and that is where the similarities end. Both companies made custom PCBs for their Radeon R9 270 cards,  The Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC video card measures 7.8-inches in length, but the fan shrouds brings the total length of the card to just uner 8.25-inches.  The MSI R9 270 Gaming is 10-inches long (PCB Measures 8.75-inches, but the fan aluminum cooling fins and fan shroud both extend past the PCB).

amd-r9-270-display

When it comes to video outputs you have a pair of DVI connectors (DVI-I and DVI-D), Display Port and HDMI. Both cards have slots for hot air to exhaust, but it appears that Sapphire has enlarged theirs to reduce noise and improve airflow for better cooling.

sapphire-r9-270

Both cards feature a GPU cooler that has two two copper heatpipes, but the differ in size. The MSI card uses one 6mm and one 8mm, whereas the Sapphire card uses two 8mm heatpipes. The actual fan blade  diameter on the MSI card is 95mm and just 74mm on the Sapphire Dual-X card. It will be interesting to see how these cards keep cool with the different cooler designs as MSI is using larger fans with smaller heatpipes and Sapphire is using larger heatpipes with smaller fans.  Both cards also have one AMD CrossFire interconnect located along the top edge of the card for multi-GPU setups.

amd-r9-270-power

Both cards have a single of 6-pin PCI Express power connector located near the end of the card.  The MSI R9 270 Gaming OC has it located on the top and the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 has it located at the end of the video card. Both MSI and Sapphire recommend a 500W or greater power supply with one 75W 6-pin power connector for this video card to operate properly. If you wanted to run AMD CrossFire at some point in time, the recommended PSU is a 600W or greater model with two 75 Watt PCIe power connectors.

amd-r9-270-back

Both MSI and Sapphire didn't use a backplate on their Radeon R9 270 video cards! The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC and Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 are two good looking cards, but how do they perform? Let's put them both to the test and see how they do!

 

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. It should be noted that we average all of our test runs. There has been some concern of people testing a cold card versus a hot card, but we've always done out testing 'hot' since the site started back more than a decade ago.

Video Cards & Drivers used for testing:

Intel X79/LGA2011 Platform

Test System

test-system

The Intel X79 platform that we used to test the all of the video cards was running the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard with BIOS 4401 that came out on 09/02/2013. The Corsair Vengeance 16GB 1866MHz quad channel memory kit was set to 1866MHz with 1.5v and 9-10-9-27 2T 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

 

MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC 2GB Video Card GPU-Z Information:

r270-gaming-gpuz

 r270-gaming-idle

Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC 2GB Video Card GPU-Z Information:

sapphire-270-gpuz

sapphire-270-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 AMD Radeon R9 270 starts out at just $179 and it has solid performance in BF3 as it averaged nearly 60 FPS at 1920x1080 and around 36 FPS at 2560x1600 with Ultra image quality settings.

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: The Sapphire and MSI Radeon R9 270 cards were right around 40 FPS at 2560x1600 and 70 FPS at 1920x1080.  Both cards were able to best the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost and even the GeForce GTX 660 at both of these popular gaming resolutions.

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. 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: TheD Radeon R9 270 was able to run Far Cry 3 with Ultra settings at roughly 27 FPS, which is just 1-2 FPS slower than the Radeon R9 270X reference card that costs $20 more.

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

Benchmark Results: The Sapphire Radeon R9 270 did really well in Hitman: Absolution for the price point as it was only 2 FPS slower than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 reference card at 1920x1080 and much faster than the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 650 Ti Boost and EVGA GeForce GTX 660 SC. 

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-last-light 

Benchmark Results: In Metro: Last Light the AMD Radeon R9 270 was just shy of 40 FPS at 1920x1080, which puts it just ahead of the EVGA GeForce GTX 660 at this resolution and a tie at 2560x1600.

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.

tomb-raider

Benchmark Results: The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC was actually faster than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580!  that just goes to show how much power you are getting for $179 these days! Both AMD Radeon R9 270 cards were running right around 70 FPS on Tomb Raider, so it was more than playable with everything cranked up on this budget friendly graphics card. 

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 MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC scoring 5,255 3DMarks and the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC coming in slightly lower at 5,107 3DMarks.

Fire Strike Extreme:

firestrike-x

Benchmark Results: The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC scoring 2,595 3DMarks and the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC scored 2,503 3DMarks in the Fire Strike Extreme benchmark.

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 MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC scored 3,220 points and the Sapphire Radeon R9 270 OC scores 3,186 points in the Catzilla RC 1.0 1440P benchmark test. There is just a 30MHz difference between the two cards, but it does make a small impact in the benchmarks as without that extra 30MHz the Sapphire R9 270 OC falls behind the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost reference card!

Temperature & Noise Testing

Temperatures are important to enthusiasts and gamers, so we took a bit of time and did some temperature testing on both Radeon R9 270 video cards

MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC 2GB Idle Temperature:

r270-gaming-idle

Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC 2GB Idle Temperature:

sapphire-270-idle

 

The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC was found to idle at 25C with the fan running at right around 975 RPMs. The Sappphire Dual-X R9 270 OC wasn't too far off that with an idle temp of 28C, but the fans were spinning at 1120 RPMs! It should be noted that the ambient room temperature was 22.0C (72F).

MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC 2GB Gaming Temperature:

r270-gaming-load

Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC 2GB Gaming Temperature:

sapphire-270-gaming

The MSI Radeon R9 270 topped out at just 57C with the fans running at 1240 RPMs when gaming on it for an extended period of time.  The Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 hit 60C with the fans running at 2144 RPM.The clear winner when it comes to temperatures would have to be MSI as their card runs at a higher clock speed and runs cooler despite the fans spinning lower. Remember that MSI is using 95mm fan blades versus the 74mm found on the Sappphire Dual-X GPU cooler. 

After reviewing a bunch of the AMD Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X cards and seeing 94C load temperatures it is nice to once again see low temperatures!

temperature

We must have gotten a high leakage AMD Radeon R9 290 video card as our idle and load temperatures were pretty toasty. The AMD Radeon R9 290 has a temperature target setting of 95C by default and our reference card topped out at 94C when gaming and 41C when at idle. AMD said that the Radeon R9 290 and 290X should be about the same when it comes to temperature, but our Radeon R9 290 was running noticeably higher at idle. In fact, this is the highest idle temperature that we have seen in some time.

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

The fan speeds and actual fan blade sizes greatly differ on these two Radeon R9 270 graphics cards, but we were shocked to find that the idle fan noise was pretty much identical at just over 40 dB.  When gaming though the MSI R9 270 Gaming fans only spun up to 1240RPM whereas the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC fan blades went up to 2140 RPM.  You can easily hear this 900 RPM different and so our sound meter confirmed this by noting that the Sapphire card was over 4dB louder when gaming. Both have acceptable noise levels and are certainly quieter than your average card.

Power Consumption

sapphire-r9-270

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 entire platform with the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC  installed was consuming 104 Watts at idle and hit a maximum of 299 Watts when gaming. These are pretty good power numbers and are about what we expected to see from a card that is said to have a typical board power rating of around a 150 Watts.  The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC used slightly more power at idle and 13 Watts more power at load, which put it the same power consumption level of the Radeon R9 270X.  This is strange, but we might have been sent a cherry picked R9 270X reference card or a power hungry R9 270 retail card!

AMD Radeon R9 270 GPU Overclocking

How well does the AMD Radeon R9 270 overclock? We were wondering the same thing, so we'll be taking a look at overclocking the Radeon R9 270 using AMD OverDrive.

overdrive

The first card that we will be overclocking is the MSI R9 270 Gaming OC. This card comes clocked at 975MHz on the core and 1400MHz on the memory. You can go up to 1050MHz on the core and 1500MHz on the memory in AMD OverDrive.

ccc-max

We had no problems maxing both the GPU and memory sliders out and were able to increase the power control setting to the highest possible setting of 20% as well. This is impressive as it is the same core clock speed as a reference AMD Radeon R9 270X video card that costs $20 more.

msi-gaming-oc

The stock MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC scored 5,255 3DMark and after our overclock we were able to get a score of 5,646 3DMarks!  The AMD Radeon R9 270X scores 5,556 3DMarks, so we have basically taken the AMD Radeon R9 270 and turned it into a Radeon R9 270X!

saphire-ccc

The Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC came clocked at 945MHz on the core and 1400MHz on the memory. We were shocked to find that AMD OverDrive lets you overclock the Sapphire card future than you could on the MSI card.  With this card you can go up to 1100MHz on the core and 1625MHz on the memory! Overclocking the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 was a bit tougher to do as it didn't like how power control settings and we were unable to get anything over 1050MHz on the core stable. We settled at 1050MHz core, 1625MHz memory and +5% on the power control settings as our final stable overclock.

sapphire-max-oc

Despite having a higher clock speed, the Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 scored 5,467 in 3DMark FireStrike.  The lower power control settings are to blame, but this is still a solid little overclock. Both AMD Radeon R9 270 cards that we have were able to overclock up to AMD Radeon R9 270X clock speeds.  Nothing to spectacular there, but you do get a nice little performance gain by doing so.

Final Thoughts and Conclusions

efficient-r270

The AMD Radeon R9 270 is all about efficiency and trying to get the most performance that one can get from a 150 Watt graphics card.  This is a pretty big deal to those that are looking for a quick upgrade to an older system and they don't want to bother with upgrading their power supply to handle a more power hungry graphics card. The AMD Radeon R9 270 doesn't use a new GPU, but it's the first time this GPU has been used for a 150W card. 

When it comes to performance the MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC and Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC were both found to be solid cards.  They are best suited for 1080P gaming, but that is fine as that is what the vast majority of gamers play at! The AMD Radeon R9 270 was also able to outperform both the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 and GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST across our test suite. Not bad for a $179 graphics card as the GeForce GTX 660 usually runs around $189 (although they can be found for $169.99 shipped after rebate from time to time). The real winner here will again be gamers as AMD will be forcing down pricing as they continue to release competitive cards at fairly aggressive price points and NVIDIA has been slashing prices to stay in the mix.  

amd-game-rewards

One thing you have to keep in mind when shopping for a graphics card is that the AMD R9 270 is now part of the AMD Never Settle Forever game bundle promotion.  That means while supplies last, you'll be getting a game key for Battlefield 4 with the purchase of the Radeon R9 270 at participating retailers. This is an added bonus as BF4 is $59.99 at most retailers right now and if you factor that into the price of the Redeon R9 270 it certainly makes it a sweeter deal.

UPDATE 11/14/2013 - Not all Radeon R9 cards will be getting BF4 as it is only going to be available on select cards picked by the retailer and board partners.  You can read more about this here.

  Radeon R9 270 Radeon R9 270X Radeon HD 7870 GHz
Release Date November 2013 October 2013 March 2012
Original SRP $179 $199 $349
GPU Pitcarin Pitcarin Pitcarin
Process 28nm 28nm 28nm
Transistors 2.8 billion 2.8 billion 2.8 billion
Stream Processors 1280 1280 1280
Clock Speed 925 MHz 1050 MHz 1000 MHz
Frame Buffer 2GB 2GB 2GB
Memory Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Memory Clock 1400 MHz 1400 MHz 1200 MHz
Compute Perf 2.37 TFLOPS 2.69 TFLOPS 2.56 TFLOPS
Texture Units 80 80 80
ROPs 32 32 32
Typical Board Power 150W 180W 175W

Our overclocking of the AMD Radeon R9 270 showed that both of the retail cards that we had could be overclocked up to 1050MHz on the core, thus turning them into a Radeon R9 270X. When we reviewed the AMD Radeon R9 270X graphics card in October we found that both cards could easily overclock beyond 1200MHz on the core, so if you want to overclock the AMD Radeon R9 270X is the best bet as you can feed the board with more power and get higher overclocks.  The purpose of the Radeon R9 270 isn't to go crazy with overclocking though as a throttled down Radeon R9 270X to fit into a specific power envelope. 

sapphire-r9-270oc

The AMD Radeon R9 270 looks like it is going to be a great graphics card for those looking to do 1080P gaming.  The MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC and Sapphire Dual-X R9 270 OC were both great graphics cards. The MSI R9 270 Gaming OC can be purchased online for $184.99 shipped today and we liked it the best between the two cards.  It ran both cooler and quieter, overclocked easier and has a bit more visual appeal.  There is nothing wrong with the Sapphire card, but it was outclassed today.

LR Recommended Award

 

Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon R9 270 at $179 is a solid gaming graphics card for 1080P gamers and it's a heck of a deal if you can find one that comes with BF4 for that price.