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AMD Radeon R7 260 review: AMD's affordable trump card

AMD Radeon R7 260 versus Nvidia GeForce GTX 650

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Introduction

We tested quite a few new cards in the AMD R7 and R9 series ever since AMD launched them a few months back. Today AMD introduced the Radeon R7 260, an affordable version of the existing R7 260X. In terms of pricing, it's positioned somewhere in between Nvidia's GeForce GTX 650 and 650Ti. Can it also compete in terms of performance?

AMD Radeon R7 260


The new R7 260 has a recommended price of about £67 excluding VAT / €79 excluding VAT. The card is related to the Radeon R7 260X (reviewed here). That 260X in its turn was a new version of the AMD Radeon HD 7790, a card based on the Bonaire GPU. While that one came out in the Radeon HD 7000 series, its range of features are more similar to those of AMD's latest GPU, the Hawaii chip that was used for the Radeon R9 290 and 290X. Like Hawaii, Bonaire supports AMD TrueAudio, a feature that holds a lot of promise but has yet to be implemented in games. You can read more about it here.

The Bonaire GPU has 896 shader units (or stream processors in AMD jargon), all of which are enabled on the Radeon R7 260X. The R7 260 has 768 active shader units. The max GPU clock frequency of the 260 is 1.0 GHz instead of the 1.1 GHz on the 260X. The third, and perhaps biggest, reason why the 260 can be cheaper than the 260X is that the amount of video memory is 1GB instead of 2GB. The video memory is also clocked slower, with 1500 MHz instead of 1625 MHz. These adjustments have reduced the power usage. The 260X used a maximum of 115W, for the 260 that will be about 20 watts less. 

The featureset of the R7 260 is identical to the other cards in the R7 and R9 series, with the mentioned additional support for TrueAudio. The R7 260 supports DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and Mantle. You can connect up to 6 monitors if you use a DisplayPort 1.2 hub, and you can combine two R7 260s in Crossfire.

AMD Radeon R7 260

The reference card we tested is equipped with a modest cooler and DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI monitor connectors. Power comes through a 6-pin PEG connector. AMD says that the reference card likely won't go on sale, but that its partners will release custom cards based on their existing R7 260X cards. The first 260 cards are expected to appear in mid-January. 

Below you can see the differences between the R7 260 and R7 260X.

General
 
BrandAMDAMD
Product nameRadeon R7 260Radeon R7 260X
Product codeRADEON R7 260RADEON R7 260X
DetailsProduct infoProduct info
Specifications
Codename chipBonaireBonaire
InterfacePCI-Express 3.0 x16PCI-Express 3.0 x16
Memory1024 MB2048 MB
Clock frequency - Core1000 MHz1100 MHz
Clock frequency - Memory1500 MHz1625 MHz
Memory controller128 bit128 bit
Memory typeGDDR5GDDR5
DirectX versionDirectX 11.2DirectX 11.2
Unified shaders768 shading units896 shading units
Extra power connector
Power connector typePEG6PEG6
Chip - Transistor count2080 mln2080 mln
Chip - Production technology28 nm28 nm
SLI compatible
Crossfire compatible
Integrated H.264 video decoder
Integrated VC-1 video decoder
Maximum power usage (TDP)95 W115 W

Benchmarks

We used our standard graphics card testing setup, consisting of an Intel Core i7 3960X (Sandy Bridge-E), 16 GB Corsair DDR3-1600 RAM, an ASUS P7X79 Pro motherboard, a Samsung Spinpoint F1 hard disk, a Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1200 watt power supply and Windows 7 x64.

We've tested the card only in Full HD resolution (1920x1080), because it's not powerful enough for higher resolutions such as EyeFinity and 4K. Ultra settings also proved to be too much in most benchmarks, so we only include the results for Medium settings. The Ultra results however can be found on the product page.

For the test we used the Catalyst 13.12 beta driver. To find out which drivers we used for the other cards, click on the name on of the cards in the graphs on the next pages.

In the charts, the R7 260 is blue. Other AMD cards are red and Nvidia cards are green. We will mainly focus on the performance difference between the Radeon R7 260 and the GeForce GTX 650 and 650 Ti. 


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