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When It Comes To Graphics, $100 Goes A Long Way

Radeon R7 240 And 250: Our Sub-$100 Gaming Card Round-Up
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I want to start by issuing a bit of guidance to budget-driven gamers: if there are DDR3- and GDDR5-based versions of a given card available, always snag the board with GDDR5 memory. In pretty much every case, you'll get a ton more memory bandwidth, which is a limited resource in the sub-$100 space, especially as you increase resolution. The reason I say anything at all is because there are Radeon HD 7750 and R7 250 cards with DDR3, and you want to avoid them completely.

Before we formulate our conclusions, take a look at game performance in the following chart. The red bar denotes our measurements at low-detail settings, while the black bar indicates what we saw at more demanding presets and 1920x1080. Everything is relative to the Radeon HD 6670 DDR3.

How about the recently-introduced Radeon R7 240? With performance a few points higher than the Radeon HD 6670 DDR3 at playable low detail settings, and a price that averages a bit lower, AMD's latest looks better than we assumed it would based on specifications alone. It's actually surprisingly nimble for a board with only 320 shaders. Paying around $70 seems acceptable, though we wish it were a few bucks cheaper to stand out more prominently from Nvidia's superior GeForce GT 640.

We're more impressed with the Radeon R7 250. Its 200 MHz core clock advantage really distinguishes it from the Radeon HD 6670 GDDR5 and 7730 GDDR5, approaching the performance of AMD's Radeon HD 7750. Does that make it a great buy? It's hard to say; this is where the market gets a little complicated. Boards priced under $100 can change prices quickly. For example, the average cost of a Radeon HD 7750 and 7770 is up about $10 since I started writing this piece. Additionally, we know that the Radeon R7 260 is about to surface for roughly $110. And last, we anticipate the Radeon HD 6670, 7750, and 7770 disappearing soon to make way for the R7 240, 250, and 260.

The more important point to make is that AMD's Radeon HD 7770 is very fast for the $100 it's still selling for. It never dropped below 30 FPS, even in our higher-detail 1920x1080 testing. Given the relatively tame premium, does it make sense to spend $90 or even $70 for a significantly slower card? Our chart suggests not.

Then again, a low-cost Radeon R7 240 manages playable performance at 1920x1080 in some games, so long as you're willing to except the lowest-quality settings available. That doesn't mean a modern game is going to look bad, per se. A lot of these titles actually look pretty good. And it's significant that at 1280x720, a resolution even the Xbox One is forced to contend with on occasion, all of the games we tested are playable on the Radeon R7 240.

At the end of the day, though, the existence of a $100 Radeon HD 7770 makes it extremely hard to recommend any alternative under it, since performance drops much faster than price. Until the 7770 disappears, giving way to the more expensive Radeon R7 260, we have to endorse it above everything else. And if price is your number-one priority, the Radeon R7 240 is as low as you should consider going. Every $10 you spend beyond that card's price should yield more than your money's worth in average performance.

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  • 0 Hide
    Zombie615 , February 18, 2014 5:18 AM
    @ Sakkura - I appreciate your response. Well hopefully I'll be able to find one soon. I've been looking at the local retailers an they are sold out or have never had any in-stock before. So I may have to order online. I really don't want to do that because I'm not completely sure if it will fit inside my chassis or if it will be too big. If it by chance is too big an I ordered it online I'll have to deal with shipping it back an waiting on a refund an what not. I'd much rather pick it up in-store.
  • 0 Hide
    Sakkura , February 15, 2014 11:59 AM
    Quote:
    The CPU that I will be using is actually an APU (A-10 6700 Radeon HD 8670D 3.7ghz) so how will dropping in the R9 270 affect the machine performance wise? Will my APU cut back some of the 270 Optimal performance but still give me a great increase as to just using the GPU that is integrated into the CPU?

    As a CPU, your A10-6700 is basically an Athlon X4 with slightly faster clocks than the 760K. It'll for the most part keep up with the R9 270, but in some cases it may limit performance somewhat. It's definitely not going to totally cripple performance though. You'll still get much, much better performance than with the integrated graphics.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , February 13, 2014 9:23 PM
    Quote:
    Will my APU cut back some of the 270 Optimal performance but still give me a great increase as to just using the GPU that is integrated into the CPU?

    How much of the 270's performance might get left behind is heavily dependent on the game itself and will usually vary considerably on a scene-by-scene basis. The 270 has its own on-board 1-2GB GDDR5 memory which is about 7X as fast as your system RAM and this frees up your system RAM's bandwidth for the CPU's use so you can still expect a fairly substantial performance boost.

    If you find that your CPU is too weak to give your 270 a decent workout, you can always increase the GPU's load by cranking up settings that have a high impact on GPU load but little if any impact on CPU load like full-screen anti-aliasing, high resolution textures, high anisotropic filtering, etc.
  • 0 Hide
    Zombie615 , February 13, 2014 8:57 PM
    The CPU that I will be using is actually an APU (A-10 6700 Radeon HD 8670D 3.7ghz) so how will dropping in the R9 270 affect the machine performance wise? Will my APU cut back some of the 270 Optimal performance but still give me a great increase as to just using the GPU that is integrated into the CPU?
  • 0 Hide
    Sakkura , February 13, 2014 2:15 AM
    Yes, that will work too. The R9 270 is a much more powerful GPU, so in some cases the CPU may limit performance.
  • 0 Hide
    Zombie615 , February 13, 2014 1:24 AM
    Oh alright thanks. Well I've moved on to considering dropping in a P9 270 an upgrading the PSU an letting the card be the stand alone GPU of the machine. Will that work? Someone on here has already stated that it would. I just need a second opinion.
  • 0 Hide
    Sakkura , February 12, 2014 9:24 AM
    Quote:
    Can I drop an HD 6670 GDDR5 into my system if my motherboard's ram is 1x8gb GDDR3 1600mhz DIMM with 3 more slots supporting up to 64gb total?I have 2xPCIe 2.0 x16 (x16/x4 mode) slots APU supporting Dual Graphics (Not crossfirex though my motherboard supports it)A10-6700 HD Radeon 8670 GraphicsF2A55 Chipset


    Motherboard and graphics card memory are completely separate and don't have to be matched in any way. So it'll work fine.

    By the way, your motherboard has DDR3, not GDDR3. DDR3 is the most modern type of system memory (soon to be replaced by DDR4), GDDR3 is an outdated type of graphics memory.
  • 0 Hide
    Zombie615 , February 12, 2014 1:34 AM
    Can I drop an HD 6670 GDDR5 into my system if my motherboard's ram is 1x8gb GDDR3 1600mhz DIMM with 3 more slots supporting up to 64gb total?I have 2xPCIe 2.0 x16 (x16/x4 mode) slots APU supporting Dual Graphics (Not crossfirex though my motherboard supports it)A10-6700 HD Radeon 8670 GraphicsF2A55 Chipset
  • 0 Hide
    bmeacham80 , February 11, 2014 2:26 PM
    I just grabbed a new R7 240 2GB card on ebay for $41.99 to replace a 256MB GeForce 8400 GS that I've had for years. I don't need to play the newest and best games on maxed out settings and I want to spend as little as possible for a new graphics card. This fits the bill perfectly & couldn't be happier.
  • 0 Hide
    catilley1092 , February 6, 2014 8:43 AM
    Quote:
    Quote:

    Though it says on the box that a 450 watt PSU is needed, some reviewers on Newegg has stated they run it on less. Mine has a 460 watt PSU with (2) 6-pin connectors, so I had no problem. Cat


    The wattage of a PSU isn't what you should look at. For graphics cards, amps on the 12V rail(s) is more important. Manufacturers will recommend over the necessary amount for those who buy ultra cheap PSUs.


    True, however Dell had tested the R7770, as well as some of the NVIDIA models, the 650 & 660 non-TI models & stated these were compatible. That played a part in choosing a GPU for my system. I could have also went with a higher Radeon series, up to the 7850 safely, but I didn't want to add a card & have to upgrade cooling at the same time. Nor did I want to install a new PSU, the 460 watt OEM unit was built by Delta Electronics & is decent, otherwise Dell wouldn't be shipping higher end XPS 8700 & Alienware models equipped with the NVIDIA Geforce 1.5GB (OEM) GDDR5 cards on the PSU.

    Those units were available on eBay, but I don't feel good about dropping $125+shipping for a used card. It was sold "as is" & only showed NVIDIA supplied photos, not that of the actual item. The only warranty was a 14 day DOA one, Square Trade, a major supplier of warranties for eBay sellers, wouldn't issue a warranty for it because it wasn't "refurbished" by an authorized provider.

    Yet at the same time, Square Trade often issues warranties for refurbished notebooks & PC's, the only thing done was cleaned up on the exterior (if that) & the OS reloaded. Out of the three I purchased, all ended up being refunded in full due to hardware failure.

    MSI backs the R7770 PMDIGD5 with a generous 3 year warranty, and capacitors are designed to last 10 years under full load. By then, it would be outdated anyway, but MSI is a good brand. I still have one of their notebooks (MSI FX603-064US, i5 480M, NVIDIA GT 425M, 8GB DDR3 1333 RAM), bought new in early 2011, it still runs great, adding a 180GB Intel 330 SSD allows me to dual boot Windows 7 Pro & 8.1 Pro w/Media Center with tons of speed.

    It's the only notebook that I've bought that didn't require warranty service. That's another reason why I trust the MSI brand.

    As to the sub-$100 GPU's, there's a few more 1GB GDDR5 models available, but don't have experience with the Power Color & XFX cards, there were more negative reviews & some states a minimum of 500 watts are needed. There was one ASUS on promo for $99 that cost $139 that didn't need extra power other than the MB, but was too tall for my case.

    As long as one realizes that they can't heavily (if at all) overclock these cards, many who buys OEM computers can easily upgrade their graphics for an excellent overall browsing, watching videos & light gaming experience. These cards aren't advertised nor designed for heavy gamers who wants the fastest speeds & best gaming experience possible.

    They're meant for the everyday user who wants better than what the penny pinching OEM's offer in the sub-$1,000 PC's. Many of who doesn't game at all.

    Cat

  • 0 Hide
    Blaise170 , February 5, 2014 8:53 PM
    Quote:

    Though it says on the box that a 450 watt PSU is needed, some reviewers on Newegg has stated they run it on less. Mine has a 460 watt PSU with (2) 6-pin connectors, so I had no problem. Cat


    The wattage of a PSU isn't what you should look at. For graphics cards, amps on the 12V rail(s) is more important. Manufacturers will recommend over the necessary amount for those who buy ultra cheap PSUs.
  • 1 Hide
    catilley1092 , February 5, 2014 8:21 PM
    After digging through these comments & actually looking up some of these mentioned brand new cards on the $50-80 range, I'm glad I didn't get any of those. The Dell OEM Radeon 7570 already scored a 6.9 & there was AOD to use if I wished. Some of those DDR3 cards didn't even break that mark, was shocked to see a reviewer actually bragging about a 6.9 WEI score, another 6.4. This is the year 2014, anything below a 7.0 isn't something I'd be boasting about. My Intel HD 4600 graphics rates at 6.6 & I consider that shabby by today's standards. The MSI R7770 GHz edition (1GB GDDR5) ranks at 7.4. There were some who commented who felt that the 7770 shouldn't be in this discussion, but there is a direct purchase link to it at the beginning of the article. After rebate, it's still only $99.99 at Newegg. Therefore, being under $100, it qualifies to be discussed about. However it does require a 6 pin power connection, for those who doesn't have it native, there's a dual molex to 6 pin adapter in the box. Though it says on the box that a 450 watt PSU is needed, some reviewers on Newegg has stated they run it on less. Mine has a 460 watt PSU with (2) 6-pin connectors, so I had no problem. Cat
  • 1 Hide
    catilley1092 , February 5, 2014 6:19 PM
    The MSI R7770 just arrived today from Newegg, though a member of the Dell support forum recommended it to me, seeing it mentioned on Tom's Hardware sealed the deal. Booting into the PC after the install with the inbuilt Intel graphics disabled confirmed the recommendation. The start screen is beautiful. Being on a fixed income, I can no longer afford to throw $200-500 on a GPU. The only component I would pay that amount for is the CPU, which I was going to do a build, until I seen the XPS 8700 at Costco for $699 with a i7-4770. Just that CPU alone is $309 at Newegg, I was looking at i5's for my planned build. The more expensive editions has a more powerful GPU in the 1GB GDDR5 Geforce GTX 645 & more notably a 1.5GB GDDR5 GTX 660 (of which the latter may be better than the MSI R7770). However, that's an expensive PC & no doubt my electricity bill, as well as dealing with lots of unwanted heat, may pose problems with heavy usage, since this is my main PC. The MSI R7770 has now been running a total of 3-4 hours & temps are at a steady 20-30C. Not bad for a GPU that shows WEI scores of 7.4 on both graphics scores (the lowest in my system) on both Windows 7 Pro & the OEM installed Windows 8. According to GPU-Z, compared to the Dell AMD Radeon 7570 (1GB GDDR5, 6.9 on WEI), all conceivable numbers are higher, which was already higher than the too heavily touted Intel HD 4600 graphics, which when enabled, gave a 6.6 WEI score.Also, in contrast with some reviewers on the Newegg site, this is a quiet GPU, the only time the fan is heard is at startup. PC fired right up after the card was installed & instead of bothering with the outdated drivers/other junk on the MSI supplied CD, I opted (by advise on the Dell forum) to download & install the latest AMD Catalyst drivers. This card isn't really designed for heavy overclocking anyway, it already has been clocked out of the box & the card performs great w/out the Afterburner software, so why bother with it? The majority of the negative reviews had to do with that software, crashing on overclocking or PC locking up & requiring a hard shutdown, something I don't like to do. Anyway, for $109.99+$5.67 shipping (received about 48 hours after placing order), less a $10 rebate isn't bad for the performance that I gained. I highly recommend this GPU to those with OEM systems with low performance cards. It's built of solid, rugged components that some of the higher priced has, capacitors designed to last 10 years. DisplayPort, HDMI 1.4a & DVI-I outputs, as well as many other of the AMD features are included. Again, I thank the editors at Tom's for the mentioning of the card, this card is the perfect match for those who wants an excellent graphics experience (not too heavy gaming) at a fantastic price. The other 2 lower ranked cards, I wouldn't have considered, as neither would likely make that much of a difference than what I already had. Cat
  • -1 Hide
    InvalidError , February 4, 2014 3:57 PM
    Quote:
    Anyone still following this thread likely knows the distinction. I'm sure anyone reading this article isn't going to scroll through several pages of comments unless they are genuinely interested in graphics, in which case they would also know the distinction.

    While I would expect most people who read about GPUs to know the difference between DDR3 and GDDR5, I have been proven wrong several times in the past despite GDDR5 having been around for several years already... and this story does not have "several pages of comments" since I am only seeing two so we are still well within the realm where someone stumbling on this article later may read or skim most comments.
  • 1 Hide
    Blaise170 , February 4, 2014 3:23 PM
    Quote:

    With the number of times I have seen people genuinely think DDR5 exists, I prefer not taking chances or letting typos "confirm" the existence of something that won't be available for another 4-5 years for people who do not know any better.


    Anyone still following this thread likely knows the distinction. I'm sure anyone reading this article isn't going to scroll through several pages of comments unless they are genuinely interested in graphics, in which case they would also know the distinction.
  • -1 Hide
    InvalidError , February 4, 2014 1:11 PM
    Quote:
    I get that. Thanks for pointing the typo out I'm sure the world will care

    With the number of times I have seen people genuinely think DDR5 exists, I prefer not taking chances or letting typos "confirm" the existence of something that won't be available for another 4-5 years for people who do not know any better.
  • 1 Hide
    logainofhades , February 4, 2014 11:40 AM
    Quote:
    I get that. Thanks for pointing the typo out I'm sure the world will care


    Gotta love the spelling and grammar police. :lol: 
  • 1 Hide
    Uguessedit , February 4, 2014 11:36 AM
    I get that. Thanks for pointing the typo out I'm sure the world will care
  • -1 Hide
    InvalidError , February 4, 2014 11:32 AM
    Quote:
    The 7770 is a nice value card. I've seen Them as low as $75 for 2GB DDR3 and $99 for 1GB DDR 5

    That would be 1GB GDDR5 since DDR5 does not exist. The signal, clock and command timings on GDDR5 are completely different from DDR3.
  • 0 Hide
    Uguessedit , February 4, 2014 9:54 AM
    The 7770 is a nice value card. I've seen Them as low as $75 for 2GB DDR3 and $99 for 1GB DDR 5
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