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AMD Radeon R7 260 Review: The Bonaire GPU Rides Again

AMD Radeon R7 260 Review: The Bonaire GPU Rides Again
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AMD announced its Radeon R7 260 in December of last year, and we were excited about a $110 Radeon HD 7770 replacement. Almost two months later, one model is available on Newegg for $140. Today, we're testing the card and pondering its curious position.

AMD paper-launched the Radeon R7 260 in December. The specifications it published, along with the $110 price it announced, got me excited. Sure, high-end cards like the Radeon R9 290X and GeForce GTX 780 Ti get more of the glory. But for gamers on a budget, the mainstream boards derived from that flagship technology are the real heroes. Take AMD's Radeon HD 7770, for example. It makes 1920x1080 a viable resolution at low to medium detail settings. Understandably, then, the prospect of an even faster Radeon R7 260 for the same $110 was very appealing. I eagerly waited for the product to show up mid-January.

The fifteenth came and went. Now it's February and, as I write this, there is only one Radeon R7 260 on Newegg, Asus' R7260-1GD5 with 1 GB of memory for $140 (Ed.: Just prior to publication, an MSI model appeared for $125, too). In comparison, the same company's R7260X-DC2OC-2GD5, based on a faster version of the Bonaire GPU with twice as much memory, goes for $150. Other 260Xes with 2 GB sell for as little as $130. Needless to say, as a result of dubious inventory and a high price on the models we can find, my enthusiasm about AMD's Radeon R7 260 took a severe beating.

Right now, it appears that most of the add-in board partners are choosing not to sell their own R7 260s, preferring instead to push their Radeon HD 7770s until those are gone, along with the Radeon R7 260X. Although the 260's prospects look grim right now, we also know that things change quickly in the graphics world. So, we're giving the card a closer look, despite its precarious position.

The Radeon R7 260 employs a cut-down version of the Bonaire GPU, first seen in the Radeon HD 7790 and then in the Radeon R7 260X. Two of the processor's 14 Compute Units are disabled, resulting in a total of 768 shaders and 48 texture units. The render back-end is untouched; two ROP partitions can handle 16 pixels per clock, while a pair of 64-bit dual-channel memory controllers yield an aggregate 128-bit memory interface. And because the Radeon R7 260 utilizes Bonaire, it does support AMD's TrueAudio feature (though we still haven't seen any software optimized for this capability).


GeForce GTX 650 Ti
Radeon HD 7770
Radeon R7 260
Radeon R7 260X
Shaders
768640
768
896
Texture Units
64
40
48
56
ROPs
1616
16
16
Process Technology
28 nm28 nm
28 nm
28 nm
Core/Boost Clock
925 MHz1 GHz
1000 MHz
1100 MHz
Memory Clock
1350 MHz
1125 MHz
1500 MHz
1625 MHz
Memory Bus
128-bit128-bit128-bit128-bit
Memory Bandwidth
86.4 GB/s72 GB/s
96 GB/s
104 GB/s
Graphics Memory
 1 or 2 GB GDDR5
1 GB GDDR5
 1 or 2 GB GDDR51 or 2 GB GDDR5
Power Connectors
1 x 6-pin
1 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin
Maximum TDP
110 W
80 W
95 W
115 W
Newegg Price Range
$110-$175
$110-$170
$125-$140
$130 to $150

With roughly 10%-lower clocks, 5% less memory bandwidth, and approximately 14% fewer pixel shaders than the Radeon R7 260X, I expect the Radeon R7 260 to perform right between the 260X and Radeon HD 7770. 

Asus' R7260-1GD5

Let's have a look at the one Radeon R7 260 we could get our hands on, Asus' R7260-1GD5. The front of the card is covered in a fan shroud with the company's classic black and red color scheme. It appears slightly longer than 8.5". But flip it over and you'll see that the PCB is much smaller; the cooler extends far past its edge. The circuit board is 7" x 4.5". While the card looks substantially-sized, it weighs just over one pound.

The R7260-1GD5 adheres to AMD's reference clock rates, with a 1000 MHz GPU and GDDR5 memory operating at up to 1500 MHz. Again, you only get 1 GB, which we'd expect to limit the resolutions and detail settings that are playable.

The solid aluminum heat sink is cooled by two 75 mm low-profile fans. There's one six-pin auxiliary power connector and one CrossFire connector, used to enable dual-card configurations.

Asus arms its card's rear I/O bracket with one full-sized DisplayPort output, HDMI, and a dual-link DVI connector. Even legacy VGA is covered through a bundled adapter.

The rest of the bundle is composed of a CrossFire connector, a driver/software CD, and a setup booklet. Asus' GPU Tweak utility supports this board, and that small piece of software works very well for overclocking.

Display 74 Comments.
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  • 14 Hide
    Novuake , February 6, 2014 12:13 AM
    Mildly frustrating the HD 7790 is not included. Since its bonaire too? You know, the apples with apples concept?:/
  • 8 Hide
    Herr_Koos , February 6, 2014 12:51 AM
    Why is the R7 260 called the "HD260" in your graphs?
  • 14 Hide
    mapesdhs , February 6, 2014 12:59 AM

    If the price difference is so small compared to the 260X, why would anyone
    bother with the 260? Skip a couple of beers and get a 260X. An utterly
    unnecessary product IMO, it's just making use of dies that couldn't make the
    grade for higher models.

    Also, it's sad that we don't see single-slot cards anymore.

    Ian.

  • 5 Hide
    heydol , February 6, 2014 1:37 AM
    It will be fun to se those 260/260x compared to new gtx 750/ti !
  • 3 Hide
    rdc85 , February 6, 2014 1:43 AM
    I'm agreed with the review,I think in their perspective the 7770 still selling well, there no rush to put 260 out...putting it out at 110~120 will cannibalize the 7770...
  • 0 Hide
    wtfxxxgp , February 6, 2014 4:02 AM
    Hmmm... I don't really know where I stand on this one. I suppose I want to see what happens when the market forces of supply and demand start having an effect on the price, otherwise, I think it's a pretty decent card but just TOO close to the 260X which may be the one I'd choose if I were looking for a card in that league. I'm getting my GTX 760 at month-end finally, so this is not going to turn my head or change my plans...
  • 3 Hide
    ubercake , February 6, 2014 4:29 AM
    That 260x seems like a decent value. The 260 not so much.
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , February 6, 2014 4:33 AM
    So now add the R7 250x into the mix, and you have quite a mess in this segment....
  • 9 Hide
    ddpruitt , February 6, 2014 5:16 AM
    Great review, especially given what it's competing at in the same price range. It's interesting that AMD isn't pushing vendors to differentiate the products a bit more and get rid of the 7770s to allow more room for the R260s to breath. However...
    Quote:
    Naturally, discrete graphics cards require a substantial amount of stable power, so XFX sent along its PRO850W 80 PLUS Bronze-certified power supply. This modular PSU employs a single +12 V rail rated for 70 A. XFX claims that this unit provides 850 W of continuous power

    Statements like this are what's causing Watt inflation and the myth that you need a dedicated transformer to run a PC. The review itself points out that system wattage is less than a quarter of the max continuous wattage. I think it's a serious disservice to constantly repeat this statement when it's clearly not true. At the very least it should be rewritten a bit.
  • 5 Hide
    vertexx , February 6, 2014 5:30 AM
    Quote:

    Also, it's sad that we don't see single-slot cards anymore.


    I agree - that would be one way AMD could differentiate with some of these models is to have one or two designed to be single-slot and/or low profile. That would add some reason for this insanity.
  • 0 Hide
    gxpbecker , February 6, 2014 5:53 AM
    i would imagine they are trying to push/clear out the stock of 7770/90s first.
  • 2 Hide
    Onus , February 6, 2014 6:36 AM
    I agree with the article. At the right price, this could be a real sweet-spot card. At these prices, it makes more sense to either move up, or settle for less, depending on budget.
    I definitely agree with ddpruitt about the PSU boilerplate in this article. A system with this card would run quite nicely on a 380W Earthwatts or Seasonic G360. There's certainly nothing wrong with maintaining a testbench containing an oversized monster of a PSU, but I'd like to see articles like this call out specific PSU suggestions so people know what they need for the card under review. I don't think a power-usage graph is enough for newbs who may not realize there aren't other usage cases where the card needs more.
  • 0 Hide
    average joe , February 6, 2014 6:43 AM
    This card makes sense to me. It replaces the 7770 for the R series. it performes a little faster just like the r260x replaces the 7790 and performes a little faster. however they priced it higher at the moment to let the vendors sell off the old packaging.
  • 0 Hide
    InvalidError , February 6, 2014 6:43 AM
    Dissipating 80W in a single slot would be quite a challenge. With the last single-slot GPU I had, I ended up putting an IO slot exhaust blower in the next slot because the GPU's fan would get too loud on its own.There isn't much point in insisting on a single-slot GPU if it ends up being unbearably loud.
  • -1 Hide
    average joe , February 6, 2014 6:44 AM
    the 7770 is a better value just like the 6850's were the better value when the 7850's were first coming out.
  • 1 Hide
    Yuka , February 6, 2014 6:48 AM
    Why no Low Profile Dual slot card, Asus? WHY?! Cheers! :p 
  • 9 Hide
    kenh536 , February 6, 2014 6:50 AM
    Really toms.... pop up ads for your articles that take up a massive portion of the page and follow you down AND ARE UNCLOSABLE?! Way too intrusive, NOT COOL.
  • -1 Hide
    Novuake , February 6, 2014 6:51 AM
    Quote:
    Really toms.... pop up ads for your articles that take up a massive portion of the page and follow you down AND ARE UNCLOSABLE?! Way too intrusive, NOT COOL.


    https://www.google.co.za/search?q=adblock&oq=adbl&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.2978j0j7&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8#q=adblock
  • 0 Hide
    average joe , February 6, 2014 7:13 AM
    The 7790 hardware supports true audio or whatever it's called as well. AMD disables it's support for it in the driver. That'll change probably I don't think they are that cynical yet.. Fixed sorry!!
  • -1 Hide
    InvalidError , February 6, 2014 7:49 AM
    Quote:
    The 7770 hardware supports true audio or whatever it's called as well. AMD disables it's support for it in the driver. That'll change probably I don't think they are that cynical yet..

    They have to give people reasons to pay the $10-50 extra to upsale from HD77xx to R7-260(X) so I doubt they will change their mind about the software disable. Many AMD CPUs, GPUs and APUs are artificially fused off or otherwise locked to lower specs simply to meet demand for lower cost bins.
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