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AMD Radeon R7 265 Review: Curaçao Slides In At $150

AMD Radeon R7 265 Review: Curaçao Slides In At $150
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With pricing all over the map, AMD wants to plug the gap between its Radeon R7 260X and R9 270. To that end, it's introducing a Curaçao-based Radeon R7 265 with better-than-Radeon HD 7850 performance at $150. Will that be enough to stave off Maxwell?

We published Radeon R7 250X Review: Reprising Radeon HD 7770 At $100 just a few days ago, and that story's title is pretty self-explanatory. In essence, AMD re-named an existing product and dropped its price a few dollars to renew interest. Unfortunately, we're still waiting for the Radeon R7 250X to become available. 

Over the course of the last several months, AMD applied this treatment to its entire GPU portfolio to turn the Radeon HD 7000 family into Radeon R7s and R9s, often with higher clock rates than the cards they replaced. Today, AMD continues that trend by announcing its Radeon R7 265, which company representatives say won't be available until the end of February.

The Radeon R7 265 is the first card in AMD's re-branded line-up ending in a "5". Until now, everything else was a "0" or an "X": Radeon R7 240, 250, 250X, 260, 260X, and so on. That might seem like simple trivia, but I think there's a bit of a story there. You see, the Radeon R7 260X is typically found in the $140 range. The next model up, R9 270, was introduced at $180 back in November of last year. A $40 delta doesn't seem wide enough to justify another product, though. In fact, the 270 was actually a good deal.

But then, last month, the Radeon R9 270 jumped to $230, rising alongside the prices of several other AMD cards.

If that wasn't enough reason to introduce a new board, AMD must have been listening to the rumors about Nvidia's upcoming Maxwell architecture and an unconfirmed card called GeForce GTX 750 Ti. Connect the dots, and it makes more sense why AMD wanted something between its Radeon R7 260X and Radeon R9 270.

Back to the Radeon R7 265.

When AMD introduced its Radeon R9 270, based on the Curaçao GPU (formerly named Pitcairn), all of the chip's 1280 shaders remained active, just as we came to expect from the Radeon HD 7870. Consequently, we didn't think that a cut-down version resembling the Radeon HD 7850 was happening. Necessity is the mother of invention though, and sure enough, the Radeon R7 265 sports the Radeon HD 7850's same configuration. Four of Curaçao/Pitcairn's Compute Units are disabled, leaving 16. All told, 1024 shaders and 64 texture units remain.

The GPU’s back-end is made up of eight render partitions able to process 32 pixels per cycle. Four dual-channel 64-bit memory controllers yield an aggregate 256-bit interface. For those of you who know your specs, those figures are identical to the Radeon R9 270 and 270X. If you don't, the table below should help with that. And because the R7 265's GDDR5 memory runs at the same frequency, peak memory bandwidth is shared across all three cards.


Radeon R7 260X
Radeon HD 7850Radeon R7 265
Radeon R9 270
Shader Cores
896
1024
10241280
Texture Units
56
646480
ROPs
16
32
3232
Fabrication process
28 nm28 nm
28 nm28 nm
Core Clock
1100 MHz860 MHz
Up to 925 MHz
925 MHz
Memory Clock
1625 MHz GDDR5
1200 MHz GDDR5
1400 MHz GDDR51400 MHz GDDR5
Memory Bus
128-bit
256-bit
256-bit256-bit
Memory Bandwidth
104.0 GB/s
153.6 GB/s
179.2 GB/s179.2 GB/s
Idle/Max Thermal
Design Power
115 W
130 W
150 W
150 W
Power Connectors:
1 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin
1 x 6-pin1 x 6-pin
Typical Price
$130 (Newegg)
EOL
$150
$230 (Newegg)

With all of that said, you can see AMD's Radeon R7 265 is an overclocked Radeon HD 7850 that employs a 900 MHz base clock rate, a 925 MHz PowerTune with Boost accelerated state, and a 1400 MHz memory frequency.

Rated for up to 1.89 TFLOPS of FP32 compute performance at its peak clock rate, the Radeon R7 265 falls a bit shy of the R7 260X, which hosts fewer active shaders, but runs at a more aggressive 1.1 GHz GPU frequency. Where the 260X compromises performance is on the back-end, which features half as many ROP partitions and a 128-bit memory bus. In shader-limited situations, the 260X should hang tight. But as you increase resolution and enable anti-aliasing, the 265's bandwidth should prove more valuable.

Did you notice that AMD prefaces the R7 265's clock rate with an "up to"? This really bit the company on the butt with its first batch of R9 290X and 290 boards sporting reference coolers. Claims of 1000 and 947 MHz, respectively, turned out to be much lower when the Hawaii-based cards got hot. However, the R7 265 we're testing is provided by Sapphire and includes the company's Dual-X thermal solution. It doesn't throttle back, even after running FurMark's stability test for just under an hour. We're not sure this will be the case for all Radeon R7 265s. However, we've managed to overclock the Curaçao/Pitcairn GPU higher without stability issues, so 925 MHz seems reasonable.

Because the GPU is a first-gen implementation of Graphics Core Next, the Radeon R7 265 doesn't offer any of the features introduced alongside AMD's R7 260X and R9 290/290X cards (like TrueAudio). In fact, if you'd like a refresher on the Curaçao/Pitcairn GPU's capabilities, check out AMD Radeon HD 7870 And 7850 Review: Pitcairn Gets Benchmarked.

The Sapphire Radeon R7 265

Up front, Sapphire's Radeon R7 265 bears the company's Dual-X cooler with a black-on-gray theme. The PCB is 7.75" x 4.5", similar to the company's Radeon HD 7790. 

The Curaçao/Pitcairn GPU is set to AMD's reference 925 MHz peak clock rate, while 2 GB of on-board GDDR5 operates at 1400 MHz.

The aluminum heat sink features two copper pipes and is cooled by a pair of 73 mm low-profile fans. A 150 W TDP is satisfied by a single six-pin auxiliary power connector, though that doesn't leave much headroom for overclocking.


There's also a single CrossFire bridge, implying support for the multi-GPU feature. Again, Pitcairn was one of AMD's first GCN-based processors, so it lacks the XDMA engine that allows the Radeon R9 290 and 290X to run in CrossFire without a bridge connecting the cards.

This particular model comes with dual-link DVI-I, DVI-D, full-sized DisplayPort, and full-sized HDMI outputs.

Display 115 Comments.
  • -9 Hide
    yankeeDDL , February 13, 2014 5:51 AM
    I think the pricing issue is a moot point.If There's an Nvidia card at $190, an equally-performing (or slightly slower) car will be sold for $180 making a good profit, not at $150 to kill Nvidia.Card manufacturer won't benefit from Nvidia being pushed out of the market.
  • 0 Hide
    Novuake , February 13, 2014 6:14 AM
    Compelling card, but sad that a price hike on the 270 had to force it. So seems useless now.
  • -1 Hide
    meluvcookies , February 13, 2014 6:36 AM
    A 25% increase on the R9 270 was, essentially, a betrayal of consumer trust by AMD. I was totally excited to get in at the $180 price point, but now I'm waiting for Nvidia's offerings in that neighborhood to see if they can offer anything as compelling as the 270 was a couple months ago when it was still at its original price.
  • 0 Hide
    huilun02 , February 13, 2014 6:54 AM
    War on the high end segment over.Now Jihad style attack on mid end.
  • 1 Hide
    firefoxx04 , February 13, 2014 7:06 AM
    Wow, If it beats the 7850, I wonder how it stacks up against my overclocked 6850. I have two in crossfire but being limited to 1GB vram can be a hindrance. When I bought my original 6850, it was only $150 and my second was $100. I wonder what AMD has for $250 that could smoke my current setup / aka be a good single card upgrade.
  • -9 Hide
    Tzn , February 13, 2014 7:09 AM
    i am not impressed at all, if it was under 100w then yes.
  • 0 Hide
    huilun02 , February 13, 2014 7:13 AM
    Quote:
    Wow, If it beats the 7850, I wonder how it stacks up against my overclocked 6850. I have two in crossfire but being limited to 1GB vram can be a hindrance. When I bought my original 6850, it was only $150 and my second was $100. I wonder what AMD has for $250 that could smoke my current setup / aka be a good single card upgrade.


    http://www.guru3d.com/news_story/amd_radeon_r9_280_in_the_works.html
  • 8 Hide
    TechnoD , February 13, 2014 7:39 AM
    All these price hikes are really becoming an issue. This card is launching at the same price I paid for my 7950 ~5 months ago.
  • 1 Hide
    jin_mtvt , February 13, 2014 8:50 AM
    And what does using more than 100W at full load has to do with this card? First we have someone complaining about not having enough " additional power pins " than someone compains about more than 100W usage on a "desktop" GPU. You are lame.Onto the pricing problem, i should not have to remind you that the prices in most of the world ( you know everywhere out of north america ) haven't followed the same trends as here . the 290 never went bozo up to 650$ in Europe ( if you use the exchange rate in position before december when the price was set ) . I would like to read more about who is really "jacking" up the prices . This card needs to be 150$, not 180$ of course , else it would be m00t .
  • 0 Hide
    selvakumar13 , February 13, 2014 8:55 AM
    so you are saying that R7 265 is best GPU in this price range?
  • 1 Hide
    JDFan , February 13, 2014 9:06 AM
    Was about to order a 260x but will probably wait and see now -- The one thing keeping me from ordering twas the 128 bit memory bus since it does start to limit performance as shown in the benches. For the extra few $'s this new card with the 256 bit memory bus will be worth the wait if it actually hits at the $150 mark or below ( and should help bring down the 260x prices to $100-$120)
  • 1 Hide
    irish_adam , February 13, 2014 9:14 AM
    @meluvcookies

    AMD does not set the retail price and neither does Nvidia, it is entirely up to the board partners and retailers what is charged. If you have a complaint about the price of these boards then moan at whoever you would buy it off, they are the ones screwing you for the cash. AMD is not making more profit from it they are.

    I've honestly had enough of everyone bitching about AMD for the price of their boards, i'm sure they are just so upset that they made such an awesome compute capable GPU that they cant cant make them fast enough to keep the price down. It must be such a depressing situation for them to be in *rolls eyes*
  • 4 Hide
    JDFan , February 13, 2014 9:24 AM
    Quote:
    @meluvcookies

    AMD does not set the retail price and neither does Nvidia, it is entirely up to the board partners and retailers what is charged. If you have a complaint about the price of these boards then moan at whoever you would buy it off, they are the ones screwing you for the cash. AMD is not making more profit from it they are.

    I've honestly had enough of everyone bitching about AMD for the price of their boards, i'm sure they are just so upset that they made such an awesome compute capable GPU that they cant cant make them fast enough to keep the price down. It must be such a depressing situation for them to be in *rolls eyes*


    Exactly -- it's the retailers that are the problem -- figure Newegg has to cover the market fluctuations in the Bitcoin market now as well, which is the main reason for the demand on the 290s, since they are now taking Bitcoin for payment and the extra $100-$150 increase in the market price of the cards helps cover the loss in the exchange rate of the coins from day to day so they still make their profit margin.
    \
    AMD is still getting the same $ for the parts they are shipping to the manufacturers of the cards. It is the manufacturers and retailers that are increasing their prices and limiting the availability.
  • 7 Hide
    cleeve , February 13, 2014 9:33 AM
    Quote:
    so you are saying that R7 265 is best GPU in this price range?


    Yes, if it makes it to market at $150.

  • 8 Hide
    mohit9206 , February 13, 2014 9:34 AM
    This is becoming too confusing with a cluster of cards within very small price gaps.240,250,250X,260,260X and now 265 all 6 cards within $70 of each other which means approx $10 gap between each card.Flooding the market with so many variants not to mention other variations like some having either DDR3 or GDDR5 memory while some having either 1 or 2GB models is bound to confuse the hell out of prospective buyers.That and the fact that 7000 series cards like 7750,7770 and 7790 are still easily available complicates the matter furthur.This is getting ridiculous.
  • -2 Hide
    ElMoIsEviL , February 13, 2014 9:43 AM
    I'm sorry but I'm getting more than a little irked by this author "Don Woligroski" he writes poor articles. I mean... this.."In short, you'll have to pardon our skepticism that Radeon R7 265 will show up on time and at the price point AMD is claiming. We've seen fingers pointed at gun-shy add-in board partners, performance-thirsty cryptocurrency miners, price-gouging retailers, and foundries unable to keep up with supply. But at the end of the day, we're left wondering why AMD is setting prices if it can't control what you pay for its hardware? After piling praise onto the Radeon R9 280X at $300 and 290X at $550, it's our credibility on the line now, and we've been burnt too many times to give you guidance on a card you can't buy yet."It's called economics 101. It is basic knowledge to most Human Beings on the surface of this planet. You may have heard of it. It is called Supply vs. Demand. In this case the Demand is incredibly high because of Litecoin, DOGEcoin and other such miners (let alone gamers and OEMs).So AMD is setting the prices by selling the boards and GPUs to the 3rd party manufacturers at the correct pricing. Where the issue stems from is AFTER this transaction. It is so obvious too.When those boards make it into the stores, they're sold instantly. Heck most have been sold prior to even arriving at the store (Retailers filling in back orders).So the issue is clearly, clearly occurring where the back order is occurring. The issue is with the Retailers not able to get enough cards to fill orders and thus raising the prices. They're the ones making the extra profits therefore they're the culprits.The reality of the situation is that if people are willing to pay these prices, then those are the market prices for AMD cards. I guess they're worth more than nVIDIA cards if people are willing to pay that much for them.AMD setting prices is only part of the equation. AMD does not own the "Market".
  • 1 Hide
    panzerknacker , February 13, 2014 9:46 AM
    Pricing is just a matter of supply and demand. AMD can set a target price @ $150 but ultimately it are the shops deciding the final retail price. Somehow there has to be a high demand for graphics cards at the moment considering the raising prices. I guess everyone is upgrading right now, buying new systems.
  • 3 Hide
    ZolaIII , February 13, 2014 9:57 AM
    Great budget gaming card if pricing remains normal!Another god news for AMD is that Catalyst 14.1 beta fixes performance on Linux (up to 45% on R9 290).
  • 1 Hide
    JDFan , February 13, 2014 10:05 AM
    Quote:
    Pricing is just a matter of supply and demand. AMD can set a target price @ $150 but ultimately it are the shops deciding the final retail price. Somehow there has to be a high demand for graphics cards at the moment considering the raising prices. I guess everyone is upgrading right now, buying new systems.


    Nope - it is more the bitcoin miners buying up as many of the high end cards as they can get their hands on to mine more coins to buy more cards with causing the price increases at the moment - once the bitcoin market settles down and the price of the coins stabilizes there will be a flood of used cards available bringing the price way down but for now the high end cards are in short supply and thus the mid range cards are now increasing as well since those that would normally buy the higher end cards are being priced out and the supply is limited so they are now buying 2 mid level cards for crossfire setups rather than a single high end card they can not get so the mid level cards are also seeing higher demand in the short run.
  • 2 Hide
    TechieNewbie , February 13, 2014 10:33 AM
    @ElMoIsEviL (Quote button is being finicky with me) I think Don qualifies his skepticism very well. If 3rd party manufacturers and Coin miners cause the price for this card to raise much above the 150 mark then it's really a wash between it and the 660 (especially for gamers and double especially for gamers using custom loops as heat is no longer as much of an issue). Also I think it was wise of Don to cite AMD's recent track record with pricing and launching cards. I don't think this is simply a case of supply and demand as AMD isn't in control of the price once the boards/GPU's are out of their hands. If these cards sell out at their current price then raise even a small factor, I might as well spend the extra 20 bucks for a few extra frames. Of course who knows the overclocking potential.I hope this comes out at the price AMD is quoting since my 6850 is getting a bit long in the tooth and I would like to finally take the plunge into custom loop cooling. Having two of these would be nice. Although... Maxwell looms (supposedly) so who knows.
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