The Radeon R7 260's Unrealized Potential
Nothing puts our benchmarks into perspective like a chart of average performance. Right out of the gate, let's look at the aggregate results of the seven other cards we tested relative to AMD's new Radeon R7 260:
Put simply, the Radeon HD 7770 is about 15% slower than the new Radeon R7 260, and the 260X is about 11% faster. Those numbers don't sound like much, but the HD 7770 dropped as low as 33 FPS in some benchmarks, while the R7 260 never fell below 40. Particularly at 1920x1080, that's a significant margin. On the other hand, AMD's Radeon R7 260X performs better, but not so much that it facilitates higher resolutions. It might allow for a couple of more taxing details without dropping below 30 FPS. However, the two cards come pretty close to each other.
If I was writing this review last month, when the Radeon R7 260 paper-launched at $110, I would have drizzled praise all over it for making the Radeon HD 7770 obsolete. The Radeon R7 260X at $140 and R7 260 at $110 appear a formidable pair, indeed.
But one month later, the Radeon R7 260 is largely missing in action aside from a token entry selling for $140 (Ed.: And now a second model at $125, which we still consider too close to the 260X, found as low as $130). We're scratching our heads. The product we're reviewing is as expensive as competing Radeon R7 260X cards with two times more memory. Thirty dollars might not sound like much, but in the competitive space under $150, it's the difference between an exceptional deal and outright poor value. Perfect example: spending $10 more gets you Asus' R7260X-DC2OC-2GD5, which not only includes a faster GPU, but also twice as much on-board RAM.
An AMD representative we talked to ahead of this piece stated that the company samples hardware to its partners, which then decide what they want to sell. At least for now, it seems as though the add-in board folks are happy with the relationship between the Radeon HD 7770 at $110 and R7 260X at $140.
Here's a bit of perspective. With the GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost missing, the Radeon R7 260X rules at its price point. And the GeForce GTX 650 Ti is a little overpriced against AMD's Radeon HD 7770. I can't imagine there's a lot of incentive to create another space between those two successful products.
Regardless, it appears that the Radeon R7 260 isn't emerging as the value-oriented product we were anticipating, at least in the near future. That could, of course, change over time (and potentially quite quickly if Nvidia strikes with competitive-priced competition for the Radeon HD 7770). Until then, the Radeon R7 260 is too rare and too expensive to recommend over other, more compelling options in the same space.