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

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
Texture Units
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
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)
$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.