AMD Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, And R7 260X: Old GPUs, New Names

Display Technology

Historically, display technology is one of AMD’s strengths. Back in 2009, the company caught its competition flat-footed with Eyefinity, which supported three independent outputs from the Radeon HD 5870 and as many as six from a special Eyefinity 6 Edition of the card. This was a pivotal moment in my career as a writer who loved to play games. Previously, I used a Quadro NVS card in my personal workstation to drive a three-screen array, while a second system handled 3D. The Radeon HD 5870 let me combine those equally important functions in one machine.

More recently, AMD was on the receiving end of an offensive because its drivers do not yield a favorable experience at 3840x2160 (frame pacing isn't supported yet in Eyefinity). But although you probably wouldn’t want to game on one or more of the company’s graphics cards at 4K resolutions, configuring a tiled display was originally easier on AMD’s hardware than Nvidia’s. Of course, Nvidia has since incorporated DisplayID 1.3 support, which automatically creates a Surround array, making the setup process that much smoother. AMD's latest software likewise streamlines usage with existing tiled panels.

Projected adoption of Ultra HD

The point is that AMD does support 4K TVs (30 and 24 Hz) over HDMI and DisplayPoint, and tiled monitors (60 Hz) using DisplayPort with its existing GPUs. Tiled monitors are not supported through two HDMI ports, which is how we tested Nvidia’s cards in Gaming At 3840x2160: Is Your PC Ready For A 4K Display? Frankly, that’s fine. I'd much rather connect one DisplayPort cable in MST mode anyway. We only benchmarked through the HDMI interface to facilitate video capture for our FCAT analysis tools.

Additionally, the R9 and R7 boards are making it possible to connect matching monitors to any three outputs. Previously, the requirement was that one needed to hook up via DisplayPort. If you can get your hands on a MST hub, you can even enable five- and six-screen configurations using AMD’s reference cards. The issue remains availability; the only solution comes from Club3D, and you can’t buy it anywhere in the U.S.

Single-stream 4K at 60 Hz requires at least 600 MHz pixel rates

In the future, we have confirmation that forthcoming AMD cards will definitely support single-stream, non-tiled 4K displays as they become available and get validated. This will likely be early in 2014. It remains to be seen whether the R9- and R7-series cards getting tested today can claim the same thing. The display controller’s frequency, memory arbitration, and latency all play a role in driving that many pixels.

There’s actually quite a bit more to cover on the display technology side. But because AMD hasn’t pulled the veil off of its R9 290 and 290X cards yet, we have to hold off on that discussion. More soon, though.

  • CaptainTom
    Wow what's with the AMD hate? As it stands they are doing the same thing Nvidia did except without the outrageous prices. The GTX 770 wasn't a great deal when the 7970 was $50 cheaper. Have fun trying to run BF3 with 2GB of VRAM...
  • slomo4sho
    Nothing revolutionary but better prices I suppose.

    The MSI R9 280X Gaming at $299 appears to outperform the GTX 770 at 1600P and is within margin of error at 1080P according to Techpowerup. Not a bad value at $100 less and still overclocks well:
  • jimmysmitty
    So long story short, if you have a HD7970GHz then these do nothing for you.

    Best to hold out till the reviews on the R9-290X I guess. But considering the specs I hope for at least 20% performance increases over a 7970.
  • Shankovich
    What happened to Chris? I didn't see this kind of hate with all of the 700 series rebrands. Also, to the Canadians here, grab the $270 7970 GHz edition cards while you still can.
  • BigMack70
    I don't like this new strategy AMD and Nvidia are taking of rebranding an old series at improved price points and then releasing only one new chip at a stupidly expensive price point.

    Are the days of (nearly) annual simultaneous full line GPU launches from $100-500 with a dual GPU chip to follow at $750-1000 really over?
  • cangelini
    Hate? The R9 280X won an *award*. I think Tahiti at $300 is pretty much brilliant.

    I wrote one of the least flattering GTX 780 stories out there. I only identified a couple of situations where a Titan made any sense at all. And although the 760 *did* change the balance at $250, that card still didn't get an award. I liked the 770 for the simple fact that it delivered better-than-680 performance for close to $100 less.

    The rest of AMD's new line-up is a lot like what exists already. Again, the 7870 is a better value than 270X. So what are you getting worked up over? The fact that I'm pointing out these aren't new GPUs? They're not. ;)
  • Shankovich
    Ok Chris, I agree with you, sorry for the over reaction. But I really don't like how nVidia made price increases for some of the rebrands. Looking forward to your 290 and 290X reviews :D
  • ingtar33
    i'll take a 7950 at $129 thank you very much (or two). There is a major retailer selling them for that this week. Best buy all year. two 7950s for the price of one r9-280x? yeah... i'll do that all day every day.
  • tomfreak
    Radeon 7790 has true Audio = but not enabled boooooo = as a 7790 owner I somewhat disappointed :( . Anyone have any idea if we can crossfire 1GB 7790 and 2GB 260x?
  • net_nakul
    By the time a R9 380X comes out, the GCN Tahiti XT achitecture may be 4 years old (assuming end of 2015). AMD better come up with an awesome new architecture by then, considering the R&D time they have.

    That goes to you too Mr. NVIDIA