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

Results: Arma III

For each game we’re testing, we need to evaluate three different products. First up is AMD’s “new” R9 280X. As expected, it’s slower than the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, though just slightly. Nvidia’s closest-priced alternative, GeForce GTX 760, sells for $50 less, but even gets beaten by the R9 270X in Arma III. The cheapest 7970 GHz Edition card (as of this writing) sells for $330, so for $30 less, the R9 280X is a good example of AMD’s Tahiti GPU made more attractive.

Stepping down one product category means giving up playable performance at 2560x1440 (at least using Very High quality settings). Nevertheless, AMD’s R9 270X has little trouble outpacing GeForce GTX 760 and the Radeon HD 7870. AMD scores a value win, without question. But with 7870s going for as little as $170, spending $30 more on an R9 270X is a step in the wrong direction, price-wise, for the same Pitcairn/Curacao GPU.

Arma is a great-looking title, and its Very High detail setting is pretty taxing. An average frame rate in the 30s might not be satisfactory at 1920x1080, compelling you to scale back on eye candy (a shame, really). R7 260X won’t change your experience compared to the Radeon HD 7790. The thing is, most 7790s are 1 GB cards. The 2 GB Gigabyte model we bought sells for the same $140 AMD plans to charge for its R7 260X. So, for the same price, you’re getting a slight overclock and TrueAudio turned on. The good news for AMD is that, even after a price drop on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost, its Bonaire-based boards are still a better value. Our Best Graphics Cards For The Money column concurs. 

An analysis of frame rate over time at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 breaks our 10 comparison boards into three distinct groups. Up top, the Tahiti-based offerings appear uncontested by the GeForce GTX 760, which instead competes against $200 Pitcairn-based cards.

Arma is taxing enough that, at 2560x1440, you’re probably going to want a Tahiti-class card. Otherwise, you’re going to spend a fair amount of time under 30 FPS.

In single-GPU configurations, all of these solutions demonstrate low frame time variance. For more on what this measurement includes and how we generate it, check out this page.

  • 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