We have tested the entire AMD R200 series lineup during the past month which includes their mainstream and enthusiast models. We have yet to receive the flagship Hawaii graphic cards but before testing those out, we are going to review the entry level R7 series cards which include the Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240.
While the AMD Radeon R9 series is aiming at a price range beyond the $150 mark, the Radeon R7 series is built for gamers within the sub-$150 price range. There’s a huge market for these cards considering their value hence PC gamers and even HTPC builders will look into these new GPU solutions.
The AMD Radeon R7 260X is the flagship part of the R7 200 series lineup while the sub-$100 Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 featuring the Oland GPU are the most basic and entry level cards AMD has to offer to gamers. So today we will be testing out not one but both Oland based graphic card and see what kind of gaming experience do they actually offer to end users.
AMD GCN (Graphic Core Next) Architecture
Before we get to detail the new card, let’s take a brief look at the architecture that has spanned over two years offering tremendous value to PC gamers – GCN. GCN or Graphics Core Next is based on the 28nm TSMC process across each variant.Originally debuted with the Radeon HD 7970 in December 2011, the GCN architecture was an giant step away from the older VLIW architecture featured on the Cayman ‘Radeon HD 6900′ cards. They did performed graphically well but their compute performance was crippled similar to NVIDIA’s GK104 lineup.
AMD took a bold step forward and introduced the GCN architecture with Graphics Compute Unit to handle the compute side of things basically delivering higher performance in compute and graphically intensive applications. The GCN architecture was the blend of both in a single die package aiming for high performance.
The AMD GCN architecture features 16-wide SIMD units with 64 KB registers addressed to each unit. Four of these SIMD units will form the basis of a Compute Unit or CU in short. 16-Wide design means that each CU will hold a total of 64 Stream Processors. The full GCN based Tahiti core features 32 Compute Units resulting in 2048 Stream Processors. The Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 we will be testing today have 6 and 5 Compute Units which results in 384/320 SPs (Stream Processors) respectively.
Additional specifications include:
- Upto 32 Compute Units w/ Dual Geometry Engines
- 8 Render Back-Ends/ 32 Color ROPs/ 128 Z/stencil ROPs
- Upto 768KB Read/Write L2 Cache
- 128-bit/256-bit/384-bit GDDR5 memory interfaces
In addition to the this, GCN architecture also features the GCN Tessellation unit which is the latest iteration of hardware enable tessellation units with increased vertex re-use, off-chip buffering improvements and larger parameter caches. These result in a 4 times performance improvement over previous generation non-GCN based chips.
We know that this is the most boring bit of details for some but it was essential to do a recap of the AMD GCN architecture since the new R200 series lineup except the two R9 290X and R9 290 are based off the same GCN architecture. So with the GCN reintroduced again, let’s take a look at the new (rebranded) graphic cards it has been fused inside this time.
AMD Radeon R7 Series – Gaming At Great Value
With the launch of the Volcanic Islands family, AMD announced two lineups – Radeon R9 and Radeon R7. The Radeon R9 are the high-performance graphic cards aiming the price range of $549 to $179.
What we are looking today in this review are two AMD Radeon R7 series product. The Radeon R7 Series aimed towards the more budget oriented gamers who want to have the power to do it all without spending over 200 bucks on a graphic card.
The Radeon R7 series starts off with the $139 US Radeon R7 260X) which is the entry level model followed by two lower end models which include the $89 Radeon R7 250 and the $ 59 Radeon R7 240. The Radeon R5 series lineup also exists though we have only seen one discrete model in that product portfolio codenamed as the Radeon R5 230. The Radeon R5 would be the series codename for a variety of AMD GCN enabled APUs and mobility models. The specifications for the Radeon R7 GPU lineup and some of their competitors can be seen below:
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti||HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ X²||HIS Radeon R7 250 iCooler||HIS Radeon R7 240 iCooler|
|GPU Codename||GK106||GK106||Bonaire XTX||Oland XT||Oland Pro|
|Transistors||2540 Million||2540 Million||2080 Million||1040 Million||1040 Million|
|Core Clock||980 MHz||925 MHz||1100 MHz||1050 MHz||780 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1033 MHz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|VRAM||2 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||2 GB DDR3|
|Memory Bandwidth||144 GB/s||86.4 GB/s||104 GB/s||73.6 GB/s||28.8 GB/s|
|Memory Clock||6.00 GHz||5.40 GHz||6.50 GHz||4.60 GHz||4.60 GHz|
|Price||$149.99 US||$129.99 US||$149.99 US||$89.99 US||$69.99 US|
HIS Radeon R7 250 iCooler 1 GB GDDR5 GPU
The HIS Radeon R7 250 belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the entry and budget gaming audience. The Radeon R7 250 features the TSMC 28nm manufactured Oland XT Silicon which measures 77mm2 and features 1.04 Billion Transistors. There’s nothing high-end about this chip considering its low-end nature but for the price could prove well for the budget market.
Unlike Bonaire and Hawaii, the new Oland XT chip features no architectural enhancements since its based on the older GCN 1.0 core. This means that we won’t see technologies such as AMD TrueAudio or the full support of DirectX 11.2 effects in gaming titles. However, technologies such as Mantle API would help push performance towards a positive trend against its competitors.
Technically speaking, the Oland chip features a die size of 77mm2 with a total of 1.04 Billion transistors crammed inside it. The Radeon R7 250 features a total of 6 Compute Units which result in 384 total Stream processors, 8 ROPs, 24 Texture mapping units. The card has a total compute performance of 806 GFlops. The Radeon R7 250 features 1 GB of GDDR5 memory that operates along a 128-bit memory interface. The memory pumps out a total of 73.6 GB/s bandwidth.
Coming to the clock speeds, the HIS Radeon R7 250 has a max clock speed of 1050 MHz, the memory operates at a 1150.00 MHz or 4.6 GHz effective clock speeds. The card has some sort of overclock headroom thanks to the iCooler but we don’t expect much performance out of it since its a low-end chip. The HIS Radeon R7 250 has a max TDP of 30W which is supplied via the PCI-E connector.
HIS Radeon R7 240 iCooler 2 GB DDR3 GPU
The HIS Radeon R7 240 belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the entry and budget gaming audience. The Radeon R7 240 features the TSMC 28nm manufactured Oland Pro Silicon which measures 77mm2 and features 1.04 Billion Transistors. There’s nothing high-end about this chip considering its low-end nature but for the price could prove well for the budget market.
Unlike Bonaire and Hawaii, the new Oland Pro chip features no architectural enhancements since its based on the older GCN 1.0 core. This means that we won’t see technologies such as AMD TrueAudio or the full support of DirectX 11.2 effects in gaming titles. However, technologies such as Mantle API would help push performance towards a positive trend against its competitors.
Technically speaking, the Oland chip features a die size of 77mm2 with a total of 1.04 Billion transistors crammed inside it. The Radeon R7 250 features a total of 5 Compute Units which result in 320 total Stream processors, 8 ROPs, 20 Texture mapping units. The card has a total compute performance of 499 GFlops. The Radeon R7 240 features 2 GB of DDR3 memory that operates along a 128-bit memory interface. The memory pumps out a total of 28.8 GB/s bandwidth which means lower performance compared to the GDDR5 variants.
Coming to the clock speeds, the HIS Radeon R7 240 has a max clock speed of 780 MHz, the memory operates at a 1150.00 MHz or 4.6 GHz effective clock speeds. The card has some sort of overclock headroom thanks to the iCooler but we don’t expect much performance out of it since its a low-end chip. The HIS Radeon R7 240 has a max TDP of 30W which is supplied via the PCI-E connector.
AMD Radeon R7 200 Series ‘Oland’ Features
The AMD Radeon R7 200 series ‘Oland’ is a new chip but being an entry level model, doesn’t features AMD True Audio support. The AMD Radeon R7 250 and 240 features support for AMD Mantle API, DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and a few features as detailed below:
Ultra Resolution Gaming
Experience resolutions up to four times higher than HD and see everything your opponent throws at you — without sacrificing a single detail.
Primed to enable astonishing performance and breathtaking image quality, making it a top choice for gamers who expect the best.
There’s optimization, and then there’s Mantle. Games enabled with Mantle speak the language of GCN architecture to unlock revolutionary performance and image quality.
AMD App Acceleration
Improve performance of everyday tasks such as Web browsing, office applications and video rendering.
AMD PowerTune technology
Enables intelligent power monitoring to enable higher clock speeds and better performance in your favorite games.
AMD ZeroCore technology
Allows your AMD Radeon GPU to consume virtually no power when in idle state.
AMD HD3D technology
Play 3D games, watch Blu-ray 3D videos, and edit 3D photos on your 3D monitor, TV or projector
You might be wondering whether or not these same features exist on the Radeon HD 7790, well they do but the technology support for True Audio will be unlocked later when AMD ships a driver update in the future. You may continue reading on as we detail the new True Audio and API support for AMD’s Radeon R9 and Radeon R7 series graphic cards.
AMD DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, Mantle API
With the Radeon R200 Series, AMD is finally adding support for Microsoft DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and Mantle API. AMD has been working hard on Mantle API since a few years and just recently announced it at their GPU ’14 event. But before we get into that, let’s see what new enhancement DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 have to offer!
Microsoft DirectX 11.2 is only fully featured on their Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating system so to take benefit of the new API, you would have to move over to the new OS.
The DirectX 11.2 API makes use of 3D Tiled Resources and exposes AMD’s partially-resident texture feature. It also allows hardware managed virtual memory for the graphics processing unit and has several Tier-2 features supported such as Shader LOD clamp and mapped status feedback, mini/max reduction filtering and reads from non-mapped title returns 0.
The AMD Mantle API on the other hand is geared specifically towards the GCN powered Radeon graphic cards and is currently being integrated in Frostbite 3 based Battlefield 4 which is without a doubt the most anticipated title coming out this year after GTA V. Such is its fame that AMD even bundled their latest and top new Radeon R9 290X graphic card with the new title and those of you lucky enough to pre-order the GPU now would be able to redeem the game at no additional cost. So back to the API talk, currently developers have to operate through DirectX and OpenGL APIs to make games work but this doesn’t fully unleash the hardware capabilities of a PC nor do they allow ease of development to developers.
AMD Mantle High-Performance Low-Level API
The AMD Mantle API is being exclusively developed for GCN enabled Radeon graphic cards. This would allow developers to dig deep into the metal to bring console-level optimizations through ease of programming and faster optimizations over a coherent GCN chip architecture. This means that we would see better performance on the entire GCN architecture enabled AMD graphic card lineup ranging from the top Radeon R9 290X to the bottom R7 240.
The AMD Mantle API comes with a light-weight driver that allows direct access to GPU hardware for the developers allowing for easier a much easier game development process. Its no surprise that the tech is first coming with Battlefield 4 since it has been officially bundled with AMD’s flagship Radeon R9 290X GPU.
This enables upto 9 time more draw cells per seconds than other APIs such as DirectX 11 for instance by reducing the CPU over head load which is than tasked upon the GPU hardware since its easily accessible. It also allows developers to include more optimization work from next gen game consoles to PCs which in return means the benefit for PC Gamers.
In addition to this, you will have the option to select between Mantle and DirectX 11 if you are using a GCN core enabled GPU. Frostbite 3 is on the road to become one of the new mammoth tech engines in the gaming industry powering a portfolio of 15 AAA titles which include the upcoming:
- Battlefield 4
- Command and Conquer
- Mirrors Edge
- Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
- Need For Speed: Rivals
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Star Wars: Battlefront
- Mass Effect (New Title in the Franchise)
The AMD Mantle API not only allows GPU optimization but also gives the CPU a boost in performance since very low tasks are handled by the CPU such as rendering, loading and streaming (tasked upon the GPU) so this allows perfect parallel rendering that allows utilization of upto 8 CPU cores found currently on AMD’s FX processors. This also helps avoiding potential bottlenecks for the system that may occur if the CPU is under load which in the case of Mantle won’t happen at all.
Mantle API from AMD is surely a step forward from the traditional way in which games are developed by multi-plat studios and developers. The ease of use and unleashing the true power of PC hardware would provide high optimization to gamers which would result in a better and stable gameplay experience. Mantle would make its debut in December 2013 in Battlefield 4.
Unboxing the Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 Graphic Cards
The HIS Radeon R7 250 and R7 240 ship inside small cardboard packages which are hidden inside a cool plastic cover detailing technical features of both cards. Their are tons of labels and technical details regarding the HIS iCooler cooler which is featured on the card on both the front and back ends.
The two boxes in which the cards ship inside are small and come with an installation guide, driver CD and a installation manual. Both graphic cards are seated beneath a plastic protector cover which holds them tight under spot.
Out of the box, we see that both cards have the same size and length and feature a similar iCooler from HIS. The size is a plus for users building small and budget oriented PCs. There’s virtually no difference in between both card from a design perspective but the PCBs are indeed different which we will detail in a bit.
Display outputs on the card include a single DVI, full length HDMI and VGA port which can be used with the multi-stream technology as detailed earlier. These are low-end cards hence won’t require high-end coolers on them.
A Closer Look at the Radeon R7 250 iCooler GPU
Before taking apart the cooler shroud and heatsink, we take a last look at the graphic carda from the top. Both cards have the PCB exposed from the front and sides since the cooler is small and has enough power to cool the GPU, memory and power phases scattered across the back of the board. You can also note that back of both cards is different from each other, the R7 240 has DDR3 memory chips on the back since it requires 8 of them in total to provide a 2 GB buffer.
Next up, we have the PCB of the Radeon R7 250 iCooler. HIS has used the blue color scheme on their entire R200 series lineup (except the R9 290 and R9 290X) which looks great with the iCooler fan.
HIS has equipped the Radeon R7 250 iCooler with a 2+1+1 phase VRM that uses only the finest materials and the most advanced techniques to build our cards, making them one of the most stable and durable product in the industry. The card is engineered with the highest standard of safety, preventing them any potential damages.
Below, we can see the AMD Oland XT core which features 1040 Million transistors crammed inside the 77mm2 die. You can see a IHS around the die which improves overall heat dissipation off the card.
For memory, HIS equipped their card with the ELPIDA made W2032BBBG memory modules (4 chips in total) which provide a VRAM of 1GB along a 128-bit memory interface. The modules are supposed to run at 4.60 Gbps with a stock voltage of 1.5V. ELPIDA memory is not known for its overclockability compared to the memory chips by SK Hynix.
Like we mentioned earlier, the HIS Radeon R7 250 has a lower power draw with a rated TDP beyond 65W of the reference models. Power is fed via the PCI-Express connector whereas no additional power connector is required.
For cooling, HIS went with their iCooler design which ships with a 92mm fan with a blue translucent color that pushes air towards a aluminum heatsink block placed directly on top of the Oland GPU.
A Closer Look at the Radeon R7 240 iCooler GPU
HIS has equipped the Radeon R7 250 iCooler with a 2+1 phase VRM that uses only the finest materials and the most advanced techniques to build our cards, making them one of the most stable and durable product in the industry. The card is engineered with the highest standard of safety, preventing them any potential damages.
Below, we can see the AMD Oland Pro core which features 1040 Million transistors crammed inside the 77mm2 die. You can see a IHS around the die which improves overall heat dissipation off the card.
For memory, HIS equipped their card with the AMD made 23EY4187MC11 memory modules (8 chips in total) which provide a VRAM of 2GB DDR3 along a 128-bit memory interface. The modules are supposed to run at 4.60 Gbps with a stock voltage of 1.5V. The DDR3 memory results in a massive bandwidth drop of 28.8 GB/s compared to 76.8 GB/s provided with GDDR5.
Like we mentioned earlier, the HIS Radeon R7 240 has a lower power draw with a rated TDP beyond 30 W of the reference models. Power is fed via the PCI-Express connector whereas no additional power connector is required.
For cooling, HIS went with their iCooler design which ships with a 92mm fan with a blue translucent color that pushes air towards a aluminum heatsink block placed directly on top of the Oland GPU.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3770K @ 4.5 GHz|
|Motherboard:||ASRock Z77 Extreme6|
|Power Supply:||Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt|
|Hard Disk:||Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12Kingston HyperX 3K 90GB|
|Memory:||2 x 4096 MB G.Skill ARES 2133 MHz DDR3|
|Case:||Cooler Master HAF 932|
|Video Cards:||EVGA GTX 650 Ti Boost
EVGA GTX 650 Ti
EVGA GT 640
MSI HD 7790 OC Edition
Powercolor HD 7770 GHz
HIS Radeon R7 250 iCooler
HIS Radeon R7 250 iCooler
|Video Drivers:||NVIDIA ForceWare 310.90 (GeForce 500/600 Series)
NVIDIA ForceWare 327.23 (GeForce 700 Series)
AMD Catalyst 12.11 (Radeon HD 6000/7000 Series)
AMD Catalyst 13.11 V4 (R7 Series)
|OS:||Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit|
- All games were tested on 1920×1080 resolution.
- Settings and visual configurations have been detailed for games on their benchmark charts.
- Games with PhysX were benchmarked with the setting either kept on Low or Off for fair comparison.
Graphics Performance and Benchmarks
3DMark from Futuremark further pushes the boundaries of benchmarking utilities going all out with cross platform support which include Windows, Windows Phone, iOS, MAC and even Android. The utility comes with three benchmark tests configured for different tiers of high-performance PCs, Mid-range PCs/Tablets and smartphone devices.
Batman: Arkham City
The second title in the Batman: Arkham series has also been developed by Rocksteady Studios. Batman: Arkham City takes place in (isn’t it obvious by the name?) Arkham City which is infested with all the super-villains and their minions which Batman has previously met past his journey.
The game was released on PC in November 2011 and runs on the latest Unreal Engine 3 which features rich DirectX 11 detail, tessellation and PhysX support for NVIDIA cards
Battlefield series is a name loyal to any PC gamer. Developed by DICE and published by EA, Battlefield 3 brings back the action, being one of the largest multiplayer launch titles of 2011. The game features both infantry and vehicular combat on some of the largest landscapes ever built in game with a total of 64 players pitted against each other.
Powering the game is DICE’s own Frostbite 2.0 engine. The successor to the original Frostbite engine that powered Battlefield: Bad Company 2. Battlefield 3 makes use of a highly detailed DirectX 11 engine, hardware accelerated tessellation and new lightning effects which deliver some of the most amazing visuals ever to be seen in a game.
Bioshock Infinite, the third title in the franchise developed by Irrational Games takes FPS and story telling to a whole new experience. The game puts us in the boots of Booker who in search of a girl named ‘Elizabeth’ ends up on Columbus, a bustling metropolis of the early 20th century that floats in the sky. The game uses a modified Unreal Engine making use of DIrectX 11 effects.
Borderlands 2, developed by Gearbox Studios is one of the hottest titles released in 2012. The game runs on a highly modified version of Unreal Engine making use of PhysX and rich DirectX 9 detail. During our test, we set the PhysX low for a fair comparison between the video cards.
PC gamers and Crysis franchise have a long running bond that cannot be broken apart. Crysis 3 is the last title of the franchise that for one last time puts in the Nano suit taking the role of Prophet. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic New York that is now under the control of C.E.L.L utilizing the left over Ceph technology to take grab in their quest for global domination by means of debt enslavement. We set out to take apart the CEPH and C.E.L.L forces in one last finale.
Visually speaking, the game is by far the most graphically intensive title ever developed with hyper realistic effects, textures and an environment with a massive scale. So much is the power of the CryEngine 3 that the game can only be ran on DirectX 11 compatible cards with a feature list length that never ends. Crytek had already done it once with the original Crysis and they have done it again with Crysis 3. Let’s see if the 2013 lineup of GPUs from NVIDIA and AMD hold up in it.
Far Cry 3
Developed by Ubisoft Montreal, Far Cry 3 is one of 2012’s hit titles which makes us take the role of Jason Brody, a tourist stranded on a tropical jungle along with his friends which is filled with pirates and a mad man known by the name of ‘Vaas’.
Hitman Absolution is the fifth entry to Agent 47’s Hitman franchise. Developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix, the game revolves around 47 once again, betrayed by his former handler Diana in order to protect Victoria, a teen girl. Mystery solves about the girl as the game progress.
The game makes use of a highly improved Glacier 2 engine making use of DirectX 11 effects, Tessellation, Global Illumination and Depth of Field. Hitman Absolution is also one of the most demanding and visually impressive titles to be released in 2012.
Metro Last Light
Metro Last Light once again puts us in the foots of Artyom, a survivor of the nuclear holocaust that shattered Russia. Metro: Last Light is considered as the best looking game to be released to date making use of intensive DirectX11 Tessellation, High-Res Textures, Global illumination lightning and more.
Saints Row IV
Saints Row IV takes the fight straight to Zinyak, a hostile alien leader who has taken over the world and put the president in a virtual simulation to mess around with him. The game revolves around Bridgeport, the place we have all known since Saints Row 3 but re-purposed by Zinyak to suit his needs. The game uses advanced DirectX 11 effects which are quite taxing for even the modern graphic cards.
The Tomb Raider franchise was rebooted this year with the latest title in the long running franchise. The players start off their journey with a younger and under-trained version of Lara who goes off on her first survival action journey.
Temperature and Thermal Test
No graphic card review is complete without evaluating its temperatures and thermal load. The HIS Radeon R7 250 and R7 240 were equipped with the iCooler cooling solution from HIS which delivers much better cooling and stability over the reference model. This coupled with a custom designed PCB which improves overall stability and power rating of the board. The cooler both performs well under load and runs silent.
Note – We tested load with Kombuster which is known as ‘Power viruses’ and can permanently damage hardware. Use the software at your own risk!
“The card is equipped with iCooler, making it extremely quiet and noise level is less than 28dB. You feel the quietness when viewing photos, browsing webs, checking your email and playing movies in UVD mode.” HIS
The HIS Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 graphic cards are an interesting approach towards the entry level GPU market. Both cards retail under the $100 price point at $89.99 US for the Radeon R7 250 and $69.99 US for the Radeon R7 240 models. This puts both cards against the GT 640 and GT 630 graphic cards from NVIDIA which are retailing for the same price points.
Performance wise, both cards were clearly ahead of their competitors with lower power consumption and overall temperatures. This makes them a viable solution especially for HTPC and Media box builders. For gamers, the R7 250 and R7 240 are only worth if you haven’t switch to 1080P yet. Lower resolutions such as 1440×900 and 1680 x 1050 would be great for running some current generation titles on these cards while you save money to move to a high-performance or mainstream GPU. But for some new titles, you would have to cut down the detail levels even at lower resolutions especially on the Radeon R7 240.
The Radeon R7 250 is a good graphic card for its cost but i would advise buyers to buy the GDDR5 variant of the R7 240 and R7 250 graphic cards. Both cards require bandwidth and don’t get fooled by the advertised 2 GB Ram on the DDR3 variants since it won’t deliver any noticeable performance improvement as compared to the GDDR5 variants.
The HIS iCooler is a good addition to these cards which runs great and doesn’t produce loud noise at all. The cooler is compact but we were hoping for a single-slot solution which could be great for Mini-ITX setups.
We may see an improvement in frame rates when Mantle optimized games hit the road thanks to the GCN Oland architecture onboard the graphic cards but it will take some time for those games to arrive. The other features such as DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3 and AMD Zero Core technologies are a plus for these graphic card and like i said, low power and compact media setups will do great with these graphic cards.