Here we are back again to review another one of AMD’s latest Radeon R7 graphics card from their AIC partner HIS (Hightech Information Systems). Almost two and half years have been passed since AMD introduced their GCN core architecture and it shouldn’t be a surprise if I told you that the architecture is still being featured on AMD’s latest Volcanic Islands Radeon R7 and Radeon R9 series graphics cards.
The Volcanic Islands family is branded as the Radeon R200 series and takes performance and value to the next level. Technically speaking, the Radeon R200 series cards which include the Radeon R9 280X, Radeon R9 270X, Radeon R9 270, Radeon R7 265, Radeon R7 260X, Radeon R7 260, Radeon R7 255, Radeon R7 250X, Radeon R7 250 and Radeon R7 240 are GCN rebrands aside from the latest Hawaii based Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290, with the addition of new features but rather than giving away the same cards at the same price ranges, AMD added a few new features which we will detail in this article and slashed the prices so much that the Tahiti chip that once was $549 can now be bought for $299 US.
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.
Today, we are going to take look at the Radeon R7 250X iCooler from HIS which features the iCooler heatsink. The Radeon R7 250X is not based on a new graphics processing unit since it features the Cape Verde GPU core which was featured in the Radeon HD 7700 series almost two years ago. At the time of introduction, the AMD Radeon HD 7770 which features the same Cape Verde XT core as the Radeon R7 250X retailed for $159 US but given its age, AMD has toned down the price to just $89.99 US. This is impressive on AMD’s part and we are keen to see what does HIS has to offer on their end since their iCooler variant.
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 280X we will be testing today has the same GCN die configuration since it is based on the flagship Tahiti core with 2048 stream processors which result in faster texture rendering and DX11 tessellation performance.
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.
The AMD Cape Verde core featured inside the Radeon R7 250X had 10 GCN compute Units which result in 640 stream processors. The chip in total packs 1.5 Billion transistors and houses two ACE (Asynchronous Compute Engines), a single Geometry Engine, 1 Rasterizer unit while additional blocks include VCE, UVD, CrossFire DMA engine and Eyefinity display controller. The L2 cache on the Cape Verde chip is smaller compared to the Tahiti but is basically a skimmed down version of the first generation GCN family. The chip features a 128-bit memory bus which is provided by two 64-bit dual channel memory controllers. At the time of its launch, the Cape Verde chip was considered a decent entry level offering however in AMD’s current lineup, it is the most basic GPU which can be bought under the $100 range.
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 – Built For Budget and Affordable Gaming
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 $299 to $199. The other two R9 graphic cards aka Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 are yet to be launched but would be priced higher and would deliver higher performance.
What we are looking today in t his review is an 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 and $109 US Radeon R7 260X and Radeon R7 260 graphics cards which are the entry level models followed by three lower end models which include the $99 Radeon R7 250X, $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.
Today we will be looking at the Radeon R7 Series tier ‘Radeon R7 250X’ graphics card which retails at $99.99 US price range. This positions the card between two products from NVIDIA, the lower cost GeForce GTX 740 which also retails at $99.99 US. The GeForce GTX 650 Ti and GeForce GTX 650 are more or less obsolete since they have been replaced by their new Maxwell successors aka the GeForce GTX 750 and GeForce GTX 750 Ti. The GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost still delivers the most performance per dollar and is placed against the Radeon R7 265.
HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler Specifications:
|NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650||HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ X²||HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler||HIS Radeon R7 250 iCooler||HIS Radeon R7 240 iCooler|
|GPU Codename||GK106||GK106||GK107||Bonaire XTX||Cape Verde||Oland XT||Oland Pro|
|Transistors||2540 Million||2540 Million||1300 Million||2080 Million||1500 Million||1040 Million||1040 Million|
|Core Clock||980 MHz||925 MHz||1058 MHz||1100 MHz||1000 MHz||1050 MHz||780 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1033 MHz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|VRAM||2 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||2 GB DDR3|
|Memory Bandwidth||144 GB/s||86.4 GB/s||80.0 GB/s||104 GB/s||72.0 GB/s||73.6 GB/s||28.8 GB/s|
|Memory Clock||6.00 GHz||5.40 GHz||5.00 GHz||6.50 GHz||4.50 GHz||4.60 GHz||4.60 GHz|
|Price||$149.99 US||$129.99 US||$99.99 US||$139.99 US||$89.99 US||$79.99 US||$69.99 US|
HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler 1 GB GDDR5 GPU
The HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the entry level and budget gaming audience. The Radeon R7 250X features the TSMC 28nm manufactured Cape Verde Silicon which is essentially the same chip as featured on the Radeon HD 7770 and Radeon HD 7750 two years ago. So we can come to the conclusion that the Cape Verde chip has been rebranded quite some times but hopefully, the Radeon R7 250X would be the last graphic card from AMD to feature the Cape Verde core since there’s no more configuration left for the die and AMD is on the verge to launch a new generation of GPUs which will be aimed to replace the Pitcairn, Cape Verde and Tahiti rebrands reintroduced back in October 2013.
The HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the budget friendly price range. The Radeon R7 250X features the TSMC 28nm manufacturer Cape Verde XT Silicon which has already been featured on the Radeon HD 7770 graphic card.
Technically speaking, the Cape Verde chip features a die size of 123mm2 with a total of 1.50 Billion transistors crammed inside it. The Radeon R7 260X features a total of 10 Compute Units which result in 640 total Stream processors, 16 ROPs, 40 Texture mapping units and two primitive rate per clock. The card has a total compute performance of 1.28 TFlops. The Radeon R7 250X features 1 GB of GDDR5 memory that operates along a 128-bit memory interface. The memory pumps out a total of 72 GB/s bandwidth.
HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler ‘Cape Verde’ Features
The AMD Radeon R7 250X is the same Cape Verde chip that was fused on the Radeon HD 7770 so one may think that other than performance improvements, there won’t be any new features shipped with the new graphic card. But its not like that, actually AMD has shipped all the power improvement technologies that were first featured on the GCN 1.1 architecture along with support for their new Mantle API.
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 TrueAudio Technology
With the sonic brilliance of AMD TrueAudio technology, your games now sound as good as they look.
AMD App Acceleration
Improve performance of everyday tasks such as Web browsing, office applications and video rendering.
AMD CrossFire technology
With outstanding performance scaling, a system equipped with AMD CrossFire technology system keeps you fragging while everyone else is reaching for an upgrade.
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 Tiled Displays, Eyefinity and Multi-Display Support
With the R200 series, AMD is bringing new visual experiences into the equation with support for multi-display, Eyefinity and tiled displays. Previously, users went into alot of hassle for using Eyefinity on a single card since it always required min Display port connector equipped displays and buying a separate HDMI/DVI to display port adopter or buying a Eyefinity version of the specific graphic card which were available in limited quantities and had a price tag alot more than the reference models.
AMD is fixing this issue with the R200 series allowing a wide range of display configurations to be made possible and Eyefinity multi-display configuration available to the masses. The entire Radeon R7 and Radeon R9 lineup comes with Dual-Link DVI, HDMI 1.4 and Display port 1.2 which would enable a wide variety of configurations to be accessed by users. Although the entry level card won’t actually be able to play games at such high resolutions, it will however become a cheaper way of having multiple displays for content creation, browsing and media boxes.
With the new display outputs in place, the Radeon R200 series cards would be able to support upto 6 simaltenous displays at once, three from the Dual DVI and HDMI ports and three from the single display port with the Multi-Stream Transport adopter technology which would enable support for three displays through a single display port
AMD is also bringing in a new VESA standard to enable support for Tiled displays which allows 4K monitors to stitch in a seamless single display experience. Currently, AMD only offers compatibility with two types of Ultra HD displays:
- Type 1: 30Hz and Below
- Type 2: 60Hz tiled into two halves 2K*2K @ 60 Hz
These features would enable high resolution gaming with Eyefinity technologies and 4K resolution for the ultra high-end enthusiasts. Its clear that both NVIDIA and AMD are aiming for the 4K resolution with their latest cards since it is the future upgrade path for PC Gamers. We are also currently looking at a growing trend towards 2560 x 1440 resolution. With new and powerful graphic cards available at great value, higher resolution and graphics would be push the boundaries of PC gaming further.
DirectX 12, DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, Mantle API
With the Radeon R200 Series, AMD is finally adding support for Microsoft DirectX 12, 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 12 – GCN Ready For Next Generation API
During the GDC 2014 press event, Microsoft popped the lid on their upcoming DirectX 12 API which aims to enhance GPU performance with low-overhead and adding new rendering features. Most of us were expecting that the new DirectX 12 API will require new hardware to fully support the technology but that’s not the case at all as revealed during the GDC event, DirectX 12 will support all current hardware from NVIDIA, AMD and Intel.
Image Courtesy: PCPerspective!
This is a great news for desktop users as the majority of PC audience use a variety of hardware configurations which include mainly three vendors – Intel, NVIDIA and AMD. All major hardware companies have announced that their current generation of products will fully support the new Direct3D 12 API which will improve the utilization of the hardware to its maximum potential so that applications get improve performance in gaming along with ease of development on developers end.
AMD’s Raja Kadouri was the first to announce DirectX 12 support for their GCN (Graphics Core Next) hardware. AMD has always been the first to adopt the latest DirectX APIs due to their partnership with Microsoft on GPU and API development. Since DirectX 7, their GPUs have been the first to feature support for the new APIs from Microsoft and they had been working closely with Microsoft in the development of DirectX 12. Bear in mind that AMD had already developed their own proprietary API known as Mantle which is available in DICE’s Battlefield 4 and recently came to THIEF from Square Enix a few days ago.
The DirectX 12 API would not be limited to desktop PCs but since AMD has hardware implemented in Microsoft’s Xbox One, the benefits of the latest Direct3D 12 API would be forwarded to the next generation console. Turn10 studios demoed a short video of FORZA 5 running with new API maintaining a smooth 60 FPS frame rate with all new rendering features implemented. Since Xbox One has full support of DirectX 12 API, we will see upcoming games for the console to offer improved performance.
Microsoft DirectX 11.2 and OpenGL 4.3 Support
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. Recent reports also suggest that it is only the Radeon R9 290X, Radeon R9 290 and the Radeon R7 260X graphic cards which will fully support the DirectX 11.2 functionality while the others will support it but not deliver full functionality.
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 DICE’s flagship title for 2013. 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.
So how does Mantle work?
The Mantle API is geared towards AMD GCN hardware which includes their Radeon HD 7000, 8000 and R200 series cards.While Mantle’s first focus would be the graphics processing unit utilization, from recent benchmarks we have come to the conclusion that Mantle’s initial focus would be to eliminate scenarios where the processor becomes the bottleneck of the entire system causing performance degradation. Mantle API helps by reducing the CPU load for better utilization of the system hardware.
This shows that performance improvements with be expected on both Intel and AMD processors based rigs since Mantle removes a lot of the load from the CPU to allow the GPU to run at its true potential. Users who are currently using Kaveri APUs along with GCN based graphics cards would expect a massive improvement as compared to users with FX CPUs or intel’s high-end range of processors. This is mainly since Kaveri APUs which compared to FX processors and Intel’s HEDT lineup are more limited in terms of x86 potential and total threads hence lesser load on the CPU side from different tasks would enable the GPU to better utilize the full potential of the Kaveri APUs. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to Kaveri since we haven’t received a sample yet so our testing would be done on our AMD test rig which includes a FX-8350 processor.
Do note that Mantle update doesn’t has any sort of restriction when it comes to CPU so gains are expected across both Intel and AMD based processors since it offers more in-depth utilization of the hardware.
Mantle is an API that is thought to be a direct competitor to Microsoft’s Direct X and Open GL. It allows for a high number of Draw Calls to be submitted per frame resulting in higher performance. The problem with this statement is that it was interpreted to mean that it would make AMD’s Graphic Cards more efficient without the CPU being a factor. Because we now know that it is actually designed to reduce the workload of the CPU, comparison against Direct X changes completely. The new variable that comes into play for comparison is whether or not a game is CPU-Intensive. If a game is CPU intensive and you have a CPU that is not naturally capable of dealing with the load then Mantle will help you, if not then don’t expect miracles.
Battlefield 4 is the first AAA title to feature support for AMD’s Mantle API and hence is our main benchmark to analyze Mantle’s real world advantages in gaming titles. We tested Mantle in both Single and Multiplayer scenes. In Multiplayer, we were able to get large improvement in performance with Mantle as opposed to Single player since CPU is under more effect when running the multiplayer tasks. For full insight on the Mantle API’s performance and how it works, please read our previous article here.
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:
- Battlefield 4
- Battlefield: Hardline
- Star Citizen
- Civilization: Beyond Earth
- Sniper Elite 3
- 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.
HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler GPU – Unboxing
The HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler 1 GB ships inside a smaller box as compared to the HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler. The cardboard packaging is enveloped in a plastic cover which comes with the HIS Sword logo and card labeling which include “Radeon R7 250X”, AMD Radeon, PCI Express 3.0 and 1 GB GDDR5.
The back side of the box come with details regarding features which include AMD Eyefinity, AMD Crossfire, AMD GCN Architecture and AMD App Acceleration Technology. System requirements and several marketing logos can also be found. On the bottom of the box, HIS has proudly mentioned that they have won over 1600 awards from major media sites around the world. There’s also a caution statement that warranty would be void if users have removed the cooling fan and change the card configurations.
The accessories package that comes with HIS graphics card is quite neat which are packed nicely inside a envelope shaped card. Inside the package, we can find a drivers DVD (though it is recommended to install the latest AMD Catalyst drivers from the official webpage), a HIS Installation Guide, a Kingdom of Gamer welcome card and a HIS badge.
Out of the box, we can see the HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler graphics card makes use of a smaller, single fan cooler along with a shroud that doesn’t cover the entire PCB like the iTurbo variant which retails at $20 more. The card covers two slots and the length is slightly smaller than the iTurbo variant too.
Display outputs on the card include a DVI, HDMI and a VGA port. The card takes two slots inside the PC chassis but comes without any external exhaust vent which could be due to the low heat output of the card itself though we have to test it out.
For cooling, the HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler uses the iCooler heatsink variant to reduce cost that don’t get much loud under load staying at a decent 28dB and are specifically designed to push handful of air into the heatsink so that the card stays cool even under massive loads and overclocked conditions. The Q&C 9 fan blades increases air velocity make cooling more efficiently while keeping noise level at minimum.
HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler – A Closer Look
Before taking apart the cooler shroud and heatsink, we take a last look at the graphic card from the top. The black shroud coupled with the blue fan and PCB look great and does a great job hiding the majority of the PCB components. The shroud although made of plastic is designed well but doesn’t cover the entire length of the entire PCB which may cause problems and even component damage on the bare PCB components.
The HIS iCooler is the entry level cooling for graphics cards which makes use of a single 92mm fan in the middle featuring nine fan blades. HIS went with a aluminum boxed design for the fins rather than choosing the circular fin blade design from the other iCooler variant featured on the Radeon R7 260X iCooler.
The heatsink shroud for the iCooler is colored black and is made up of plastic, the design gives a Sci-Fi look. Underneath the shroud is a aluminum block with a few metallic fins. The core makes direct contact with the heatsink’s surface which dissipates the heat through the aluminum fins which are cooled off by the air from the fans.
The PCB used for the Radeon R7 250X is the standard issued design which makes use of a single 6-Pin power connector to feed the electrical components. The Cape Verde chip can be spotted to the middle of the card surrounded by the 2+1 Phase PWM supply and four SKHynix made memory chips. The blue PCB goes well with overall design of the card itself and the short length makes it a nice addition to a HTPC build.
Below, we can see the Cape Verde chip which has served a good two years in the graphics department in the form of AMD’s Radeon HD 7700 series and the Radeon R7 250X. The chip houses 1.5 Billion transistors, 640 stream processors and a 1 GHz core clock.
Lastly, we can spot the four SKHynix made memory chips “H5GQ2H24AFR” which are optimized to run at 4.5 GHz memory frequency. The card features 1 GB GDDR5 memory running across a 128-bit interface and pumps out 72 Gbps bandwidth.
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4770K @ 4.5 GHz|
|Motherboard:||Gigabyte Z97X SOC Force Motherboard|
|Power Supply:||Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt|
|Hard Disk:||Kingston HyperX 3K 90 GB (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12
|Memory:||4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 2400 MHz
10th Anniversary Edition Memory Kit
|Case:||Cooler Master HAF 932|
|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.
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 250X iCooler we were shipped features the iCooler heatsink cooler 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 conclusion to this review is going to be the hardest for me as it was with the previous Radeon R7 based cards. AMD has several Radeon R7 series cards under the $150 range that I can’t even distinct them from each other. In the sub-$150 market, AMD has launched the Radeon R7 265 for $139 US, Radeon R7 260X for $129 US, Radeon R7 260 for $109 US, Radeon R7 250X for $89.99 US, $79.99 US for Radeon R7 250, $69.99 US for Radeon R7 240 and $59.99-$49.99 US for Radeon R5 230. To sum it up, there’s around $10 to $20 US difference between all the models and with the market crowded with so many options from one side, it gets hard for the consumer to decide a card for himself.
From the pricing, the Radeon R7 250X looks like a decent card. I once called the Radeon R7 260X as the best budget card for 1080P gaming and it is but not the best entry level card anymore. The Radeon R7 250X gets the award for this since it is technically a Radeon HD 7770 GHz rebrand which was an entry level 1080P card when it was originally launched. It should be noted that being able to run 1080P doesn’t necessarily means that it can do 1080P gaming with ease. There were some hiccups when running titles on high or very high settings for which I will advise users to either tone down the visual quality or the resolution itself but for most games out there, the Radeon R7 250X will be able to handle 1080P gaming pretty well if not good. The HIS Radeon R7 250X iCooler variant has a large cooler which keeps the load temperatures under the radar and while I don’t advise anyone to overclock these budget cards and let them run as they are out-of-box, a little overclock if you seem fit wouldn’t hurt since HIS adds more stability to the PCB with their custom design.
Overall, the Radeon R7 250X is a good offering for people who are looking to switch to 1080P resolution from an old display and can’t buy a graphics card over a 100 bucks. The Radeon R7 250X keeps the solid performance of the Radeon HD 7770 GHz under its belt and updates it with new and enhanced drivers from AMD which boost performance and add Mantle API support. It should also be noted that the card comes with an additional $40 US added value through the Never Settle Forever promotion which grants you access to 1 AAA title which can be redeemed after purchasing the card. For more information, visit – http://sites.amd.com/us/promo/never-settle/Pages/nsreloadedforever.aspx