Here we are back again to review another one of AMD’s latest Radeon R9 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.
Today, we are going to take a third look at the Radeon R7 260X, this time from AIC partner HIS. HIS provided us their Radeon R7 260X iTurbo graphics card a while back which turned out to be a a decent offering given its cost but today, we are looking at a cut-down model based on the iCooler revision which features lower clock speeds and comes at a lower price range of $129.99 US compared to $139.99 US of the reference and $149.99 US of the non-reference variants (the same price at which one could buy the Radeon R7 265 which is based on the 1024 SPs Pitcairn die). So let’s go ahead and see whether the HIS Radeon R7 260X manages to make a place in the entry level and much crowded market space.
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.
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 (The one we are reviewing today) 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 260X’ graphics card which retails at $129.99 US price range. This positions the card between two products from NVIDIA, the lower cost GeForce GTX 750 which retails at $129.99 US and the more expensive GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost retailing at $139 – $159 US range. 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.
We don’t want to go in the performance bits just yet but from official slides presented by AMD, the Radeon R9 280 comes at around 20% higher than the GeForce GTX 760 in 3DMark Firestrike while the card is relatively fast during gaming benchmarks but as indicated earlier, the pricing of the card suggests that it should be compared with an overclocked (non-reference) GeForce GTX 760 solution which should close in the gap but that remains to be checked out in the review.
The Radeon R9 series graphic card lineup starts off with the $179 Radeon R7 270 with 2 GB memory while the 4 GB variant would be available later on for a price of $199 (same as a Radeon R9 270X). It is followed by the Radeon R9 280 with 3GB memory and a price tag of $279 and lastly, the Radeon R9 280X which retails at $299 US and plus for the non-reference models. The Radeon R9 lineup also includes the flagship R9 295X2, Radeon R9 290X and Radeon R9 290 “Hawaii” GPU based graphics cards which are available for $1499 US, $549 US and $449 US respectively.
HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler Specifications:
|HIS Radeon R9 280X IceQ x2||HIS Radeon R9 280 IceQ x2||AMD Radeon R9 270X||HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ x2||AMD Radeon R7 260X||HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660|
|GPU Codename||Tahiti XT||Tahiti Pro||Curacao XT||Bonaire XTX||Bonaire XTX||Bonaire XTX||GK104||GK104||GK104||GK106|
|Transistors||4313 Million||4313 Million||2800 Million||2080 Million||2080 Million||2080 Million||3540 Million||3540 Million||3540 Million||2540 Million|
|Core Clock||1000 MHz||847 MHz||1050 MHz||1100 MHz||1100 MHz||1000 MHz||1046 MHz||980 MHz||915 MHz||980 MHz|
|Boost Clock||1050 MHz||953 MHz||N/A||N/A||N/A||N/A||1085 MHz||1033 MHz||980 MHz||1033 MHz|
|VRAM||3 GB GDDR5||3 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||1 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5||2 GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bandwidth||288.4 GB/s||240.0 GB/s||179.2 GB/s||104.4 GB/s||104.4 GB/s||96.0 GB/s||224.3 GB/s||192.3 GB/s||144.2 GB/s||144.2 GB/s|
|Memory Clock||6.00 GHz||5.00 GHz||5.60 GHz||6.50 GHz||6.50 GHz||5.00 GHz||7.01 GHz||6.00 GHz||6.00 GHz||6.00 GHz|
|Power Configuration||8+6 Pin||8+6 Pin||6+6 Pin||6-Pin||6-Pin||6-Pin||8+6 Pin||6+6 Pin||6+6 Pin||6-Pin|
|Launch Date||8th October 2013||4th March 2014||8th October 2013||8th October 2013||8th October 2013||8th October 2013||30th May 2013||25th June 2013||18th August 2012||13th September 2012|
|Launch Price||$319.99 US||$279.99 US||$199.99 US||$149.99 US||$139.99 US||$129.99 US||$349.99 US||$249.99 US||$249.99 US||$209.99 US|
HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler 2 GB Graphics Card
The HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the entry level and budget gaming audience. The Radeon R7 260X features the TSMC 28nm manufactured Bonaire Silicon which is essentially the same chip as featured on the Radeon HD 7790 and Radeon R7 260. So we can come to the conclusion that the Bonaire chip has been rebranded quite some times but hopefully, the Radeon R7 260X would be the last graphic card from AMD to feature the Bonaire core since there’s no more configuration left for the Bonaire 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 260X iCooler belongs to the Radeon R7 series which is aimed towards the budget friendly price range. The Radeon R7 260X features the TSMC 28nm manufacturer Bonaire XTX Silicon which has already been featured on the Radeon HD 7790 graphic card a few months ago.
Bonaire is based on a new AMD ASIC design and features various power enhancements which we will detail shortly. The Bonaire GPU was essentially part of the Sea islands family featuring the GCN 1.1 core architecture. AMD never revealed whether there was more to the Sea Islands GCN 1.1 family but traces of the family exist in the form of the Bonaire chip. Nevertheless, AMD re-purposed the Bonaire chip in the Radeon R7 260X and added it to the Volcanic Islands family.
Technically speaking, the Bonaire chip features a die size of 160mm2 with a total of 2.08 Billion transistors crammed inside it. The Radeon R7 260X features a total of 14 Compute Units which result in 896 total Stream processors, 16 ROPs, 56 Texture mapping units and two primitive rate per clock. The card has a total compute performance of 1.97 TFlops. The Radeon R7 260X features 2 GB of GDDR5 memory that operates along a 128-bit memory interface. The memory pumps out a total of 104 GB/s bandwidth.
Coming to the clock speeds, the HIS Radeon R7 260X has a max clock speed of 1100 MHz while the memory operates at a 1625.00 MHz or 6.5 GHz effective clock speeds. Although these are the same clock speeds as the reference model we reviewed yesterday, it should be noted that the HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ X² uses a custom designed PCB coupled with a non-reference cooling design which would allow us to performance overclocked testing.
The HIS Radeon R7 260X IceQ X² has a power draw of 115W that is provided through a single 6-Pin connector and the PCIe expansion slot. The display outputs include Dual-Link DVI, HDMI and a Display port which can be used to display Eyefinity too. The card comes with a single CrossFire connector which allows Dual GPU CrossFireX functionality and is enough for a budget card like the R7 260X itself.
AMD Radeon R7 260X ‘Bonaire XTX’ Features
The AMD Radeon R7 260X is the same Bonaire chip that was fused on the Radeon HD 7790 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 AMD True Audio and 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 TrueAudio Technology
One of the most major announcement AMD made regarding their next generation graphic cards was the AMD TrueAudio technology. The AMD TrueAudio technology would be featured on the AMD Radeon R9 290 Series and the Radeon R7 260X graphic cards. The Radeon R7 260X we are testing today is actually the first graphic to make use of the new audio technology that would allow a dedicated and programmable audio processor on the graphic card to add hardware accelerated audio processing that is traditionally handled by the CPU.
For this purpose, AMD would be embedding several TrueAudio DSPs inside of their new graphics die but the AMD TrueAudio hardware itself would be a separate entity dedicated to process the complex audio effects regardless of the tasks being handled over the CPU. Hardware accelerated audio processing was a a part of the Microsoft OS ecosystem until it was fired off with the arrival if Windows Vista by offloading the audio process on to the softwar level rather than hardware accelerated sound cards with the use of Realtek audio codecs and such. However, With Windows 8, AMD seems to mark a return of the hardware accelerated audio processing era and this is why the AMD TrueAudio technology has been introduced.
AMD staged a demo of the TrueAudio sound effects at their GPU ’14 event and mentioned that developers would have to code audio, games and other applications to support the new technology. Following, you can take a look at the AMD TrueAudio block diagram that includes Tensilica HiFi-EP audio DSP cores. Each core has 32 KB Cache and 8 KB scratch ram while the whole block is connected to a 384 KB of shared internal memory and upto 64 MB of addressable space in frame buffer. You can see more specific details regarding the new AMD TrueAudio tech in the following presentation slides:
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 R9 260X iCooler GPU – Unboxing
The HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler 2 GB ships inside a smaller box as compared to the HIS Radeon R7 260X iTurbo. The cardboard packaging is enveloped in a plastic cover which comes with the HIS Sword logo and card labeling which include “Radeon R7 260X”, AMD Radeon, PCI Express 3.0 and 2 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 260X 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 Dual DVI, full length HDMI and a single display port which can be used with the multi-stream technology as detailed earlier. A large vent is placed right on top of the ports to push heat out side of the card so it stays cool and gets a fresh supply of cool air.
For cooling, the HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler uses a toned down cooler from the IceQ X2 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 11 fan blades increases air velocity make cooling more efficiently while keeping noise level at minimum.
HIS Radeon R9 260X 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 Radeon R7 260X features a single CrossFire connectors which allow multi-GPU functionality with upto two R7 260X graphic cards. CrossFireX mode allows for faster performance without spending more on a faster card but newer games require updated drivers for optimal operation and scaling in CrossFireX mode. AMD XDMA Solution found on the top Hawaii graphics card does a great job in terms of scaling and has proper support for games in the latest drivers.
For cooling, HIS went with their iCooler fan heatsink which uses a 11 blade blue colored fan which pushes air to a central circular aluminum fin heatsink which resembles the heatsinks used by Intel on their processors.
The HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler is powered by a single 6 Pin power configuration that feeds 115W of power to the GPU Core, memory and the rest of the components of the PCB. It should be noted that the non-reference design allows for more stability and much improved overclocking support than the reference variant.
Removing the cooler reveals a secondary VRM aluminum heatsink which makes use of thermal pad interface to cool the electrical components. They are cooled off by the air regulated by the GPU fan and internal PC Chassis fans.
For PWM, the HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler is equipped with a 3+2 Phase Buck Controller from uPI Semiconductor Corporation. Solid state capacitors can be found adjacent to the PWM supply and are located right next to the main heatsink.
|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 and 2560×1600 resolutions.
- 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.
3DMark 11 Performance Test
Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 has been around for a while, being a comprehensive benchmark application to evaluate overall GPU and PC performance. 3DMark 11 as the name suggests makes use of DirectX 11 API and makes use of every DX11 feature at hand such as Tessellation, Depth of Field, Dynamic Lightning, Parallax Occlusion mapping, etc.
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.
The first things to pop up on forums after Crysis’s launch was ‘Can my system run Crysis’. Almost every forum in the world, gaming or tech related was filled with the same question. This was not because of any bug but because of the technical and graphical achievement Crytek achieved with Crysis.
In 2007, Crytek released Crysis, A Sci-Fi FPS set on a jungle. The first few scenes were enough to determine the graphical leap the game took over others available at its time and still remains one of the most gorgeous looking titles to date. The game quickly became a benchmark to test modern PC’s performance. Crysis is powered by CryEngine 2 which makes use of a highly modified DirectX 10 set with technologies such as Ambient Occlusion and Parallax mapping detailing the rich Jungle in Crysis.
Crysis 2 is the second title to be released by Crytek under their Crysis Franchise. The game is set in New York and revolves in the footsteps of Alcatraz who has to take out the Ceph and Cell along his path.
The game makes use of CryEngine 3 but at the time of its launch was shipped with DirectX 9 only. The game was later given DirectX 11 and High-Res textures through patches. We had our Crysis 2 with the latest DirectX 11 and High Res patch installed.
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 260X 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.
Back when I reviewed the Radeon R7 260X iTurbo from HIS, I precisely mentioned that the card would find a hard spot to enter the market since it was pitted right against the much faster GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost. Now NVIDIA has two highly efficient solutions in this market, the GeForce GTX 750 and GeForce GTX 750 Ti which are based on the next generation Maxwell architecture.
Talking about performance, HIS shipped us the card at 1100 MHz core and 6.50 GHz but we HIS quickly advised us to tone down the clock speeds from the factory shipped specifications to 1000 MHz and 5.00 GHz memory on clock which was quiet unusual for me. From what I can figure, the HIS Radeon R7 260X comes with a cut down cooler which might mean that the higher clock speeds would hinder stability and reduce lifetime of the graphics card itself. This move does come with a negative result as the performance is severely reduced compared to the reference variants but I guess HIS gave stability more preference over performance which I think is a better move given the market these products are suited for.
So, the card is faster than the GeForce GTX 650 Ti which makes it equivalent to the GeForce GTX 750 from what I can see (although I didn’t have the Maxwell cards for testing yet). The GeForce GTX 750 is rated at 64W which is to be compared to 115W on the AMD Bonaire chip. This is almost 1.8 times the power consumption of what the Maxwell core from NVIDIA ends up with. There’s however one factor which the R7 260X does end up winning, it ships with 2 GB GDDR5 memory at a price of $129.99 US while NVIDIA’s GTX 750 with 1 GB GDDR5 memory ships at $129.99 US and the 2 GB for $139.99 US. This does give the advantage of running 1080P gaming at a slightly smoother frame rate and higher resolution textures making it a decent house for an HTPC setup given its compact size. But whether this card is a good buy for its price, performance and power rating?
All I could say is that the HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler is build for users who are on a relatively tight budget with no room to spend a few pennies. The HIS Radeon R7 260X iCooler offers 2 GB GDDR5 memory at a low price of $130 US and has performance for smooth 1080P gaming.
Note – The Radeon R7 200 series cards including the Radeon R7 260X qualifies for the AMD Never Settle Forever bundle promotion (Silver Reward) which gets users access to two select AAA titles including Sniper Elite 3 and Murdered: Soul Suspect which adds $100 US of value to the graphics cards.