MSI R7 260X 2GD5 OC review

MSI R7 260X 2GD5 OC review

We can expect to see quite a few reviews of mid- and low-range AMD Radeon GPUs appearing in the next couple of months. Having taken over the higher end of the market with its fantastic 280X and 290X products, AMD is now aiming closer to the middle. (See Group test: what's the best budget graphics card?)

This is really the sector of the market where most of us hunt for the best all-round graphics card, so it's important to have strong participation here. AMD already had decent representation, with the likes of the HD 7790, and the 260X is cut very much from the same cloth. Indeed, it essentially employs the same Bonaire GPU as the 7790, making it the latter's natural predecessor.

Bonaire is a very efficient design, and the 260X has been pushed to the max in terms of clock rates. The standard 260X offers a core-clock speed of 1100 MHz, but this MSI version pushes this up almsot 7 percent to 1175MHz. That makes it one of the highest-clocked cards we've seen yet.

The complement of 56 texture units isn't as outstanding, although it's perfectly adequate for a product at this price point – the 650 Ti is the only card in our sub-£150 chart to better this. The texture fill rate of 65.8 GT/sec is excellent for the money, bettering even that 650 Ti's speed (with 61.8 GT/sec) and the 7790 (56 GT/sec).

Clock rates remain high when we get to the memory. This MSI version makes no attempt to improve upon the standard GPU's speed of 1625 MHz (effectively 6.5 GHz, taking into account the quadrupling effect of the GDDR5 RAM), and this figure is significantly higher than even the 7790's 1.5 GHz (6 GHz DDR effective) – itself very good for its class.

However, the 260X doesn't improve on the 7790's one significant roadblock – its 128-bit memory interface. The downscaling is to be expected at this price point, even if nVidia’s 650 Ti does manage a 192-bit version. The upshot is that the 260X's memory bandwidth figure of 104 GB/sec is comfortably superior to the 96 GB/sec of the 7790, but still trails to the 129.6
GB/sec of the 650 Ti.

On the upside, 2 GB of GDDR5 is provided with the 260X rather than the 1 GB of the 7790. This is a good move, as the 260X is never likely to be held back by its memory – theoretically, there will be games which wll benefit from more than 2 GB, but sub-£150 graphics card shoppers aren't likely to need to go beyond that amount of memory.

The 260X is also well-stocked when it comes to stream processors, and its complement of 896 – albeit the same as the 7790's – remains ahead of the other competitors. The 650 Ti, in contrast, has just 768.

The 260X is light on power draw, requiring just one 6-pin connector, and typically consuming around 115 watt of power. This is highly impressive given the clock rates. The card is pleasingly quiet, too, and MSI has done a very good job with its version of the 260X.

As with other new AMD cards, the 260X covers Mantle. TrueAudio is less well-supported – you won't find this feature enabled on the 280X, for instance – and reintroduces the idea of sound features being handled by the GPU's hardware, rather than relying on software.

TrueAudio will still need games programmers to be adding extra code to take advantage of it, but it should produce better three-dimensional audio. In reality, the first games that can really take advanatge of TrueAudio won't be coming out for a few months yet, although we had a try-out with the demo of Lichdom (the full version should be available in the summer), which showed impressive spatial effects. Only time (and uptake) will tell us whether this is a gimmick or not.

MSI R7 260X 2GD5 OC: Performance

In terms of gaming speed, the R7 260X proved itself to be the superior of both the AMD Radeo HD 7790 and the standard nVidia GeForce 650 Ti – although not by a huge amount.

In our newest game, Bioshock Infinite, it achieved a figure of 56.6 fps at 1680 x 1050, whereas the 7790 achieved only 52.0; and the 650 Ti, 51.5 fps.

At a higher resolution of 1920 x 1080, the 260X dropped to 34.4 fps, while the 7790 and 650 Ti tumbled slightly less, to 31.8 and 30.6 fps.

In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the card could cope more easily with the older graphics, tallying 64.7 fps in 1680 x 1050, but falling only slightly to 57.9 at the higher resolution.

The 7790 trailed with 62.8 and 54.6 fps respectively, while the 650 Ti was slower again, on 62 and 53.5 fps.

BattleForge revealed a similar story, and the R7 260X was once more faster (62.2/54 fps) than the 7790 (59.8/51.5 fps). The 650 Ti struggled a little on 55.3 and 49.8 fps.

MSI Radeon R7 260X OC: Specs

  • AMD Radeon R7 260X
  • 2 GB GDDR5
  • 1050MHz core clock
  • 1500 MHz memory clock (6GHz DDR effective)
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • 896 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • 16 ROP units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11
  • 2x DVI, 1x HDMI
  • 1x DP
  • 1x 6-pin PSU connector
  • 3-year warranty
  • AMD Radeon R7 260X
  • 2 GB GDDR5
  • 1050MHz core clock
  • 1500 MHz memory clock (6GHz DDR effective)
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • 896 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • 16 ROP units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11
  • 2x DVI, 1x HDMI
  • 1x DP
  • 1x 6-pin PSU connector
  • 3-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The AMD R7 260X is a definite improvement on the previous 7790, even if it isn't a country mile ahead. Given a straight choice between the two, at the same price, the 260X is leaner and a little meaner. Having said that, the 7790 can currently be bought for around £20 less than the 260X. Given that difference we'd be tempted to go for the 7790 instead. The 7790 is likely to be disappearing from the market very shortly, though, leaving the way clear for the 260X to establish itself as a very competent, if rather unexciting mid-range graphics card.