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Monday, June 23, 2014

XFX Radeon R7-265 2GB Core Edition review: graphics card offers good value for money, but not great on performance


The AMD Radeon R7-265 graphics card should be of keen interest to a more typical PC user – specifically for those gamers who don't need to sweat over gaining a few extra frames per second available from £300-plus graphics cards. Instead the R7-265 nestles nicely around the £120 mark. See also Group test: what's the best graphics card?

This puts it into direct competition with the nVidia GTX 750 Ti cards. We've reviewed one of those, but weren't totally impressed with the performance. The card itself was very revolutionary, and conserved power beautifully. But it offered nothing new at the price point regarding performance.

AMD's Radeon R7-265 is rather more conventional, caring less about energy saving – chips at this level of speed tend not to demand prodigious amounts of power in any case - and concentrating instead on hammering out the very best frame rates for the money.

The first thing to note is that there isn't much that's very new about the R7-265. It's built around the Pitcairn Pro technology that powers such AMD stalwarts as the 7850 - and was released two years ago. And while the 265 here has higher clock speeds than the 7850, many of the specs are identical. So both have 64 texture units and 32 Raster Operations, for instance. They even have the same number of transistors on board - 2.8 billion.

The absence of new technology does have its drawbacks. Whereas the 260X, for instance, is relatively fresh, and has pleasing 2014 features like TrueAudio, the 265 offers nothing like that. So don't just assume that the 265 is a slightly faster version of the 260X.

In terms of speeds, the 265 is very closely related to the 270. Both come with a standard core speed of 900 MHz, pushed to 925 MHz courtesy of the Boost clock - notably, though, we reviewed an edition of the 270 where the Boost clock had actually been overclocked to 975MHz, whereas this XFX version of the 265 retains the factory settings.

Both the 265 and 270 also have a memory clock of 1.4 GHz (5.6 GHz effective when you take into account the quadrupling effect of the DDR5 memory). These are considerably ahead of the 7850's speeds.

The 260X that we reviewed had very different specifications from the 265, and the 260X listed a core clock of 1175 MHz, and an effective memory clock of 6.5 GHz.

In fairness to the 265, though, this GPU comes with a 256-bit memory interface, whereas the 260X's vesion is a paltry 128-bit. This means that the 265 trounces the lower card when it comes to memory bandwidth - 179.2 GB/sec to the 260's figure of 104 GB/sec.

The 265 has more texture units as well (64 to the 260X's 56), although the 265's lower clock speeds consign it to defeat here, producing a texture fill rate of just 59.2 GT/sec to the 260X's 65.8 GT/sec.

Meanwhile nVidia's 750 Ti fares very badly on fill rates. It also takes a 128-bit memory interface half the width of the 265's, and slumps to a memory bandwidth figure of 86.4 GB/sec - under half that of the 265.

Its texture fill rate of 44.GT/sec is poor, too, languishing far behind the 265. The 265 comes with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory, typical for a card at this price point. See all graphics card reviews.

In terms of performance, the XFX Radeon R7-265 2GB Core Edition performed well, coming a short distance behind the 270, but finishing some way clear of the 750 Ti and 260X.

In Crysis 3, for instance, the 265 hit figures of 29.8 and 19.6 fps at 1900 x 1200 and 2560 x 1600 respectively, whereas the 750 Ti finished a short way behind, on 27.7 and 18.8 fps.

The 270 was only marginally ahead of the 265, scoring 30.7 and 20.8 fps. The results were similar in Bioshock, with the 265's figures of 60.1 and 36.0 fps comfortably superior to the 750 Ti's 57.9 and 34.6 fps. (The 260X was even further back, on 56.4 and 34.3 fps.) The 270 was a short distance ahead of the 265, on 62.3 and 37.0 fps.

The distances between the cards grow when we got to less demanding fare. On Stalker: Call of Pripyat, for instance, the 270 was significantly clear of the 265 at 1920 x 1200, getting 75.8 to the 265's 71.7 fps.

The 750 Ti was some way back again, on 67.3, with the 260X struggling on 64.7 fps. The gaps were the largest on BattleForge, where the 265's score of 70.9 fps put it roughly halfway between the 270's 76.7 fps, and the 750 Ti's 66.3 fps. The 260X, once more, trailed in their wake, on 62.2 fps.


Of course, nVidia enthusiasts would point out that the 750 Ti is lower on power, citing a TDP of 60 watt as opposed to the 265's figure of 150 watt.

In practice, the 265 was drawing around 50 to 55 watt higher than the 750 Ti during games testing, so the difference wasn't as large as the TDP might suggest. Nonetheless, the 750 Ti is easier on power.

You may not really care about the 265's higher consumption, although those who like to push overclocking settings to the max will probably find there isn't much room for improvement when it comes to the 265. And it is beautifully discreet, generating very little noise for a card of any price point. See also Best graphics card of 2014

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