Introduction, Specifications and Packaging
AMD’s R7 260X graphics card has become infinitely more popular since AMD reduced initial launch pricing down from $140 to $120. Of course the competitiveness of the R7 260X has been helped by the fact its biggest rival, Nvidia’s GTX 650 Ti Boost, has been discontinued and is now hard to find. This leaves Nvidia’s newly released Maxwell based GTX 750 to fight the R7 260X instead of the GTX 650 Ti Boost which is problematic for Nvidia as the GTX 750 is a much slower card that costs a similar price.Today we have an R7 260X from HIS Digital, their HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² 2GB GDDR5 graphics card. The R7 260X is known for being quite a hot running graphics card because AMD took the HD 7790 design, overclocked it even more and rebranded it. Therefore HIS’ implementation needs to effectively deal with the heat of the R7 260X and keep noise under control. If you haven’t read our launch day review of the R7 260X you can do so here.
Out of the box the HIS R7 260X is just a stock R7 260X in terms of its clock speeds so quite honestly we should expect within margin of error performance of the reference card as there are no thermal limitations a non-reference design can overcome. I am disappointed HIS haven’t overclocked the card and that they are charging more than reference pricing, in my opinion this card is priced too close to the R7 265 and GTX 750 Ti to be truly competitive, we hope HIS are just delayed in reducing their prices in response to AMD’s February price cuts….although February was an awfully long time ago.
Packaging and Bundle
The box points out what some of the HIS features mean such as iPower and iTurbo.
The rear details some of the components used and some of the generic AMD features.
Included with out sample was just a DVI to VGA adapter and warning document. The retail version will also get a driver CD, quick install guide and HIS sticker.
A Closer Look
A pair of 80mm fans should give this much more cooling performance then the reference design card.
HIS equip their traditional blue PCB to match their “Ice” theme.
The card draws power in through a single 6 pin PCIe connector.
The HIS R7 260X is a dual slot card with a single CrossFireX connector. It is a relatively compact graphics card even by R7 260X standards.
The bottom of the card is pretty much closed off by the outer plastic shroud.
The rear I/O has HDMI, DisplayPort and dual DVI. DisplayPort (60Hz) and HDMI (30Hz) give you routes to 4K if you happen to have a 4K display.
Test System and Procedures
Introducing our Newest Test System and Methodology
When it comes to reviewing a graphics card we previously had a static test bench in which we put every graphics card we reviewed to give comparable results. However, the big flaw in this approach is that every graphics card used the same hardware so that we had stupid scenarios where we ended up testing a HD 7730 or GT 640 with an Intel Core i7 3960X and ASUS Rampage IV Extreme X79 motherboard – hardly a realistic scenario by anyone’s judgement. With our new “low to mid range” test system we’re looking to change that by using a different, and more appropriate, platform. We’re opting for Intel’s Z87 platform and a more modest Core i5 4440, and we’re downsizing from 16GB to 8GB of RAM with a slower frequency of 1866 not 2133MHz. I did contemplate using a Core i3 4330 but I feared this might lead to GPU bottlenecks, especially as we got towards those mid range graphics cards. Based on current pricing (correct as of March 23rd 2014) this combination of the Gigabyte G1 Sniper Z87, Intel Core i5 4440 and 8GB of 1866MHz RAM costs $450 compared to the $1670 of the previous aforementioned parts. We think this is an important change for delivering more realistic and useful content to you, our readers. As this is a “low to mid range” test system we will primarily be focusing on specific GPUs (correct as of March 23rd 2014) which are the AMD R9 270 and below and the Nvidia GTX 660 and below. For clarity this means the following GPUs: For AMD we have the R7 240, R7 250, R7 250X, R7 260, R7 260X and R7 265 while for Nvidia we have the GT 630, GT 640, GTX 650, GTX 650 Ti, GTX 650 Ti Boost, GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti.
The second major change was the resolutions we test at. Since these are “affordable” graphics cards we will be testing there is no logical reason to test QHD (2560 x 1440), UHD (3840 x 2160) or Triple HD (5760 x 1080). Instead we used Steam’s Hardware Survey to determine the three most popular gaming resolutions as we feel this is what you, our readers, will want to see the most – those resolutions are 1366 x 768, 1600 x 900 and 1920 x 1080.
The third major change is our choice of games. After initiating a poll on our site to determine the most popular games you wanted to see in our graphics card reviews we’ve ditched Alien Vs Predator, Dirt Showdown and Sleeping Dogs in favour of Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty Ghosts.
Finally, to address recent developments in cryptocurrency mining we have added scrypt hashing performance of Nvidia and AMD graphics cards as well as different metrics of compute performance for people who use their graphics cards for other non-gaming purposes (e.g. OpenCL and OpenGL accelerated workloads).
Acoustic Testing – Measuring Noise Levels
We take acoustic measurements under three different scenarios: desktop idle, Furmark and Unigine Heaven. We take these measurements at the end of a five minute window of each, this is to ensure the maximum fan speed for the duration is reached to ensure the most accurate acoustic reading is taken. We use a decibel meter to take the measurement approximately 25cm away from the graphics card aligned at the same vertical height as the fan with the sensor pointing towards the graphics card. We disable the CPU fan, use an SSD instead of a HDD and isolate as much background noise as possible to get the most accurate results.
Like with our acoustic tests we take temperature tests under three different scenarios: desktop idle, Unigine Heaven and Furmark. We use TechPowerUp’s GPU-Z utility to record the minimum desktop idle temperature and the maximum temperature during five minute runs of Furmark and Unigine Heaven. We also provide the ambient room temperature alongside those 3 temperature readings as we’ve had extensive user feedback about delta temperatures expressing their dislike and confusion towards the measure. When we test passive graphics cards we target the airflow of an 800 RPM 120mm case fan at the graphics card with an approximate distance of 30cm to simulate the airflow of a case fan, this is because passive graphics cards running on an open-air test bench are adversely affected by the still air of the room compared to inside a case where the channelled airflow of case fans allows them to function more effectively.
Power Consumption Measurements
Power consumption is again similar to acoustic and temperature tests. We use the desktop idle state, Unigine Heaven and Furmark scenarios to acquire power consumption figures. We use a killawatt meter to grab total system power consumption from the socket. During these tests we ensure all background applications are closed to ensure power consumption is influenced as much as possible by the GPU, not other system components or processes. During Unigine and Furmark we take the power consumption figures after 1 minute of the 5 minute run has passed, this is because after an extended period of time graphics card power consumption tends to drop as thermal or power limit throttling kicks in. It is also because we want to take the power consumption readings at the same stage of the Unigine Heaven and Furmark tests to ensure comparability. We acknowledge that measuring power draw from the wall is not the most effective measure but this is the only method available to us at the current point in time.
To formulate our performance metric we use a weighted average method and each benchmark or test gets a weight of 1 out of a total calculation with 10 weights (meaning all resolutions and variations of the same test are only ever one weight). Those 10 weights are 1 for each test we so that means 7 games (listed below) and 3 benchmarks (also listed below). We calculate the relative score for each card in each test by dividing the cumulative frame rate/score of each card by the average cumulative frame rate/score from all the graphics cards in group. We then take those 10 relative scores and average those for each card, before dividing those averages by the average of the card being reviewed in the test so that the value of the card being reviewed is 1 and every other card’s performance metric is in relation to it. The end result are numbers that vary around 1 with 0.5 being half the performance of the tested card and 2 being double the performance of the tested card. We then convert those numbers into percentages to make them more readable so 1 becomes 100% and 0.5 becomes 50%.
- Motherboard – Gigabyte G1 Sniper Z87 (Read our review here)
- Processor – Intel Core i5 4440 (Turbo Enabled)
- RAM – 8GB (2 x 4GB) 1866MHz 9-10-9-27
- CPU Cooler – Corsair H100i with Quiet Fan Profile
- Power Supply – Corsair HX1050W
- Main Storage Drive – Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD
- Chassis – Lian Li T60 Test Bench
- Displays – LG Flatron IPS224
- Operating System – Windows 7 Ultimate 64 Bit
We would like to thank Corsair, Gigabyte, Intel, Kingston, Lian Li and all our other partners who supplied us with test equipment and hardware. Their generosity makes our testing possible and without them we wouldn’t be able to produce the reviews we do, so thank you!
- 3DMark 11 – Performance and Extreme Presets
- 3DMark (2013) – Firestrike and Firestrike Extreme Presets
- Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 – Extreme Preset
- BasemarkCL – Unoptimised, all tests
- ComputeMark – 1920 x 1080, Normal
- Luxmark – GPU test only
- CUDAMiner – auto-detect settings
- CGMiner – manual tuning of settings which varies between the graphics card being tested
- Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag – High, MSAA2X, SSAO
- Batman Arkham Origins – Normal, MSAA2X
- Battlefield 4 – Ultra Preset
- Bioshock Infinite – Ultra Preset
- Call of Duty Ghosts – Ultra Preset
- Metro Last Light – Very High, AF4X
- Tomb Raider – Ultra Preset
- 1366 x 768
- 1600 x 900
- 1920 x 1080
- Plug “killawatt” style electricity usage meter
- Benetech GM1351 decibel meter
- CPUID HWMonitor
- TechPowerUp GPU-Z
- Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
- Graphs using FPS measurements are sorted by their 1080p value as this is the most popular gaming resolution
- Power consumption, acoustic and temperature graphs are sorted lowest to highest unlike game/benchmark graphs that are sorted highest to lowest.
“The new 3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware. With three all new tests you can bench everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it’s not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It’s the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we’ve ever created.” From Futuremark.com.
“3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.” From 3DMark.com.
Unigine Heaven 4.0
“Heaven Benchmark with its current version 4.0 is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. This powerful tool can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions, as well as check the cooling system’s potential under maximum heat output. It provides completely unbiased results and generates true in-game rendering workloads across all platforms, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.” From Unigine.com.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
“Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a 2013 historical action-adventure open world video game developed by Ubisoft Montreal and published by Ubisoft. It is the sixth major installment in the Assassin’s Creed series, a sequel to 2012’s Assassin’s Creed III’s modern story and a prequel to its historical storyline. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag received positive reviews, with critics praising the open world gameplay, side-quests, graphics and naval combat.” From Wikipedia.
Batman: Arkham Origins
“Batman: Arkham Origins is a 2013 action-adventure video game developed by Warner Bros. Games Montréal and released by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for Microsoft Windows and the PlayStation 3, Wii U and Xbox 360 video game consoles. Based on the DC Comics superhero Batman, it follows the 2011 video game Batman: Arkham City and is the third main installment in the Batman: Arkham series. The game, played from a third-person perspective, focuses on Batman’s combat and stealth abilities, detective skills, and gadgets for combat and exploration. Arkham Origins is the first game in the series with multiplayer capability.” From Wikipedia.
“Battlefield 4 is coming to PC, powered by the advanced technology of DICE’s proprietary Frostbite 3 engine. Blur the line between game and glory in Battlefield 4. With dynamic destructable environments, vehicular combat, and the chaos of all-out-war with 64 players, Battlefield 4 on PC will be an unmatched interactive experience. In addition to its hallmark multiplayer, Battlefield 4 features an intense, dramatic character-driven campaign that starts with the evacuation of American VIPs from Shanghai and follows your squad’s struggle to find its way home. There is no comparison. Immerse yourself in the glorious chaos of all-out war, found only in Battlefield.” From Battlefield.com.
“BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter like you’ve never seen. Just ask the judges from E3 2011, where the Irrational Games title won over 85 editorial awards, including the Game Critics Awards’ Best of Show. Set in 1912, players assume the role of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, sent to the flying city of Columbia on a rescue mission. His target? Elizabeth, imprisoned since childhood. During their daring escape, Booker and Elizabeth form a powerful bond — one that lets Booker augment his own abilities with her world-altering control over the environment. Together, they fight from high-speed Sky-Lines, in the streets and houses of Columbia, on giant zeppelins, and in the clouds, all while learning to harness an expanding arsenal of weapons and abilities, and immersing players in a story that is not only steeped in profound thrills and surprises, but also invests its characters with what Game Informer called “An amazing experience from beginning to end.” From Bioshockinfinite.com.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
“Call of Duty: Ghosts is a 2013 first-person shooter video game developed by Infinity Ward, with assistance from Raven Software, Neversoft and Certain Affinity, and published by Activision. It is the tenth primary installment in the Call of Duty series, and the sixth developed by Infinity Ward. The video game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U on November 5, 2013, with Treyarch handling the port for the Wii U.” From Wikipedia.
Metro: Last Light
“Metro: Last Light (formerly Metro 2034) is a first-person shooter and horror video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features a mixture of action-oriented and stealth gameplay. The game exists in the universe of the novel, Metro 2033, and its sequels, written by Russian author, Dmitry Glukhovsky, but does not follow any direct storylines from the books. Metro:Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the canonical ending from the novel, ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones.Metro: Last Light features technology which boasts of lighting effects and improved physics claimed to set a new graphical benchmark on the PC and consoles.” From Wikipedia.org.
“On 5 March 2013, Square Enix released Tomb Raider, billed as a reboot of the franchise. In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. In contrast to the earlier games Croft is portrayed as vulnerable, acting out of necessity, desperation and sheer survival rather than for a greater cause or personal gain.” From Wikipedia.org.
With our reviews stuffed full of a large number of benchmarks and games at different resolutions and using different settings it can be difficult to get a feel for the overall performance of a graphics card we are testing. As a result we’ve created a performance summary metric. The metric is simple, but my explanation isn’t, if you’re interested in that explanation then see the test systems and procedures page.
CryptoCurrency Mining Performance (Scrypt)
In response to growing enthusiasm to the world of cryptocurrencies we have started to benchmark graphics card for their mining power. While Bitcoin mining is pointless and unprofitable on consumer hardware, Scrypt mining can still be profitable due to the current absence of Scrypt ASIC miners. We use CGMiner for AMD cards and CUDA miner for Nvidia cards to benchmark their Scrypt Hashing performance. You can see configurations for Scrypt-hashing and more Scrypt hashing results here. Our results are by no means the absolute best that is possible for each of the graphics cards we test, these results are based on the factory clock speeds of the graphics cards and we do not spend that much time tweaking to find the optimal settings. You WILL be able to achieve better performance through better optimised settings and by overclocking. Though we hope these results should give you a rough idea of what to aim for if you choose one of the graphics cards we have tested. Please note we are using the recent major update for CUDA miner that dramatically increases Nvidia mining performance.
The rise of GPU acceleration, GPGPU and various forms of parallel computing mean that the compute performance of GPUs is a noteworthy consideration when choosing which graphics cards to buy. We run three GPU compute benchmarks to give you an idea of how much compute performance each graphics card has.
Basemark CL by Rightware is a comprehensive benchmark tool designed to measure the performance of OpenCL 1.1 implementations on various devices ranging from desktops to embedded systems. Basemark CL uses OpenGL ES 2.0 or OpenGL 2.1 for rendering, depending on the platform. From Rightware.com.
ComputeMark (DX11 Compute)
ComputeMark is first 100% DirectX 11 Compute Shader benchmark and ultimate GPU burner. From ComputeMark.com.
LuxMark is a OpenCL benchmark tool. The idea for the program was conceived in 2009 by Jean-Francois ‘Jromang’ Romang. The idea was quite simple, wrap SLG inside an easy to use graphical user interface and use it as a benchmark for OpenCL. From LuxRender.net.
The noise levels produced by a graphics card is an increasingly important consideration for PC users and Gamers these days. While fan noise is unlikely to ruin the gaming experience, no one likes a noisy graphics card and no one will argue with the fact that quieter is better. Many users are willing to sacrifice temperatures to gain a noise advantage, but with better cooling solutions being developed it is increasingly common to be able to get both better cooling and better acoustic performance than a reference solution on most custom cooled graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD partners. That said both AMD and Nvidia have stepped up their game too with regards to acoustics on their reference coolers. Ultimately, acoustics will always be a big deciding factor when there is often very little differentiation between graphics cards using the same GPUs. For more details on our acoustic testing procedures please see the test systems and procedures page.
With electricity becoming increasingly expensive across most parts of the world the need for computer components to become power efficient has never been more relevant. Graphics cards are often the most power hungry components inside a desktop system so having an efficient graphics card is very important to keeping power bills under control. Power is often correlated to heat and so lower power consumption means a graphics card is likely to run slightly cooler and put out less heat into your system meaning your other components will run cooler with improved longevity. AMD and Nvidia have both made power consumption an integral part of the way graphics cards dynamically overclock so the need for graphics card vendors to use efficient VRM and PCB designs is becoming important to maximise performance. See details of our power consumption testing procedure on the test systems and procedures page.
The cooling solution which graphics card vendors choose to implement is one of the main differences that consumers have to contend with when choosing a graphics cards. Apart from their acoustic properties, the thermal properties of graphics card coolers are extremely important. Lower temperatures are always better and with AMD and Nvidia opting to use dynamic overclocking algorithms that take temperature into account it is important that graphics card vendors use high performance cooling solutions in order to maximise performance. The era of graphics cards reaching dangerous temperatures are now in the past but the importance of lower temperatures still remains. Lower temperatures mean better stability, longer component longevity and lower fan speeds. That said temperatures are one of the most important non-performance related properties on a graphics card. For details on our temperature testing procedures please see the test systems and procedures page.
Overclocking & Overclocked Performance
The overclocking ability of a graphics card is an important buying consideration irrespective of whether the graphics card is low end or enthusiast level. I’m sure everyone will agree that the more extra performance from overclocking – the better. In our overclocking we push each graphics card to its maximum stable core and memory frequencies. Typically we also raise the power limit to the maximum and where possible raise the voltages if this results in higher overclocks being achieved. We always aim for “24/7” stable overclocks that DO NOT result in potential heat on longevity issues so if we do raise the voltage it is still kept within safe parameters. The latest beta version of MSI’s Afterburner software is the overclocking utility of choice: this is because MSI Afterburner Beta versions typically allows you to circumvent overclocking restrictions – particularly those set by AMD.
Overclocking was immensely impressive given how far the R7 260X is pushed at stock. The core managed an extra 150MHz which made this card on par with the overclocked Nvidia GTX 750 Ti. The memory overclocked by a staggering 300MHz actual, 1.2GHz effective, and this is largely due to the use of Hynix GDDR5 chips which always overclock better than Samsung or Elpida equivalents. Despite the impressive overclocking abilities an overclocked R7 260X is miles away from an overclocked R7 265 despite only being $10-20 away in price.
As we mentioned at the beginning the HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² holds a $20 premium over base R7 260X models at $139.99. The worrying part is that the $20 premium is just for the 1GB model, we wonder if the 2GB model might fetch more. In the UK we find the card selling for around £95~100 which is again for the 1GB version. 1GB versions from other vendors can be had for as low £80-85 so I am not really impressed by the pricing of this card at all. The HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² comes with a 2 year warranty in the UK, Europe and North America.
This HIS card isn’t really anything special given current pricing. It doesn’t offer a particularly good value proposition, it doesn’t offer anything amazing in the way of features and it isn’t even overclocked. This card is better than a reference R7 260X in terms of cooling and noise output, but for $20 more it should be so that’s not much of an achievement. I see non-reference R7 260Xs, both 1GB and 2GB variants, that are cheaper and probably equally as good so from my perspective it is hard to recommend this card unless HIS lowers the price. HIS are a solid brand so this certainly isn’t me bashing this card or HIS in general – typically HIS produce incredibly cost-effective cards that overclock really well and offer excellent bang for your buck. However, this card only seems to have only the overclocking part. It is worth mentioning HIS have done an excellent job on temperatures – they are down 10-15 degrees celsius over the reference design. Furthermore, noise is also down 4-8 dBA depending on the type of load. So you get dramatically lower temperatures, significantly less noise and great overclocking potential. Yet none of those things really compensate for the fact you can get an R7 265 for just a fraction more, and the R7 265 is an immensely more powerful graphics card. This is a great R7 260X, it’s just too expensive.
- Very effective cooler
- Runs silently
- 1GB and 2GB options available
- Overclocks really well
- Priced uncompetitively
- Not overclocked out of the box
- Availability is sparse
“If you’re in the market for an R7 260x with an effective cooling solution, low noise and great overclocking potential then the HIS R7 260X iPower IceQ X² offers exactly that. This is a really nice card but it is priced too close to the R7 265 for my liking. When the price drops a bit I’d definitely consider buying.“
Thank you to HIS Digital for providing this review sample.