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The $109 Console-killer GPU: AMD’s Radeon R7 260 Graphics Card Reviewed
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AMD Radeon R7 260
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by Rob Williams on December 23, 2013 in AMD-Based GPU

No one should be surprised at the fact that testing out $500 graphics cards is fun, but with the right perspective, budget cards can be, too. Take the $109 AMD Radeon R7 260, for example, which has debuted following flagship console releases. With that in mind, let’s see what such an affordable GPU can pull off at the much-loved 1080p resolution.

Best Playable: 1080p Single Display

For about as long as GPU-accelerated games have existed, an ideal performance target has been 60 frames-per-second. Owing thanks to this is the standard 60Hz monitor, which delivers its best result when the framerate matches its refresh rate. To make sure the monitor’s refresh rate and game’s framerate keep aligned, to avoid visible tearing, VSync should be enabled.

While I believe our Best Playable results will appeal to any gamer, they could especially prove useful to those intrigued by livingroom gaming or console replacements. The goal here is simple: With each game, the graphics settings are tweaked to deliver the best possible detail while keeping us as close to 60 FPS on average as possible.

Because our Metro Last Light and Total War: SHOGUN 2 tests are timedemos, and because this kind of testing is time-consuming, I am sticking to six out of the eight games I test with for inclusion here.

With all that said, let’s get to it.

  Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 51 60
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Environment: High Shadow: Normal
Texture: High Reflection: Normal
Anti-aliasing: FXAA God Rays: Off
Ambient Occlusion: Off Volumetric Fog: On
Motion Blur On  
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 48 58
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Environment: High Shadow: Normal
Texture: High Reflection: Normal
Anti-aliasing: Off God Rays: Off
Ambient Occlusion: Off Volumetric Fog: Off
Motion Blur Off  
Assassin's Creed IV Black Flag - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

When the GPU in question is about as budget as it gets price-wise, anti-aliasing is often the first thing to go when trying to achieve the smoothest framerate possible. While FXAA was suitable enough on the 260X, it had to be disabled on the 260. To improve things further, Volumetric Fog was also disabled.

  Battlefield 4
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 49 62
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Texture Quality: High Texture Filtering: High
Lighting: High Effects: High
Post Processing: High Mesh: High
Terrain: High Terrain Decoration: High
Anti-aliasing Deferred: Off Anti-aliasing Post: Off
Ambient Occlusion: Off    
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 48 58
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Texture Quality: High Texture Filtering: High
Lighting: High Effects: High
Post Processing: Medium Mesh: High
Terrain: High Terrain Decoration: High
Anti-aliasing Deferred: Off Anti-aliasing Post: Off
Ambient Occlusion: Off    
Battlefield 4 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

Post-processing is one of the biggest hogs with Battlefield 4, so simply decreasing that from High to Medium helped us inch closer to 60 FPS. While we don’t have AA or AO enabled, the fact that we see Battlefield 4 look like that on a $109 GPU without dipping below 48 FPS is downright impressive. Note that these results are not representative of online play.

  Crysis 3
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 36 54
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Anti-aliasing: Off Texture: Medium
Effects: Medium Object: Medium
Particles: Medium Post Processing: Medium
Shading: Medium Shadows: Low
Water: Low Anisotropic Filtering: x16
Motion Blur: Medium Lens Flares: Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 36 50
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Anti-aliasing: Off Texture: Medium
Effects: Medium Object: Medium
Particles: Low Post Processing: Low
Shading: Medium Shadows: Low
Water: Low Anisotropic Filtering: x16
Motion Blur: Medium Lens Flares: Yes
Crysis 3 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

When “budget GPU” and “Crysis” appear on the same line, it can be assumed that “disabled anti-aliasing” has to come next. That’s the case here. Overall, we have a blend of medium and low settings here, and still didn’t manage to reach 60 FPS. However, I found the game to play extremely well when averaging to 50 FPS; good enough to make me think twice about degrading image quality further just for a gain that won’t be too noticeable (the motion blur helps with that).

  GRID 2
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 50 58
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Multisampling: 4x MSAA Night Lighting: High
Shadows: Ultra Advanced Fog: On
Particles: Ultra Crowd: Ultra
Cloth: High Ambient Occlusion: Low
Soft Ambient Occlusion: Off Ground Cover: High
Vehicle Details: High Trees: Ultra
Objects: Ultra Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High Post Process: High
Skidmarks: On Advanced Lighting: On
Global Illumination: Off Anisotropic Filtering: Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 41 64
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Multisampling: 4x MSAA Night Lighting: High
Shadows: High Advanced Fog: On
Particles: Ultra Crowd: Ultra
Cloth: High Ambient Occlusion: Low
Soft Ambient Occlusion: Off Ground Cover: High
Vehicle Details: High Trees: Ultra
Objects: Ultra Vehicle Reflections: Ultra
Water: High Post Process: Medium
Skidmarks: On Advanced Lighting: On
Global Illumination: Off Anisotropic Filtering: Ultra
GRID 2 - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

GRID 2, as gorgeous a game as it is, isn’t that demanding. We didn’t need to tweak much to reach 60 FPS on the R7 260; in fact, it was just post-processing, which was knocked down to Medium, from High. The 260X, by contrast, was able to keep the High setting while also delivering a better minimum FPS.

  Sleeping Dogs
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 62 71
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Anti-aliasing: Normal High-res Textures: On
Shadow Resolution: High Shadow Filtering: High
Ambient Occlusion: High Motion Blur: High
World Density: Extreme  
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 55 63
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Anti-aliasing: Normal High-res Textures: On
Shadow Resolution: High Shadow Filtering: High
Ambient Occlusion: High Motion Blur: High
World Density: Extreme  
Sleeping Dogs - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

Sleeping Dogs is graphically impressive, but despite that, it tends to run well on modest hardware. In this case, all that had to be reduced was anti-aliasing, which in truth doesn’t make a huge difference due to its weird implementation (let’s hope the game’s sequel includes proper AA modes).

  Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist
1920×1080 Minimum Average
AMD Radeon R7 260X 51 77
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Texture Detail: Medium Shadow: Medium
Parallax: On Tessellation: Off
Texture Filtering: 2x Ambient Occlusion: Field AO
Anti-aliasing: Off  
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260X
AMD Radeon R7 260 48 72
Graphics Settings
& Screenshot
Texture Detail: Medium Shadow: Medium
Parallax: On Tessellation: Off
Texture Filtering: 2x Ambient Occlusion: Field AO
Anti-aliasing: Off  
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist - Best Playable - AMD Radeon R7 260

For Blacklist, I kept the exact same settings that I settled-on with the 260X. Increasing even a single option here brought me below 60 FPS enough to disregard it as an option, and unlike Crysis 3 which plays well with 50 FPS, Blacklist definitely favors 60+.


  • http://www.youtube.com/user/no6969el Noel Barcellos

    Not sure if the 260 has support for mantle like you suggested at the end of your article. Other than that great set of information, I think I might just get one for my lady.

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      Here’s a slide out of the press deck showing support for Mantle on this GPU. It’s a smart move by AMD… it’s frustrating when companies lob off technologies like these on lower-end parts.

    • RainMotorsports

      GCN is 7730 on up and not sure what GCN version Mantle “requires” 7770 is 1.0 7790 is 1.1. But the R7 240 and above should support mantle if I am not mistaken.

  • christianh

    As I say on every review site… Why test this level card with such a high-priced CPU…?

    It will still be GPU limited with an i5 or Richland…

    • http://techgage.com/ Rob Williams

      The other option would be using a modest CPU and risking the introduction of some bottleneck. That’s not the point here. The PC itself is kept 100% identical; all that changes is the GPU. Which is important, because that’s the focus.

    • RainMotorsports

      In GPU testing nothing but the GPU and driver should ever change. If he swaps the CPU out the results should be considered invalid no matter what any other data says otherwise. Its not very scientific to change static variables.

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