The Radeon R7 250 surprised me – I wasn’t expecting great performance for what is marketed towards the lower end of the performance segment as the R7 250 can be had for around the 60 pounds mark, which represents a fantastic deal for those who’re looking to play modern titles on something more than an integrated GPU. With graphics cards packing more punch than ever, even those on a very limited budget can play most modern titles at a decent frame rate and quality settings at 1080P, but the question is how does this card stack up against the competition?
While the Radeon R7 250 (and it’s yet smaller brother, the 240) are new to retail, they’ve been around in OEM form for some time as the 8570 (the 240) and 8670 (the 250). The 250 packs 6 GCN (Graphic Core Next) GPU, each GCN unit coming with 64 shaders. This means we are left with a total of 384 shaders and 24 TMU(Texture Mapping Units) and 8 ROPS which can accelerate to 1050MHZ providing the right conditions (in other words it’s not too hot). We’re also left with a 128 bit memory interface, with the 1GB of GDDR5 memory running at 4600MHZ providing 73.6GB/s memory bandwidth.
Due to the lower amount of ROPS, we’re not going to be seeing quite the same fill rates compared to the 7750, which will impact Anti-Aliasing performance. Comparing it to the 7750, which features double the ROPS (16 vs 8) and it’s a rather large sacrifice. This is made up for somewhat by a higher level of memory bandwidth and higher GPU clock speeds. Ultimately, FXAA is runs fairly well on the card and you’ll be able to enable it in most titles. The GPU puts out over 806 GFLOPS of computing power.
On the HIS model AMD sent for us to review, we’re provided a HDMI, DVI and oddly enough a VGA connection. The cooler is quiet, even set to full 100 percent fan speed. Interestingly enough, the cooler only touches the cards GPU core, and the four GDDR5 memory chips present on the PCB are neglected. Although you could improve the cooling solution quite easily, even for those overclocking this isn’t necessary. We’ll get into it more later, but overclocking the card to the highest the sliders would go (5200MHZ RAM, 1200 Core) produced no visual artifacts.
The system we used Radeon R7 250 was our standard test setup. An Intel I-7 Haswell 4770K (slightly overclocked to 4.4GHZ), 16GB DDR3 memory (running at 1750MHZ), Windows 8.1 installed on an SSD. For drivers we’re using the latest AMD Drivers at this time, which are the Catalyst 14.3 Beta’s. All of the games were using the latest versions (auto patched via their distribution platform (for example Steam).
Tomb Raider requires little introduction, and despite despite having being recently released on the next generation consoles, the PC version is still extremely impressive if you’re able to crank it up to the ultimate settings. This goal is a little too ambitious for the Radeon R7 250, but it’s still impressive the type of performance you’re able to pull out of the card. We set the Tomb Raider to the games Default High setting and ran the built in benchmark (and played some of the game) to get a taste of how it runs on the R7 250. Pretty damn impressively is the answer.
During gameplay, we were able to get between the high 20’s to high 30’s (depending what was going on screen at the time). During the benchmark however we managed to achieve 25.2 min 36.9 max and 30.9 for the average frame rate. This is extremely impressive for a card that costs only around the £60 mark. Overclocking the card pushes the frame rate up, hitting 34FPS for the average, with min and max rising to 28 and 40.8 respectively.
Interestingly enough, the game was still extremely playable at the Ultra pre-set if the graphics card was overclocked. That’s not to say gameplay conditions were ideal at all times, large open areas went down to the low to mid 20’s, but generally we saw the frame rate hover at around the 30FPS mark and a high of 37.
BioShock Infinite was hugely anticipated, and fortunately much like Tomb Raider comes with its own benchmark. The title is extremely playable on the R7 250, with medium settings at 1080P running at an average of 40FPS. Cranking up the settings a little and putting the game to high, the R7 250 manages to hit 35 FPS average frame rate.
Batman Arkham Origin:
We can all be the Batman with WB’s latest installment of the popular series. Fortunately, the R7 250 allows you to play the title pretty well, with some of the DX11 features enabled. We play of course at 1080P, with FXAA, normal Geometry and Dynamic Shadows, but with DX11 Ambient Occulsion and Depth of Field, with other settings all on other than V-Sync and Hardware Physx.. Using the titles built in benchmark we hit 33 FPS average. The card pretty much pulls even with AMD’s Radeon 7750 at these settings.
Metro Last Light
Set after the events of the first game (so I’d suggest you play that first before rushing into the second title), Metro Last Light is an intensive title – with the highest settings challenging cards such as the GTX 780. Fortunately, the title scales very well, and at DX11 with Global Settings of Medium we’re able to hit an average of 33.37FPS. Tessellation on this game takes a large performance toll, particularly during the grueling built in benchmark, causing the frame rate to hit a 26 average if we turn it to medium. This is of course, within a frame or two of the Radeon 7750.
Radeon R7 250 Overclocking
Overclocking on this card is a snap. Simply install your overclocking utility of choice, and crank the sliders up. With this card we were able to max the sliders in EVGA’s Precision X. This raises the default GPU clock of 1050 to 1200, and GDDR5 memory clock speeds to 1300MHZ, or 5200 MHZ effective. This provides the card a rather nice improvement in memory bandwidth and raw compute power, hitting a more healthy 83.2 GB/s memory bandwidth and raising the compute power to a little over 921 GFLOPS.
Performance as you’d expect scaled up, with FireStrike going from 2081 points to 2257 once overclocked. Similarly, results in other titles such as Tomb Raider and other games scaled up around 10 percent. Of course, you’re playing the silicon lottery when buying a card, but any extra performance is always welcome.
HIS AMD Radeon R7 250 1GB GDDR5 Verdict
As you could probably tell through the review, I’m left fairly impressed by the card. It’s pretty similar in raw performance to AMD’s own Radeon 7750, coming out slightly ahead in some tests and slightly behind in others. The card is quiet, requires little power and is a great performer for the price bracket, and for those on a strict budget it makes a great purchase. The only downside to the card comes if you’re able to push your budget up a little more, and makes it so the more expensive 2GB models are likely not worth the extra outlay.
AMD’s own Radeon R7 250X provides substantial extra performance, but will cost you around 20 to 30 pounds more (depending upon the brand). With the 250X you’ll have 640 Shaders, which is a rather nice boost. Then there’s AMD’s 260X, which will set you back another 10 to 20 above the 250 X, but provides even more horse power. On Nvidia’s side, you’ve got the GeForce 750 and 750 TI, both of which all fit under similar price ranges.
There are options – you could easily buy the 250 and a second down the line for CrossFire, which might be an attractive option if you’ve a motherboard which supports it – or if you’ve already purchased AMD’s A10 APU.
So to sum it up, it’s a fantastic buy for the price – but just be mindful that an extra thirty pounds or so can net you a more powerful product. But this is a great option for a limited budget, for A10 crossfire, HTPC or for those who’re looking for a lower power and heat card for small form factor.