Great 1080p card; quiet and cool; one six-pin PCIe connector.
Barely 30fps in several tests; street cost is higher than MSRP.
MSI is offering two flavors of its midrange Radeon R9 270 GPU, formerly known as the Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition . There is a standard model and one with an “X” after its name. The difference between the two is the X model has slightly higher core and boost clocks, but otherwise the two cards are the same and are both based on AMD’s Pitcairn GCN core, which is a 28nm part that debuted in 2013.
Don’t bother with the R9 270X—the non-X version shown here is just fine.
The card in front of you is the MSI R9 270 Gaming model, which is a stock R9 270 with a mild overclock, hence the word “Gaming” in its moniker. It has an MSRP of $180, while the X version is roughly $20 more, though street prices are higher due to the mining craze and short supply. For those who are prone to guffawing at a card that is merely rebadged and price-dropped, this is par for the course and actually good news for gamers. That’s because both Nvidia and AMD refine their manufacturing processes over time, so by the time a GPU gets a rebadge, it’s often able to run at higher clocks with better efficiency for a much lower price. The bottom line is that this card once had a $350 price tag and now costs less than $200, so there’s very little to complain about.
To rehash the specs, this is a card with a base clock of 900MHz and a boost clock of 975MHz, which is 50MHz higher than the reference board. It has 2GB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 5.6GHz, and 1,280 stream processors. Since this is not new silicon, the card does not offer support for TrueAudio, but as it’s a Graphics Core Next (GCN) card, it does support AMD’s new Mantle API (at press time, BF4 was not optimized for Mantle with the R9 270, but AMD said it’s “being investigated”). As a midrange GPU, the R9 270 has a low-ish TDP of 150w, and therefore requires only a single six-pin PCIe connector for power—an advantage over the 270X, which requires two six-pin connectors. Interestingly, the R9 270 doesn’t have a direct competitor from Nvidia since it costs just a bit over $200, so it sits right in between the $250 GTX 760 and the $150 GTX 650 Ti (the Ti Boost is out of stock everywhere, but costs around $175). The GTX 660 is about the same price, but that card is ancient, so we compared it to the more-expensive GTX 760.
Overall, we had a pleasant testing experience with the MSI R9 270 card. It was quiet and cool—never getting hotter than
60 C—and was totally stable. It ran the grueling new Star Swarm demo over a weekend with nary a hiccup, and we were also able to overclock it to 1,140MHz boost clock, which netted a 10 percent bump in performance. Basically, we found its performance exactly in line with its price, in that it was a bit slower than the more-expensive GTX 760 in all the games we test aside from Tomb Raider, which is an AMD game.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with the MSI R9 270 Gaming OC and we have no problem recommending it. However, we’d still go with the GTX 760 just because it is quite a bit faster in many games, and only costs $30 more. If Mantle support is important to you, though, feel free to pull the trigger.
$220 (street), www.msi.com
Note: This review was originally featured in the April 2014 issue of the magazine .
|MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC||AMD Radeon R9 270X (reference)||Asus GTX 760|
|Driver ||14.1 Beta||14.1 Beta||320.49|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0 (fps) ||28||30||37|
|Unigine Valley 1.0 (fps)||37||38||48|
|Crysis 3 (fps)||25||26||31|
|Far Cry 3 (fps)||33||35||40|
|Tomb Raider (fps)||26||27||25|
|Metro: Last Light (fps)||16||16||25|
|Battlefield 4 (fps)||41||42||45|
|Batman: Arkham Origins (fps)||45||53||62|
|CoD: Ghosts (fps)||43||45||54|
Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7-3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 1920x1080 with
4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.