A baby Curacao GPU shows up

AMD fills up the $150 spot and introduced the R series replacement card for HD 7850

AMD Radeon R7 & R9 series features Mantle support
AMD Radeon R7 & R9 series features Mantle support

When AMD decided to launch the Graphic Core Next (GCN) GPU architecture in 2012, the first thing they had in mind had to sort two major flaws that persisted in HD 6000 series which were too much power consumption and too much heating issues. AMD’s HD 6000 series launched in 2011 used AMD’s VLIW 4  GPU architecture and was featured on 40nm fabrication nodes, the first thing they did to cut down heat liberation is to base the new GCN architecture on 28nm fabrication processes. And to sort out the power consumption issues they adopted the policy of “more compute less raw performance” contrary to Terascale 2’s “brute, power hungry, undisputed performance” principle, one may think why did they think to degrade the raw performance and prefer general compute more? Well the reason being, because 28nm nodes automatically results in addition of more transistors and compute units in same die size which increases performance too. AMD was the 1st brand to use 28nm TSMC’s fabrication nodes in their GPUs, namely:-

• HD 7750 (based on Cape Verde L.E. GCN chip)

• HD 7770 (based on Cape Verde GCN chip)

• HD 7770 Ghz edition (based on Cape Verde XT GCN chip)

• HD 7790 (based on Bonaire GCN chip)

• HD 7850 (based on Pitcairn L.E. GCN chip)

• HD 7870 (based on Pitcairn GCN chip)

• HD 7870 Ghz edition or 7870 XT (based on Pitcairn XT/pro GCN chip)

• HD 7950 (based on Tahiti GCN chip)

• HD 7970 (based on Tahiti XT chip)

• HD 7970 Ghz edition (based on Tahiti XT2/XT pro GCN chip)

Dawn of the R series

AMD also introduced the world’s fastest card at that time viz. HD 7970 but soon was dethroned by NVIDIA’s latest 28nm Kepler offering the flagship GTX 680 featuring GK-104 GPU, Though GCN was highly praised and adopted in budget and mid end sector which tightened AMD’s grip in budget market ($200 cards). But, the game changed when NVIDIA launched their GTX 700 series in 2013 which were actually renamed Kepler cards with higher clocks. GTX 780 (Based on GTX Titan’s GK-110 GPU) was the 1st GTX 700 offering followed by GTX 770 and lastly GTX 760, both based on GK-104.NVIDIA also launched the fastest single GPU card on the planet, the Godly GTX 780 ti. This re-brand policy was soon adopted by AMD and they dumped the old nomenclature system and launched the Radeon R7 and R9 series in September 2013. Which currently consists of the following cards :-

NOTE: Few GPUs in the list aren’t launched yet.

• R7 240 (featuring Oland pro GPU)

• R7 250 (featuring Oland XT GPU)

• R7 250X(featuring Cape Verde XT GPU)

• R7 260(featuring Bonaire GPU)

• R7 260X(featuring Bonaire XT GPU)

• R7 265(featuring Curacao L.E. previously known as Pitcairn L.E. GPU)

• R9 270(featuring Curacao GPU)

• R9 270X(featuring Curacao XT GPU)

• R9 280(featuring Tahiti XT GPU)

• R9 280X(featuring Tahiti XT2 GPU)

• R9 290(featuring Hawaii GPU)

• R9 290X(featuring Hawaii XT)

Replacing HD 7000

Except R9 290 and R9 290X, all the R series Radeons were renamed HD 7000 series cards with higher clock speeds, whereas Hawaii and Hawaii XT GPU featured on R9 290 and 290X were completely different piece of silicon than previous GCN GPUs and are like a Graphics powerhouse on steroids. Other cards were replacement for existing HD 7000 series cards.

NOTE : few R series cards don’t replace HD 7000 cards since they belong to a different price bracket then previous cards.

Older card Replacement card
HD 7750 R7 240
HD 7770 R7 250
HD 7770 Ghz ed. R7 250X
R7 260
HD 7790 R7 260X
HD 7850 R7 265
HD 7870 R9 270
HD 7870 XT R9 270X
HD 7950 R9 280
HD 7970 R9 280X
R9 290
R9 290X

Performance Analysis

It wouldn’t be an over statement to say that R series are the most dominant cards on the market today and AMD finally dominated the High-End market along with carrying the Budget cards in their armada. When we heard the rumors about the GTX 750 ti based on GM-107 which is based on NVIDIA’s upcoming Maxwell architecture, which would replace the GTX 650 ti boost in the GTX line up, we expected AMD would soon introduce something which would replace the HD 7850 which was GTX 650 ti boost’s arch nemesis, and then came the news about R7 265 which features same Pitcairn (Now Curacao) GPU and 2GB GDDR5 memory addressed via 256 bit wide memory interface as it was on HD 7850. Priced at $150, it’s a highly anticipated card because of the revealed specifications from AMD, which are as follows.

Card name R7 265 HD 7850 GTX 750 ti
Stream processors 1024 1024 960
TMUs 64 64 80
ROPs 32 32 16
Memory interface 256 bit 256 bit 128 bit
TDP 150w 130w 75w
GPU clock (base) 925MHz 860MHz unknown
Memory clock 1400MHz 1200MHz unknown

As far as performance upgrades are concerned on R7 265 compared to HD 7850, we would say that it is definitely a faster card than its predecessor just like other R series re-branded cards, all in all, you get a faster card in a reasonable price that does prove to be a potential upgrade than the older GCN based radeons. As far as other specifications are concerned, the fundamental GPU based factors remain same.

Stream Processors– They remain identical to HD 7850 since they are part of the Compute Units which are dependent on GPU which is incorporated with the card in this case the Pitcairn GCN GPU. 1024 Stream processors are part of the 16 Compute Units which are enabled on the Pitcairn and 4 of them are disabled. To avail full 1280 Stream processors which Curacao offers one has to opt the R9 270 which comes as a replacement for HD 7870 or the bigger brother R9 270X.

TMUs This again remains same as the HD 7850, as far as competition is concerned, it lacks 16 Texture modules behind the rumored GTX 750 ti but does make up the loss in other parameters.

ROPs Raster processors determine the overall speed of the cards and increases the overall data rate measured in Gigabytes per second and boasts double ROPs compared to GTX 750 ti (32 vs. 16)

Memory interface– AMD is known for its generosity in this parameter, the 256 bit wide data bus is enough for 1080p gaming and provides a fast data lane for the very potent Curacao CPU which utilizes 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM

Thermal Design Power or TDP – Well, in no way R7 265 is a low power consumption card, 150w power consumption is the exactly what to expect of an overclocked HD 7850 and requires a single 6pin PCIe power cable.

GPU clock– AMD did bump up the base GPU clock by a nominal 65 MHz.

Memory clock– The memory clock is OC’ed just like all R series Re-branded cards, +200MHz OC is good considering the TDP is only up by 20 Watt


In the end it is another assault on NVIDIA by AMD and judging by the modern trends in GPU market, we guess AMD has an upper hand in the battle as well. Coming to the card, the card features 1.89Tflops of Compute Performance (Same as PS4’s 8 core 8 Gb GDDR5 embedded jaguar chipset) along with the GCN essentials CrossFire, DirectX 11.2, OpenGL 4.3, Eyefinity, and Mantle. Sadly since Curacao was one of the 1st cards associated with R series therefore it doesn’t feature XDMA bridgeless CrossFire support which R9 290 and R9 290X sports. But then again it proves to be a better option than GTX 750 ti but one can’t say anything until both the cards are launched. Rumors say NVIDIA is planning to launch GTX 750 ti boost on 18th feb and AMD decides to launch in the end of February as well.

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Hardware enthusiast, Gamer, Writer. I enjoy picking up games, putting them back down, and then writing about it.