As the most popular brand of products within AMD’s line-up of consumer-grade graphics cards, the Radeon series has seen many changes and improvements, along with a vast number of contributions and innovations being made to the the advancement of GPU development. As a worldwide leader in both CPU and GPU processing technology AMD’s history is one certainly worthy of credit. Releasing the very first CPU to break a 1GHz clock speed, developing the first GPU with a Unified Shader design, pioneering the development of GPU efficiency on low-level APIs such as DirectX 12 and Vulkan. A short list to name a few, but with that being said it’s clear AMD isn’t one to underestimate when it comes to the development of processor technology.
Residing at the heart of the two major game consoles as well as PCs, AMD’s dominance over the GPU landscape is certainly one that lends them weight in regards to game development, cross-compatibility feature-sets, along with optimization and driver support. With its APU (Advanced-Processing-Unit) technology powering both the PlayStation4 and Xbox One platforms – both of which are programmed to run a traditional X86 PC architecture language, each and every stride which AMD takes in hardware and software development ultimately proves great for both PC and console gamers.
Radeon R5 & R7
While the Radeon series of graphics cards are of the most popular of AMDs cards for the PC gamer, the Radeon brand itself targets two different kinds of consumers. The first just so happens to be the casual consumer in need of a sturdy improvement for their everyday PC. While AMD provides this with pre-built OEM systems using its APU technology, those with traditional CPUs are left to shop around for discreet yet affordable graphics cards without the requirement of additional PCIe power connectors, as to ensure complete compatibility. This can be troublesome to those without the technical know-how, which is why AMD has deisgned GPUs of this class to be as pain-free as possible.
Graphics cards within this line-up include the R5 230, R7 240, and the R7 250. Primarily designed for performance improvements in multimedia applications, video playback, application multi-tasking and general uses, these cards also provide those looking to experience a multi-monitor set-up with the appropriate number of display output connections for a installation process that’s simple and effective.
Radeon R9 & RX
In a much similar manner to its primary competitor, AMD graphics cards see an annually release with each new generation of graphics cards bringing a suite of new features, designs, improvements and efficiency that make them viable successors to the previous generation products. Where the advancements in GPU architecture and manufacturing design allow the latest GPUs to run cooler, perform superior and as a result become cheaper for the consumer, those building their very first systems at the start of a generation will be pleased to know they’re getting the very best of GPU technology that’s available on the market.
Divided across three different performance tiers AMD designs a selection of GPUs that’s both valuable and of suitable performance for the intended consumers within each specific price bracket. Along with each class of graphics cards being available in a great number of visual designs and cooling solutions, the most interest aspect of it all is the level of performance that each GPU delivers over the prior generation products they’re replacing. As a result, gamers can expect the latest Entry-Level graphics cards to offer a performance metric of similar territory to the previous generation Mid-Range GPUs, along with current generation Mid-Range graphics cards comfortably approach performance levels of the prior High-End cards.
Priced at £80 – £150 on average, AMD’s Entry-Level graphics cards are ideally suited to Full HD gaming with Medium – High image quality settings, delivering a performance metric that’s comparable to modern game consoles. Typically efficient on power, GPUs such as the RX 550 and the previous generation RX 460 do not require any additional PCIe power connectors. Bringing a slight increase in performance while still being of the same performance class, the RX 560 asks for a single 6-PIN PCIe connector, giving way for higher clock speeds and overclocking scaling.
Taking performance up by a significant margin, AMD’s Mid-Range graphics cards allow for fast frame-rates at Full HD resolution along with High image quality settings for that extra refinement. Available in 4GB and 8GB memory configurations the RX 570 even proves great for gaming at 1440p resolution – albeit with reduced image quality settings – with it’s 2048 core count turning in consistently fast clock speeds. Priced on average at £230 – £280, the RX 570 remains greatly competitive against rival hardware. For those able to find a previous generation R9 390 at a similar price point, they can expect superior results as it falls within the High-End of AMD Radeon products.
While AMD hasn’t yet released their modern class of High-End performance graphics cards, they do have the RX 580, which helps to bridge the gap between the Mid-Range and High-End performance. Holding a great deal of similarities with the GPU structure of the APU being developed for the upcoming Xbox One X game console, the RX 580 stands to be AMD’s most popular graphics card in terms of both performance and value. Proving great for 1440p gaming at Maximum image quality settings and high frame-rates, the GPU also delivers a pleasing 4K experience with slight visual reductions. Priced at an average of £250 – £330, the 2304 core count, 8GB VRAM configuration and 8000MHz memory speed allow for a great gaming experience.
Available within the previous generation of High-End GPUs, the R9 390X, R9 Nano, R9 Fury and the R9 Fury X have proven to be fantastic solutions for 1440p and 4K resolution gaming – delivering a noticeable improvement over the RX 580. Taking advantage of the latest memory chip advancements the R9 Nano and Fury class of GPUs implement HBM technology (High-Bandwidth-Memory) which functions by stacking memory chips vertically on top of the GPU package itself, connected to one another by the way of an interposer.
As expected, this allows for physically smaller graphics cards with extremely decreased power requirements, but in terms of performance HBM allows for an extremely wide throughput of data that greatly exceeds that of traditional GDDR5-based memory chips fitted to traditional graphics cards. Seeing a price tag around £300 – £400, all three of the R9 Nano and Fury based GPUs feature similar specifications to one another, along with aftermarket solutions taking the performance that much further.
AMD designs, develops and manufactures the GPU (Graphical Processing Unit). This includes references on the PCB, power requirements, thermal dissipation, memory configurations and clock speeds. Based on the design of the GPU and reference PCB provided to them, third-party vendors such as Asus, MSI, Zotac and Palit will produce their own custom versions with improved performance, power requirements and cooling designs. Since AMD does manufacture reference boards which allow third-party vendors to work from, these are also available to purchase should gamers prefer the original design.