PowerColor Devil R9 270X Review

ccokeman - 2013-11-01 19:19:56 in Video Cards
Category: Video Cards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: November 14, 2013
Price: $239

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Introduction:

If you have that feeling of déjà vu, it is because late in July we looked at the pinnacle of HD 7870 performance from PowerColor when we looked at the Devil HD 7870. We found that PowerColor put a lot of effort into a full on custom card that built on the Devil 13 HD 7990 heritage and brought it right on down to the mainstream user. All for $239: custom PCB, 7+1+1 phase Platinum Power Kit, and a great looking tri-fan heat pipe-based cooling solution. What we see with this card is the integration of the Pitcairn core used on the HD 7870 into the R9 product stack to take advantage of the latest technologies from AMD, including support for the latest DirectX API version 11.2 and the newest revision to AMD's PowerTune technology with further tweaks to the GCN architecture.

True to the Devil heritage, this card, the Devil R9 270X, comes with the highest factory combination of base clock speed and boost clock speed on the revised Pitcairn core of 1150MHz with a boost to 1180MGz. By pushing the clock speed up this high, PowerColor brings another level of performance to the table to compete with the best offerings from other manufacturers, all while running cooler and quieter than the reference designs. If the performance of the Devil HD 7870 was any indication, this card should do well for the small $40 price premium over the reference price point of $199.

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Closer Look:

PowerColor delivers the Devil series in a deep velvet black box with blood red accents. The front panel of the packaging has a small clear window that shows off the Devil logo on the inner materials. The back side of the box continues the black and red theme, but shows a breakdown of the cooling solution and the components that make up the Platinum Power Kit Digital VRM package. Inside the package there is a clear plastic shell over the included PowerColor Devil series mouse pad that allows you to show off your support for the product. The Devil R9 270X is packed in a dense foam core that easily absorbs any impacts during transit. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The accessory bundle for this card is on the slim side, with a manual, and a driver disc that containsthe driver and PowerColor's own PowerTune utility. You get a mini DisplayPort to full size DisplayPort dongle, DVI to VGA adapter, and, the signature piece of the accessory bundle, the Devil logo-ed mouse pad. The mouse pad is more than just your traditional soft pad with a cloth top in that, while thick to provide cushioning, it features a gaming surface on top of the foam.

 

Big factory clock speeds, solid build specs, and a large cooling solution usually are the recipe for a high performance video card that can handle the latest games in its target resolution. Let's see how this offering from PowerColor's darker side fares in our benchmarks testing. First though we will pull it apart to see just what PowerColor has to offer.

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Closer Look:

Much like PowerColor's Devil HD 7870, the Devil R9 270X is built upon AMD's Southern Islands GCN 28nm architecture, code named Pitcairn. While a refreshed card, the Devil R9 270X is built to the same demanding specs with some additional tweaks to the technologies supported, including DirectX 11.2. Front and center, and what really catches the eye, is the dual slot tri-fan equipped cooling solution that comes with a pair of 80mm and a single 90mm fan to cool down the custom built PCB and VRM components. As with the packaging, the Devil theme flows over the card from the front to the back with red accents against a black background. A look that stands the test and is hugely popular.

The back side of the PCB features a cover that functions to add additional cooling to the VRM circuits while providing additional structural rigidity to keep the mass of the cooling solution from turning the PCB into a flexible flier and cracking the trace layout in the card. Looking at the cooling solution on the back side you get additional ventilation over the 7+1+1 phase VRM circuit. The top side of the Devil R9 270X has the card name highlighted against the red accents so you can show off the card through a case window. The bottom of the card has a 16x PCIe 3.0 interface for use in motherboards that support the PCIe 3.0 standard with backwards compatibility to earlier standards. Measuring 11.25 x 5.31 x 1.77 inches, the Devil R9 270X should fit into any chassis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Display connectivity on the Devil R9 270X mirrors up with the Devil HD 7870 and features a DL- DVI, SL-DVI, HDMI 1.4a, and a pair of mini DisplayPort connectors that support resolutions up to 4K, as well as Eyefinity screen setups using up to six displays by using a combination of available connectivity and the use of an MST hub. AMD has tweaked the connectivity to allow for any three outputs to be used to send the signal to the displays in a multi display system. Additional card ventilation is used to get as much of the thermal load out of the chassis. A small vent over the HDMI/MiniDP connectivity is the avenue for this thermal load. PowerColor includes covers for each of the display connectivity options to prevent dust intrusion into the connection points. On the back end of the card the shroud hangs over the PCB by enough to push the thermal load out of the shroud and into the surrounding air stream.

 

 

The Devil R9 270X supports CrossfireX connections for an up to two card solutions as seen by the single brdge connection on board the spine of the card. AMD's delivery of its newest frame pacing driver at the end of the month should allow us to see some teeth back in Crossfire configurations. Power for the Devil R9 270X is supplied by a pair of 6-pin PEG connections providing up to 225 watts to the card when you count the two 6-pin connections and 75W from the PCIe slot. AMD and PowerColor recommend a power supply of at least 500 watts when using this card and most likely a 600+ watt PSU when a pair are used in a Crossfire configuration.

 

 

When you get to the basics of the hardware we have the same PCB and components as seen on the Devil HD 7870. Once you get all the hardware off the PCB, you can see the additional cooling for the 7+1+1 VRM circuits at the front of the PCB. There are a total of eight GDDR5 memory ICs that comprise the 2GB frame buffer surrounding the GPU core.

 

 

Closer inspection of the 7+1+1 phase assembly that makes up PowerColor's "Platinum Power Kit" uses a digital controller and Super Capacitors for improved reliability. The front section of the voltage circuit features large aluminum heat sinks to cover the DirectFet components that are cooled by way of the airflow through the primary heat sink. PowerColor is using a CHIL Products CHL8228C eight phase digital voltage regulator to manage the power needs for the Devil R9 270X. This design is said to deliver up to 90% power effciency.

 

 

Inspecting the cooling solutions shows that the design used on the Devil R9 270X is identical to its HD 7XXX series card. Cooling down a GPU can seem like a monumental task for the installed heat sink package. PowerColor is using a three high efficiency fan design mounted to an aluminum heat sink to manage the thermal load on the Devil R9 270X. Covering up the entire PCB, the aluminum fins have plenty of surface area. Running through the aluminum fins are a quartet of 6mm heat pipes that carry the Devil's heat load from a copper contact plate up to the aluminum fins. The contact surface is smooth and appears to be flat to take advantage of mounting on the core. Apistek fans are used to provide the airflow through the heat sink to keep the Devil R9 270X from making an untimely early trip to hell. Used on board are a pair of 80mm fans and a single 90mm fan.

 

 

 

PowerColor and AMD chose to keep the 28nm, 2.8 billion transistor Graphics Core Next Southern Islands Pitcairn core around for this card with a few tweaks to bring along some new technologies and support for this generation. The core features 20 compute units filled with 1280 streaming multiprocessors, 80 texture units, and 32 ROPs. As a highly overclocked card, the clock speeds are going to see some significant boosts over the baseline clock speeds for the architecture. PowerColor boosted the core clock speed to 1150MHz with the 2GB of GDDR5 memory seeing a boost to 1400MHz (5.6GHz effective) all to drive performance to another level right from the start without any tweaks. Elpida GDDR5, part number W2032BBBG-6A-F, in a 2GB package runs through a 256-bit bus on the Devil R9 270X. This part is rated for use at 6.0Gbps using 1.5v.

 

 

When you look at the component selection, great looks, and cooling package, PowerColor has continued with what is a successful design concept that offers visual appeal as well as high performance potential. Let's see if that goal is realized.

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Specifications:

Graphics Engine
Radeon R9 270X
Video Memory
2GB GDDR5
Engine Clock
1150Mhz (Up to 1180 W/ Boost)
Memory Clock
1400MHz (5.6Gbps)
Memory Interface
256-bit
DirectX® Support
11.2
Bus Standard
PCIE 3.0
Standard Display Connectors
DL-DVI-I/ SL-DVI- D/HDMI/2x mini DisplayPort
Feature Support
OpenGL
Support
CrossFireX™ Technology
Support
ATI Stream Technology
Support
ATI Eyefinity Technology
Support
ATI Hypermemory Technology
 
Display Support
VGA Output
Yes, By DVI to VGA converter
DVI Output
Dual Link DVI-I x1
DisplayPort
On Board (Mini DP) x2
HDMI
On Board
TV Output
 
HDCP Support 
Support
Maximum Resolution
VGA
2048x1536
DVI
2560x1600
DisplayPort
4096x2160
HDMI
4096x2160
Power Specs + Board Dimensions
Board Dimensions
254mmx111.2mx38mm
Minimum System Power requirement (W)
500W
Extension Power Connector
2x 6-Pin  PCI Express Power connectors

 

 

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Features:


 

All information courtesy of Powercolor @ http://www.powercolor.com/us/products_features.asp?id=490#Specification

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Testing of Powercolors latest edition to the Devil family the Devil R9 270X will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of a range of capabilities to show where each card falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles, which should be able to provide an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustments will be made to the respective control panels during the testing to approximate the performance the end user can expect with a stock driver installation. I will first test the cards at stock speeds, and then overclocked to see the effects of an increase in clock speed. The cards will be placed in order from highest to lowest performance in each graph to show where they fall by comparison. The NVIDIA comparison cards will be using the 330.58 drivers while AMD-based cards will be using the Catalyst 13.11 beta drivers with the R9 290X running 13.11 Beta 8. The GTX 780 Ti will use the launch driver 331.70. The results generated in my testing were reached by utilizing the latest FCAT tools to illustrate the true picture of the gaming experience. To do so will require a second PC setup to capture the data stream generated by the compared video cards. We have tested the R9 290X in Uber mode to eliminate the clock speed inconsistencies we found while running the card in "Quiet" mode to show the best case scenario for this architecture.

 

Testing Setup:

FCAT Capture Setup:

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

 

Overclocking:

When I looked at the PowerColor Devil HD 7870 I found that the core really would stretch its legs once you started adding voltage to the mix. Unfortunately the only way to see any boost at all was by increasing the power limits to +20. Using that adjustment as a baseline I adjusted the fan speed to 100% to keep the components including the core, memory, and 7+1+1 phase power system cool to maximize the clock speed potential using the installed cooling solution. By using this method I was able to gain an additional 43Mhz over the rated boost clock speed of 1180Mhz. Kind of a disappointment when you see just what the architecture can do. However that disappointment in the core clock speed is tempered with the massive boost in memory clock speed that helps offset the performance deficit. A gain of 192Mhz in memory clock speed does help drive performance but not as much as core clock speed. Right from the factory Powercolor put a big tune on this card to allow it to perform at a level above the competition. By doing so they did not leave a lot of meat on the bone for the enthusiast. At least with the core clock speed. Once we get some voltage tuning ability on this one we should see the card spread its Devlish wings.

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Testing for the maximum clock speed consisted of looping Unigine Heaven 4.0 for 30 minutes each to see where the clock speeds failed when pushed. If the clock speed adjustment failed, then the clock speeds and tests were rerun until they passed a full hour of testing.

 

 

  1. Metro: Last Light
  2. Splinter Cell Blacklist
  3. Bioshock Infinite
  4. Crysis 3
  5. Far Cry 3
  6. Battlefield 3
  7. Batman: Arkham City
  8. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0
  9. 3DMark

 

  1. Temperatures
  2. Power Consumption

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Part first-person shooter, part survival horror, Metro: Last Light is the followup to the extremely popular game Metro 2033. Developed by 4A games and published by Deepsilver, this game uses the 4A game engine. In this game set a year after the missile strike on the Dark Ones you continue on as Artyom as he digs deeper into the bowels of the Metro.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920 x 1080 you get a playable almost 32 FPS out of the Devil R9 270X while at 5760 x 1080 it just just does not have enough muscle to deliver that same experience. Compared to the GTX 660 and Devil HD 7870 we see about a 2 FPS margin between the old and new variants while getting performance levels that are dead on with the GTX 660.

 

FCAT Results:

In both resolutions the frame time percentile charts show that there are not a lot of issues to worry about. The frame times show roughly the same picture with a tight frame time analysis at 1920 x 1080. At 5760 x 1080 you will need a more robust card or a reduction in settings to get playable frame rates in this game.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Blacklist is the sixth installment in this franchise. Released in mid August 2013 in the US, it is published and distributed by Ubisoft. This game is built around the Unreal 2.5 game engine and uses Havok Physics. A new feature in this third person perspective game is a new game mechanic called Killing in Motion.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can enjoy playable frame rates in both resolutions in this game. The higher clock speed surely helps the R9 270X out when compared to the HD 7870 Devil.

 

FCAT Results:

At 1920 x 1080 and 5760 x 1080 the percentile charts do not show a lot to be concerned with. The frame time charts show reasonably tight variances leading to smooth game play.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Bioshock Infinite, much like the first two installments of the franchise, is a first-person shooter known for its strong story and atmosphere. This third installment of the franchise no longer takes place in the underwater world of Rapture, but in the could city of Columbia. Utilizing many of the gameplay characteristics of the original games, Bioshock Infinite has garnered critical acclaim. Taking the player through a maze of outdoor and indoor scenarios, the action is not constrained by territory. Developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games, this iteration uses the Unreal 3 game engine.

 

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Bioshock Infinite Powercolors Devil R9 270X is capable of running high FPS levels with the settings maxed out in the target resolution of 1920 x 1080. At 5760 x 1080 the card does not quite make it to the 30FPS threshold.

 

FCAT Results:

Again we do not see a lot to be concerned with in the percentile charts. The few large frame time spikes do drive down the overall average frame time but when you look at the variances in the frame time charts the game play animation is going to be smooth.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

This third installment of the Crysis franchise, developed by Crytek and distributed by Electronic Arts, uses the CryEngine 3 game engine and requires a DirectX 11 ready video card and operating system due to its demanding graphics engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 1920x1080 the Devil R9 270X is just a half frame per second slower than the MSI variant. Still it delivers an almost 5 FPS advantage over the GTX 660 and HD 7870.

 

FCAT Results:

At 1920 x 1080 the frame time variances are minimized leading to smooth gameplay however at 5760 the reduced frame rates lead to much higher frametimes.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Far Cry 3 is the latest iteration in the Far Cry series. Released in the US in early December 2012, it uses the Dunia 2 game engine and is published and developed by Ubisoft. This action-adventure, first-person shooter offers both single player and multi-player modes.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In each resolution the Devil R9 270X keeps up with the FPS delivered by the GTX 760 thanks to the factory overclock.

 

FCAT Results:

The frame time charts show that a consistent series of frame time spikes drive down performance levels in both resolutions. Outside of the spikes the variances are pretty small.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbite 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In BF3, Powercolors Devil R9 270X delivers solid performance at the target resolution with FPS results right on par with the GTX 760.

 

FCAT Results:

At 1920x1080 the frame rates delivered by the Devil R9 270X vary by around 7ms outside of the spikes seen in the charts. At 5760 the variance increases due to the lower frame rate.

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

 

1920x1080     5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to Batman: Arkham Asylum released in 2009. This action-adventure game based on DC Comics' Batman super hero was developed by Rocksteady Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Batman: Arkham City uses the Unreal 3 engine.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Batman: Arkham City, the Devil R9 270X offers advantages over the GTX 660 and HD 7870 in both resolutions.

 

FCAT Results:

Looking at the percentile and frame time charts, the frame time variance spikes in this benchmark are shared across all of the tested cards.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on the Unigine engine. This was the first DX 11 benchmark to allow testing of DX 11 features. What sets the Heaven Benchmark apart is the addition of hardware tessellation, available in three modes – Moderate, Normal, and Extreme. Although tessellation requires a video card with DirectX 11 support and Windows Vista/7, the Heaven Benchmark also supports DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11, and OpenGL 4.0. Visually, it features beautiful floating islands that contain a tiny village and extremely detailed architecture.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance in this tessellation heavy test has the Devil R9 270X performing above the comparison R9 270X, the Devil HD 7870 and GTX 660.

 

FCAT Results:

In this test the frame time seem to have more variability across the range of the test when compared with the results of the comparison cards.

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

 

1920x1080 5760x1080

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

3DMark: The just-released version of Futuremark's popular 3DMark suite is designed to let a wider range of the user base make a comparative analysis of the gaming prowess of their systems from entry level PCs to notebooks and extreme gaming PCs.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In each of the tests, stock and overclocked the Devil R9 270X scores higher than the comparison version of the R9 270X, the GTX 760, GTX 660 and HD 7870. As a factory overclocked card the Devil R9 270X earns its performance stripes in this synthetic benchmark.

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Temperature testing will be accomplished by loading the video card to 100% using Unigine's Heaven Benchmark Version 4.0, with MSI's Afterburner overclocking utility for temperature monitoring. I will be using a resolution of 1920x1080 using 8xAA and a five-run sequence to run the test, ensuring that the maximum thermal threshold is reached. The fan speed will be left in the control of the driver package and video card's BIOS for the stock load test, with the fan moved to 100% to see the best possible cooling scenario for the overclocked load test. The idle test will involve a 20-minute cooldown, with the fan speeds left on automatic in the stock speed testing and bumped up to 100% when running overclocked.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I look at the temperatures delivered by the Devil R9 270X it delivers warmer temperatures under load than the Twin Frozr equipped R9 270X. This result was not really expected based on the cooling solutions used by both manufacturers. At stock speeds the Devil R9 270X is out cooled by the Devil HD 7870 that uses the same cooling solution. Yet when overclocked the latest revision of the silicon runs a bit cooler thanks to the lack of voltage control. Overall it is one of the cooler running cards in the comparison field. Using three fans you might think this fan is going to be incredibly loud. Quite the contrary. You are presented with some noise at 100% fan speeds, that's a given but the noise is easily muted when packaged up inside a chassis. The rattle I observed on the HD 7870 version of this card was not an issue with this sample.

Powercolor Devil R9 270X Testing:

Power consumption of the system will be measured at both idle and load states, taking into account the peak voltage of the system with each video card installed. I will use Unigine's Heaven Benchmark version 4.0 to put a load onto the GPU using the settings below. A 15-minute load test will be used to heat up the GPU, with the highest power usage recorded as the final result. The idle results will be measured after 15 minutes of inactivity on the system with the lowest recorded power usage as the final result.

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At idle the Devil R9 270X takes advantage of AMD's latest Zero Core and Power tune technologies. Comparing the old to the new shows that the R9 270X is a bit less efficient at stock speeds, more likely due to the higher boost clock speeds and voltage required to hit the numbers. When voltage is used to boost the clock speed the Devil R9 270X uses less current than the Devil HD 7870.

PowerColor Devil R9 270X Conclusion:

Knowing what PowerColor brings to the table with the Devil series cards, it's easy to see it put forth the effort to make sure the design just works. First and foremost it is built to give the enthusiast a long life, all the while delivering great performance for the $239 price point. PowerColor does this by leveraging a custom PCB equipped with its "Platinum Power Kit" 7+1+1 phase digital power delivery solution to make sure the power plane is stable and efficient over the long term. Next, PowerColor adds in a custom three fan, quad heat pipe, dual fin array equipped cooling solution to keep this factory overclocked card from making a trip to the nether world early in its lifespan.

If looks do drive your purchases, then there is no doubt the Devil R9 270X from PowerColor, much like its predecessor the Devil HD 7870 we looked at back in July, is a great looking option for any build that follows a black and red theme. It's one that is ever more popular with offerings from ASUS ROG and MSI's gaming series motherboards. Straight out of the gate the Devil R9 270X is going to deliver better performance than a reference design based on clock speed alone. A base core clock speed of 1150MHz with a boost clock speed of 1180MHz on the Pitcairn-based core is the highest set of base and boost clock speeds I have seen on available R9 270X offerings. Memory speeds on the R9 270X also take a 150MHz jump from the 1250MHz used on the HD 7XXX series Devil HD 7870. By cranking up the speeds from the factory, PowerColor gives the end user a higher level of FPS that at many times borders on what the GTX 760 delivers in game or better.

Stock speed performance is impressive for a $239 custom built card. Unfortunately without any voltage adjustment I feel that the overclocking potential is a little compromised at this point. I was only able to wring another 43MHz out of the core, yet was able to pull an additional 192MHz out of the memory; it was a trade off that still enabled the Devil R9 270X to deliver some excellent improvement in 3DMark scoring. Given the fact that PowerColor put the screws to the Devil R9 270X right out of the box, this outcome was not wholly unexpected.

Looking at the cooling performance delivered by the R9 270X it is out performed by the previous gen build and the comparison R9 270X at stock speeds. The higher core speed can account for some of that, but I feel the fan speed is a bit lower as well to combat any non-existent noise while gaming. The 100% fan speed overclocked cooling results are much improved based on the clock speeds and voltages applied to the comparison cards, but you still get a GPU that when aggressively air cooled delivers temperatures in the mid 50 °C range. Not bad to say the least.

Looking back over my notes on the Devil HD 7870, it looks like the one challenge I had with the card was that I must have gotten a Monday/Friday card. Most of you know what that means, but the HD 7870 had a few loose screws on the shroud that lead to a rattle when the fan speed was ramped up. Running the same tests on this card I was met with a card with no rattles and was pleased to see the noise signature did not change. Three fans are not going to be silent in any way, shape, or form, but PowerColor manages the noise quite well with the design of the cooling solution and fans chosen for the cooling solution.

Overall I have to say the Devil R9 270X is a great performing card at its $239 price point. It offers up support for the latest DirectX API, is factory overclocked with a warranty, and even comes with a great looking and performing game pad so you can show off the Devil inside!

 

 

Pros:

 

Cons: