Asus Radeon R7 250 1GB review

Asus Radeon R7 250 1GB

The entry-level AMD Radeon R7 240 graphics card is one option for anyone looking for an upgrade to a basic integrated graphics solution. But what if you want something with a little extra firepower, only without paying significantly more? Well, the R7 250 will set you back another £20, but offers rather more in the way of performance. See also Group test: what's the best graphics card?

Not that you'll necessarily detect a dramatic difference in the hardware. Like the 240, the R7 250 is rather hampered by its 128-bit memory interface. This is just too narrow and limited to allow maximum throughput, ensuring that the supply of data is constantly being choked off. But worse news may come when you look at the memory itself. GDDR5 RAM is included in this example - but there are versions of the 250 restricted to GDDR3, and you should avoid those.

The enhanced memory is a feather in the 250's cap but, alas, there's only 1 GB of it. Given that many of the 240 cards have 2 GB - with some even promising a rather ridiculous 4 GB - just 1 GB for the R7 250 seems a step backwards.

Speaking truthfully, you won't generally be wanting to overload these cards with the kinds of high resolutions and chunky graphics textures that demand large gollops of video memory. For most purposes, then, 1 GB will be more than enough. However, we would prefer to see 2 GB of GDDR5. There are 2 GB versions to be had, but these mostly use the inferior GDDR3 RAM.

There is better news elsewhere, though. The 250 has marginally more stream processors - 384 to the R7 240's 320. More crucially, the 250 builds significantly on the R7 240's lowly clock rates. See all PC Components and Upgrades reviews.

The 240's 720-750 MHz core clock, for instance, has been upped to a decent 1 GHz - with an extra 50 MHz available through Boost. The texture units have also been handsomely upgraded, from 20 on the Radeon R7 240, to a healthier 56 here. That allows the R7 250 to boast a comparatively generous texture fill rate of 58.8 GT/sec - almost four times the R7 240's feeble figure of 15.6 GT/sec.

Memory bandwidth scores another massive victory for the 250, and its 1150 MHz memory clock (4600 MHz DDR effective) overwhelms the 240's 400 MHz (1.6 GHz). That amounts to a memory bandwith figure of 73.6 GB/sec - almost three times that of the 240's 25.6 GB/sec.

In practice, the 250 doesn't generate the three to four times the performance that you might expect from the memory bandwidth and texture fill rates. However, it does produce as much as 70% higher frame rates when playing games. And at this low level, that's often the difference between ‘almost unplayable' and ‘relatively smooth'. See all graphics card reviews.

The figures we saw of 68.1 fps and 63.4 fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat (at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 respectively) will allow for fluid gameplay, and you'll even be able to ratchet up the detail levels, should you wish. In contrast, the 240 was stranded on 43.2 and 37 fps.

However, the similarly priced AMD Radeon HD 7770 is still available, and that betters the 250 once more, turning in 87 and 75.8 fps.

It's a similar story in BattleForge, where the 250's figures of 60.3 and 56.6 fps rather destroyed the 240's 42.6 and 39.9 fps – but importantly this year's card was still fall far behind the 7770's 80.3 and 77.4 fps.

Bioshock (at low detail levels) stressed this point further. The 250 notched up 70.3 and 57.7 fps, far ahead of the 240s's 46.3 and 34fps, but trailing in the wake of the 7770's 90.1 and 77.6 fps. See also Best graphics card of 2014.

Asus Radeon R7 250 1GB review: benchmarks

Stalker Pripyat Med (1,680x1,050 / 1,920x1,200)    68.1 / 63.4
BattleForge Med (1,680x1,050 / 1,920x1,200)    60.3 / 56.6
Bioshock Low  (1,680x1,050 / 1,920x1,200)        70.3 / 57.7

Asus Radeon R7 250 1GB: Specs

  • AMD Radeon R7 250
  • 1 GB GDDR5
  • 1000 MHz clock (1050 MHz Boost)
  • 1150 MHz memory clock (4600 MHz DDR effective)
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • 384 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11.2
  • 1x D-Sub
  • 1x DVI, 1x HDMI
  • 2-year warranty
  • AMD Radeon R7 250
  • 1 GB GDDR5
  • 1000 MHz clock (1050 MHz Boost)
  • 1150 MHz memory clock (4600 MHz DDR effective)
  • 128-bit memory interface
  • 384 stream processors
  • 56 texture units
  • PCI-E interface
  • DirectX 11.2
  • 1x D-Sub
  • 1x DVI, 1x HDMI
  • 2-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

The 250 is a quiet and cool-running card. But while it should really be a significant buy over the underpowered entry-level 240, it's hard to recommend it while the AMD Radeon HD 7770 remains available to buy for another £20 or less. That latter card will probably be falling from the market before long. Until it does, though, it's a much better deal overall than the 250.