Radeon HD 7950 gets second life as Radeon R9 280

Yep, the parade of renamed video cards is still streaming by our office windows. The latest entrant is a notable name and familiar face that's gotten a a minor makeover. The Radeon R9 280 is essentially the Radeon HD 7950, which debuted over two years ago, with a new label on the box.

Well, to be precise, the R9 280 is closer to the Radeon HD 7950 Boost, a minor revision from August 2012 that added more clock flexibility via a BIOS update. In fact, the only apparent difference in specs between the R9 280 and the 7950 Boost is eight megahertz. The 7950 Boost's peak clock is 925MHz, while the R9 280's is 933MHz.

There's also a new reference cooler design from AMD, if board makers wish to take advantage of it. Looks like any other big R9-series card, which is no bad thing.

Here's how the 280's specs compare against its bigger brother, the Radeon R9 280X:


So this is basically Radeon HD 7950 Boost vs. 7970 GHz Edition all over again. Since the Tahiti GPU is older than my youngest son, who now walks and talks and climbs on things, it doesn't support newer features like TrueAudio or CrossFire with XDMA. This GPU is based on the GCN architecture and supports the Mantle API, though.

The R9 280 is notable for a couple of reasons. One is simply that the Radeon HD 7950 has long offered a nice mix of price and performance, and a die-harvested version of the Tahiti GPU has been missing from the Radeon R9 lineup. The other reason is that, right now, Radeon R9 cards are in short supply and have inflated prices thanks to the cryptocurrency rush. The R9 280 has been perhaps the most popular board among miners, and finding one in stock at anything close to its $299 list price has been incredibly difficult in North America.

AMD says the R9 280's suggested e-tail price is $279, and it expects cards to become available this week, with broad availability next week. Interestingly, the firm also expresses hope that the R9 280's introduction may help ease the current GPU supply crunch: "Following the exceptional demand for the entire R9 Series, we believe the introduction of the R9 280 will help ensure that every gamer who plans to purchase an R9 Series graphics card has an opportunity to do so."

I'm not quite sure how much one more video card model can help the current situation, but perhaps AMD has queued up a bunch of Tahiti chips for this product launch. We'll have to watch and see how prices look in a couple of weeks.

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