PC gaming is in the middle of another major transition towards more performance and higher resolutions. All those benchmarks that owners used to brag about a couple years ago are now attainable for everyday rigs, AMD knows this as their latest generation of graphics cards almost fill these needs to a tee.
The Radeon R7 360 is the most venerable example of trickle-down PC entertainment economics I’ve seen so far. For the current price of less than one-hundred and thirty greenbacks you’re given the power to enjoy most games at 1080p, mild creative duties, and maximum settings for MOBA titles. In short: the exact requirements of what modern mainstream PC users expect right now.
Our model of the AMD R7 360 was manufactured by GIGABYTE and is one of the more discrete choices available. The form factor is low profile at roughly two-thirds the length of normal-sized PCIe x16 cards with one six-pin power connector, and offers 2 DVI, DisplayPort (DP 1.2), and HDMI (HDCP 1.4) for connectivity. it’s a pretty basic single 29nm fan GPU but comes with the advantage of fitting with ease in smaller cases from Micro ATX to space-deprived Mini ITX.
The technical stuff is economical too, considering that AMD has made no qualms before about recycling or just tweaking what isn’t necessarily broken; this essentially keeps the R7 360 attainable. The GPU is known as Tobago, but in reality is a carryover 28nm 12-unit Bonaire core used in previous AMD cards from the R7 200 series. Some things are the same with 768 stream processors but the reference speeds are modestly bumped up a notch with a 50MHz clock core perk at 1050MHz and 6500MHz of 2GB 128-bit GDDR5 memory – 500MHz more from its predecessor. This Gigabyte model in particular boosts the main core clocking to a default 1200MHz. Other additions include DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.4, and overclocking modification through driver BIOS with the newly introduced OC GURU II platform.
Graphics cards of this caliber are meant for smooth gameplay with most of your current games, or meant for to be plopped in a secondary HTPC. The Radeon will serve also work as a short-term stopgap to keep up when demanding spec requirements eventually forces another relevant upgrade – or until you can afford to move up the food chain. We started with synthetic figure benchmarks provided by 3DMark software, and as expected, the R7 360 and its budgeted internals felt right at home in the Sky Diver test which is optimized for mid-range cards netted an average score of 14,780 and 68.1fps, while the Fire Strike score of 3,941 and 10.5fps commanded a lot more horsepower.
While 3DMark is a good static indicator we had to play a few games to get the full effect. Far Cry 4 is a one game that’s adequate, although the action did stutter at 18fps – It looked good but shows the R7’s limitations. Next was Grand Theft Auto V which we left the standard settings intact, this was one of the more stable titles we had available at a constant 59fps and only dipped in performance when we decided to bump the resolution up to 2560×1440 pixels at 39fps. And finally, Battlefield 4 quelled up 23fps at high quality just for kicks, of course with regular settings the results were more acceptable at 41fps. Overclocking improved most of these results by at least 5 frames in most cases.
For other applications such as Adobe Photoshop the R7 360 works just fine for illustrating and intermediate 3D and design work, and will be just enough GPU for multitasking between two programs at a time. For 4K viewing, we didn’t experience hiccups if you’re properly equipped with a DisplayPort 1.2 cable and compatible monitor, however, we only have a few pieces of original content worth watching to fully appreciate; since you definitely won’t be playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt at a full quad 4096×2160 picture.
In terms of efficiency and temperature the R7 360 typically runs on the warmer side with heavier power consumption to match, which is no surprise since much of the architecture is reused from before. The fan will kick in more often with a peak temperature of 73 degrees and 178W of maximum power (80W at idle), the takeaway is that some additional noise and dissipated heat is normal.
However, despite all the reutilizing and debatable lack of refinement; there’s one big advantage for AMD cards in general, and that’s value for money. The average $129.99 MSRP is the R7 360’s trump card (no pun intended), and you’ll be able to find this model well below that already affable price ($109.99 for our tester), this is something to think about as the GeForce GTX 950, which is Nvidia’s current entry-level card holds steady at an average $169.99.
Ultimately, the Radeon R7 360 competently delivers on the promise of 1080p PC gaming within reason. Yes, it’s a mainstream option aimed at rigorously inexpensive and/or first-time builders; but should serve well until people inevitably graduate to bigger and beefier GPUs.