Graphics cards are marvellous things, especially for gaming but they serve more than one purpose. With HD video, Blu-Ray and consumers running multi monitor setups but not actually gaming, do you have to spend £400+ just to get by? Is there a card on the market that slots both into the budget and gaming category? That is what I intend to find out. ASUS have been at the forefront of components for over 2 decades and certainly doesn’t look like that is going to change for years to come. Specialising in motherboards, graphics cards and all things performance, how will one of their latest budget GPUs fare against todays latest games?
Not every gamer has the budget to run ultra settings @ 1440p or even the latest 4k resolutions, but with that being said, how would a sub £100 card deal with games like Company of Heroes 2, F1 2012 and Tomb Raider? Only one way to find out!
Today I will be taking a look at the brand new ASUS R7 250 graphics card which features 1GB of GDDR5 memory, a solid 1050MHz on the core and is small enough to fit into most HTPC builds. Is this a good budget option for gamers or does its purpose lie elsewhere? Let’s find out starting with the specifications…
- Graphics Engine
AMD Radeon R7 250
- Bus Standard
PCI Express 3.0
- Video Memory
- Engine Clock
GPU Boost Clock : 1050 MHz
GPU Base Clock : 1000 MHz
- Memory Clock
1150 MHz ( 4600 MHz GDDR5 )
- Memory Interface
DVI Max Resolution : 1920×1200
D-Sub Output : Yes x 1
DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-D)
HDMI Output : Yes x 1
HDCP Support : Yes
- Power Consumption
up to 75Wno additional PCIe power required
ASUS GPU Tweak & Driver
- ASUS Features
Super Alloy Power
16 x 11.1 x3.4 Centimeter
•Specifications are subject to change without notice.
•PCB color and bundled software versions are change without notice.
•Brand and product names mentioned are trademarks of their respective company.
On the front of the box, we have a really nice and funky design which is pretty common of ASUS. The main colour scheme is black, with different accents and an image of what looks like Predator has just clawed some wet concrete. In regards to information, the make, model and some of the features which include Windows 8.1 support, 1GB GDDR5 memory and DX11.2 support which goes hand in hand with Windows 8.1. There is plenty of information on the front of the box which is always good for a retail environment.
Over on the rear, we have a small illustration of the graphics card itself and a list of the I/O which has 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI and 1 x DVI. It also goes into detail on the different features such as the ever popular ASUS GPU Tweak which allows users to overclock and the enhanced cooling capabilities of the card itself. The design of the rear follows that of the front and remains black throughout.
Bundled with the ASUS R7 250 graphics card is little to be desired, only an instruction leaflet and no addition adapters but given that the 3 main inputs have been accommodated for and that it isn’t a high performance GPU, it can be forgiven for the lack of accessories.
Taking an overall look at the ASUS R7 250 graphics card, as you can clearly see, the PCB is all red which does look rather nice combined with the cooler ASUS have packed onto the R7 250. The card itself is very small and would be perfect for an ITX build or for a HTPC. The card itself is only 6.5” long making it just over half the length of a 290x. The cooler in my opinion resembles the ASUS DirectCUII cooler but obviously a smaller less powerful version.
On the rear, we have a better look at the vibrant red PCB. Also just to the left is the 4 screws which keep the cooler securely onto the card. As you can also see, the ASUS R7 250 is passively powered from the PCI-E lane and shouldn’t be too power hungry.
Taking a different look at the cooler, it has been designed to be dust proof, effectively eliminating the need for cleaning and should provide better thermal performance over the months/years (however long you plan to use it). ASUS also claim to have increased the lifespan of the graphics card by using this particular cooler, the figure they claim is 25% but it would be near impossible for me to test.
The cooler seems to be pretty high spec for the GPU, which is passively powered and with ASUS having impeccable cooling performance on the majority of their cards, it will be interesting to see if it is the same with the R7 250. You can also see the capacitors the R7 250 is using; there isn’t many but definitely plenty for a card of this spec.
In terms of the I/O, there are the following connections:
1 x VGA input
1 x HDMI input
1 x DVI input
The ASUS R7 250 has support for a resolution up to 1920×1200 which is the maximum it can support. Obviously for gaming, it leaves little to the imagination that at a 1080p resolution, it won’t be the best card on the market for games but it is my task to find out just how far it can go and how well it can perform.
Overall, the build quality of the card and the design is quite nice and although a full red PCB might not be to everyone’s taste, I struggle to imagine that this type of card would be in any kind of show build and given that, I really do like the look of it; it looks dinky and powerful for what it is!
Overclocking the ASUS R7 250 graphics card was a breeze with the ASUS GPU Tweak software and I was able to achieve the maximum overclock on this card via the software which was 1100/1300MHz on the core. Although not much headroom was available, it is powered solely by the PCI-E lane and I actually think the overclock is quite impressive for a card like this.
With a set voltage of 1.2v and not adjustable, there is plenty of breathing space and I am sure someone wanting to further overclock this can volt mod and tweak with other overclocking software but for now, all I can really say is that the R7 250 is at its safe maximum overclock judging by the limits set in GPU Tweak.
Now that I have thrown some of the latest games at the ASUS R7 250 graphics card, testing its thermal performance all the way to overclocking it, how did it perform per say? Is it a true budget gamer’s card or is it only suitable for a HTPC? Let’s get cracking…
Starting off with the performance, this card is a mixed bag of results and although this card would be literally perfect for a budget gamer, I am tempted to think you could currently get better for your money. Performance in the synthetic benchmarks was rather good for a card of this calibre and I applaud it for that, but for gaming at 1080p, you need to be aware that the best case scenario is going to be low-medium settings in games. Having scored pretty decently in some games like F1 2012, other more GPU intensive games such as Tomb Raider are only getting around 33fps on average and take into consideration that this card is passively powered, it is a pretty good result considering. Overall the performance is as expected, gamers who game casually and don’t want all the bells and whistles of MSAA etc will be relatively pleased.
In the aesthetics department, it looks pretty damned good and as I previously mentioned, the red PCB might not be your thing but I think it works in collaboration with the cooler. The cooler also performs very well given and powers nicely from the PCI-E lane along with the card itself. Overall the look is good, build quality is excellent and follows in with the majority of graphics cards and components from ASUS themselves.
Price wise, it comes in at around £84 depending on your retailer of choice but I really don’t think this card represents good value for money considering there are other options available. For other things like a HTPC with the ability to do light gaming at mediocre settings, this card would be ideal but I really do believe the card should be a little cheaper, probably around £70-75 would be the preferred price point in my opinion. It is between a rock and a hard price at this price point as for around £10 more; you could get a better performing GPU for gaming but pay £40 less and get around the same levels of performance when watching movies etc. There is room for price drops and I hope to see AMD implementing them soon as it is a new card and you will always pay a premium for new technology etc.
Features wise, it is Windows 8.1 compatible as well as DX11.2 compatible and these 2 features go hand in hand. In my opinion though it really doesn’t equate to being that good to be a selling point as if you look at the latest Battlefield 4 game, this supports DX11.2 and I really wouldn’t recommend trying to run this game on this card; it will run but if you want playable frame rates, the choice is yours!
Overall the ASUS R7 250 graphics card fills the gap in the market that the previous 7770 filled and is a viable option for gamers on a budget. With that being said, if you want good gaming performance at anything other than medium then I’m afraid you will need to up your budget a little and consider the R7 260x or 270x.
Thanks to AMD and ASUS for the sample and I look forward to seeing more in the near future.
The ASUS R7 250 is a solid card for any light gamer or for someone looking to play HD movies via their PC/HTPC. The ASUS model is as good as they come and the addition of a brilliant cooler, excellent thermal performance and powerful enough to play some pretty good games, the ASUS R7 250 is a good budget card, albeit with other alternatives on the market at the same price point.
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