Sapphire's Dual-X R9 280 OC Graphics Card Review

We take a look at the value proposition offered by Sapphire's Dual-X R9 280 and consider it's performance compared to its competitor, the GeForce GTX 760, and its predecessor, the Radeon HD 7950 Boost.

AMD just announced its Radeon R9 285. Based on specifications, this upcoming graphics card has raw performance similar to the Radeon R9 280 it is likely to replace, at the same $250 price point. But before the R9 285 arrives, we'd like to take stock of where the Radeon R9 280 sits in the current scheme of things, and specifically what Sapphire's Dual-X OC brings to the table.

AMD has a rich history of iterating its Tahiti GPU in the 1792-shader configuration, from the 800 MHz Radeon HD 7950 to the 933 MHz (peak) Radeon R9 280. Of course, all of those cards use 1250 MHz (5 GT/s effective) GDDR5 memory. The upcoming Radeon R9 285 marks the first bump in memory clock for this class of AMD card at 1375 MHz (5.5 GT/s effective, the same as the Radeon HD 7970), but this is more than offset by a thinner 256-bit memory interface, and its maximum GPU boost clock rate drops slightly to 918 MHz.

With a 940 MHz peak frequency, Sapphire's Dual-X R9 280 OC has the highest GPU clock rate of any of these options, although it beats the reference Radeon R9 280 by a mere 7 MHz. That doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind that the real-world clock rate is limited by temperature. Sapphire's real strength isn't the overclock; what matters is whether or not the Dual-X cooler has the ability to control the thermal ceiling in order to keep the GPU running at the highest possible frequency for as long as possible.

Sapphire's Dual-X R9 280 OC sports the unique Dual-X cooler with a black-on-gray theme, attached to the company's namesake-colored PCB. That board measures 10.25" x 3.89" and weighs 1 lb 10 oz, making it slightly smaller and significantly lighter than AMD's reference Radeon HD 7950 Boost card at 10.5" x 3.89" and 2 lbs.

This particular product's graphics processor is rated for 850 MHz base, with a boost state of 940 MHz, and 1250 MHz GDDR5 memory. The amount of memory used on Tahiti-based boards is at least generous 3 GB, and the Dual-X is no exception.

The aluminum heatsink features four beefy 8 mm copper pipes, cooled by two 85 mm low-profile fans. The card's 250 W TDP requires two six-pin auxiliary power connectors.

Note the two CrossFire connectors on the right, allowing as many as four cards to render cooperatively. A Dual BIOS switch allows the user to select either legacy or UEFI compatibility modes. As an added bonus, it also provides a measure of safety for those who like to tweak their cards with a ROM flash.

The Dual-X R9 280 is equipped with a DVI-I, DVI-D, full-sized DisplayPort, and full-sized HDMI output.

The package includes a CrossFire bridge, a six-foot HDMI cable, two Molex-to-six-pin PCIe power adapters, manual, registration card, driver CD, and case sticker.

Now that we're familiar with the product, let's see how it performs.

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  • Why no noise measurements ?
    7
  • ill wait for tonga
    1
  • Quote:
    Why no noise measurements ?

    The one thing I was really interested to see
    6
  • This... as a newer, faster and more power efficient R9 285 comes out?
    What are the board partners thinking?
    0
  • They got the wrong memory bandwidth for the R9 280 and 7950 cards... it's 384-bit.

    Which is why I'm worried that the 285 won't be able to keep up. Particularly at higher resolutions.

    [Response by Cleeve:

    Doh! Fixed. :) [/Response]
    1
  • Wow mantle gives Intel 6 cores relevance in games. Wonder if AMD will design a 16 core now for the AM3? Cant wait to see mantle on Intels new 8 core CPU's.
    1
  • Am I the only one who finds it unfair to bench an Overclocked card and put it against a reference model?
    0
  • The mantle 4770 test for thief was -.1 min fps and only 1fps average increase. Clearly on the 6 core its getting more in both min fps and average.
    1
  • The battlefield 4 mantle test lost performance with the 4770 on 1080.
    1
  • 550730 said:
    Am I the only one who finds it unfair to bench an Overclocked card and put it against a reference model?


    This is a Sapphire Dual-X review, not a reference 280 launch.

    The Sapphire Dual-X R9 280 comes overclocked from the factory.
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  • 749236 said:
    This... as a newer, faster and more power efficient R9 285 comes out? What are the board partners thinking?


    This is simply a last look at the 280, relevant from the perspective that these will probably be discounted on the market for a little while.

    As far as performance, we don't believe the 285 will be much faster (possibly even slower), based on specifications.
    2
  • I agree with Shneiky. The small margins by which the 280 edges out it's win could easily be explained away by the fact that it's an aftermarket card vs reference cards.
    -1
  • What I mean is - this is OC 280 vs Stock 760. If you get a OC model of a 760 from Asus, EVGA or Gygabyte or whatever - the margin between 280 and 760 will shrink, turning it into a battle of power an acoustics, since you can get custom 280 and custom 760 for comparably the same price.

    P.S Just made a check. In most big on-line retailers in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, the SAPPHIRE DUAL-X R9 280 3GB GDDR5 OC w. Boost cards are actually more expensive than OCed 760s.

    SAPPHIRE DUAL-X R9 280 3GB GDDR5 OC - 270 EUR

    ASUS R9280-DC2T-3GD5 - 245 EUR and it is clocked 40 Mhz higher

    GIGABYTE GV-N760OC-2GD - 230 EUR and it is clocked 100 Mhz and 120 Mhz more with Boost compared to reference model. That is more than 10% over-clock and it is enough to surpass the OCed 280.
    3
  • Quote:
    What I mean is - this is OC 280 vs Stock 760. If you get a OC model of a 760 from Asus, EVGA or Gygabyte or whatever - the margin between 280 and 760 will shrink, turning it into a battle of power an acoustics, since you can get custom 280 and custom 760 for comparably the same price. P.S Just made a check. In most big on-line retailers in Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, the SAPPHIRE DUAL-X R9 280 3GB GDDR5 OC w. Boost cards are actually more expensive than OCed 760s. SAPPHIRE DUAL-X R9 280 3GB GDDR5 OC - 270 EUR ASUS R9280-DC2T-3GD5 - 245 EUR and it is clocked 40 Mhz higher GIGABYTE GV-N760OC-2GD - 230 EUR and it is clocked 100 Mhz and 120 Mhz more with Boost compared to reference model. That is more than 10% over-clock and it is enough to surpass the OCed 280.


    I agree that the 760 reference was a little misleading along with not including the power and temperature measures from the 760 as well.
    0
  • 1063134 said:
    I agree with Shneiky. The small margins by which the 280 edges out it's win could easily be explained away by the fact that it's an aftermarket card vs reference cards.


    You can't buy a reference card on Newegg anymore. All the Radeon R9 280's come with custom coolers.

    There are still a lot of 760's with reference coolers available, however.

    Nevertheless, you guys are probably picking nits and missing the point. The margin of win/lose is so close that it's irrelevant, as I point out in the conclusion page. A random sample of different benchmarked games might show 760 strengths better than the newest titles that we chose for relevancy.

    The point is, they're so close it's almost irrelevant which you choose. Pick based on price and your preferred features, or your prevelance for Radeons or GeForces.

    As far as power/noise measurements, we'll be digging into that much deeper in an upcoming Radeon review. ;)
    0
  • Quote:
    ill wait for tonga


    I'm curious. Why? There seems to be no advantage to the R9-285 at all except lower draw power. That's it. Who cares about a higher clock on the memory when its gimped by a 256 bit memory bus. Do the numbers.

    You can see 176 GB/s memory bandwidth vs 240 from the Tahiti. Both have the same exact number of shader cores and Tahiti also has a slightly higher base clock. Seems to me that Tonga at the same price point has no benefit whatsoever. Don't understand this card.
    0
  • Quote:
    You can't buy a reference card on Newegg anymore. All the Radeon R9 280's come with custom coolers. There are still a lot of 760's with reference coolers available, however. Nevertheless, you guys are probably picking nits and missing the point. The margin of win/lose is so close that it's irrelevant, as I point out in the conclusion page. A random sample of different benchmarked games might show 760 strengths better than the newest titles that we chose for relevancy. The point is, they're so close it's almost irrelevant which you choose. Pick based on price and your preferred features, or your prevelance for Radeons or GeForces. As far as power/noise measurements, we'll be digging into that much deeper in an upcoming Radeon review. ;)


    I understand and acknowledge that. The point I was making is that you ( perhaps inadvertently ) put this 7950 Boost rebrand in the best possible light by using an aftermarket cooled and OC'd version against the stock clocked and cooled competition. But since there are no reference models of the card available , that may have been AMD's aim - to put this rebrand in the best case scenario. But you the reviewers should try and level the playing field.

    Honestly it's not a big deal. I understand where you're coming from , it's just my opinion is all :D
    0
  • 1063134 said:
    Honestly it's not a big deal. I understand where you're coming from , it's just my opinion is all :D


    I hear you, man.

    Like I said, we've got a thorough comparison coming in the near future with more details. This was more of a goodbye to the 280, really, which i believe will be a better option than the 285 unless you *REALLY* want to save power.
    0
  • 21257 said:
    As far as power/noise measurements, we'll be digging into that much deeper in an upcoming Radeon review. ;)


    That's what I am talking about. To me efficiency is nearly as important as performance assuming a near equal price and close performance. Even 10% less performance at 60 FPS is only 54 FPS something I can't really notice without fraps on.

    I would like to see how the new cards are stacking up to the GTX 7 series though. Since the GTX 760's have seemed to have not fallen in price I might think about selling mine off to get something new.
    1
  • you guys can wait and I will enjoy my fully under warranty msi twin frzrs i picked up off of ebay for $125 a piece.

    btw i already sent one into MSI and within 10 days it came back fully repaired. my daughter (autistic) opened up my rig and dumped juice on the GPU and MSI still replaced it without conflict or headache (I did clean with 99% alcohol). they have just earned my money for future purchases
    0