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AMD Radeon R9 285 Review: Tonga and GCN Update 3.0

On paper, the new Tonga-based R9 285 looks to be slightly slower than the R9 280 it is intended to replace, but there's more than meets the eye.

Titanfall and Battlefield 4 Results

We'll begin our game benchmarks with Titanfall. We aren't able to test this game with FRAPS, as the only way to get consistent results is to use a private match that requires EA Origin's overlay, which is incompatible with this frame-rate measuring tool. Nevertheless, we found a particularly demanding part of the Demeter map and use it to provide a rudimentary performance measure:

Titanfall's Source engine appears to work well with the Tonga GPU's special sauce, allowing it to improve slightly over Radeon R9 280 performance and approach the GeForce GTX 770.

Next up, Battlefield 4. We're able to include detailed benchmarks for this game using both DirectX and AMD's Mantle graphics API. We know that Mantle only plays nice with 3GB of onboard memory or more, so let's see how the 2GB Radeon R9 285 handles it: 

When using the DirectX code path the Radeon R9 285 is slightly bested by the Radeon R9 280, but with Mantle enabled the 2GB cards suffer a performance penalty while the 3GB options show a slight improvement. Indeed, when it comes to Battlefield 4, Mantle is a memory-hungry beast.

Let's now consider frame time variance. Battlefield 4 is a well-coded engine that doesn't show any weaknesses in this respect. Having said that, there are other sources of lag. While these results don't reveal it, the Mantle code-path definitely demonstrates notable skips in monitor output, especially on the Radeon R9 270X and 285.