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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.

Asus Strix Radeon R9 285

AMD has not provided a reference design for the Radeon R9 285, leaving the manufacturers to put their own spin on the card. Our test sample is from Asus, marketed under their performance-oriented Strix line, and we'll be using it to provide game benchmark results.

Asus Strix Radeon R9 285
Dimensions276 mm (L) x 135 mm (H) x 40 mm (D)
Weight859 g
Form FactorDual Slot
PCIe2x 6-Pin
Connectors1x DVI-I (Dual Link, + analog)1x DVI-D (Dual Link)1x HDMI1x DisplayPort

Asus' Radeon R9 285 sports the company's trademark black highlighted with a dark red tribal art design. The PCB is 9" by 4.6", but the cooler shroud extends to 10.5", giving the impression of a larger, more serious piece of performance hardware. At 1 lb 14 oz, it doesn't feel as light as we'd expect it to from the size of the PCB, probably thanks to the metal backplate. Despite the plastic cooler shroud, the card feels very sturdy and well put together. 

Asus' card has a 954 MHz target GPU clock rate, 36 MHz faster than AMD's reference specification. The 2 GB of onboard graphics RAM running at a 1375 MHz GDDR5 memory clock is in line with AMD's guideline, though. We may see 4 GB models in the future, but these will likely be a rare exception rather than the rule.  

The aluminum heatsink features three large 10mm heatpipes and is cooled by two 95 mm low-profile fans. The card's 190 Watt TDP is satisfied by two six-pin PCIe power connectors. ASUS cuts a relief out of the PCB so that the power connector clips face the opposite direction of the heatsink, which makes for much easier removal.

Both connectors feature an LED that glows red when a power cord isn't attached, and blue when it is connected properly. These details might not sound important but it really leaves a positive impression.  Note the lack of Crossfire connector on the card, as the Radeon R9 285 does not need a bridge to operate in tandem.

Asus' new card comes with a DVI-I, DVI-D, full-sized DisplayPort, and full sized HDMI output.