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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.

Synthetic Benchmark Results

We'll begin our analysis with a couple of synthetic benchmarks, starting with 3DMark Firestrike:

We don't believe that the newest iteration of 3DMark is an ideal measure for comparing GPU architectures, but it does give us a useful  glimpse into the Radeon product stack. Despite the slightly lower core clock and memory bandwidth compared to the Radeon R9 280, we see the Radeon R9 285 perform faster than its predecessor and land right between the Radeon R9 280 and 280X. Indeed, the improvements that AMD has made to the Tonga GPU have a substantial impact here.

Now let's see if Tonga's strengths will manifest in a GPGPU processing scenario. We took Sandra 2014 SP3's GPGPU cryptography benchmark for a spin: 

The Radeon R9 285's lossless color compression can't help it here, and the new card's performance reflects its slightly lower core clock rate when it comes to GPGPU processing. Having said that, performance per watt have increased as we'll see in the power test results later on. Now let's move on to the game performance benchmarks.