As the "new" AMD Radeon R9 280X cards are based on the Radeon HD 7970 manufacturers were able to release their own models into the market straight off the mark. We received several models of the 280X cards over the last few months, so it is time to compare models from ASUS, MSI, Sapphire and XFX in an extensive test.
AMD released new graphics cards in October and November at a very high pace. The new high end models Radeon R9 290X and 290 took their time to come to the market in custom versions, but as the 280X is basically a rebranded Radeon HD 7970 most manufacturers already had custom versions on the market. This meant that custom 280X cards came out almost at the same time as the cards were introduced. The cards we review in this test therefore have been on the market for quite some time already.
Radeon R9 280X
As we stated earlier the Radeon R9 280X, we reviewed it when it was released, is based on AMD's previous high end model, the Radeon HD 7970. The card uses the Tahiti GPU with 2048 enabled shader units, and runs at a maximum 1000 MHz GPU speed and 1500MHz memory speed. 280X cards sport 3GB of GDDR5 memory connected to the GPU through a 384 bit bus. The cards support DirectX 11.2 and as the GPU uses the Graphics Core Next architecture it also support AMD's own Mantle API.
The most interesting aspect of the new R9 280X has got to be its pricing, a few months ago the Radeon HD7970 would put you back at least £ 320, but if you look around and keep your eye on special offers the 280X can be found for as little as £ 260
The question is what do you get when purchasing a 280X? From our extensive reviews we have done earlier we could conclude that all current games, with the odd exception, can be run at full HD with maximum settings and 4x AA enabled. Even gaming at 2560 x 1440 is more than adequate, although in some cases you will have to take the graphics setting down a notch to keep it playable. When looking at cards offered by the competition the 280X can be compared to the nVidia GTX770 (click here for a comparison). When the 280X was introduced the price difference was heavily in favor of the AMD cards, causing nVidia to lower their recommended price by $ 70. The price difference has become even less recently, but the AMD cards are still slightly cheaper even now.
This does make the choice a bit more tricky, AMD 's Mantle does give the 280X an edge however nVidia does have features like G-Sync and Shadowplay.