Graphics Cards Guide
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Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC: The Windforce Treatment
Radeon R9 280X Gets the Windforce 3x Treatment
The Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC is the first Radeon R9 series card from Gigabyte to reach our test lab. Right out of the box, the card sports an overclocked AMD Radeon R9 280X GPU that is rated at 1050MHz - or at least that was how it debuted in retail.
However, at the time when we embarked on testing this card, we were advised by Gigabyte to update the BIOS of the card to a fresh firmware that was just made available. Following the update, the card took on a more aggressive performance profile. According to the GPU-Z utility, the R9 280X GPU has been overclocked to 1100MHz, an increment of 50MHz when compared to its previous specifications. To be sure, we checked that this free speed upgrade was applicable to all customers who've bought this card and indeed, the specs page on Gigabyte's product page is now updated. The graphics memory however is still operating at the default 6000MHz.
As a result, the Gigabyte card currently has one of the highest factory-overclocked R9 280X GPU in retail. The ASUS ROG Matrix R9 280X Platinum is however the fastest based on our experience, but that's a card built on the principles of being extreme (along with its asking price). Putting that aside, it's clocked faster than the ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP as well as the MSI R9 280X Gaming 3G. As such, we expect the Gigabyte card to perform as good or better than its similarly priced competitors. For its power delivery system, the card features an 8-phase design system; its GPU core is fed with 6 phases, and 1-phase each for the graphics memory modules and the phase-locked loop (PLL) of the card’s board respectively.
The rear of the card isn't protected and you can clearly see its blue printed circuit board (PCB). You will also notice the metal brackets that hold the aluminum fin-stack radiator. The fin-stack also house three 8mm copper pipes that draw heat away from the R9 280X GPU core.
Taking a leaf from its DualBIOS feature found on its motherboards, the card has two BIOSes; one is for back up purposes and the other contains the factory default settings for the card. In the photo below, the switch is at the factory default position.
As we have mentioned earlier, the R9 280X GPU core of the Gigabyte has one of the highest overclocks, so let us put it to the test to see how it stacks up against the rest!
These are the specifications of our graphics testbed:
- Intel Core i7-3960X (3.3GHz)
- ASUS P9X79 Pro (Intel X79 chipset) Motherboard
- 4 x 2GB DDR3-1600 G.Skill Ripjaws Memory
- Seagate 7200.10 200GB SATA hard drive (OS)
- Western Digital Caviar Black 7200 RPM 1TB SATA hard drive (Benchmarks + Games)
- Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Below is the list of cards we'll be testing. We rounded up the MSI R9 280X Gaming 3G and the ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP card for direct comparison. In addition, a number of add-on partner cards were used to represent reference ones, and they were downclocked to the clock speeds of their reference counterparts in order to gauge their performance with updated drivers. For the AMD Radeon HD 7970, the downclocked Sapphire Radeon HD 7970 OC 3GB GDDR5 was used. For the NVIDIA GeForce GTX cards, the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 770 Windforce 3X OC was downclocked to represent a reference GTX 770; while the MSI GeForce GTX 760 Twin Frozr IV OC was used to represent the GTX 760.
- Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC 3GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11)
- MSI R9 280X Gaming 3G 3GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11)
- ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP 3GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.11)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 2GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.40 Beta)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 2GB GDDR5 (ForceWare 331.40 Beta)
- AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition 3GB GDDR5 (AMD Catalyst 13.9)
Note 1: In temperature and power consumption comparisons, the results used were from the data gathered from the actual reference cards. Please refer to our reviews for the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 and GTX 760.
We have had assessed a couple of R9 280X cards earlier and have a grasp of the potential of the Radeon R9 280X; hence, we'll be using a much more truncated list of tests this time round for our assessment:-
- Futuremark 3DMark 2013
- Crysis 3
Primarily, we will be focusing on the overclocking upside, temperature performance and power consumption of the Gigabyte card. This will help us determine how the overclocked card will perform in the face of strong competition. For our temperature and power consumption tests, 3DMark 2011 was used.
Given the card's specifications, the ASUS ROG Matrix R9 280X Platinum is the ideal competitor, but because it's priced way out (close to $S700) of the normal price bracket of a Radeon R9 280X graphics card (which about about S$500), we opted to not compare with it directly in our benchmark graphs. Even so, we know you'll be curious so we'll still be making cursory comparisons across all cards we've personally tested.
Here's a look at how the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC stacks up against the competing cards:
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