Futuremark's DirectX 11 based 3DMark 2013 benchmark will put the cards through their paces with its Fire Strike and Fire Strike Extreme tests. They consist of extreme levels of tessellation and volumetric illumination, as well as complex smoke simulation using compute shaders and dynamic particle illumination.
As expected, the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC card pulled ahead of the rest. It managed to beat its closest competitor, the ASUS Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP 3GB GDDR5 by less than 1%, with a ribbon-thin margin that range from 0.4- to 0.7%. Against the reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770, its winning margin was widened to the range of between 8- to 9%. This is in line with our expectations as the Gigabyte card has its GPU core boosted to 1100MHz after its BIOS update. When compared to our reference AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz card, the Gigabyte card pulled ahead by almost 6%.
What it if we compared the Gigabyte card with the fastest available in the market? The ASUS ROG Matrix R9 280X Platinum managed slightly better figures at 7790 and 3885 points respectively for the Fire Strike tests. This translates to the ASUS ROG card being 1.5% speedier than the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC.
Next, we tested the cards with the Crysis game title, to ascertain their performance level while handling the CryEngine 3 of the game title.
The GeForce GTX 770 turned in the best overall performance. However, at the highest settings for this test; with anti-aliasing turned on, and the resolution set at 2560 x 1600 pixels, the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP card was actually on par with the GTX 770! The Gigabyte card turned in a score of 14.9fps, only barely beating the reference Radeon HD 7970 GHz edition card. The ASUS ROG R9 280X Platinum is still the best performing card with a score of 15.7fps!
The Gigabyte card ran the hottest at 69 degrees Celsius. This is in line with our expectations as the card features an overclocked and overvolted GPU core. Surprisingly, the ASUS ROG R9 280X Platinum actually fares much better in comparison since it's clocked even higher.
Not surprisingly, for the same reasons behind its high operating temperature, the Gigabyte card had a very high power draw of 424W during our tests. This time round, the higher clocked ASUS ROG R9 280X Platinum raked in the highest power consumption of any Radeon R9 280X graphics card we've tested to-date - 483W at load and 162W at idle.
During our overclocking exercise, we noticed that the GPU core of the Gigabyte R9 280X card was already overvolted, at roughly 1,240mV. As a result, we didn't attempt to increase it any further. This happens to be the same voltage level that we had used in past overclocking exercises of the other R9 280X cards. This confirms our earlier speculation that the new BIOS will push the card to perform at a higher level.
The overclocking headroom of the Gigabyte card was limited. We managed to increase the clock speed of the card's GPU core to 1154MHz, an increment of about 5% from its 1100MHz baseline value. For its memory modules, we managed to overclock them to an operating frequency of 6680MHz. Any attempts to push either higher resulted in the software crashes.
Unsurprisingly, the performance of the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X wasn't impressive due to its limited overclocking potential as opposed to its competitors. Against the higher overclocked MSI R9 280X Gaming 3G, the MSI card lead by a margin of 7.7- to nearly 8%. Against the ASUS card, Gigabyte card's fell behind about 5.5- to 6%. Needless to say, it was a fair bit behind the ASUS ROG R9 280X Platinum as well.
On a side note, the three fans operated without excessive noise when we ramped them up to operate at 100% (this is what we usually do to ensure there's nothing holding back our overclocking tests). In doing so, we noticed that they had the lowest operational noise levels when compared to the other cards we've tested. Unfortunately, this could also be a contributing reason to the card's higher operating temperature at stock speeds out of the box; consequently, the higher temperatures might also somewhat hamper extreme overclocking.
We had expected the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X Windforce 3X OC card to have shown a stronger performance due to its overclocked graphics core out of the box.. In terms of raw clock speed, it was on par with the premier ASUS ROG R9 280X Platinum; however, the video memory modules of the ASUS card were overclocked while Gigabyte's memory was left to operate at reference clock speeds. Against its R9 280X peers that are in the same price range, the Gigabyte's core had the highest clock speed of 1100MHz. This helped it pull away from the pack slightly in our 3DMark benchmarks, but when it came to an actual game test, the card lagged behind on most occasions. It was also handily outclassed by the competition when it came to overclocking potential.
One of the main strengths of the card is its attractive price point of S$449. The card is also backed by a three-year limited warranty from CDL Trading, Gigabyte's local authorized distributor. For the first year, the card is covered by a one-to-one exchange policy, in the event of any unfortunate manufacturing defects.
In addition, the card has two sets of BIOSes that will make it appeal to power users and system tweakers to toggle between performance modes. For example, when we updated the BIOS of the card, we kept one, the backup BIOS, at its factory defaults. As such, we were able to toggle between BIOSes to vary the performance of the card. The card is also bundled with a utility, OC Guru II, which will allow power users to tweak the card's settings with more finesse. The utility supports both GPU and memory overvolting. The usual useful features include monitoring of the card's vitals with display graphs, and the ability to save the card's settings into profiles for easy retrieval.
Due to the factory overclocked state of the card, during our tests, it posted the highest operating temperature and power consumption levels. As a whole, the Gigabyte Radeon R9 280X is a decent catch for its attractive price point, but as we've tested, there are better options for just a little more. If you're able to overlook it shortcomings, the Gigabyte card will make a choice graphics purchase for a mainstream gamer looking to stretch his budget for a R9 280X-based gaming rig.
Do keep in mind that these cards are recommended for gamers who don't mind playing demanding PC game titles, with certain visual features lowered or turned off. For another point of consideration, those using monitors with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (Full HD), the Radeon R9 280X has more than enough power to meet all your needs. If you plan on driving a higher resolution monitor, you might want to consider a more powerful GPU like the Radeon R9 290X or the GeForce GTX 780 series for a a no-compromise gaming solution.