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Sapphire Radeon R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC Video Card Review

Sapphire Radeon R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC Video Card Review

Floating under the radar, AMD released the Radeon R9 280 (non-X) 3GB to the world. Let's see what Sapphire is offering and if it's worth buying or not.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Apr 3 2014 9:05 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 60%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Sapphire R9 280X Dual-X 3GB OC

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AMD recently launched a new model that has been for most part floating under the radar. The R9 280 (non-X) 3GB, as you'd expect, falls between the R9 270X and its bigger brother, the R9 280X 3GB. The model isn't a huge release for AMD, which is obvious by the fact that little promotion is being seen for the card. The only sample we've received utilizing the new model is the one we're looking at today.

It came as no surprise that Sapphire was the first company to sample the model. Being an AMD-only partner means they want to promote as many AMD products as possible. The R9 280 3GB we're looking at today is part of the newer Dual-X series, which tells us that the card will carry with it a dual-fan setup.

Apart from that and the amount of memory the new model is wielding, we don't know too much else. To date, AMD has done a pretty good job with the launch of the R series video cards. Today, we're going to find out if AMD can keep that trend going with its new R9 280 3GB.

The first thing we need to do, though, is take a closer look at the card itself, so let's leave it at that and move forward to see just what Sapphire is bringing to the table with the new R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Taking a look at the front of the box, you don't see anything too out of the ordinary when it comes to the overall design. We've got a nice purple and black color scheme going on, and you can see the main features are mentioned here along with the model in the top right corner, which is the Dual-X R9 280 3GB. Across the bottom, you can see we're dealing with an Overclock version of the card.

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Turning the box over, you can see we've got a bit of a blurb on the left side about the new Dual-X cooler. On the right side, you can see an expansion on some of the main features, including the 3GB of GDDR5, Dual-X cooler, and support from Sapphire's TriXX overclocking software.

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As we move inside the package, you can see it's all a very standard affair. There's a piece on Sapphire Select club alongside a quick install guide and Driver CD. You can see we've got a Sapphire case sticker, CrossFire bridge, and two Molex-to-6-Pin PCIe power convertors. You can also see the bundle is finished off with the standard HDMI cable that Sapphire includes in so many of their mid-range and up bundles.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the Sapphire R9 280X Dual-X 3GB OC Video Card

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Pulling the card out of the box and getting our first look, you can see that the overall design isn't too unfamiliar to us. You can see we've got the two fans in the middle of the card with a massive heat sink sitting behind them.

Across the bottom, you can see a number of copper heat pipes coming out the bottom. This isn't the first time we've seen the cooler; we recently saw it on the R9 270 from Sapphire as well. It did a good job on that card, and we're hoping it continues to perform well on the higher up GPU.

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Taking the time to look around the card, you can see that power comes in the form of two 6-Pin PCIe power connectors. This is slightly down from the R9 280X 3GB, which also uses two power connectors but instead opts for a single 6-Pin and single 8-Pin PCIe power connector to get up and running.

Heading to the front of the card, you can see we've got our two CrossFire connectors in the event that you want to run more than two of these cards together. Across here, you can also see a switch that lets us switch between two BIOSes that are installed. For the most part, you'll probably find yourself not needing to use it.

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Finishing our look at the card, we head to the I/O panel. Here we've got two Dual-Link DVI connectors, one a DVI-D and one a DVI-I. You can also see an HDMI 1.2 connector and a DisplayPort connector to round things off. You can also see in the corner that we've got some vents to let the hot air escape out the back of the case.

Specifications

If you're familiar with the HD 7950 3GB that was released in 2012, then you'll find yourself fairly comfortable with the new R9 280 3GB. It sports 1,792 Shader cores along with 3GB of GDDR5 on a 384-bit bus; this means that we're dealing with a rebranded HD 7950 3GB.

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For the core, Sapphire has bought that in at 940MHz via Boost. The 3GB of GDDR5 carries with it a clock of 5,000MHz QDR. Just because the model is a rebadge, though, it doesn't make it any less important.

If the performance sits well against the current crop of cards and fills a gap in both performance and price, then the model can be successful. So saying that, let's check out the test system and see just exactly what we're dealing with.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

As we've just finished mentioning, the new R9 280 3GB from AMD is a rebadged version of the much loved HD 7950 3GB that we saw launched in 2012 along with a bit of a speed bump.

The main comparisons we have here today against the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC is the reference AMD R9 270X 2GB, which sits directly below it, and the XFX R9 280X 3GB Double D Black Edition OC, which sits directly above it.

Along with these two cards, which are the main ones we're going to be looking at today, we've also got the reference R9 290 4GB to round off the AMD side of things. For good measure, we've also included the reference GTX 770 2GB from NVIDIA.

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS that we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better, and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it, you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious, and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason, we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer, more intensive games with benchmarks come to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - 3DMark

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, you can see that we've got a slight increase when compared to the reference R9 270X 2GB. As for being between it and the R9 280X 3GB, you can see we lean more towards the lower-end R9 270X 2GB than the higher-end R9 280X 3GB.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Getting into Fire Strike, you can see the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC really sits well between the two models either side of it. What we really want to know, though, is how it performs in some of our games, which we'll take a look at in just a moment.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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When it comes to Heaven performance, you can see that the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC brings with it only a slight increase over the R9 270X 2GB. We're hoping when we get into some our games that performance on the new model isn't so lopsided.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Looking above, you can see that PSO 2 performance is quite disappointing with the card falling just below the R9 270X 2GB, which actually sits below it.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Lost Planet 2 sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC perform slightly above the R9 270X 2GB. At the lower resolutions, we see some great performance. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, you can see we fall short of that 60 FPS average we're on the hunt for. The R9 280X 3GB, on the other hand, has no problem getting it.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Just Cause 2 numbers, while strong across the board giving us playable FPS at all resolutions, sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC fall actually slightly behind its younger brother, the R9 270X 2GB, at the higher resolutions. Only at the lower resolution is it able to come out ahead.

Benchmarks - F1 2012 & Metro Last Light

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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F1 2012 numbers are good; you can see that the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC manages to sit a bit ahead of its younger brother, the R9 280X 2GB. More importantly, though, we've got playable FPS at all resolutions.

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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While Metro Last Light sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC sit ahead of the R9 280X 2GB at all resolutions, you can see we fall short of that 60 FPS average we're on the hunt for at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown & Nexuiz

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Dirt Showdown sees a nice performance bump over the R9 270X 2GB at all resolutions. It's unfortunate that we don't quite have the performance we need at the highest resolutions, though; the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC manages to just fall slightly short of that 60 FPS average we're always-on the hunt for.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC sit only just behind its big brother. Overall, though, you can see that we just don't get the FPS we need at any resolution for the game to be playable.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2, like a couple of other games, sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC get a nice little performance boost over the reference R9 270 2GB. You can see again, though, that while we do see a nice bit of an increase, we do fall short of that 60 FPS number we want at the highest resolution.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs sees playable FPS at all resolutions, and at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050, you can see a slight performance increase over the R9 270X 2GB. At the highest resolutions, though, we drop back a few FPS. Considering we're just in the 60 FPS range, this isn't the kind of place we like to be losing FPS.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Hitman sees a little bit of positive movement across the board when comparing the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC against the reference R9 270X 2GB. We're not 100 percent happy with the 53 FPS average at the highest resolutions, but the strong 43 FPS minimum does help ease the pain a bit. Because of the strong minimum, we would say that this would be playable for the most part. We would, of course, prefer a couple of extra FPS on the average end, though.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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At 1680 x 1050, you can see the added performance from the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC helps make our game playable. While we're short of that 60 FPS average, like just mentioned above, the strong minimum FPS makes us feel comfortable with what we're dealing with here today.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC perform well over the R9 270X 2GB. At 1920 x 1200, though, you can see we fall just a few FPS short of that 60 FPS number we're always-on the hunt for.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Battlefield 4 numbers look great at both 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. While we do get a solid 31 FPS minimum at 2560 x 1600, the 50 FPS average is just too low for us to consider the game playable.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF Testing

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to unplayable FPS, and the real power houses continue to break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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While we see the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC is slightly faster than the R9 270X 2GB, the overall FPS are just way too low on all our setups here.

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Just Cause 2 sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC perform well at 1920 x 1200 when AA and AF is turned on. Unlike the R9 280X 3GB, though, it's not able to offer us playable FPS at the higher 2560 x 1600 resolution.

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Sleeping Dogs sees the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC struggle at both resolutions. You can see almost nothing between the two models here with just a few FPS being seen at 1920 x 1200 and the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC coming an FPS behind at the higher 2560 x 1600 option.

Temperature & Sound Testing

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run of 3DMark Vantage at the Performance preset.

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Looking at the temperature numbers, it comes as no surprise that the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC sits towards the bottom of the pack. Sapphire has always done a good job with cooling, and looking above, you can see this is no different.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that, we get a bit more serious and place the device two centimeters away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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The best thing is that the great temperature numbers aren't coming at the cost of huge noise levels. Looking above, you can see the numbers sit towards the bottom of the pack, which is exactly where you want to be in a test like this.

Power Consumption Testing

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01--or "Power Thingy" as it has quickly become known as to our readers--we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated video cards installed. Keep in mind that it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember, though. While our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more. We test at the exact same stage every time, so tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum--only an SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items will result in a higher draw.

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Power draw is pretty standard and sits in the middle of the pack with just a little over 400 watts being seen at load.

Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts

Coming in at around the $300 mark, the new Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB card is probably priced a bit too high when compared to the models that sit to either side of it. The Dual-X version of the Sapphire R9 270X 2GB comes in at around the low $200 level, while the R9 280X 3GB version of the model comes in around $30 to $40 more expensive.

I must admit that while sitting here, it's quite difficult to get excited about the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC. While that's being a bit specific, the honest truth is it's hard to just get excited about the R9 280 3GB from AMD. This is simply an HD 7950 3GB and that alone is not a bad thing. The HD 7950 3GB was a great card and in its day; it performed exceptionally well and always hit us at a great price point.

The R series of video cards from AMD, though, truly brings with it a great step forward in the next generation of video cards. The R9 280 3GB isn't part of that step forward. The release of this model makes us almost feel like AMD has tainted the line of fantastic video cards that make up the R Series.

While the price is in between the R9 270X 2GB and R9 280X 3GB, it's too heavily weighted to the latter side. Performance is in between the two models...at best. For the most part, we find it leaning more towards its cheaper R9 270X 2GB little brother with it even falling short sometimes due to the way the new R series of cards have improved the GPUs in some key technologies.

By no means is the Sapphire R9 280 Dual-X 3GB OC a bad card. The R9 280 3GB in the line of R series based cards we have at the moment, though, is a horrible inclusion. AMD has really done a fantastic job with the new R series of cards, but rebranding the HD 7950 3GB with the R label is an unfortunate misstep in what has been a tremendous line up of video cards.

Sapphire has done what they can do with the model. When it comes to the cooler, the numbers are great as we saw on the previous pages. While this is our first R9 280 3GB, and more than likely our last after this review, we're sure that if you wanted to buy this model, then the Sapphire version would be a clear stand out as they normally are.

The simple fact is that we just can't recommend this card. If you're on a HD 7900 series card, this is going to be a side step or down grade. If you can't afford the extra dollars that are associated with a Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Dual-X, then save your money and get the Dual-X version of the R9 270X 2GB from them.

By no fault of Sapphire's is this card a model we wouldn't recommend. AMD has really put companies in a tough position with this new model. It taints what is a fantastic line up of video cards. It's obvious why AMD and most of their partners aren't promoting this model. Let's hope for their sake that it's forgotten about as quickly as it was known.

PRICING: You can find the Sapphire R9 280 3GB Dual-X for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Sapphire R9 280 3GB Dual-X retails for $344.00 at Amazon.

Canada: The Sapphire R9 280 3GB Dual-X retails for CDN$567.72 at Amazon Canada.

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PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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