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PowerColor TurboDuo Radeon R9 280 3GB OC CrossFire Video Card Review

PowerColor TurboDuo Radeon R9 280 3GB OC CrossFire Video Card Review

We are working our way through some AMD Radeon R9 280 video cards that AMD sent us. Today Shawn checks out the PowerColor version in CrossFire mode.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Wed, Aug 20 2014 8:40 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: PowerColor

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC

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VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

Last month, AMD sent us over three R9 280 3GB video cards to look at. We had looked at the model before, and chose to pretty much ignore it after our initial review due to some terrible pricing on the model. AMD's decision to drop the price quite aggressively meant that the company wanted to see another push on the model.

Having had a second look at the model, with the new pricing structure we find ourselves a lot more impressed with how the card sits on the market. When we initially looked at the card, it was never a bad product; it offered some great performance, and the Sapphire version we looked at had a nice cooler and bundle. What had ultimately let it down, though, was the high price point that AMD set for the card.

With the high price point gone, the model looks a whole lot more attractive to us. With the new price point, a pair can now be had for under $500. This now puts the price point of the R9 280 3GB lower than a single R9 290X 4GB. So, with that in mind: What happens when we put a pair of these better priced cards together?

Well, there's only one way to find out. With two overclocked R9 280 3GB cards installed in our system, today we'll see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of this setup. As always, though, there's a few things we need to do before we find out just how strong performance is. So, let's get started with the bundle, and move from there to see just what PowerColor is offering us today with the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Looking at the front of the box, you can see the TurboDuo labeling stands out in the middle of the box. Across the top, we can see the PowerColor logo. Just to the right of the logo, you can see this model is overclocked. Moving south of the TurboDuo logo, you can see the R9 280 model, and below that we have some of the main features, which include 3GB GDDR5, Eyefinity, and 4K Support, to name some of the big ones.

Turning the box over, you can see the top half covers the system requirements, and some of the main AMD features that are supported. Across the bottom, though, you can see it's all about the TurboDuo cooling technology, and the gold power kit. When it comes to the gold power kit, we've got multiphase power design, direct FET, and a digital PWM setup. As for the cooler, the improved dual 90mm fan setup improves both noise levels and temperature readings.

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Moving into the bundle, you can see it's very bare, with not much going on at all. We've got the Quick Installation Guide sitting next to the Driver CD, and a single 8-pin to 6-pin PCIe power connector to round things off.

PRICING: You can find the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC 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 PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC retails for $268.83 at Amazon.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC

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Moving past the bundle, and on to the card itself, you can see that the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC is a good looking card with that black PCB, and the great looking black and red shroud with its two 90mm fans sitting in it. Behind that, we've got a massive heat sink that covers just about the entire card, along with a number of copper heat pipes to help keep the core as cool as possible. We'll find out just how well the cooler performs later on.

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Moving away from the front of the card, and taking a quick spin around it, you can see at the top rear we have our two power connectors in the form of a single 6-pin PCIe, and single 8-pin PCIe power connector. Staying across the top, but moving closer to the front, you can see we've got a dual BIOS switch, along with two CrossFire connectors that we'll be making use of today.

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We finish up our look at the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC today with the I/O side of things. Here we've got a Dual Link DVI-I connector, along with a HDMI port, and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. I love the fact that PowerColor has opted for two MiniDP ports, instead of just the single, larger DisplayPort. What's disappointing is that PowerColor hasn't chosen to include a MiniDP to DisplayPort connector in the bundle.

Specifications

As we mentioned on the first page, the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC is an overclocked model, as the name would suggest. Out of the box, the reference clocks on a R9 280 3GB are 933MHz on the core, and 5000MHz QDR on the 3GB of GDDR5 memory.

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Looking above, you can see that while PowerColor has chosen to not worry about increasing the memory clock, they have bumped the core clock slightly to 960MHz. Along with that, though, the other main piece of information we want to take away from here is that the setup is indeed running in CrossFire. If you look across the bottom, you can see that CrossFire is enabled via two GPUs, which is exactly what we want to see.

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.

We've got a bunch of video cards in our graphs today. Of course, we're starting off with the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC, which will be running in CrossFire today.

Along with that, we've got the other two R9 280 3GB cards we've looked at recently; the first is the GIGABYTE WINDFORCE 3GB version, and the other is the HIS IceQ X2 version, which we overclocked to 1170MHz on the core. Moving up from that, we take a look at the X version of the card, with the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC.

From the 280 versions, we move to the 290s. Here we've got the HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2. Moving up from there, we've got three R9 290X 4GB cards; including the reference R9 290X 4GB in "UBER Mode", the HIS IceQ X2 Turbo version running at 1100 / 5700 QDR, and finally, the Hybrid Cooled HIS version, which is running at 1160 / 6700 QDR.

Finally, we finish off with a pair of NVIDIA cards. The first is the reference GTX 770 2GB, and the second is the ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB OC. That's a bunch of setups, and we're really looking forward to seeing how this CrossFire setup performs with its price tag of under $500 .

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 which 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 Second (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 - This is the newest 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. For that reason, we have always just reevaluated 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 comes 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 quickly grow. 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, we can see straight away that the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup offers some good performance. Hopefully, when more load is placed on the card under some of our more intensive benchmarks, we will see the setup separate itself a bit more from the pack.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Looking at the performance of the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC under 3DMark Fire Strike, you can see some strong performance. Compared to our other setups here, you can see that in the lower resolution Standard preset, the CF setup lines up with the heavily overclocked Hybrid Cooled R9 290X from HIS. At the higher resolution Extreme preset, though, you can see it manages to get a bit of a jump on the model.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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3DMark Sky Diver is more focused on mid-range cards, and when we start to check out its performance with higher-end models, we see a bit of a wall is hit. Looking above, you can see that our CF setup here today, along with our R9 290X offerings, all perform quite close to each other.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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Looking at Catzilla performance, we can see the numbers are strong from our PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup, which sees performance that is ahead of both of our heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB offerings.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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While Heaven is generally a benchmark that favors NVIDIA offerings, you can see above that the performance from our PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup is exceptional. We see it gets a good lead against our other setups here at both resolutions.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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PSO 2 doesn't benefit from CrossFire performance like you'd hope. Here you can see that the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup manages to get a bit of a boost off its single card setups, but it's nothing to get excited about.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Lost Planet 2 performance is exceptional, and you can see the CrossFire setup has no problems dealing with this game at any resolution across the board. Let's hope we continue to see the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup look this strong against our other setups.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking at something a little older again, like Just Cause 2, you can see the performance is extremely strong from our R9 280 3GB CrossFire setup. It will be interesting to see how we do moving into something more intensive like Metro: Last Light on the next page.

Benchmarks -Metro: Last Light & Nexuiz

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking at Metro: Last Light, you can see the performance is extremely strong at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. Although, at the highest resolutions, you do see we fall short of that 60 FPS average we're always-on the hunt for, which lines up with our other cards here. As for how our CF setups compares, though, you can see we fall short of heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB options. However, we are ahead of the reference R9 290X 4GB.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz doesn't only not make use of CrossFire, but it also loses performance slightly when compared to its single card option. Because of that, you can see we're not only behind the single R9 280X 3GB cards, but just below the 60 FPS average we need at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 performance is extremely strong across the board, and you can see our CrossFire setup has absolutely no issues outperforming the other ones here at all resolutions.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs performance is pretty strong on all of our setups here, but you can see that the CrossFire R9 280 3GB setup manages to come out ahead of the competition. You might feel that 155 FPS at 2560 x 1600 is a little pointless; however, thanks to the release of new 144Hz 2560 x 1440 monitors, the demand for ultra-high FPS to help offer extra smooth gameplay is becoming greater.

Benchmarks - Hitman: Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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With the latest version of the Catalyst 14.7 drivers, we seem to have a bit more breathing room, with our FPS wall coming on a little later. Looking above, though, you can see that we still hit that FPS wall at all resolutions.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Tomb Raider performance is strong across the board, with playable numbers not being an issue at any resolutions. At the highest resolution, we see our R9 280 3GB CrossFire setup is able to offer a fantastic 56 FPS average.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Checking out BioShock Infinite, you can see that the CrossFire performance from our PowerColor setup is impressive at all resolutions. While the single R9 290X 4GB offerings when overclocked managed to scrape just past the 60 FPS mark, you can see our CrossFire setup here manages to surpass that with no issue, and score in the mid-70s.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Looking at Battlefield 4, you can see awesome performance across the board, with solid numbers being seen at all resolutions. You can see we even manage a minimum of 65 FPS at the most intensive 2560 x 1600 resolution.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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GRID Autosport numbers are exceptional across the board. Although, looking above, you can see this weird results from our 1920 x 1200 minimum. While the average lines up, and the minimum is still extremely strong, it's lower than it should be.

Testing multiple times consistently bought us within a single FPS, so we're not quite sure what went wrong. However, we can say that if it wasn't for the fact that the minimum FPS number was 61 FPS, we might be worried.

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 help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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With AA and AF turned on, you can see the FPS drop significantly under Metro: Last Light, and we fall short of that 60 FPS average we're after at both resolutions.

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On the other hand, GRID Autosport continues to get great FPS at both resolutions when AA and AF is turned on.

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Finishing up our AA and AF testing with Sleeping Dogs, you can see that 1920 x 1200 performance is fantastic. Although, moving to the more intensive 2560 x 1600 resolutions results in a decent FPS drop, and an average that comes in at just 50 FPS.

Benchmarks - 4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K - 3840 x 2160 Testing

4K monitors are the next step for gamers demanding the best in image quality. With 4x the pixels of a standard 1920 x 1080 monitor (meaning 4x the intensity), 3840 x 2160 brings a new level of intensity to video cards.

To make sure that you're buying the right video card for a monitor that offers such a large resolution, we test the latest and greatest video cards in a couple of benchmarks to give you an idea of just what kind of setup you require.

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Jumping up to 4K, you can see that the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup performs extremely well, and comes out ahead of the other setups here by a decent chunk.

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Jumping into Sleeping Dogs, you can see that the performance is exceptional here, with an average of 87 FPS.

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Moving into Hitman: Absolution we've got some great numbers again. With the resolution cranked right up, we can see that this CrossFire setup still has no problem putting out playable FPS at this resolution.

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Looking at Tomb Raider, you can see that the performance sits at around the same level as the heavily overclocked Hybrid cooled HIS R9 290X 4GB. The minimum sits a little lower, but the average manages to come out ahead. In the end, though, both numbers are too low, and we see the CrossFire setup line up with all of our other cards here, and fail to achieve the FPS we need

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Finishing up our gaming performance with GRID Autosport, you can see that the numbers aren't too bad. The average is quite solid at 59 FPS, but is still just short of that 60 FPS number we want. That wouldn't be so bad, but the 25 FPS minimum is also short as we try for 30 FPS.

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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Throwing two cards into the mix tends to mean the setup is going to run a little hotter. Of course, the 77c load number is slightly up, but still very strong overall considering the performance we've got here today.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter, we quickly find ourselves 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 CM 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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Considering we've got two cards running together, the noise levels are very good, and come in at the bottom half of today's graph.

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 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 the power being drawn as much as 10 percent more in particular tests. 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 a SSD 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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Coming in at nearly 700 watts, the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC CF setup does draw a fair bit of power, as you'd expect. At this point we'd recommend you get a power supply that is at least in the realm of 850 watts.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

The PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC is going to set you back around $240, which sits around the middle of the scale when compared to its competition. Overall, the price isn't too bad. I think the one thing that lets us down a bit is the bundle and its lack of MiniDP to DP connector. Sure, the bundles on a lot of video cards these days aren't huge, but it would've been nice to see this small addition included; especially when the bundle on this particular card is smaller than usual, and the card does offer two MiniDP connectors on board.

Looking at the base clock of the card, the out of the box overclocks, and the bundle that PowerColor has put together, we'd say that this is a pretty strong offering. It's not the strongest we've seen, but it's not too bad either. The quality of the cooler is strong, and you can see that even in CrossFire, it continues to put out very impressive numbers.

Speaking of which, CrossFire performance is really strong. If we had to sum it up, we'd say that the CrossFire setup has no problems dealing with a heavily overclocked R9 290X. Today, you saw that our CrossFire setup could dependably battle it out with the Hybrid cooled HIS R9 290X we looked at recently, and have absolutely no problem taking on the reference R9 290X 4GB.

What it really comes down to when comparing setups like these are the prices. If you're going to jump on the R9 290X 4GB bandwagon, you're going to be looking at around the $550 mark. Out of the box, you're also not going to have the same kind of clocks as your heavily overclocked versions today. It's fairly safe to say that out of the box, the CF setup we looked at here today is going to outperform just about any R9 290X 4GB out of the box.

Doing the math, two of the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC cards are going to set you back around $480. Depending on the version of the R9 280s you choose, though, you could get that number closer to the $450 mark, or even lower. This really seems like a great deal at the end of the day. Sure, CrossFire isn't perfect, and Nexuix and PSO 2 still show issues with the technology, but looking through your AAA titles, you will see good, solid performance.

The R9 280 3GB really has become a great mid-range card for us. At under the mid $200 price point, it offers some great bang for your buck. Looking today, you have seen how throwing two into the mix helps offer some excellent performance at a really cost effective price point. CrossFire continues to be fun technology, and we're really looking forward to overclocking the CrossFire MSI setup next to see just how much performance we can get out of the setup.

PRICING: You can find the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC 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 PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC retails for $268.83 at Amazon.

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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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