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MSI Radeon R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire OCed Review

MSI Radeon R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire OCed Review

Following our recent look at the PowerColor R9 280 3GB in CrossFire, Shawn overclocks the setup with the MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC video card.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Aug 28 2014 9:03 AM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC

MSI Radeon R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire OCed Review 02 | TweakTown.com
VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

The other day we got a chance to find out the performance of a pair of R9 280 3GB cards in CrossFire via our PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC in CrossFire review. Thanks to the aggressive price drop that AMD issued for the R9 280 3GB, the model has become a lot more attractive, and we now know that throwing a pair of them together makes for a setup that really represents some great value.

Priced at a under $500 for a pair, when compared to the R9 290X 4GB, the R9 280 3GB setup really offers a strong bang for your buck. We even saw them outpace a reference R9 290X 4GB with no issue. It isn't until we start dealing with some pretty heavily manually overclocked R9 290X 4GB cards that the R9 280 3GB setup is up for a real fight.

With our MSI R9 290 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC on hand and running in CrossFire today, we'll be seeing just what kind of performance we can get out of this setup when paired with our most beloved overclocking software: MSI Afterburner.

No one will deny that the R9 280 3GB got off to a rough start due to the unreasonable price point at which it launched. However, since we've started looking at the model again over the past few weeks, our opinion has really changed thanks to that new pricing AMD has given us. Let's see if the trend can keep on going today with the MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire and Overclocked.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Starting off with the box, you can see the overall design is pretty much identical to other Gaming Series cards we've seen; the box features the dragon emblem on the left, and the MSI, Fnatic, and Gaming Series logos across the top. In the middle we've got the model while across the bottom we can see the card is an OC Edition and also carries with it the Twin Frozr IV Advanced cooler.

Upon turning the box over, you can see that AMD expands on some of the major features they offer, including the Gaming APP that offers overclocking, the Military Class 4 Standard that brings Hi-c and solid capacitors, along with the Twin Frozr IV cooler we just mentioned. On the right, you can some of the main AMD features, minimum system requirements, and the main specifications of the card.

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Moving inside the box, you can see we've got a fair bit going on. Along with the standard Quick User Guide and the Driver CD, we have another piece of paper that explains the Hybrid BIOS, and how it works.

As for cables, we are given a CrossFire bridge, a 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe power connector, a dual Molex to 6-pin PCIe power connector, a DVI to VGA connector, and a MiniDP to DisplayPort connector to round things off. This is a significantly larger bundler than we saw from PowerColor, and it includes that handy MiniDP to DisplayPort connector.

PRICING: You can find the MSI R9 280 3GB 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 MSI R9 280 3GB retails for $234.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The MSI R9 280 3GB retails for CDN$364.99 at Amazon Canada.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Up close with the MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC

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Moving away from the bundle, and onto the card, you can immediately see the overall design is very similar to just about every other card we've seen that makes use of the massive Twin Frozr IV Advanced cooler. We've got two large fans in the middle surrounded by a black and red shroud.

Under that, we've got a massive heat sink that covers just about the entire PCB, and a strong copper heat pipe setup to help pull the heat away from the core. If you've seen any of the recent MSI Gaming Series cards, then this look won't be anything new to you.

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Moving away from the front, and taking a look around the card, you can see we've got a dual power connector setup at the back, which sees a single 8-pin PCIe power connector sitting next to a 6-pin PCIe power connector. Staying at the top of the card, but moving closer to the front, you can see our BIOS switch, along with our CrossFire connectors, the latter of which we're going to be making good use of today.

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Finishing up in the I/O department, you can see we have the same setup as the PowerColor version we looked at; there is a single Dual-Link DVI-I connector next to a HDMI port. We finish off our connectivity with two MiniDP ports. Personally, I'm a big fan of this setup as a heavy DisplayPort user. Outside of that, though, it's great to see that MSI has chosen to include the handy MiniDP to DisplayPort connector in the bundle.

Specifications

Of course, since this card is part of the Gaming Series, the card comes overclocked out of the box. Looking below, you can see that this card offers us a core clock of 972MHz, which is slightly up from the PowerColor. However, via the Gaming APP, you can push that core clock to 1000MHz thanks to the "OC Mode." As for the memory, we see that MSI has chosen to leave that at 5000MHz QDR.

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Today is all about overclocking, and seeing just how much performance we're able to get out of this setup. By taking a look above, you can see we managed to push the core up to 1130MHz. Combined with the 5500MHz QDR memory clock, we've really got ourselves a nice overclock on our hands today. This should yield some strong performance gains over the PowerColor setup we tested the other day, which saw both cores running at 960MHz, and the memory at 5000MHz QDR.

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 ton of setups in our graphs today in order to see just how the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire performs against the competition. Sitting alongside this setup (starting from the bottom), we've got we've got the HIS R9 280 IceQ X2 3GB, which we overclocked to 1170MHz on the core; moving up from there, we've got the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC.

Continuing up the table, we have the HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2, and three R9 290X 4GB cards. The R9 290X 4GB offerings include the reference card running in "UBER Mode," the HIS R9 290X IceQ X2 Turbo 4GB at 1100MHz on the core and 5700MHz QDR on the memory, and the Hybrid cooled version from HIS that was overclocked to 1160MHz on the core and 6700MHz QDR on the memory.

We finish off the AMD side of things with the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC in CrossFire, which we just looked. As for the NVIDIA side of things, we've got the reference GTX 770 2GB, and the ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB OC.

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, you can immediately see our overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup shows some good gains against the PowerColor CrossFire setup we tested the other day. Let's hope we continue to see strong gains as we move forward.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Getting into something a bit more intensive, you can see that the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup manages to give us a strong performance boost in both presets. You can see that the overclock is really boosting overall performance by a decent chunk.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Looking at one of our newer benchmarks, you can see Sky Diver manages to get a nice bump. This is designed for mid-range cards, though, you don't see these higher-end setups get the same kind of gains.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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Catzilla sees some major performance gains at both resolutions, with both gains being a good chunk over the 1,000 point mark.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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Heaven is continuing the trend with really strong gains being seen at both resolutions. With the extra MHz you can see the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup really manages to give some serious performance that separates it from the heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB offerings.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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When it comes to CrossFire, you can see our setups perform worse than the single card solutions. However, we do benefit from the overclock here when compared to the PowerColor CrossFire setup from the other day.

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 just massive across the board. While you might feel that these 100+ FPS averages at 2560 x 1600 are a bit pointless, the fact that we're now seeing 144Hz 2560 x 1440 screens means that we're looking for this kind of FPS now.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Just Cause 2 sees some strong gains, but they're not all that necessary here. At even the highest resolution, we manage to receive a strong 180 FPS average from our overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup.

Benchmarks -Metro: Last Light & Nexuiz

Metro: Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Metro: Last Light sees some fantastic gains from the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup, which sees 2560 x 1600 finally become playable thanks to a strong 64 FPS average. Looking above, you can see none of our other setups manage to get these kind of scores.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking above, you can see under Nexuiz the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup manages to get a bit of a jump on the PowerColor setup thanks to the extra MHz offered. Overall, though, you can see that Nexuiz doesn't make use of CrossFire, and in the end, performance is below the single card solutions.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 performance from the PowerColor setup was already very strong, but you can see by overclocking the MSI cards even higher, the numbers jump up even higher. This is good news for people interested in those 140 Hz+ monitors with the large 2560 x 1600 resolution.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs performance doesn't move much. At the lower resolutions, you can see we're pretty much hitting the FPS wall that comes on at around the 180 FPS mark. However, moving to 2560 x 1600, we do see a gain that represents almost 10%. Overall, you can see the FPS are solid across the board.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman: Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Thanks to the FPS wall that is present under Hitman: Absolution, you can see pretty much no changes when it comes to these higher-end setups. The two R9 280 CrossFire setups score almost identically across the board.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Cranking up the clocks on our MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire setup brings some really nice performance gains. As with all of our top setups here, we've got playable FPS across the board. Although, at these clocks, you can see we manage to achieve an extremely solid 64 FPS minimum at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite sees some awesome gains across the boards, and we continue to see those very solid FPS numbers at every resolution. This $500 setup has absolutely no problem putting out playable FPS at any of these resolutions with the in-game settings set to high.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Battlefield 4 performance is very strong on a lot of our high-end setups here. However, you can see the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire setup manages to clearly come out ahead of the other setups here at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

GRID Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Performance under GRID Autosport was already very strong across the board from our Power Color CrossFire setup. However, you can see that the MSI setup, which we've manually overclocked higher, helps push those FPS up another notch.

Looking above, though, we do again see that weird 1920 x 1200 minimum FPS anomaly again. We're not sure if this is a driver thing, or a CrossFire issue. The good news is at least the minimum is extremely solid at nearly 70 FPS.

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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After turning on AA and AF, we see the overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire setup manages to get a nice performance bump when compared to the PowerColor setup we looked at the other day. Unfortunately, you can see we still fall short of that 60 FPS average; although, the 58 FPS average is indeed impressive.

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GRID Autosport was already seeing some strong FPS out of the pre-overclocked PowerColor R9 280 3GB CrossFire setup; however, you can see the extra MHz we've achieved via the overclock helps push the FPS even further for the MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC in CrossFire setup.

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Sleeping Dogs sees a nice performance bump from our overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup. At 1920 x 1200, you can see an extremely solid 95 FPS average when AA and AF is turned on.

Moving to 2560 x 1600, you can see that the increase over the PowerColor setup is nice, but not quite enough for us to get that 60 FPS average we need. Of course, the 56 FPS average is solid, but just short of the FPS that we need for the game to be playable and smooth.

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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Moving up to 4K, you can see the overclock that we've achieved really manages to push performance up to another level. Let's see if these kind of gains are also seen when we move to our real-world games.

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Sleeping Dogs sees a nice performance boost over the PowerColor setup we tested the other day. You can see we're almost able to break the 100 FPS barrier at this massive resolution for the first time.

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Hitman: Absolution performance is extremely strong. While the single R9 290X 4GB setups managed to give us playable FPS, you can see our overclocked MSI R9 280 3GB Twin Gaming OC in CrossFire setup helps give us some breathing room as the minimum hits 60 FPS, and the average moves into the 70 FPS range.

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While you can see that Tomb Raider manages to make use of the extra MHz and move our minimum into that 30 FPS range that we want to see, the average remains quite low, coming in at just 44 FPS.

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While GRID Autosport falls short of that 30 FPS minimum we want, the fact we've got 29 FPS and a 68 FPS average means this game would be more than playable at these settings, on this setup.

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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When it comes to the temperature side of things, it comes as no surprise that this is quite a warm running setup. With the extra voltage, the increased clocks, and the top card having to deal with the heat coming from the back of the second card, the whole setup is going to run hotter.

Overall, though, the 83C load temperature on the hotter card isn't too bad; especially when you consider the performance.

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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Noise levels on the card sit in the top half of the graph, but overall, they aren't too bad. You can see we're at a similar noise level to the heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB Vapor-X from Sapphire.

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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Power draw numbers are nearing the top, with a little over 800 watts being seen at load. This is quite high, and for something like this we'd really recommend that you're purchasing a quality PSU around the 1000 watts mark to make sure you're completely covered.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

I'll be the first to admit how much my opinion has changed since the first time we reviewed the R9 280 3GB. I've clearly jumped on the bandwagon, and having tested four cards in four different ways over the past month, I consider my knowledge and understanding of the model to be quite strong. While this particular version from MSI is one of the more expensive ones we've looked, and comes in at around the mid $200 mark, overall, it's one of the stronger cards we've looked at.

For starters, you've got the Twin Frozr IV Advanced cooler. If we're honest, not a whole lot has to be said about this cooler. It has proven itself on more than one occasion, and today it did an excellent job when crammed up against a second card, while having the core underneath it running more voltage and higher MHz.

Outside of the cooler, you've got some pretty nice out of the box overclocks offered by MSI. If you install the Gaming APP that comes with the card, then you can then run the card in "OC" Mode, which pushes the core even higher to 1000MHz with just the press of a button. Of course, you can then take the clocks even higher. When crammed up against a second card, we saw the card hit over 1100MHz with a voltage increase. If you put in the time, we're sure you're going to reach even higher clocks, and after looking at the HIS card, we can see that overclocking really helps boost overall performance.

Looking at the performance in CrossFire, though, you can see that when it's overclocked, the setup manages to put out some awesome FPS. What we saw from the PowerColor setup running in CrossFire was that it would kind of go back and forth with the heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB cards we have in our graphs here today.

Taking the time to overclock the CrossFire R9 280 3GB setup brings some strong rewards. You can see that the gains are quite large at times, and overall, the setup now separates itself from the manually overclocked R9 290X 4GB offerings.

The MSI versions come with a slightly higher price point, and will set you back around $500 for a pair. With the Gaming APP, though, you could have two cards running at a core clock of 1000MHz with just a simple click. You could leave it there and be extremely happy with the performance you get, or you could go down the manual overclocking path, and get even more performance out of the setup.

If you're looking to buy a R9 290X 4GB, then we'd recommend that you step back for a second, and think about a CrossFire setup like the one we reviewed today. CrossFire is fun to play with, and overclocking yields some awesome performance gains. With a quality cooler like the Twin Frozr IV version that MSI used, you have a stellar setup that really stands out for all the right reasons.

PRICING: You can find the MSI R9 280 3GB 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 MSI R9 280 3GB retails for $234.99 at Amazon.

Canada: The MSI R9 280 3GB retails for CDN$364.99 at Amazon Canada.

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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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