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Sapphire Radeon R9 285 2GB Dual-X OC Video Card Review

By: Shawn Baker | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Sep 2, 2014 12:00 pm
TweakTown Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts


AMD's Radeon R9 285 is actually ultimately a really strong video card and the Sapphire Dual-X variant of it is excellent. The Dual-X cooler does a great job as we see fantastic temperature and noise levels. I want to say nothing but good things about the card because I feel it's a great card. The price point is solid. The performance is really strong. The Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X OC is just an overall great card.


It will unfortunately live or die by the AMD marketing and sales teams. The R9 285 name is terrible for a card that sits between the R9 270 Series and R9 280 Series. I'm not going to pretend that I could think of a better name, but I also have only been thinking about a new name for a day; and that is only while I was writing this review.


How does the R9 285 2GB go against its NVIDIA competition, the GeForce GTX 760? We'd say fantastically. If we compare those two cards only, it's the better buy. Clearly. No one could argue that. After this, the GTX 760 could really do with a bit of a price drop. The problem is the biggest competitor to the R9 285 2GB isn't the GTX 760.


For some unknown reason, AMD has made the biggest competitor to the R9 285 2GB the R9 280 3GB. If it wasn't for the fact that AMD made such a big push to us recently with the R9 280 3GB, then maybe we would think that they're going to phase the model out. If that's the case, this is perfect. Phase the R9 280 3GB out, let the R9 285 2GB come in. And although the name is extremely confusing, the price shows that it's under the R9 280X at least.


The big problem is that not only are we hearing that the R9 280 3GB isn't going anywhere, we're hearing that a ton of stock is floating around waiting to be sold. So, what's the better buy? Overall, we would say from a performance standpoint, the R9 285 2GB deserves to be more expensive, as it tends to win more often - especially at the resolutions it's aimed at. The only time the R9 280 3GB comes out ahead is at the highest resolution when the extra memory bandwidth comes in handy. The other thing that we have to mention is that the GIGABYTE version of the R9 280 3GB we have comes with a massive out of the box overclock. So, from that point of view, it shows the model in the best light.


The problem is that the R9 280 3GB isn't that much slower at times and it can actually be had for around $50 less, or 20%. Has AMD priced the R9 280 3GB too low now? Or are companies just simply dropping the price to dump the stock? I've been around in this game long enough to know this happens. If that's the case, it's hurting the R9 285.


We really have no need to compare the GTX 760 and R9 285. The results speak for themselves and the AMD card is just a better buy. The problem for the R9 285, though, is the R9 280 3GB and a pricing structure that is all over the place. There's a $70 - $80 price gap between the cheapest R9 280 3GB and the most expensive. That just goes to show how out of whack the pricing model is for this card. When the R9 280 3GB launched, I felt it was a misstep by AMD. Recently taking a look at four versions of the card again and seeing them at the new price point, I found myself impressed with what the card had become. Release the R9 285, though, and the R9 280 3GB is AGAIN looking like another misstep by AMD.


In the end, AMD are glad that your decision is between one AMD card or another and not one AMD card and an NVIDIA one. The problem is you've got an army of salespeople that honestly can't be bothered explaining the naming scheme to customers. AMD has packed the $200 - $300 price bracket so tight that they're just confusing people. It's obvious that even they don't know 100% where to put the R9 280 3GB as it's left out of the main AMD PowerPoint presentation.


Like we said in the beginning, this card is going to live or die by its marketing, and unfortunately, I feel it's going to be the latter. For years, we constantly hear how AMD are finally getting everything together. This time it's different. Everything is going to change now. Maybe in the end it does change, but the end result is the same. AMD marketing continue to run into problems. There is miscommunication on some level, or something that's not going right.


You might sit here thinking that I must really hate AMD. But it's the complete opposite. I have a ton of respect for this company and the products they make. It's that reason I find myself getting so annoyed by the way the company handles certain things. The latest crop of AMD APUs? We heard nothing about them. If they finally do send, it comes so late that it doesn't matter anymore. We work on the internet and live in the tech industry. Everything has to happen 10 minutes before. Not 10 minutes after.


I like AMD products. I use an AMD based video card in my current system and will be using them in my future one. But the R9 285 2GB is just another mishandling by AMD when it comes to executing a product launch. Someone at AMD is making the marketing team's job harder than it has to be. The problem is that it could well be the marketing team itself.


The R9 280 3GB should've never existed. It ruined the mid-range line up from AMD. Thanks to a terrible pricing structure, it simply just confused everyone. The R9 285 should've been able to get the R9 280 name. People don't like to be confused. If you're reading this, you're lucky. You're not one of those people that will walk into a computer shop and ask the sales guy you want a video card for $250 and then deal with a salesperson who is just going to sell you the easiest product. Instead, you're the person who's going to go in and say, "I want that R9 285", and when the guys says, you know the R9 280 is cheaper, or the GTX 760 is cheaper, you can say, "no, I know what I want!".


The good news is that you the consumer end up with a ton of choice. Maybe at times too much, but a ton of choice nonetheless. The people who really suffer are the AMD partners and distributors who now have to call up the retail channel and explain to them that they should buy the R9 285 because while it's better than the R9 280, it's not as good as the R9 280X.



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