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

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

The other day we saw how one Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X video card performed. Today we found out how two of them perform in CrossFire mode. Take a look.

@ShawnBakerTW
Shawn Baker
Published Wed, Sep 10 2014 4:12 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:33 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X in CrossFire

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VIEW GALLERY - 36 IMAGES

The other day we got a chance to test the performance of the new Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X that AMD had just launched. While we liked what Sapphire and AMD offered, we weren't all that impressed with how AMD named the model, or how they are handling it on a whole. If you want to take a closer look at what exactly I mean, then I recommend you head over to the review, and read the first and last page of it.

There's really no need to say a whole lot here, as we really just covered the R9 285 2GB in a fair bit of detail the other day. Normally after our introduction we'd move on to the packaging, and then take a closer look at the card. However, we won't be looking at the card today, as we only just looked at it the other day.

We will take a look at the package, though, since when we got the Sapphire card from AMD, it came with no package to speak of; now we have come packaging information to share with you. We will also fire up GPU-Z today, to make sure everything looks right while we are covering the cards in our graphs today. So, let's get into it and see what Sapphire is doing as far as the bundle goes.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Looking at the front of the box, you can see the overall design is pretty standard with the model indicated across the top, the brand shown in the middle, and some of the main features noted across the bottom. Included in the main features are the facts this card is an OC Edition, it carries 2GB of GDDR5, and it offers the Dual-X cooling solution. Turning the box over, you can see we've got a bit of a blurb on the left side of the box, while the right hand side expands on some of those main features like the Dual-X cooling solution, and FleX multi-monitor technology.

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Moving onto contents of the box, you can see a very standard setup here, with our leaflet for the Sapphire Select Club, Driver CD, DVI to VGA connector, two Molex to 6-Pin PCIe power connectors, and a HDMI cable to round off our cables and connectors. Along with all of this, you can see that Sapphire has also included a mouse pad in the bundle. We've not been a fan of this mouse pad since Sapphire started adding it, because it's really cheap feeling. On the other hand it is free, so it's tough to complain too much about it.

PRICING: You can find the Sapphire R9 285 2GB 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 285 2GB Dual-X retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

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.

Normally, we would've looked at the GPU-Z screenshot on the previous page when looking at the card, but because we have already looked at the card, we're going to take a quick peek at it here. The main thing we're looking for is that the setup is indeed running CrossFire.

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Towards the bottom of the last image, you can see CrossFire is indeed enabled via two GPUs. Still, the best way to make sure everything is working is to benchmark the card. Although, before we do that, we need to quickly cover the cards that are going to be in our graphs today.

Of course, we've got the single Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X sitting alongside our CrossFire setup. Sitting alongside of these two setups, we've got the GIGABYTE R9 280 WINDFORCE 3GB OC, Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC, HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2 Turbo, the heavily overclocked HIS R9 290X Hybrid 4GB OC running at 1160MHz on the core and 6700MHz QDR on the memory, and the PowerColor TurboDuo R9 280 3GB OC in CrossFire to finish off our AMD offerings.

On the other side of the fence, we've got the MSI GTX 760 MINI-ITX Gaming OC, NVIDIA GTX 770 2GB, and the ASUS GTX 780 ROG Poseidon Platinum 3GB OC to round everything off.

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 see some great performance out of the setup with it coming out ahead in the lower resolution Performance preset. While it doesn't manage to come out quite in front at the Extreme preset, the performance is solid, and gains over the single card are impressive.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Fire Strike performance is solid at both presets. You can see our Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup has no problems outperforming all the other setups here. Again, the increase over the single card setup is extremely impressive.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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3DMark Sky Diver numbers are pretty strong, and great gains are seen over the single card solution. Although, looking above, you can see that all our high-end setups perform quite close to each other, with little separating them.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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At the lower resolution, you can see that the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup has no problem coming out ahead of all our other setups here. Moving to the higher 1440p preset, though, we see it fall back a little, as it falls between the R9 280 CrossFire setup and heavily overclocked HIS R9 295X 4GB card.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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While it's not by a lot, you can see the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup manages to just sneak a win out at both resolutions against all our other setups here. With no surprise, the performances of this setup and the PowerColor R9 280 3GB OC CrossFire are extremely close to each other.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Since Phantasy Star Online 2 isn't able to take full advantage of CrossFire, you can see that the gains aren't nearly as strong as they should be. Although there is a performance increase and the overall performance is strong, it's not where it should be for a setup like this.

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 some fantastic numbers across the board, which puts our Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup ahead of all the other setups here. While you might think a 131 FPS average at 2560 x 1600 is useless, the fact that we now have 2560 x 1440 screens that offer a refresh rate of 144Hz means it has just become a whole lot more useful. Combined with a 144Hz screen, this is a gaming experience that is going to look super smooth.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Just Cause 2 sees some great gains, but overall, they weren't really needed, as we now shoot into the 200 FPS range for averages. Let's move onto something a bit more intensive to see how the setup does.

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 performance gains, and you can see it manages to not only come out ahead of all our other setups here, but it also manages to break past that 60 FPS barrier at the highest resolution.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Nexuiz is another game that doesn't take advantage of CrossFire, and instead causes a drop in performance when compared to our single GPU solution. This isn't anything unusual, and we're not sure why no one has ever really made an effort to fix it. Let's move on to Sniper Elite V2 to see how that goes.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 gains are fantastic across the board, and you can see we've got some awesome performance coming out of our Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup. Like we mentioned under Lost Planet 2, while you may think over 100 FPS at 2560 x 1600 is a bit pointless, the introduction of these new high resolution 144Hz monitors means achieving massive FPS is a whole lot more appealing now.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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At the lower resolutions, you can see Sleeping Dogs hits a bit of a CPU wall with a 179 FPS average being shown at both 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. Moving to 2560 x 1600, you can see the wall isn't hit, but an extremely solid 152 FPS average is seen from out Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Hitman: Absolution is bouncing off a solid CPU wall at all resolutions. Looking above, you can see our Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup scores an 80 FPS minimum, and a 99 FPS average at all resolutions. While we're never happy about a FPS wall, at this one sets on quite late.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Tomb Raider makes excellent use of CrossFire here, and you can see we've got some fantastic numbers at all resolutions with a 40 FPS minimum being shown at even the highest resolution. This is great considering the intensity of this game.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite continues the trend of massive gains across the board, helping give us extremely playable numbers at all resolutions. Including an average in the 80 FPS range when it comes to the higher 2560 x 1600 option, which is a good chunk ahead of our other setups here.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Battlefield 4 sees some fantastic performance at all resolutions with playable numbers being no issue across the board. These numbers are thanks to some massive performance gains when the R9 285 2GB is running in CrossFire.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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GRID Autosport numbers are solid across the board, with playability being no issue at any resolution. Just like we saw with our R9 280 3GB CrossFire setup, though, the minimum at 1920 x 1200 takes a dive. It's still extremely strong at 60 FPS, but this is a weird, yet consistent issue. Hopefully we see it get fixed in a driver update.

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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Starting our AA and AF testing off with Metro: Last Light, you can see the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup manages to get a great performance increase when compared to the single card solution. Overall, though, you can see FPS aren't where they need to be, and fall short at both resolutions.

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While 2560 x 1600 wasn't an option for the single card solution, you can see that thanks to some massive gains when adding the second card, gaming at both resolutions isn't a problem; there is also plenty of breathing room being shown.

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Here you can see that the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup and R9 280 CF setup perform identically to each other. That means 1920 x 1200 isn't a problem, but 2560 x 1600 falls short of that playable 60 FPS number we're always-on the hunt for.

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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Starting with Heaven, we can already see some great performance; the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup comes out ahead of all our other setups here.

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Sleeping Dogs performance is strong with playable numbers being shown at this massive 4K resolution.

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Moving into something that shows us the minimum FPS, you can see that while the average stays strong, the minimum is dropped quite significantly compared to the R9 280 3GB OC setup. While the extra memory does help, the wider RAM bandwidth that is offered on the R9 280 3GB is what really helps here.

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Moving into Tomb Raider, which is extremely intensive, we can see the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup really struggles against the wider bandwidth models. With that said, you can see performance is just too low on all setups here.

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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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While the load number on the Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X CrossFire setup continues to look quite strong, you can see the idle does jump up a fair bit when compared to the single card solution that sits towards the bottom of the pack. Of course, that is due to the fact that the gap where it can pull the air from has been reduced, and the air around it is warmer.

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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While the card does indeed run warmer, you'll be glad to know that noise levels continue to be extremely strong, as our CrossFire solution sits towards the bottom of the pack. This is exactly where you want to be when it comes to this 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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At a bit over 600 watts, this setup draws quite a bit of power. You'd really want a power supply that is at least 750 watts for a setup like this, if not a bit higher to make sure you don't run into any problems.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

Coming in at around the $500 mark, the CrossFire R9 285 2GB Dual-X OC setup isn't a cheap one. Just like the R9 280 3GB CrossFire setup, performance here is extremely strong, even in comparison to a heavily overclocked R9 290X 4GB. Going through most our benchmarks, you can see the performance of our two CrossFire setups are quite close to each other. This doesn't come as a huge surprise since we saw the R9 280 2GB and R9 285 3GB perform extremely close to each other in our initial review on the new model.

As usual, CrossFire performance isn't perfect, and we do run into some problems here and there with dropped performance, or gains that aren't as strong as they should be. Overall, it continues to be very strong, and more often than not, we get massive performance gains that really make a difference to your gaming experience. With that said, it was interesting when we moved to benchmarking at 4K resolution.

During our normal tests we saw the R9 280 3GB and R9 285 2GB CrossFire setups perform quite close to each other. Moving to our AA and AF tests we saw a similar picture. When we started to look at performance at the massive 4K resolution, we saw an interesting picture; while the averages continued to look quite strong, we saw the minimums were hit quite hard. When these massive amounts of pixels are pushed, the extra memory bandwidth comes into play, and helps keep the minimum FPS up.

Moving away from the performance considerations, one area we can look at here that we couldn't the other day is the bundle Sapphire offers. In typical Sapphire fashion, it's good. You've got everything you need to get up and running, along with that additional HDMI cable that is so often included. Outside of that, we've also got the mouse pad included in the bundle. While we're not a huge fan of the quality of the mouse pad, it is free, and may come in handy later on down the road.

We're not loving how AMD has named the new R9 285 2GB, as it sits above the R9 270X 2GB, but below the R9 280X 3GB. Although, also sitting between those two models is the R9 280 3GB, which as you have seen today, performs very close to the R9 285 2GB, even in CrossFire for the most part.

While you probably wouldn't worry about a setup like this for your 4K monitor, it would work perfectly for something up to 2560 x 1600. Combined with the new 144Hz, this is a great setup that's going to set you back around the $500 mark. The weirdness with the R9 280 3GB continues to exist, though, making it a little bit confusing. In the end, you do have a setup that offers some great performance at a great price point, which is enough to make it enticing.

PRICING: You can find the Sapphire R9 285 2GB 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 285 2GB Dual-X retails for $259.99 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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