Sapphire Radeon R9 285 2GB ITX Compact Overclocked Video Card Review

Sapphire Radeon R9 285 2GB ITX Compact Overclocked Video Card Review

Our second Radeon R9 285 2GB video card from Sapphire is part of the new ITX Compact series. Need a smaller version video card for your rig? Read on.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Mon, Sep 22 2014 11:50 PM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC

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VIEW GALLERY - 39 IMAGES

After some back to back X99 coverage of a pair of motherboards and a massive 64GB DDR4 bit, it was time to head back on over to the video cards. Video cards will get a little more attention during the coming week or two, as NVIDIA blesses us with some new high-end models.

While we're not quite ready to look at those just yet, we are looking at our third R9 285 2GB card today. This is our second R9 285 2GB from Sapphire, and as the name suggests, the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC is aimed at the ITX market.

This isn't the first time we've seen this; at one point we saw MSI release an ITX version of the GTX 760. At the time it was a fantastic card, but what really stood out was the cooler. Since the cooler has to be small, it has to be extremely efficient. The cooler on the MSI offering was top notch, and second to none. While the cooler wasn't large, it was packed with fins and copper, making the cooler both heavy and efficient.

There's not a whole lot to go into here. If you've followed the launch of the R9 285 2GB, then you'll have a good understanding of what's going on with it. Although, it is important to mention where the 285 falls in the R9 series. While the name might suggest the R9 285 sits ahead of the R9 280 or R9 280X, it actually sits in between those two cards, with it leaning much closer to the R9 280 than the R9 280X.

However, today I'll be hoping to get our Sapphire R9 285 2GB to lean more towards the R9 280X 3GB as I overclock it. The other day I had the chance to test the HIS card, and I also overclocked that. It will be interesting to see just how the Sapphire version of the R9 285 2GB performs when overclocked, and the smaller heat sink design is taken into consideration. So, with that all said and done, let's get into the package!

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 similar to other Sapphire boxes we've seen in the past. We've got the ITX Compact R9 285 logo across the top, and the right hand side has some AMD logos. In the middle we've got the Sapphire logo, while across the bottom we see some of the main features, including the fact this is an Overclock Edition, it carries 2GB GDDR5, and offers support for 4K gaming. However, if our previous testing has told us anything, 4K gaming hasn't exactly been possible with this mid-range model.

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Turning to the back of the box, we've got a short blurb on the left hand side, while on the right hand side we see some of the features explained in a bit more detail. The features mentioned here include the support for Sapphires own TriXX overclocking software, and the ITX Compact label, which lets us know the card is designed for small form factor systems without sacrificing features.

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Inside the bundle we've got all the standard inclusions with the Sapphire Select Club leaflet, a quick installation guide, driver CD, and DVI to VGA connector. We also have a dual six-pin to eight-pin PCIe power connector, MiniDP to DisplayPort connector, and the standard HDMI cable that Sapphire includes on their mid-range offerings. Along with all of that, you can see Sapphire has also included a free mouse pad.

PRICING: You can find the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC video card 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 ITX Compact retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC

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Looking at the card, it is immediately apparent how small the card is by the fact that the PCB extends just a little beyond the PCIe x16 slots across the bottom. We've got a single fan design, which isn't a huge surprise, but by looking closer you can see the massive aluminum heat sink that sits under it, along with the copper heat pipes coming out the top. The black PCB looks awesome against the black and silver heat sink.

The quality of this cooler is really amazing. There's a ton of weight to it thanks to how much copper and aluminum Sapphire has crammed into it. Hopefully by cramming such a large amount of metal into such a small space they have created a strong cooler that will be able to handle our overclocking today.

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Power comes in the form of a single eight-pin PCIe power connector. This differs from the dual six-pin PCIe connector on the reference design. Moving to the single connector helps reduce the size of the PCB, and hopefully won't impact performance, but we'll find out soon enough.

Moving closer to the front, you can see we've got a switch that lets us move between two installed BIOS. Of course, we don't have a CrossFire connector, as one of the cool technology features on the R9 285 2GB was that it saw the same CrossFire technology that's seen on the R9 290 series. To make use of CrossFire here, you don't need to use a cable.

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We are pretty impressed with what's happening in the I/O. Along with the Dual-Link DVI connector, we've also got a HDMI port ,and a pair of MiniDP connectors to round things off. One really cool thing is that Sapphire has chosen to include a MiniDP to DP connector in the bundle. So, if you are using a DisplayPort monitor, and don't have a connector already, you don't have to worry about it.

Specifications

As you saw on the front of the box, and in the product name, this version of the R9 285 is an OC model. The card comes in with a 928MHz core clock, while the 2GB of GDDR5 carries the standard 5500MHz QDR clock. So, what kind of extra speed does the OC label translate too?

Well, a massive 10MHz on the core (sarcastic tone). While 10MHz is of course an overclock, it hardly seems enough to give the card an OC label. This isn't the first time Sapphire has been guilty of doing this, nor is Sapphire the first company to be guilty of it. When someone starts adding an OC tag to a product, there should be at least a minimum increase in core clock; maybe something around the 25MHz mark.

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What makes this more annoying is that the card is able to handle more than that extra 10MHz. At the moment, there doesn't seem to be any ability to adjust the voltage via Sapphire TriXX or MSI Afterburner on the R9 285 2GB. So, with the voltage left unchanged, and the fan profiles left alone, you can see that we managed to achieve quite an amazing 1055MHz clock out of the core.

We also pushed the 2GB of GDDR5 up to 6000MHz QDR. It will be interesting to see just how this ITX Compact cooler performs when we get to testing it. For now, let's take a look at our test system, and the cards that will be in our graphs today.

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 cards in our graphs today. Starting from the bottom against our Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, which is running at 1055MHz on the core and 6000MHz QDR on the memory clock, we have the HIS R9 270X IceQ2 Turbo Boost 2GB OC, Sapphire R9 285 2GB Dual-X, GIGABYTE R9 280 WINDFORCE 2GB OC, Sapphire R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC, and the HIS R9 290 4GB IceQ X2 Turbo to round off our AMD entries.

As for NVIDIA, we've got the ASUS GTX 750 Ti 2GB OC, and the MSI GTX 760 Mini-ITX Gaming we mentioned in our introduction. Finally, we finish off with two higher-end models, 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, we see some great performance come out of the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact. Looking above, you can see in the lower resolution preset the overclock helps push the card past the R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC from Sapphire. Although, when we move to the more intensive Extreme preset, you can see we fall a little behind, and much closer to the R9 280 in this case.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Under Fire Strike we don't see the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact pass the R9 280X 3GB at either preset, but you can see we manage to close the gap by a decent margin when compared to the R9 280 3GB. We're also leaning more towards the R9 280X 3GB verses the R9 280 3GB at the higher Extreme preset.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Sky Diver & Catzilla

3DMark Sky Diver

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Moving to Sky Diver, a benchmark aimed at mid-range cards, the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact gets a really nice boost in performance thanks to our overclock. Looking above, you can see we're not all that far away from the higher-end R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC.

Catzilla

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.3

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Looking at Catzilla, you can see some great performance gains from our Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact when overclocking is thrown into the mix. While it's still behind the R9 280X 3GB, you can see the extra MHz does an excellent job of closing the gap.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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Heaven continues the trend of great gains. Looking above, you can see the overclocked Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact manages to get a really nice boost in performance that brings us quite close to the more high-end R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X OC.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Phantasy Star Online 2 has always benefited from overclocking. Here you see a really nice performance boost is offered in the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact thanks to those extra MHz we're pushing through the card.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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We see some strong gains and overall strong numbers out of Lost Planet 2. You can see the extra MHz offered by the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact helps push our average FPS into the 70 range, giving us a bit more breathing room.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Just Cause 2 sees some great gains, and overall strong performance at all resolutions. You can see the mid-range offerings are able to really push out some strong FPS with these games that are a little older.

Benchmarks -Metro: Last Light & Nexuiz

Metro: Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Metro: Last Light manages to see some strong FPS at 1680 x 1050, as the extra MHz helps push our Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact into the 70 FPS range. Moving to 1920 x 1200, you can see a nice boost that actually lines us up with the R9 280X Vapor-X OC; unfortunately we're just below that 60 FPS number we're always-on the hunt for with our 58 FPS average.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking at Nexuiz, you can see we manage to sneak in with a playable number at 1680 x 1050. Moving higher than that, though, the overall FPS average is just way too low.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 numbers are solid across the board, and you can see that thanks to the overclock we achieved on the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, we're able to break the 60 FPS barrier at the highest resolution. These are the times when we really appreciate overclocking, as we see our game move from what we would say is unplayable, to something playable.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs sees both some strong gains from the overclock, and just strong numbers overall. At the highest resolution, you can see thanks to the extra MHz on the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, we manage to score an increase of 10% in the overall average FPS.

Benchmarks - Hitman: Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman: Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Hitman: Absolution numbers look great across the board. We're able to move our 2560 x 1600 average into the 60 FPS realm with a solid 63 FPS accompanying the 52 FPS minimum, thanks to the extra MHz offered from the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Tomb Raider sees some awesome performance gains when overclocking is thrown into the mix. Looking above, you can see the 1920 x 1200 average moves from a strong 55 FPS to an extremely solid 61 FPS. While the minimum didn't change, the 41 FPS is strong.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock sees some nice gains across the board when overclocking is thrown into the mix. Although, you can see the added FPS isn't enough at the highest resolution, as all our setups aside from the GTX 780 ROG from ASUS fall short of offering playable FPS at 2560 x 1600.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Battlefield 4 numbers are solid across the board, with performance being no issue at any resolution. At the highest, you can see we're able to get out of the high 50 FPS range and into the high 60 FPS range thanks to the overclock. Again, its times like these when we love overclock.

Benchmarks - GRID Autosport

Grid Autosport

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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GRID Autosport sees some excellent gains, but we do fall just short of that 60 FPS average we need at the highest resolution. With that said, thanks to the strong 47 FPS minimum we achieved, in combination with the 57 FPS average, I'd say that GRID Autosport is more than 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 help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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Turning on AA and AF, we can see that there's a bit of a performance increase when overclocking is thrown into the mix. Overall, though, you can see the FPS is just way too low on our Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, and everything else here in the graph.

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Fortunately, moving to GRID Autosport we have a bit more success with playable numbers, as we see an excellent 69 FPS average at 1920 x 1200. However, 2560 x 1600 doesn't quite see the same success with the 50 FPS average.

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Finishing up our AA and AF testing with Sleeping Dogs, you can again see that while we get a slight boost in performance, the overall FPS are just too low.

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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Cranking up the resolution to 4K, you can see a solid performance boost when comparing our overclocked Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact to the Dual-X version of the card. Although, in this scenario the R9 280X 3GB Vapor-X 3GB does manages to sit ahead by about 10%.

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While the overclock helps achieve a FPS boost of around 10%, you can see the overall FPS on the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, just like everything else here, is below that 60 FPS average we're always-on the hunt for.

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While Hitman: Absolution manages to see a solid 30 FPS minimum. The average of 36 FPS is just way too low, and falls in line with all our other setups here that are unable to break the 60 FPS barrier.

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Tomb Raider FPS doesn't really change, and overall, the FPS on the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact is just way too low for the game to be playable at this resolution, just like everything else here.

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GRID Autosport continues the trend with FPS that are too low across the board. 4K just really isn't an option for these setups.

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 heat, the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact does sit in the top half of the graphs here. However, considering the strong overclock, and the size of the heat sink, this is still very solid performance out of the new ITX Compact cooler.

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 are very strong on the card, sitting towards the middle of the pack. You could probably easily handle a few more dB and bring that load down if you wanted too.

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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We finish our testing with a power draw number that sits in the middle of the pack. With a draw of just over 450 watts, we'd recommend something in the 650 watt range if you wanted to run a setup like this.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

Looking at the price of the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact, you quickly realize it's one of the more expensive R9 285 2GB cards offered, sitting at about $10 more than a lot of the other offerings that give us upgraded cooling. For a lot of people, the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact is just a useless card that is priced too high. This goes for any products in the ITX market, though, as they tend to carry a premium over their larger ATX counterparts.

If you're building a large system, or even a system based on the Micro-ATX format, this card is pointless to use. It's great and all, but there's no point in paying more when you can get something like the Dual-X version from Sapphire. Not only is it priced cheaper, but it comes with a higher out of the box overclock.

On the other hand, if you're building an ITX system, and I mean a proper one with a really small case and not one of those larger ones, this card is an absolute godsend. When it comes to the ITX market, you're not exactly swimming in options as far as video cards go. Motherboard options are fantastic, with ASUS even offering a high-end Republic of Gamers version based on the Z97 chipset. The last thing you want to do is get something as cool as that, slide it into your tiny case, and have a R7 250X powering the graphics.

This is where the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact is a perfect option. Gaming at 1680 x 1050 for the most part isn't an issue, and 1920 x 1200 / 1080 also won't be an issue if you're happy to drop the detail down. We don't see ITX versions of a lot of cards, especially as we climb up the product table. Due to the heat and the amount of components, it gets harder and harder to offer this much power in a package so small. Sapphire has clearly done an awesome job with this tiny sized video card that packs a ton of performance when all things are considered.

Like anything related to the ITX format, this is either an awesome card, or a complete waste of money, depending on your needs. If you're thinking about building a nice Mini-ITX system, but have been deterred by the lack of video card options that can put out some decent FPS, you'll be so happy to see the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact. On the other hand, if you're building something bigger, your money is much better spend on the Dual-X version of the R9 285 2GB from Sapphire.

PRICING: You can find the Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC video card 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 ITX Compact retails for $259.99 at Amazon.

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking w/a)93%
Quality including Design and Build97%
General Features97%
Bundle and Packaging90%
Value for Money90%
Overall93%

The Bottom Line: Sapphire pack a whole lot into this tiny video card. Dual Mini DisplayPort, an amazing cooler, decent overclocking potential, and some all round strong performance. The Sapphire R9 285 2GB ITX Compact OC is a fantastic option for people thinking about building a smaller ITX based system and need a strong video card to go with it.

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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