ASUS Radeon R9 280X Review
These are always difficult reviews to write. After all, despite the fancy rebranding, this is a HD7970 under the skin. A GPU that we first reviewed in January 2012. In case you've just stepped out of a time machine or been woken by a kiss from a handsome prince, that was 21 months ago. There is nothing new to say about the Tahiti GPU. Everyone remotely interested in a graphics card is aware of the performance potential.
AMD brazenly state that the R9 280X is a competitor for the nVidia GTX760. Given that the GTX760 is around £200 and the HD7970 is £300, it's hardly a fair comparison. At the time of writing we don't know what the street price of the R9 280X will be, especially not in this non-reference ASUS DirectCU II guise. It's supposed to be $299, and anyone in England knows that by the time you've taken into account VAT and the usual English markup, it's probably going to be around the £299 mark which puts it slap bang against the GTX770. Which is already the main competitor for the HD7970.
Since the time of writing the sellers recommended price has been confirmed as £275, and the score has been adjusted to reflect this excellent price point.
That 'dueling cards' comparison bears fruit in our benchmarks, with the two cards being within a frame or two of each other in nearly every test. Even the 3D Mark ones, which aren't always a good indicator of gaming performance, were so close that if you hid the Y axis you'd struggle to guess which card was which.
The DirectCU II cooler is one that has often proven itself as a wise choice, and things are no different with the R9 280X. It's a good looking cooler, even if it is slightly skewiff, and even under the most intensive applications it kept the Tahiti GPU at a relatively cool 70°C, without deafening us either.
So the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II then. It's a HD7970 for less money, in a fancier box with a good cooler and great overclocking potential. It's tempting to say it does exactly what it says on the tin, except it does exactly what it says on another tin. The Tahiti is still a good performing GPU, even all this time since the release, and the R9 280X does nothing to tarnish that legacy. It's hard to recommend it as an upgrade with many HD7970s still on the market, but if you've stuck with an older series GPU then this still has the power to provide great gaming performance and the DirectCU II cooler and Never Settle game bundle only enhances the value. Time hasn't withered the Tahiti GPU as a Gold Award winner.