The Drivers, The Test & Our New Testbed

With the product introductions and specifications out of the way, let’s dive into the test.

The launch drivers for the 200 series sampled to the press are Catalyst 13.11 Beta 1, with a version number of 13.200.16, making them a newer build on the same branch as the current 13.10 Beta 2 drivers. As such there are no known functional differences between the current drivers for the 7000 series and the launch drivers for the 200 series. With that said we did encounter one specific bug in these drivers, which resulted in flickering lighting in Crysis 3 on high quality settings.

Note that this also means that these drivers also only contain Phase 1 of AMD’s Crossfire frame pacing fixes. This means frame pacing for Crossfire for single monitor displays is fully implemented, however frame pacing for multi monitor displays and 4K displays is not. Based on AMD’s most recent comments a fix is not expected until November, and while we don’t seriously see owners settling down to run Eyefinity or 4K displays off of 280X in CF – at least not until 290X arrives for evaluation – it’s unfortunate AMD wasn’t able to get this problem fixed in time for the 200 series launch.

Catalyst 13.11B1 Frame Pacing
  Single Display Eyefinity / 4K Tiled
D3D11 Y N
D3D10 Y N
D3D9 N N
OpenGL N N

Moving on, this article will mark the debut of our new testbed and benchmark suite. Both were due for a refresh so we’re doing so in conjunction with the launch of the 200 series.

For our testbed we have done a complete overhaul, the first one in 4 years. The trusty Thermaltake Spedo case that has been the skeleton of our testbed has been replaced with an NZXT Phantom 630. Similarly we’ve gone and replaced all of the internal components too; an IVB-E based 4960X operating at 4.2GHz for 40 lanes of validated PCIe 3.0 functionality, an ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional motherboard to operate our cards on, and 32GB of G.Skill’s lowest latency (CAS 9) DDR3-1866 RAM. Meanwhile storage is being backed by a Samsung 840 EVO 750GB, and power via a Corsair AX1200i PSU. Finally cooling is handled by a Corsair H110 closed loop cooler, and meanwhile the Phantom 630 leaves an open fan mount for us to tinker with closed loop GPU coolers (such as the Asus ARES II) in the future.

As for the new benchmark suite, we’ve gone through and appropriately updated our games list. New to the GPU 14 test suite are Company of Heroes 2, Total War: Rome 2, GRID 2, and Metro: Last Light (ed: Metro 2). With the holiday games season upon us, we expect to add at least one more game, along with swapping out Battlefield 3 for Battlefield 4 shortly after that is released.

Finally, though we won’t make use of its 4K capabilities in this review given the limited performance of R9 280X, Asus sent over one of their new PQ321 monitors for our testing needs. While still very much bleeding edge, we’ll be taking a look at 4K performance in the near future as appropriate cards arrive.

CPU: Intel Core i7-4960X @ 4.2GHz
Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty X79 Professional
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200i
Hard Disk: Samsung SSD 840 EVO (750GB)
Memory: G.Skill RipjawZ DDR3-1866 4 x 8GB (9-10-9-26)
Case: NZXT Phantom 630
Monitor: Asus PQ321 + Samsung 305T
Video Cards: XFX Radeon R9 280X Double Dissipation
Asus Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition
AMD Radeon HD 7970
AMD Radeon HD 7950 Boost
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760
Video Drivers: NVIDIA 331.40 Beta
AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 1
OS: Windows 8.1 Pro

 

Asus Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II TOP Metro: Last Light
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  • varad - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    Last 2 sections are missing Reply
  • A5 - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    As is the [Product Specs] Table on Page 1. Reply
  • varad - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    Looks like there are many more diagrams and charts missing Reply
  • yacoub35 - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    Yep. Article was probably set to auto-post but the associated images (and apparently the last two pages) are missing.

    Anyway, the gist of this seems to be that the 280X is the price and performance the 7970 should have been two years ago. But since they went with crazy-high pricing on the 7900 series, they can now release this product at the price point that would have been appropriate two years ago and still make out like bandits with reworked 7900 hardware which must be exceptionally cheap for them to produce at this age of maturity on the fabs. Good for their revenue, but probably not going to entice NVidia to drop their prices much.

    If this is what we're getting as top-of-the-line in the normal-people price bracket from AMD, it makes me happy I picked up a 7970 on a great sale recently.

    Now we can watch the 290X, which should be $399, $100 more or less than the 280X in keeping with the normal pricing separation between models, come in around $549 instead. What a joke.
    Reply
  • Spoelie - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    How is that different from EVERY OTHER COMPANY out there? What about NVIDIA to introduce Titan at a 1000 when their next highest card was at 500?

    Prices are dictated by competitive landscape and demand/price curves, maximizing profit - not by what you want it to cost, or some mathematical ideal of "perfect 100$ separation". Don't like it, don't buy it.
    Reply
  • Galidou - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    +1 for Spoelie Reply
  • blanarahul - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    Am I the only when who is happy that we finally get a long awaited price cut? The stores in my country don't drop prices like the Americans' do. So for me, it's a great time to upgrade. GPU power has never been so cheap! Reply
  • blanarahul - Tuesday, October 08, 2013 - link

    Correction: "Am I the only 'one' who is happy....."

    Sigh. Brain fart.
    Reply
  • HisDivineOrder - Wednesday, October 09, 2013 - link

    I don't think I saw him comment on how much he was glad nVidia wasn't like AMD. I'm pretty sure he was just commenting on how AMD was doing something he didn't like.

    No need to kneejerk defend AMD, friend. Just allow him to be annoyed with AMD for doing something that is annoying. When nVidia does it, he can be annoyed with them, too. Nothing in his post screams, "nVidia's okay when they do it!"
    Reply
  • Galidou - Saturday, October 12, 2013 - link

    yacoub35's comment was plain stupid and lacked of analysis he says: ''280X is the price and performance the 7970 should have been two years ago. But since they went with crazy-high pricing on the 7900 series''. Nope, 7970 price was higher at launch like every other card for a reason, it was the new stuff. Like many generation, a new card replaces the old king at or a little Under it's price to let the old king on the shelves sell for a reasonable amount. Difference from before is that the price cut happens during the life of the video card because they live longer on the shelves. So when the new stuff comes out, the old stuff is priced already correctly so no one feels SOO bad for buying a video card a month before new ones come out and lower the prices by a LARGE amount. Reply

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