Review: ASUS Radeon R9 280 Graphics Processing Unit

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The Asus Radeon R9 280 Direct CU II is AMD’s Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture mid-range graphics card, combining AMD’s Tahiti Pro graphics core with Asus’s custom cooler design and bundled overclocking software. In some ways, this card is a rebadged Radeon  HD 7950. While having some game dependent performance differences, it still pulls a bit higher than its little sister, the R9 270x. The main draw of the 280 is its higher-than-average performance with 1600p displays. It’s an awesome choice for anyone looking to game with 1080p or higher on a budget.


Speaking strictly dimension wise, this isn’t a card I would recommend to anyone without a mid to full size tower. The card sits comfortably in its black glory. No extra lighting or unnecessary LEDs flashing means a clean, professional appearance that screams to add a second one for Cross Fire goodness.

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Asus really went all out on the 280’s heat displacement, adding two large fans and heat sinks that would make a Titan cower. One issue that I’ve had is the increased CPU temps due to the fans blowing out directly into the middle of our tower. While it may not be a problem for most consumers, I would absolutely recommend adding an additional tower fan to offset the increased thermals. This isn’t a deal-breaker by far, but should be considered nonetheless. 

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The first question we get about the 280 is how does it compare to the 280x in terms of specifications?

R9 280-x Comparison

Like other AMD Radeon R9 280s, the DirectCU II TOP features a base clock speed of 850MHz and a boost speed of 980MHz, but the card also sports 1792 stream processors, 3GB of video RAM, and a 250W TDP rating. While it isn’t out to perform over the 280x, it’s still a top competitor for mid-range cards. 

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Taking a closer look, we see how much detail was put into the casing for this card. From light engraving to aggressive powerful edging.

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Benchmark System
Intel Core i7 4960X (3.6GHz)
Motherboard Asus Sabertooth X79
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP (4x4GB) DDR3-1866

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As we can see, other than Batman: Origins (When all settings were maxed out), we see overall performance domination with the R9 280 across the board. All of this was achieved without the card ever running too hot or giving off excessive noise. Quite impressed.

Final Reaction

While the Asus Radeon R9 280 Direct CU II isn’t top of the line, it’s a wonderful choice for anyone building a mid-range gaming tower on a budget. Might I add that two of these with Cross Fire gives you an entirely new experience that can be compared close to that of cards much more expensive. Above all, the 280 will give you higher frame rates than an Nvidia GTX 760, which is its direct competitor. AMD put some great work into the chipset, with Asus turning it into quite a cool, quiet GPU.

The only real downside to the 280 that I’ve seen is its size. It’s rather large for 3gb, but boy is it worth every inch.

4.5/5 Atoms

NR 4_5 Atoms - A-

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