ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP Overclocking Review

We take the new ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP video card and find out how high it will overclock with GPU Tweak and voltage modification. We will compare performance to an overclocked GeForce GTX 770 and find out which card comes out on top when pushed to its overclocking limits.

Introduction

On October 8th, 2013 AMD announced its R7 and R9 series of graphics cards. The R7 and R9 series are mainly comprised of re-branded Radeon HD 7000 series video cards, except for two models which have not been released yet. To learn all about the new series, and what specifically was announced, and pricing, please read our AMD Radeon R9 and R7 Series Re-branding Introduction.

Toward the high-end of the R9 series lies the AMD Radeon R9 280X. The R9 280X is a simple re-branding of Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. We evaluated a retail R9 280X on October 8th with the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP video card.

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The ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP (aka DC2T) carries an MSRP of $309. At $309 it is only $10 above the reference R9 280X MSRP of $299. The ASUS R9 280X DC2T has a factory overclocked GPU running at 1070MHz and memory running at 6.4GHz. This gives the ASUS R9 280X DCT2 an advantage compared to stock R9 280X performance. It also contains ASUS' high-end DIGI+ VRM digital voltage technology and high-end custom components.

The video card sports a higher 5 phase x 60A/phase configuration. All the details are in our evaluation and it all adds up to an improved chance for high levels of overclocking. However, keep this in mind, this is not ASUS's highest-end video card model, the "R9 280X MATRIX." Therefore, one should not expect overclocking performance on the level of the "MATRIX" series. We will be evaluating an ASUS R9 280X MATRIX in the future to see what the R9 280X can do.

In this evaluation we are going to explore overclocking the ASUS R9 280X DC2T and the performance advantage. We will compare performance to an overclocked GeForce GTX 770 as well.


Overclocking

We had to wait until we got the latest official version of GPU Tweak to work correctly with the ASUS R9 280X DC2T. We received version 2.4.7.0 of ASUS' GPU Tweak directly from ASUS for today's overclocking.

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In the first screenshot above you can see the default configuration on our ASUS R9 280X DC2T. We enabled the "Advanced" mode in GPU Tweak, and also enabled the option to enhance the overclocking slider, which gives us a huge range to overclock with. The GPU frequency is at 1070MHz and memory is at 6.4GHz.

In the second screenshot we are showing you the overclock we achieved before we touched voltage. We managed to get the GPU up to 1160MHz from 1070MHz without even touching the voltage. In order to benefit from the overclock don't forget to raise the power target to +20%. That is an almost 100MHz overclock without even touching the voltage.

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In the first screenshot above we are showing you the highest voltage we could set our card to. We were able to take it from 1.2v up to 1.3v. It doesn't sound like much, but it does result in a substantial overclock advantage. Unfortunately, we were not able to get the voltage any higher. The software limits us to 1.3v.

The higher unlocked voltage may be reserved for the "MATRIX" model. At any rate, 1.3v is not bad, and it gives us a substantial boost. We would be concerned about higher voltages anyway without beefing up the cooling on the video card beyond what it has. Increasing the voltage just to 1.3v has a huge impact on the power demand, as you will see on our power table on the following pages.

In the second screenshot you can see we managed to increase the clock speed from 1160MHz up to a stable 1230MHz. We could actually go higher, but it would start to show artifacts on the screen. We managed to hit 1250MHz for a little bit, before it froze. At 1230MHz the video card performed with 100% stability playing games. That is a 160MHz overclock from the factory overclock.

On the memory side of things we managed to push it up from 6.4GHz to 6.6GHz. Any higher and we started to see a checkered pattern appear on the screen. Therefore, our final overclock was 1.23GHz/6.6GHz.

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Test Setup

We are using the same system setup from our ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II TOP video card review. The same drivers are being used.

For comparison we have taken a custom GeForce GTX 770 and have overclocked it. Our GTX 770 was running at a very high overclock of 1241MHz real-world actual clock frequency in games. The memory was running at an overclocked 7.8GHz. Therefore, these are average to high overclocks for a GTX 770, we have actually seen higher, up to 1.3GHz on some high-end models.