SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X Video Card Review

The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X is here and is screaming to be overclocked. This bad boy is suited with the new SAPPHIRE Tri-X cooling system, a hefty factory overclock, and is built to push overclocking to the next level. It will have some fierce competition going head to head with the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II and its overclocking ability.


Sapphire Technology is a well-known company based in Hong Kong, China, and is recognized as the single largest supplier of AMD-based video cards. Since ATI began funneling graphics processors to AiBs in 2001, Sapphire has been at the head of the red-team pack. In addition to video cards , Sapphire also offers a series of motherboards, workstation class video cards, multimedia products such as TV tuners and Digital Photo frames, and mini PCs like the EDGE HD2.

On our test bench today is the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X 3GB GDDR5 (100363TXSR) video card.

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AMD Radeon R9 280X

AMD's R9 280X video card is a simple rebranding of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. It is based on the 28nm Tahiti GPU. The streaming processors are the same at 2,048, the ROPs are the same at 32 ROPs, the TMUs are the same at 128. The GPU architecture is based on GCN (Graphics Core Next) 1.0. The clock speed on the AMD Radeon R9 280X will run at 1GHz, and can boost up to 1050MHz, just like the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. The memory will run at 6GHz on a 384-bit bus with 3GB of GDDR5, just like the 7970 GHz Edition. The TDP is exactly the same at 250W.

What really separates the AMD R9 280X from the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is the price tag. The AMD R9 280X has a base MSRP of $299. This is $200 less than the launch price of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, which sold for $499. Basically, AMD is providing the same performance as a Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition for a much more cost efficient price.


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The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X is "Mad and Dangerous" according to SAPPHIRE. Its factory overclock may prove SAPPHIRE's claim true. It will ship with the GPU running at 1100MHz with boost up to 1150MHz. The 3GB of GDDR5 memory is also overclocked up to 6.4GHz.

Let us take a moment to look back at other R9 280X video cards we have covered. The highest stable overclock on the GIGABYTE R9 280X OC Edition video card ran with the core at 1140MHz and the memory running at 6.56GHz. The MSI R9 280X GAMING series video cards highest stable overclock was 1135MHz on the core with the memory at 6.2 GHz. The ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II video card overclocked to 1230MHz on the core with the memory at 6.6GHz.

Basically we are assured when purchasing the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X that we are receiving a capable, stable, respectable overclock, and it comes out-of-box! There is more possibility for higher overclocking with the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X, it has a high performance 10-phase power management system, and being a TOXIC video card stretches the normal bounds of overclocking. While most video cards have a Power Target limit of +20%, this video card will allow users to increase Power Target up to +50%.

Of course increased power use and higher operating frequencies will mean higher heat generation. SAPPHIRE has a solution for that. SAPPHIRE has designed the new Tri-X cooling system. This includes two 90mm and one 80mm aerofoil fans that are light weight but durable, and slice through air minimizing resistance and increasing airflow. These directly cool the GPU, the heat pipes and the finned heatsink. There are five copper heatpipes directly contacting the GPU. There is one big 10mm heatpipe that runs through the middle of the heatsinks and transfers the most heat across an increased surface area. The back plate can also help evenly spread heat.

SAPPHIRE has well equipped this video card from top to bottom. It even includes exclusive Black Diamond solid chokes to provide cooler temperatures while operating with higher voltages. The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X has a dual bios. One supports motherboards with BIOS ready for Windows 7, but also has a UEFI ready BIOS for people using Windows 8 or 8.1 with a UEFI compatible motherboard. The UEFI BIOS when used with a compatible motherboard can really help increase boot times, which is always a plus.

The cheapest a SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X video card can be had for currently is $359.99. The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X will also include a free 2 year limited parts and labor warranty. You can read more about the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X's specifications and features here.


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The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X ships in a black and orange box that points out some of its better features including having a factory overclock, Tri-X cooling, and TOXIC features. Inside the video card was snuggly packaged into some foam, inside of an anti-static bag. Our accessory package includes a driver installation CD with SAPPHIRE TriXX included. There is a quick installation guide and product registration guide. There is also a 1.8 meter HDMI cable, two dual-Molex to 8-pin PCIe power connectors, a CrossFire connector and not shown a DisplayPort to mini-DisplayPort connector.

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The video card itself sports a black and orange theme. The orange is plastic, but the black trim is cut aluminum that is screwed on. It improves the video cards overall stability and feel, and quite frankly looks cool. The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X as we mentioned is a power hungry video card. It does require you have two 8-pin PCIe power connectors. SAPPHIRE also requests a 750W or greater power supply to handle this video card the way it is meant to be.

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The rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI-I connector a dual-link DVI-D connector, an HDMI connector and two mini DisplayPort connectors. The dual-BIOS switch features a SAPPHIRE "S" and is located beside the CrossFire adaptor on the top side of the video card. It will glow blue when selected in the UEFI BIOS position. The SAPPHIRE logo in this same spot also lights up when the video card has power.

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The back plate adds improved overall stability and plays a few roles. It can help to spread heat, and also protects all rear mounted components from being damaged. Its black and grey paint scheme pull the video card together giving it an all around fresh and exciting look. The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X measures 12 inches in length, 4 and 1/4th inches tall, and 1 and 3/4th inches wide. It will take up two slots in your case.

Comparison Video Cards

Ideally when we are evaluating a video card we select the video cards that are closest in price to the video card we are looking at. In this evaluation keep in mind these video card prices as we have based our comparisons on:


Reference AMD R9 280X - $299

ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II - $339

Reference GTX 770 - $329