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.

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Battlefield 4

Our full-evaluation of Battlefield 4 has been published. Please give this a read to understand how all the graphics settings work and what they mean.

In Battlefield 4, we selected the Siege of Shanghai as our map for testing.Siege of Shanghai is presented as a large conquest map with up to 64 players able to be connected at one time. The map provides a good representation of all of the eye candy that can be found throughout the game, including devolution of the sky scraper, water effects, tight city streets, and of course plenty of tanks. For our testing procedures, we searched for a server with at least 60 players in a match and where the ping was under 50ms for a server.

We then played within the server performing various tasks, including capturing flags, blowing up tanks, and causing general mayhem as part of the team that we were placed on. We recorded the frame rates via FRAPS for five minutes for presentation below, even though we spent significantly more time playing at each graphical setting. Keep in mind that because this is a multiplayer map where the actions of the other 63 players can be unpredictable, it is very difficult to look at a single FPS graph and discern the gameplay experience in the multiplayer environment. Performance or is determined through more time spent playing with the cards than represented on the graph.


Highest Playable Settings

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Please Note: The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X is priced at $359, while the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II has an MSRP of $339. Keep this price difference in mind as you read through the highest playable settings evaluation.

In Battlefield 4 we were reluctant to find that the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X and the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II were not quite playable at 2560x1600 while using "Ultra" quality settings. The SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X was playable at 1920x1080 with 4X MSAA enabled. The "Ultra" quality settings were selected, including HBAO. It provided a playable experience averaging 63.3 FPS. The ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II matched the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X’s settings, and performed 1.9% faster with an average framerate of 64.5 FPS.

On paper the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II’s performed faster, however the better gameplay experience goes to the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X. The graph clearly shows the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X performing smoother, which felt more fluent compared to the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II. The ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II’s framerate jumped up and down over a wide range, which creates a stutter that reoccurs frequently throughout the run-through.

Overclocking played a big role for both of these video cards in Battlefield 4. With the boost in performance, the OC SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X had enough juice to handle increasing the resolution to 2560x1600. We also exchanged 4X MSAA for FXAA set to low. This provides some level of AA without much performance cost, and with the least amount of texture blur. The OC SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X averaged 60.5 FPS at these settings. This is also 3.4% faster than the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II which averaged 58.5 FPS at the same settings. The big dip in performance during the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II happened when the big tower fell. We were closer to it with this video card when it fell. It resulted in a larger performance impact.


Apples-to-Apples

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In our first apples-to-apples test we have Battlefield 4 set to run at 2560x1600 with FXAA Low enabled. We are using "Ultra" settings including HBAO.

At these settings the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X averaged 57.8 FPS. This is a judgment call on whether you believe it to be "playable." Sometimes playing around 58 FPS does feel playable for our video cards in this game, however the highest playable settings for this video card felt better than this higher resolution did. It was 6.6% faster than the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II which averaged 54.2 FPS with these settings.

Overclocking the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X improved its performance by 4.7%. It averaged 60.5 FPS at these settings which we determined was playable. The overclock on the ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II was more effective, improving performance by 7.9%. It brought the performance up to 58.5 FPS which we determined was also playable. This average framerate would be higher if we weren't so close to the building collapse between 90 and 120 seconds.

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In our second apples-to-apples test we have Battlefield 4 set to run at 1920x1080 with 4X MSAA enabled. We disabled FXAA. We have all other settings set to the "Ultra" value and are using HBAO.

At this lower resolution the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X averaged 63.3 FPS. The ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II was 1.9% faster than this, averaging 64.5 FPS. The two gameplay experiences were nearly identical. Overclocking the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X meant 4.6% faster performance at these settings, and had an average framerate of 66.2 FPS. The ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II's overclock provided 4.2% faster performance, which meant a performance at 67.2 FPS. The OC ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DC II was only 1.5% faster than the OC SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X. They performed nearly identical in-game.