ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X Video Card Review

Today we take ASUS' elite R9 280X product, the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X video card, and put its advanced power phasing and board components to the test as we harshly overclock it. We compare it to an ASUS GeForce GTX 770 DirectCU II. Then we will put it head to head against the overclocked SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X.

Introduction

ASUSTeK Computer Inc. is one of the largest and most successful computer hardware manufacturers in the world. A Taiwan-based company, it manufactures a wide variety of computer hardware, including motherboards, video cards, optical drives, notebooks, networking equipment, barebones desktop, and server systems, among many others. In 2008, it sold over 24 million motherboards, grossed 8.1 billion U.S., and won 3,056 awards from various enthusiasts and IT related outlets.

This particular video card bears ASUS' Republic of Gamers tag. Republic of Gamers video cards generally come with the high end components, top of the line performance, and improved compatibility with other ASUS ROG computer components like motherboards.

On our test bench today is the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X (MATRIX-R9280X-P-3GD5) 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 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.


ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X

The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X was designed with performance and overclocking in mind. It has several features that allow for improved overclocking which we will talk about in a moment. We have covered several Radeon R9 280X video cards here at HardOCP, including the GIGABYTE R9 280X OC Edition video card, the MSI R9 280X GAMING series video card, the ASUS R9 280X DirectCU II video card, and most recently the SAPPHIRE TOXIC R9 280X video card which has our fastest R9 280X overclock at 1240MHz on the core with a memory frequency of 6.7GHz.

The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X features a factory overclock on both the GPU frequency and memory frequency. ASUS has taken the liberty to increase the GPU operating frequency to 1100MHz, which is 100MHz faster than a reference model R9 280X. The memory is overclocked to 1600MHz or 6.4GHz GDDR5, an added clock value of 100MHz compared to the reference model.

Among the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X's most noticeable physical features is the large DirectCU II cooling system. It is so large that the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X will take up three PCIe slots. The DirectCU II cooling system on this particular video card features two 100mm sound-dampening fans which can be immediately set to 100% by engaging the "Turbo Fan Activator" button on the video card. They will move a large amount of air and help efficiently remove heat. ASUS did not design this particular video card using its CoolTech Fan which has vastly improved airflow compared to the outfitted fans.

Further into ASUS' DirectCU II cooling system, are five copper heat pipes that directly contact the GPU. Three of these copper heat pipes go out to the back end of the video card, through a fin-array aluminum heatsink that is elevated above that side of the board's components. The other two copper heat pipes go directly into a finned heatsink that rests on top of the solid GPU heatsink block. There is also a back plate mounted to the back of the video card which can help evenly disperse heat. While the DirectCU II performs well every time we see it, we can't forget that Super Alloy Power components are a large reason the video cards can stay so cool.

THE ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X's Super Alloy Power components including capacitors, chokes, and MOSFETs are specially crafted under extreme pressures and temperature. This helps for several things, the first of which are cooler operating temperatures, up to 35% compared to reference components. These high quality components help provide improved power flow, and can improve performance up to 15%. Since they are durable components, crafted for extreme conditions, they can also help increase lifespan up to 2.5 times as long. The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X is also outfitted with the DIGI+ VRM which digitally regulates voltage and the controls the 20-phase Super Alloy Power components with precision. This ensures the immediate necessary power distribution required to handle high operating speeds from extreme overclocking.

Overclocking is pushed even farther on the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X via the TweakIt node, which is located opposite of the I/O panel, on the back end of the video card just below the 8-pin PCIe power connectors. The TweakIt includes the Turbo Fan Activator button, which enables fans at 100% immediately. There are also 10 small LEDs that display the voltage level the video card is running at. The voltage level can be controlled via the "+" and "-" buttons. There is also a "Safe Mode" button, which can be pushed at any time to immediately return the BIOS to default operating speeds, in case overclocking goes wrong. To cap off overclocking capability, ASUS also implemented VGA hotwire spots that allow for direct voltage monitoring of the GPU, memory, and VDDCI, and easy connection to supporting ROG motherboards.

ASUS also offers one of the best overclocking utilities on the market in ASUS GPU Tweak. It is a 3-in-1 program with GPU-z and direct hardware monitoring built in. ASUS GPU Tweak allows for direct frequency and voltage control of the GPU and memory, and allows for VDDCI voltage increases. Users will also be able to determine Power Target up to 120% and load line calibration. ASUS GPU Tweak also has a built in "burn" function, which effectively burns the operating frequency to the BIOS so it will always run that frequency. In-case overclocking fails after burning a new frequency to the BIOS, it can be reset to default by clicking the "Safe Mode" button on the video card.

The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X has a few other unique physical features. First, along the top edge of the video card is the MATRIX logo which is actually an LED load indicator. This will turn one of five colors depending on the video cards loading. Green represents safe mode, while light blue is "light" loading. Royal blue represents "medium" loading while purple represents "heavy" loading. When the video card is at its peak the LED indicator will turn red to represent "extreme" loading. This is a neat way to track how hard your video card is working. The other noticeable physical change is on the I/O panel. It includes a single-link DVI port, a dual-link DVI port and four display ports. That means you can run up to six monitors off this one video card!

The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X video card comes with a free 3 year limited parts and labor warranty. You can read more about the ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X's specifications and features here.


ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X Pictures

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The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X ships in a large red box. There is a fold-up window on the front of the box that allows you to see the video card, and also describes some of the key features. The back of the box describes more of the features we just discussed. Our accessory package includes two 8-pin PCIe power connectors, a DVI to HDMI adapter, a CrossFire bridge, and an additional VRM heatsink for users doing LN2 (liquid nitrogen) overclocking. Also included was a SteelSeries Diablo III mouse pad that measured 10 inches wide and 8.5 inches tall.

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The video card is themed in black and red. The first thing we noticed when taking it out of the box was that it is pretty heavy. It is also really big. It will take up three PCIe slots in your computer. The ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X measures 11.25 inches long, 5 inches tall, and 2.25 inches wide. It requires you have two 8-pin PCIe power connectors and suggests a 750W or greater power supply in order to deliver proper power.

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As we mentioned the rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI connector and a single-link DVI connector, and four DisplayPort connectors. There is also a BIOS switch located beside the CrossFire adapter on the top side of the video card. The top edge of the video card also features the MATRIX LED load indicator that changes colors depending on the video cards current load.

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Complete ASUS ROG MATRIX PLATINUM R9 280X PDF

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