MSI Radeon R9 285 GAMING OC Video Card Review

AMD has launched the $249 AMD Radeon R9 285 video card. We dive into this somewhat confusing GPU. We compare it to the GeForce GTX 760 as well as an AMD Radeon R9 280. We'll discuss GCN differences in this new video card that may give it the edge with some feedback from AMD.


AMD Radeon R9 285 Specifications

Article Image Article Image

Now that you understand how the Radeon R9 285 compares by architecture, let's look at the actual specifications. There are 1,792 stream processors on board with 112 texture units and 32 ROPs. The clock speed works "up to" 918MHz if PowerTune can maintain it with proper cooling. If this setup sounds familiar to you, that is because it is. The AMD Radeon R9 280 shares the same specifications, and runs at a faster clock speed of 933MHz.

The memory setup on the AMD Radeon R9 285 consists of 2GB of GDDR5 running on a 256-bit memory bus. The memory runs at 5.5GHz. This is less memory bandwidth and capacity than the Radeon R9 280 which has 3GB of GDDR5 on a 384-bit memory bus at 5GHz.

We have to bring the AMD Radeon R9 280 into this comparison, even though its MSRP is $279 because on paper, the R9 285 looks a lot like a R9 280 with its throat being squeezed. You can find AMD Radeon R9 280 cards for well under $249 dollars right now online. Prices are at an all time low for AMD Radeon R9 280, making it cheaper than the AMD Radeon R9 285.

This isn't looking too good for the R9 285. Remember though, in the GCN comparison table above, R9 285 has a lot of feature and architecture advantages of Radeon R9 280 which is the first iteration of GCN. In fact, AMD claims texture fillrate, and memory bandwidth efficiency should be better on R9 285 compared to R9 280.

Article Image

This table breaks it all down quite easily. You can see the texture fillrate is actually higher on R9 285 compared to R9 280. However, one cannot deny the lesser VRAM capacity and restricted memory bandwidth of R9 285 compared to R9 280. R9 285 has the feature advantages of TrueAudio, FreeSync and Bridgeless CrossFire. There is also the fact that the power efficiency is much improved on R9 285 at 190W TDP versus 250W TDP of R9 280.

AMD Radeon R9 285 supports Mantle, but AMD gave us a warning about Mantle performance on this current release of R9 285 for the time being. We are told Mantle support will improve over time.

The AMD Radeon R9 285 uses the latest iteration of the Graphics Core Next Architecture. Today’s Mantle implementations predate this IP level, and were not designed with it in mind. We are working with application developers to update the existing applications, and we expect all future titles will be accommodating of this IP level.

Keep this in mind also about AMD Radeon R9 285, there is potential for an "X" model of higher performance in the future. AMD will not acknowledge future products, but we could very well see a "R9 285X" out of Tonga. The R9 285 may have good overclocking potential.

What about the GeForce GTX 760?

We spent a lot of time above comparing the R9 285 to the R9 280 above. We focused on this because we know most of you are scratching your heads over the R9 285 and asking "What's the point?" We hope we have made that comparison clear now, so you know what to expect. We will talk about it more in the conclusion with some answers from AMD.

The AMD Radeon R9 285 was designed to "Crush the GTX 760," directly quoted from AMD. Naturally AMD wants to go after its competition, and the R9 285 is meant to be that competition, competing directly at the $249 price point of the GTX 760. The video cards are priced the same, and AMD claims performance should be faster than the GTX 760 in "Beyond 1080p Gaming."

From the specs above you can see that the AMD Radeon R9 285 does have a higher texture fillrate compared to the GeForce GTX 760. However, the GTX 760 has a slightly higher memory bandwidth. Both video cards will have 4GB options from add-in-board manufacturers. The TDP of GTX 760 is still lower than R9 285 as well. It will be real interesting to see how the two match up when it comes to the gameplay experience in our evaluation

What's this about Beyond 1080p Gaming?

AMD is targeting the AMD Radeon R9 285 for "Beyond 1080p Gaming." AMD is referring to the next 16:9 standard level of 2560x1440 (1440p) gaming. That's right, AMD is claiming you can play at beyond 1080p "with maximum detail settings" with this card.

Now, as we have compared the specs above the R9 280 seems better equipped to handle 1440p since it has 3GB VRAM and a 384-bit bus with 240GB/sec of bandwidth compared to 176GB/sec of bandwidth compared to the R9 285. Therefore, the claims seem a little dubious to us that R9 285 would be better suited for 1440p than R9 280. The only way it could be is if the architecture improvements allow it to be.

Therefore, in this review we are going to test at high resolutions, in fact we are going to show 1080p gameplay as well as 2560x1600 (1600p) since our testing displays are Dell 3007WFPs. You can extrapolate that 1440p performance will be slightly faster than the 1600p performance we are showing, so what's playable at 1600p will be more than playable at 1440p.

Make sure to read our conclusion very carefully as we put AMD to the test and ask AMD very pointed questions regarding R9 285 compared to R9 280 and 1440p gaming performance. AMD answers us with some technical details that may shine a light on how R9 285 could be faster than R9 280 in some gaming situations.