TODO alt text

Asus R9 280X Matrix Platinum review

On your mark. Get set. Rebadge!

Our Verdict

For

  • Good performance
  • Solid build quality
  • Good options

Against

  • Too expensive
  • Not new GPU tech

Earlier this year, Nvidia launched a whole new family of GeForce GTX 700 series high-performance GPUs. Except none of them were actually new. They were either straight rebadging efforts or, at most, existing chips mildly tweaked. And then rebadged.

Now it seems AMD is at it, too. While there are a couple of new GPUs in this new range, in the form of the R9 290X and the R9 290, the other GPUs that have just been "released" are simply rebadged GPUs from the 7000 family. That includes the GPU at the heart of the R9 280X Matrix Platinum from Asus.

What we have here is AMD's Tahiti XTL GPU, which is simply a respin of the Tahiti GPU that can be found in the Radeon HD 7950 and 7970. To all intents and purposes the new R9 280X is identical to the outgoing Radeon HD 7970. That means 2,048 shaders, 128 textures, 32 ROPs, yada yada… only the clockspeed seems to be any different, which is officially defined as up to 1GHz.

Except not in the case of this Asus take on the "new" 280X. The Platinum Edition boards rock up at 1,100MHz, 10 per cent faster than the reference design. OK, that may not seem that dramatic, not by CPU overclocking standards. But this is a GPU, and in that context 10% is actually quite a bump.

Anyway, there's more than just a clockspeed boost to perve over here, like the monumental triple-slot cooling solution. Then there's the VGA Hotwire feature that allows direct overvolting of the GPU, and TweakIt buttons that allow said overvolting to be finessed with a poke of a finger. Clever stuff. There's even a safe mode switch that brings everything back to stable defaults. Oh, and Japanese black metallic capacitors all round.

At which point, this is all beginning to sound like a high-end motherboard review. And that's kind of how Asus is pitching its Matrix series of graphics cards: it's all about tweakability and the quality of the components.

The final feature of note involves video outputs. You get a pair of DVI ports and no fewer than four DisplayPort sockets. There's full 4K support, though - as you can read elsewhere - 4K panels demand massive GPU performance.

As good as the 280X chipset is, it's not brilliant. For the most part, there are no performance surprises. The Matrix Platinum kicks out the kind of numbers you'd expect from a Radeon HD 7970 GHz-and-a-bit edition. Which is what this board really is.

Benchmarks

A Radeon HD 7970 GHz by another name is what we suspected when AMD announced the Radeon R9 280X. And that's what it looks like by the benchmark numbers. We've got the 7970 GHz lined up against Asus's overclocked 280X running at 1.1GHz, along with an HIS 280X at 1.05GHz.

The results are mostly as you'd expect from overclocked 7970s, with the exception of Metro: Last Light, which seems to enjoy the new 280X. We'd guess that reflects tweaks to the 280X's drivers, as the hardware is the same. Figures in brackets are minimum framerates.

DirectX 11 tessellation performance
Heaven 4.0 (MIN): Average FPS: Higher is better

Asus Radeon R9 280X Matrix Platinum: (24) 54
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz: (23) 51
HIS Radeon R9 280X: (26) 53

DirectX 11 gaming performance
Metro: Last Light (MIN): Average FPS: Higher is better

Asus Radeon R9 280X Matrix Platinum: (33) 58
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz: (25) 51
HIS Radeon R9 280X: (32) 56

DirectX 11 gaming performance
Company of Heroes 2 (MIN): Average FPS: Higher is better

Asus Radeon R9 280X Matrix Platinum: (27) 48
AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz: (28) 46
HIS Radeon R9 280X: (30) 46

Verdict

There's no shame in these figures, but new branding does generate expectations of something novel and on the chipset side there's nothing. That's not Asus' fault, of course.

But there's the problem: the one good thing that usually comes with this kind of rebrand is a price drop. In other words, the main appeal of the Radeon R9 280X will be to give you a 7970 GHz for less cash. But that's the opposite of what Asus is offering with this premium, overclocked board. This is just too costly.

Tech Specs

Product TypeGraphic Card
Chipset ManufacturerAMD
Chipset ModelR9 280X
Chipset LineRadeon
Chipset SeriesR9 200
DisplayPortYes
Maximum Resolution2560 x 1600
Brand NameROG
Standard Memory1 GB
Host InterfacePCI Express 3.0
HDCP SupportedYes
Bus Width384 bit
Multi-GPU TechnologyCrossFireX
Analog SignalYes
Digital SignalYes
DVIYes
Number of DisplayPort Outputs4
Number of DVI Outputs2
Height144.8 mm
Cooler TypeFan Cooler
Memory TechnologyGDDR5 SDRAM
Form FactorPlug-in Card
Length284.5 mm
ManufacturerASUS Computer International
Memory Speed6400 MHz
Product ModelMATRIX-R9280X-P-3GD5
Product NameMATRIX-R9280X-P-3GD5 Radeon R9 280X DirectCU II Graphic Card
Processor Speed1100 MHz
Product LineMATRIX
Manufacturer Part NumberMATRIX-R9280X-P-3GD5
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://uk.asus.com
Marketing InformationASUS ROG MATRIX R9 280X?ultimate overclocking and gaming power
  • TOP-selected 1100MHz cores run 175MHz higher than reference for smoother gameplay.
  • VGA Hotwire connects card and ROG board voltage regulators for accurate and solder-free hardware-level voltage control.
  • TweakIt offers real-time fingertip-easy hardware level voltage adjustment by simply pressing the + and - buttons.
  • Acclaimed DIGI+ VRM joins superior quality 20-phase Super Alloy Power to drive precise digital control for enhanced performance, reliability, and card longevity.
  • ROG GPU Tweak suite offers the world's first graphics overclocking tool with loadline calibration and VRM overclocking.
Thickness53.3 mm
API SupportedDirectX 11.2