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Radeon R9-285 Review (MSI Twin Frozer IV OC)

Radeon R9-285 Review (MSI Twin Frozer IV OC)

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The R9-285 Review Conclusion

We could start this R9-285 Review conclusion with some observations about how R9-280 SE would have been a better name for the card in AMDs product stack… but we wont. Instead lets move on to the more important features of the card. Those start with the Tonga GPU which has received a decent set of revisions when compared to the GPU used on R9-280 series cards. Some of them may only appeal to specific consumers, such as the tweaked media functionality but other like the revised memory bandwidth efficiency are a welcome addition… and something which bodes well for future high end cards from AMD. Overall though, despite the initial observation that the memory bus has been reduced vs. 280, we see no concerns in real world use from this change.

In this R9-285 Review we used MSIs version of the card and true to form they have delivered a solid version of the card. We get a nice stylish black PCB, some red flashes which match their Gaming motherboards and the choice of outputs is as expected. MSI continue with the use of high quality components on the build and the cooler used performs well. In fact it is fantastically quiet when gaming on a R9-285. It also overclockes nicely, boosting performance further without any significant impact on noise.

In terms of value, the R9-285 will sit beneath the R9-280X for now, and in the short term at least will be above the R9-280 non-X in price terms, though AMDs slides would seem to indicate the 280 will go end of life sales wise. The RRP of $249 and £170 puts it in direct competition with the GTX 760 from NVIDIA and while the two cards offer many similar features, with AMD having Mantle and NVIDIA having PhysX a key differentiator, the value battle really does have to go to the Radeon. The new revision of the Never Settle promotion adds some potentially great titles to the mix and with this particular model we can download two of the biggest games being released in the next month or so and still have a download available to use on another title.

So that brings us to performance. In this R9-285 Review we see that the Overclocked version of the card competes well with an overclocked version of the GTX 760. There are limitations at this level of GPU, for example 4K use in more demanding (newer) titles requires reductions in detail levels and very demanding games such as Rome 2 need us to drop down below Extreme/Ultra to get playable framerates but at 1080p which most gamers will use performance is otherwise flawless. As is common, there are games which suit one GPU over another so NVIDIA win on DOTA 2 and (surprisingly) Thief as a couple of examples. The AMD/MSI card wins in areas such as 3DMark, Battlefield 4 and Grid AutoSport.

So that brings us to the award. We thought long and hard about this and while we could award “Value” for this R9-285 review, we will go with Recommended. If the Never Settle games appeal to you, this really is a great value product. Even without them it is also a well priced, competitive GPU for 1080p gaming. (And one which would have been more appropriate as the 280 series than re-branding 7900 cards.)

Recommended Award

R9-285 Review Test System and Performance

MSI Radeon R9-285 OC Edition with Twin Frozr IV
Gainward GeForce GTX 760 Phantom OC

Intel Core i7-5960X Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2800
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB 
Corsair AX1500i Antec Kuhler 1250

Installed on a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench

Intel Wireless AC 7260
Razer DeathAdder
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate
ASUS 120Hz/3D Display

Windows 8.1 64-bit
AMD Drivers: 14.8 Beta
NVIDIA Driver 340.52
Battlefield 4
DOTA 2
GRID Autosport
Rome 2: Total War
Thief
3DMark

The test system was built from scratch, a format of the hard drive was performed (NTFS) and then Windows 8.1 was installed. Following the completion of the installation, the video drivers were installed. All windows updates were then installed as were the latest builds of the benchmarking tools. Finally, the hard drives were de-fragmented (where appropriate). For each test, the video drivers were set to default quality/optimizations (unless otherwise stated).

Good Benchmarking Practice

Where possible, each benchmark was performed three times and the median result for each resolution/setting is shown in the tables that will follow. All applications had their latest patches applied and all hardware features the latest BIOS/Firmware.

3DMark FireStrike Extreme
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Dissertation Proposal Research Methodology Battlefield 4 1920×1080 Ultra Detail
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Architectural Thesis Rome 2: Total War – 1920×1080 Ultra
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Buy Essays Papers GRID Autosport 1920×1080 Ultra 8xAA
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About Author

Stuart Davidson

Stuart Davidson is Senior Editor at HardwareHeaven having joined the site in 2002.