Just Visiting
Tuesday | September 29, 2020
Radeon R9-285 Review – Part 2 – Sapphire and PowerColor

Radeon R9-285 Review – Part 2 – Sapphire and PowerColor

Last week AMD launched their R9-285 and we took a look at it here. There is of course more than one way to design a card and today we have two alternative models, from Sapphire and PowerColor, on our test bench for part 2 of our Radeon R9-285 review.

The Bundle

Before we get started with the card section of this Radeon R9-285 review it is worth taking a moment to talk about the bundle AMD are currently offering. They are branding the bundle “Never Settle: Space Edition” and adding a free copy (via download when released) of titles such as Alien: Isolation and the first Star Citizen module. Other older titles such as Napoleon Total War, Deus EX Human Revolution and Sleeping Dogs are also available and to really cap things, we get to choose three titles from the list when purchasing a R9-285. (R9 cards allow 3 games from a choice of 29, R7 260 cards its 2 games from 28 and 240/250 cards give users one free game from a choice of 18).

Here is a graphic which explains that, and you can also visit the Never Settle page for more info.


Radeon R9-285 Review – What is the R9-285?

In case you missed our original R9-285 review, lets just quickly cover the basics of AMDs new GPU again… The easiest way to sum that up is to say that AMD have taken some of the features from the R9-290 series and added them to a GPU of similar speed to the R9-280 series while enhancing some other aspects of the existing GPUs. This means a card which is ideal for 1080p gaming (though AMD suggest 1440p is achievable), with support for Mantle, DirectX 12 and AMD TrueAudio. The usual support for CrossFire and PowerTune are present also. AMD also note that the card is capable of 4K H.264 Decode support as well as working with Project FreeSync which aims to enhance the display quality of games by reducing tearing and smooth out our gameplay experience.


Also worthy of note when comparing the R9-285 to the R9-280 series is that the memory bus has changed from 384-bit on 280 down to 256-bit on 285. This is due to revisions AMD have made to their Graphics Core Next GPU architecture. Essentially they have optimised aspects such as frame buffer colour data compression to increase memory bandwidth efficiency by 40% on R9-285. Geometry processing has also been boosted (4 primitives per clock cycle for 2-4x tessellation throughput over 280) and the 285 receives instruction set updates for 16-bit floating point and integer instructions which benefit low power GPU compute and media processing tasks. That’s in addition to changes to data parallel processing instruction changes, improved task scheduling and tweaks to the scaler tech (e.g. a new pre-scaler improves high ratio downscaling quality).


Radeon R9-285 Review – Sapphire

radeon-r9-285-review-sap-box radeon-r9-285-review-sap-bundle

Sapphire stick with familiar branding for their R9-285 cards and this particular box has plenty of logos noting the key features of the card. Inside we find a mousepad, documentation, software CD (and case sticker), DVI to VGA dongle, power cable, HDMI cable and a mini-DisplayPort to DisplayPort convertor.

radeon-r9-285-review-sap-card radeon-r9-285-review-sap-back

Where as the Radeon R9-285 review we published last week saw a standard, full length, approach to card design Sapphire start this article off with something a little different. This is a compact (17cm) card designed for use in mini-ITX systems, although it will work in full sized builds too. We get a compact plastic shroud over a single fan and block of aluminium fins. Sapphire pass four copper heatpipes through the heatsink and flipping the card round we can see that the back is fairly packed with components, though we note all the memory is front facing and the card uses bridgeless CrossFire. A button on the top edge of the card also allows us to switch between legacy and UEFI BIOS if required.

radeon-r9-285-review-sap-power radeon-r9-285-review-sap-outs


Round at the card outputs our second R9-285 Review finds that this is a card differs from the last time round with dual mini-DisplayPort, HDMI and Dual DVI featuring here, compared to DP, HDMI and dual DVI. As is common on AMD cards we can take advantage of Eyefinity for multi-screen gaming (e.g. 5760×1080 which is 3x1920x1080) if 4K doesnt take our fancy. Sapphire also change the power inputs from two 6pin power connectors at the top edge of the card to 1x8pin on the back end, assisting the PCIe 3.0 slot in providing our 190w of board power.

In terms of key specifications the reference R9-285 uses a 28nm Tonga GPU which features 1792 stream processors, 112 texture units and 32 ROPs. The engine clock for the reference design is 918MHz with 2GB of GDDR5 clocked at 1375MHz. For their card Sapphire go with the same memory speed but overclock the core slightly to 928MHz.


Radeon R9-285 Review – PowerColor


PowerColor go with TurboDuo branding for their R9-285 and note on the box that it is an overclocked model with unique fan design. Inside our sample had no bundled items of note, however like the Sapphire card it does qualify for AMDs Never Settle promotion.

radeon-r9-285-review-pc-card radeon-r9-285-review-pc-back

For PowerColors R9-285 we get a full length black PCB and to the front they attach a metal shroud. Two fans make an appearance here and they use double blades to maximise airflow through the aluminium fins. Then three copper heatpipes and a copper GPU plate assist in cooling the GPU. Again we note that this is a card with all memory on the front surface and that it supports bridgeless Crossfire.

radeon-r9-285-review-pc-power radeon-r9-285-review-pc-outs


In terms of power inputs PowerColor stick with the standard 2x6pin layout on the top edge of the card and round at the outputs we again see the normal configuration, DisplayPort, HDMI and dual DVIs. That of course allows us to run display set-ups such as 5760×1080 or 4K with ease.

The PowerColor R9-285 uses a 28nm Tonga GPU which features 1792 stream processors, 112 texture units and 32 ROPs…just like the others and here the engine clock is 945MHz (vs 918Mhz standard) and our 2GB of GDDR5 is clocked at 1375MHz.


Radeon R9-285 Review – Conclusion

*Performance figures after the conclusion*

In our first Radeon R9-285 review we noted the following about AMDs new GPU:

“… the Tonga GPU 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.”

None of that changes here and essentially the same can be said of performance against the GTX 760 OC. The Radeons compete well with that card when gaming at 1080p and also stack up well in other areas such as power use and thermal performance.

What do we think of the individual card designs? Well thinking back to the original MSI model the PowerColor is closest to that. It is slightly more compact but follows a metal shroud and dual fan design which looks nice too. The those two cards have very similar OC specifications and perform within 1-2fps of each other at all times. That said the MSI version does run noticeably cooler while being equally quiet. Moving to Sapphire we don’t get the metal cover but we do gain a more compact form factor. Interestingly the card compares very well in framerates, again just 1fps or so off the PowerColor and Sapphire offer lower temperatures and power use at load.

In the end it all depends what you want from a card. Each of the R9-285 models that we have reviewed have their selling points, the most obvious being the compact Sapphire card for those building a small system as it offers the fastest performance available in the compact/ITX format. If that isn’t important then search around for the best deal and have that confirm your purchase.

Recommended Award

Sapphire R9-285 Compact

Recommended Award

PowerColor R9-285

Radeon R9-285 Review – Test System

Sapphire Radeon R9-285 Compact ITX
PowerColor Radeon R9-285 TurboDuo OC
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
GRID Autosport
Rome 2: Total War

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.

Radeon R9-285 Review – Performance

3DMark FireStrike Extreme
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-3dmark.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-3dmark [/kml_flashembed]

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-3dmark-oc.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-3dmark-oc [/kml_flashembed]

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-temp.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-temp [/kml_flashembed]

[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-power.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-power [/kml_flashembed]

Battlefield 4 1920×1080 Ultra Detail
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-battlefield.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-battlefield [/kml_flashembed]

DOTA2 1920×1080 Ultra
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-dota.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-dota [/kml_flashembed]

Rome 2: Total War – 1920×1080 Medium
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-rome2.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-rome2 [/kml_flashembed]

Thief 1920×1080 Max
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-thief.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-thief [/kml_flashembed]

GRID Autosport 1920×1080 Ultra 8xAA
[kml_flashembed publishmethod=”static” fversion=”8.0.0″ movie=”https://www.hardwareheaven.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/r9-285-review-2-grid.swf” width=”640″ height=”400″ targetclass=”flashmovie” wmode=”opaque”] r9-285-review-2-grid [/kml_flashembed]


About Author

Stuart Davidson


  1. was kind of hoping to see a few 4k results….

  2. henry balite-chelation

    Why are you saying there’s 32 ROPs when gpu-z clearly shows 64 ROPs?

  3. henry balite-chelston

    Sry, auto made my name wrong

  4. henry balite-chelston

    You may be right but it seems that all shots of the gpu-z are wrong in all review cases cause they all show the same number. Even one reviewer from tech power up said there’s 64 ROPs so I’m abit confused…

  5. henry balite-chelston

    On guru.net on sept. 26th zardon comparing two itx cards says “The R9 285 is built on the 28nm process. It has 64 ROPS, 112 texture units and 1,792 Stream processors. The 2GB of GDDR5 memory is connected via a 256 bit memory bus. The core is overclocked to 928mhz, and the memory is running at 1,375mhz (5.5Gbps effective).”

  6. henry balite-chelston

    Well I answered my own question by studying the diagram. And gpuz is not wrong. Theres a total of 8 RB or render backends each one has 4 z stencle ROPs and 4 color ROPs totaling 8 per RB . that equals 64 total ROPs

  7. henry balite-chelston

    I still could be wrong if they count 1 z-stencle rop and 1 color rop as 1 rop …lol im still learning

    • Sounds to me like those other sites are just copying the details from GPUz. AMD state 32 in their product info and Anandtech agree with us: “Diving into the R9 285’s raw specifications, the card utilizes a 1792 stream processor Graphics Core Next GPU. Paired with these SPs are 112 texture units (in the standard 16:1 ratio), and on the backend of the rendering pipeline is 32 ROPs. ” From http://anandtech.com/show/8460/amd-radeon-r9-285-review

      So yes, as we said. 32. 🙂

  8. henry balite-chelston

    Well I decided to purchase the r9 285 itx in replacement of the 260x. I like the 260x a lot but since I play WOW and their new patch is coming out soon, the recommendation has increased. This is perfect as I have a micro atx tower and with the 260x in it its a pretty tight fit. And since the 285 and 260x are the same size I shouldn’t have an issue.

It appears you have AdBlocking activated

Unfortunately AdBlockers interfere with the shopping cart process

To continue with the payment process can we ask you to

deactivate your AdBlocking plugin

or to whitelist this site. Then refresh the page

We thank you for your understanding

Hardwareheaven respect you right to employ plugins such as AdBlocker.
We would however ask you to consider whitelisting this site
We do not allow intrusive advertising and all our sponsors supply items
relevant to the content on the site.

Hardwareheaven Webmaster