Even with the latest rash of ultra-high end video cards, custom AMD R9 280X’ers are still a fan favorite for PC gaming enthusiasts. Put simply you get good performance and loads of overclocking headroom at a price that is damn reasonable. In fact the price is so reasonable that you can pick up two of these video cards for less than what a high end NVIDIA card will set you back.
The last time we looked at R9 280X cards we took a long hard look at the ASUS R9 280X TOP and walked away very impressed. This time we are focusing in on a new comer to our charts: XFX. XFX have a long and impressive history in the GPU marketplace and an even longer reputation for offering consumers unique solutions at fairly reasonable prices. Today we will put the TDFD version of the XFX R9 280X to the test to see what it is made of.
Colloquially referred to as their ‘Double D’ line of video cards the R9 TDFD comes equipped with a high performance stock cooling solution that makes this GPU easily the most aesthetically pleasing video card we have seen in a long while. Make no mistake these good looks are not skin deep and this custom cooling solution is sure to satisfy even the most demanding of overclocking enthusiast.
Curiously enough, XFX may have indeed bestowed their Double D 280X with an impressive custom heatsink and fan solution, but they have opted to forgo any factory overclocking. Instead the 280X’s Tahiti XTL core and the 3GB of DDR5 RAM have been left at stock levels. On the surface this certainly does not make much sense as this particular card will set you back $255 dollars, or $55 more than the typical stock R9 280X, and even $5 more than a pre-overclocked ASUS Top will. To fully explain these seemingly counter-intuitive pricing consumers need to understand that what these prices are really reflecting is a difference in GPU design philosophy.
Most GPU companies expect consumers to not overclock. Instead they offer pre-overclocked cards and expect consumers to consider that ‘good enough’. XFX takes a different approach to enthusiast video cards. They encourage you to never settle and expect you to find the sweet spot of your XFX card and not rely upon any factory crutches. Arguably this makes things a lot easier and cheaper for XFX as they don’t have to guarantee an overclock setting for every card they sell, but since you are encouraged to overclock – and as long as you don’t do any obvious physical damage – the lifetime warranty makes such an argument overly cynical.
We expect very big things from this particular 280X and fully expect it to easily justify its very reasonable asking price. This does however pose a very interesting ‘problem’ for enthusiasts – but one that is not new. Basically is it better to get one mid-grade video card or one ultra-high end video card? Usually that answer is fairly self-evident, but since NVIDIA recently released their 9 series, the last generation 7 series cards have also gotten much cheaper. So the real question now becomes, how much savings is too much? Put another way, is there a point where getting older high end cards becomes a better deal than getting two mid-grade ‘new’ cards? To this end we will not only be testing one of the XFX R9 280X cards, but two of them in Crossfire and comparing them to two NVIDIA 780s in SLI. Such a setup is obviously not a fair comparison and will have little bearing on our final conclusion of the XFX R9 280X, but with such a golden opportunity it would be unfair of us to not include all the information we could!