AMD Radeon R9 280X vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 770 review

The arrival of AMD’s latest mid-range graphics card, the Radeon R9 280X, reignites the battle for the most affordable serious gaming GPU. With Nvidia’s rival, the GeForce GTX 770, priced almost identically, we’ve put the two cards in a head-to-head contest.

Nvidia and AMD’s mid-range cards have more in common than only cost. The names may be new, but the hardware underneath remains largely the same as the previous generation.

The Hardware

AMD’s newest arrival, the Radeon R9 280X, is an overclocked Radeon HD 7970. Inside, the 28nm Tahiti XTL GPU has received a speed bump, and the 3GB of GDDR5 RAM now barrels along at an effective rate of 6GHz.

AMD Radeon R9 280X

Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 770 made its debut back in May, and its engine is equally familiar. There’s the same 28nm GK104 GPU as found in the GeForce GTX 680, but Nvidia has bumped the core clock up by a modest 40MHz, and boosted memory speeds from 6GHz to 7GHz. It now sports the GPU Boost 2 technology which debuted on the GeForce GTX 780. This dynamically overclocks the GPU as long as it’s operating within a safe temperature range.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 770

Performance

As both of our review samples were factory-overclocked models (courtesy of HIS and PNY), we set both to manufacturer stock speeds before running our suite of benchmarks. Our test PC comprised of a 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-3770K CPU, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 512GB SSD.

At Full HD resolution and Very High quality, Crysis provides little challenge for either card. Here, the GTX 770 edged ahead with an average of 78fps to the R9 280X’s 74fps. At 2,560 x 1,440, the delta shrank to a single frame, the AMD card retaking the lead with a smooth 55fps.

Crytek’s latest shooter, Crysis 3, ups the hardware demands significantly. In our custom benchmark run at Full HD and Very High detail, the Nvidia card came back out on top, averaging 55fps to the AMD card’s 50fps, and maintaining a higher minimum framerate of 47fps versus the AMD card’s 40fps. At a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440, the GTX 770 remained in front with an average of 35fps and minimum of 30fps pushing it two frames per second ahead of the R9 280X.

At idle, power consumption was pretty similar for both cards, but the R9 280X upped our system’s power draw to 335W while running FurMark – 16% more than the GTX 770’s 288W.

As both of our test cards were using proprietary (and very quiet) twin-fan coolers, however, we couldn’t usefully assess the noise output or running temperature of the GPUs. We suspect the stock coolers from both manufacturers will be substantially noisier, though.

Conclusion

AMD’s Radeon R9 280X and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 770 deliver solid gaming performance across the board. It’s only once you start playing the most demanding of games (such as Crysis 3) at 2,560 x 1,440 resolution and above that you’ll begin to reach the limits of their capabilities.

As both cards are currently retailing for around £240, it’s Nvidia that wrests victory by the narrowest of margins. Nvidia’s mid-range brawler bests its rival by delivering higher average and minimum framerates across our Crysis tests, and packing in more performance into every watt.

With prices shifting constantly, however, it would only take a modest price cut to put AMD back in the ascendancy. Shop around, and if you can find either GPU – or even an older Radeon HD 7970 – at a substantially cheaper price, then we wouldn’t hesitate to shift our allegiance to the least costly option.

AMD Radeon R9 280X vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 770

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