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AMD Radeon R9 review: 270X & 280

Our Rating :

Some excellent mid-range cards that excel in raw performance for the cash


Among these mid-range AMD GPUs we’ve tested, the R9 270X is the least expensive. This is based on the AMD Curacao XT GPU, which has 1,280 GPU cores and a stock 1GHz core speed. Moving up a notch, you have the Radeon R9 280, with its Tahiti PRO core, 1,792 GPU cores and stock 827MHz core speed.

CardRatingAwardPrice inc VATSupplier
Club3D Radeon R9 270X royalQueen4£
Powercolor PCS+ R9 270X 2GB GDDR55Best Buy£
Sapphire Dual-X R9 2805Recommended£


Club3D Radeon R9 270X & PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X

We’ve tested two cards based on the R9 270X chipset: The Club3D Radeon R9 270X and the PowerColor PCS+ R9 270X. The Club3D card has a mild tweak to its clock speed to 1,080MHz, while the PowerColor version will run up to 1,100MHz under load.

The Club3D card is more compact than PowerColor’s model; it’s 216mm long rather than 242mm, so may be easier to fit if you have a very compact case. Both cards have HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI connectors, but one of the Club3D card’s DVI ports is only single-link, so can only support screens with a maximum 1,920×1,200 resolution. Both cards need power from two 6-pin PCI Express connectors, and the longer PowerColor card’s sockets are on the side of the card to help with fitting it in smaller cases.

Both cards have twin cooling fans, but the Club3D model is significantly noisier under load, with the fans spinning up to make quite a rushing noise, compared to the PowerColor card’s low whir.

In terms of performance, there was little to choose between the cards, but the PowerColor model had a slight edge. Both cards had no problems with the Dirt Showdown test at 1,920×1,080, managing over 75fps at maximum detail. The cards were also close in Tomb Raider at 1,920×1,080, Ultra quality and 2x SSAA, with a smooth 48.1fps from the Club3D card and 49.3fps from the PowerColor model.

The cards couldn’t manage a playable frame rate in our most challenging benchmark: Metro: Last Light Redux at 1,920×1,080, Very High detail and with SSAA enabled. In this test we saw an average of 23fps from both cards, and we had to turn off SSAA to get playable frame rates of 43fps from the Club3D card and 44fps from the PowerColor model.

The cards were even powerful enough for some gaming at higher resolutions. Dirt Showdown at 2,560×1,440 wasn’t a problem for either model with Ultra detail, and at a huge 3,840×2,160 we still saw 29.3fps from the Club3D card and 30fps from PowerColor’s model. In Tomb Raider at 2,560×1,440 with Ultra detail and 2x SSAA, we saw a just-smooth 29.9fps from the Club3D card and 30.6fps from the PowerColor.

There’s little to choose between the Club3D and PowerColor R9 270X cards in terms of performance, but the PowerColor model is quieter and is currently available for just £126, making it excellent value for a capable mid-range card and a Best Buy.

Sapphire Dual-X R9 280

We’ve tested one Radeon R9 280 card: the Sapphire Dual-X R9 280. This is a fairly long card, at 264mm, with twin cooling fans. The two six-pin PCI Express power connectors are on the side of the card, which will help you fit it in shorter cases. The card is quiet at idle but gets fairly loud under load, making a steady whoosh. You’re well covered for higher-resolution displays thanks to twin dual-link DVI outputs and DisplayPort as well as HDMI.

The R9 280 is a strong performer for the price. It had no problems with Dirt Showdown at 1,920×1,080 and 2,560×1,440 resolutions with Ultra detail, and even managed a smooth 33.8fps average at 3,840×2,160. Tomb Raider was only really a challenge with Ultra detail and 2x SSAA once we plugged the card into a 2,560×1,440 monitor, whereupon we still saw a smooth 34.9fps.

This is also the cheapest AMD card which can handle the Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark at 1,920x,1080 with Very High detail and SSAA enabled. In this test the card managed a just-playable 29fps, but the frame rate did drop as low as 18fps in the toughest parts of the benchmark. The game ran beautifully at a 50fps average once we turned off SSAA. Even at 2,560×1,440, we only had to drop the quality setting to High and disable SSAA to see a smooth 44fps.

If you want to play the most challenging games at maximum detail, and less-demanding titles at higher-than-1080p resolutions, the Sapphire Dual-X R9 280 is the cheapest way to do it. The more expensive MSI GTX 960 Gaming 2G is slightly quicker and quieter, so may be worth the extra £20 if noise levels are important to you, but the Sapphire Dual-X R9 280 is hard to beat for sheer performance value. However, if you plan on gaming at 1,920×1,080 you’ll be fine with the cheaper PowerColor Radeon R9 270X, and those with 2,560×1,440 screens would be better off finding another £35 for the XFX Radeon R9 280X. 

AwardBest BuyRecommended
ModelRadeon R9 270X royalQueenPCS+ R9 270X 2GB GDDR5Dual-X R9 280
Slots taken up222
GPUAMD Radeon R9 270XAMD Radeon R9 270XAMD Radeon R9 280
GPU cores1,2801,2801,792
GPU clock speed1,080MHz1,100MHz940MHz
Memory interface256-bit256-bit384-bit
Max memory bandwidth179.2GB/s182.4GB/s240GB/s
Memory speed1,400MHz1,425MHz1,250MHz
Graphics card length216mm242mm264mm
DVI outputs222
D-sub outputs000
HDMI outputs111
Mini HDMI outputs000
DisplayPort outputs111
Mini DisplayPort outputs000
Power leads required2x 6-pin PCI Express2x 6-pin PCI Express2x 6-pin PCI Express
AccessoriesNoneDVI to VGA adaptorDisplayPort cable, 2x Molex to 6-pin PCI Express adaptors
Buying information
Price including VAT£152£126£150
WarrantyTwo years RTBTwo years RTBTwo years RTB
Part codeCGAX-R927X6FAXR9 270X 2GBD5-PPDHE11230-00-20G

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