Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition OC 3GB Review

The launch day coverage on AMD R7/R9 earlier this week may have been tied into mainly boring reference samples, but the really good products are being showcased today. This review focuses on something rather special – the new ultra high end Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition which features a triple fan cooler, out of the box overclocked speeds and the highest build quality standards on the market. With a UK asking price of £269.99 inc vat – should this be the card to get for a new high end system upgrade?
Sapphire have earned a reputation for releasing some of the highest grade graphics solutions on the market. Their Vapor X coolers have impressed us over the years for their cooling proficiency and low noise characteristics.
The Toxic Edition we are reviewing today slots in right at the top of Sapphire’s R9 280X portfolio and features a 12 phase power configuration.
first page
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition is overclocked out of the box by 100mhz, to 1,150mhz. The GDDR5 memory has also received a boost to 1,600mhz (6.4Gbps effective). The Toxic Edition will be available in the United Kingdom within the next couple of weeks and Overclockers UK are taking pre-orders at £269.99 inc vat.

We received one of the first samples of the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition, straight from the factory in the Far East. As such we didn’t get a retail box with all the accessories for this review. Sapphire did send us an image of the final box artwork however, which you can see above.
The accessories included will be:
  • Crossfire Interconnect Cable x1.
  • HDMI 1.4 1.8m cable x1.
  • 8 Pin to 4 Pin Power adapter x2.
  • Mini dp to dp adapter x1.
The Sapphire R9 280X is a heavy ’2.2′ slot card and it immediately asserts its position as an ‘flagship’ product. There is a two tone backplate on the card as well, to enhance cooling performance and to protect against damage. It measures 308 x 113 x 41mm (LxWxH).
The new Tri-X Cooler utilities three highly efficient Aerofoil fans.
The card has a DVI-I, DVI-D, HDMI and two mini DisplayPort connectors for output.
R9 Series graphics cards can now support up to three HDMI/DVI displays for use with AMD Eyefinity technology. A set of displays which support identical timings is required to enable this feature. The display clocks and timing for this feature are configured at boot time.
As such, display hot‐plugging is not supported for the third HDMI/DVI connection. A reboot is required to enable three HDMI/DVI displays.
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition demands power from two 8 pin PCIE power connectors. The official AMD R9 280X is a 1x6pin and 1x8pin configuration so the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition can demand more power under load situations. Just what we need when overclocking.
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition has two Crossfire connectors, to support multiple card configurations.
There is a a little ‘Sapphire’ branded button close to the Crossfire connectors. This toggles between two BIOS settings. On this card there is no ‘Turbo’ feature – both enable the 1,150mhz core and 1,600mhz configuration. The switch is actually a toggle between UEFI and BIOS states.
The R9 280X Toxic Edition Tri-X Cooler is a new design from the Sapphire engineering team. It utilises three monster 10mm heatpipeswhich run along the full length of the cooler into a dense rack of aluminum fins.
The three fans above force cool air across all of the cooler components and to the VRM’s and capacitors underneath (The VRM’s also have dedicated heatsinks). Sapphire are using double sided Black Diamond chokes and Solid capacitors on this card for reliability, long term. This Toxic Edition uses a 8+2+2 power phase configuration to ensure maximum performance under heavy load conditions.
An overview of the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition. Core clock is boosted from 1,050mhz to 1,150mhz. Like all other R9 280X graphics cards is has 32 ROPs, 128 TMU’s and 2,038 Stream Processors. The 3GB of GDDR5 memory is connected via a 384 bit memory interface.
On this page we present some super high resolution images of the product taken with the 24.5MP Nikon D3X camera and 24-70mm ED lens. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.
For our review today we are using the latest Catalyst 13.11 and Forceware 331.40 drivers. These drivers have the latest performance enhancements and bug fixes.
Sapphire system build
We are using one of our brand new test rigs supplied by PCSPECIALIST and built to our specifications. If you want to read more about this, or are interested in buying the same Kitguru Test Rig, check out our article with links on this page.
We are using a Dell 3011 monitor for this review. We test at both 1920×1080 and 2560×1600 resolutions.
Comparison cards:
eVGA GTX760 SC (1072mhz core / 1502mhz memory)
Palit GTX770 (1046mhz core / 1753mhz memory)
MSI GTX780 (863mhz core / 1502mhz memory)
ASUS R9 280X Matrix Platinum (1100mhz core / 1600mhz memory)
Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Unigine Valley Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client


Sleeping Dogs
Total War: Rome 2
Dirt Showdown
Tomb Raider
Metro Last Light
Alien V Predator
Splinter Cell Blacklist
All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset.
A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
heaven setts
We use the settings shown above at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600.
unigine heaven
unigine heaven 2560
heaven 2013-10-09 11-53-58-90heaven 2013-10-09 11-58-44-03
Excellent performance and the fastest R9 280X we have tested all week, claiming top position, right behind the MSI GTX780.
Valley Benchmark is a new GPU stress-testing tool from the developers of the very popular and highly acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. The forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains amazes with its scale from a bird’s-eye view and is extremely detailed down to every leaf and flower petal. This non-synthetic benchmark powered by the state-of-the art UNIGINE Engine showcases a comprehensive set of cutting-edge graphics technologies with a dynamic environment and fully interactive modes available to the end user.
valley setts
We test with the settings above both at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600 resolutions.
unigine valley
unigine valley 2560
valley 2013-10-09 12-02-31-00valley 2013-10-09 12-20-27-10
Class leading performance, leading the pack behind the GTX780.Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.
A very high result for the Sapphire R9 280X, scoring 43,265 points, slightly behind the reference clocked GTX780.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
Superb performance in this Direct X 11 engine, scoring 11,874 points. The reference clocked GTX780 scores 12,665 points.
3DMark is an essential tool used by millions of gamers, hundreds of hardware review sites and many of the world’s leading manufacturers to measure PC gaming performance.
Futuremark say “Use it to test your PC’s limits and measure the impact of overclocking and tweaking your system. Search our massive results database and see how your PC compares or just admire the graphics and wonder why all PC games don’t look this good.
To get more out of your PC, put 3DMark in your PC.”
An impressive score, 9,151 points in the graphics test places the R9 280X Toxic Edition around 250 points behind a reference clocked GTX780.Aliens V Predator has proved to be a big seller since the release and Sega have taken the franchise into new territory after taking it from Sierra. AVP is a Direct X 11 supported title and delivers not only advanced shadow rendering but high quality tessellation for the cards on test today. To test the cards we used a 1920×1080 / 2560×1600 resolution with DX11, Texture Quality Very High, MSAA Samples 1, 16 af, ambient occulsion on, shadow complexity high, motion blur on.
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition takes top spot among 280X solutions at both resolutions. At 2560×1600, the Toxic is actually quite closely matched against the GTX780.
Sleeping Dogs started development as an original title, but was announced in 2009 as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third installment and a reboot of the True Crime series. As a result of the game’s high development budget and delays, it was canceled by Activision Blizzard in 2011. Six months later, it was announced that Square Enix had picked up the publishing rights to the game, but the game was renamed Sleeping Dogs in 2012 since Square Enix did not purchase the True Crime name rights.
HKShip 2013-09-19 15-01-12-06HKShip 2013-09-19 15-01-15-98
This game is still a system killer at these maximised settings. We test at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600.
sleeping dogs
sleeping dogs 2560
The Sapphire R280X Toxic Edition takes second place behind the GTX780 at 1920×1080. The position reverses however when we increase the resolution to 2560×1600 thanks to improved minimum frame rates.
Total War ROME 2 is the eighth stand alone game in the Total War series, it is the successor to the successful Rome: Total War title. The Warscape Engine powers the visuals of the game and the new unit cameras will allow players to focus on individual soldiers on the battlefield, which in itself may contain thousands of combatants at a time. Creative Assembly has stated that they wish to bring out the more human side of war this way, with soldiers reacting with horror as their comrades get killed around them and officers inspiring their men with heroic speeches before siege towers hit the walls of the enemy city. This will be realised using facial animations for individual units, adding a feel of horror and realism to the battles.
rome2 2013-10-03 13-27-28-66rome2 2013-10-03 13-27-31-69
To test the cards today we use the ULTRA profile settings shown above at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600 resolutions.
Rome 2
rome2 2560
A great game and a very demanding engine when you crank the image quality settings. The R9 280X Toxic Edition has no problems powering this engine at 2560×1600.
Dirt Showdown is the latest title in the franchise from Codemasters, based around the famous Colin McRae racing game series, although it no longer uses his name, since he passed away in 2007.
showdown_avx 2013-09-19 15-32-17-34showdown_avx 2013-09-19 15-32-23-52
Today we test the hardware at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600 with the Ultra profile and 8 x MSAA.
dirt showdown
Dirt showdown2560
A strong engine for AMD drivers/hardware. The MSI GTX780 claims top spot at 1920×1080 thanks to the sheer horsepower, but the position reverses at 2560×1600 when the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition claims top spot.

After a delayed release from late 2012 to March 2013, the game received much anticipation and hype. Tomb Raider received much acclaim from critics, who praised the graphics, the gameplay and Camilla Luddington’s performance as Lara with many critics agreeing that the game is a solid and much needed reboot of the franchise. Much criticism went to the addition of the multiplayer which many felt was unnecessary. Tomb Raider went on to sell one million copies in forty-eight hours of its release, and has sold 3.4 million copies worldwide so far.
We use the ULTIMATE profile shown above and test at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600.
tomb raider
tomb raider2560
Excellent performance results at these demanding settings.
MetroLast Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike.
4A Games’ proprietary 4A Engine is capable of rendering breathtaking vistas, such as those showing the ruined remnants of Moscow, as well as immersive indoor areas that play with light and shadow, creating hauntingly beautiful scenes akin to those from modern-day photos of Pripyat’s abandoned factories and schools.
We test this game with the built in benchmark with very high quality settings at 1920×1080 – details shown in the image above.
metro last light
Slightly higher performance than the ASUS R9 280X Matrix Platinum edition.
Grid 2 is the sequel to the racing video game Race Driver: Grid.  It was developed and published by Codemasters. The game includes numerous real world locations such as Paris, numerous United States locations, and many more, and also includes motor vehicles spanning four decades. In addition, it includes a new handling system that developer Codemasters has dubbed ‘TrueFeel’, which aims to hit a sweet spot between realism and accessibility.
grid2_avx 2013-09-19 15-10-21-65grid2_avx 2013-09-19 15-10-45-80grid2_avx 2013-09-19 15-10-51-28
We test at 1920×1080 with the Ultra image quality preset, as shown above. 8x MSAA was enabled to improve image quality.
grid 2
grid 2 2560
No problems powering this engine at either resolution.
Splinter Cell Blacklist is the sixth installment in the series. The game begins with Sam Fisher and his old friend Victor Coste who are about to depart from Andersen AFB in Guam when an unknown enemy force destroys the entire base. Assisted by hacker specialist Charlie Cole, Sam and Vic manage to escape, although Vic is injured after protecting Sam from a grenade. Soon after, a terrorist group calling itself “The Engineers” assumes responsibility for the attack and announce that it was the first of a deadly countdown of escalating attacks (called “The Blacklist”) on United States assets, declaring that they will halt the attacks only after the U.S. government accomplish the demand of calling back all American troops deployed abroad.
Blacklist_DX11_game 2013-09-19 15-36-52-71Blacklist_DX11_game 2013-09-19 15-37-31-46
We test with a series of high image quality settings as shown above and with 4x MSAA and 16 x Anisotropic filtering enabled.
Splinter Cell blacklist
Nvidia hardware performs well with this particular engine, and these are very high image quality settings. The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition claims top spot, averaging 46 frames per second.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes.Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.
This is an extremely impressive cooling system, holding gaming load around 64c in our specific environment. The results are very closely matched to the R9 280X Vapor X which was obviously running at a much lower clock speed.
We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with almost completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.
Ambient noise in the room is around 20-25dBa. We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation.
Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA – Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA – High Quality Computer fan
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA – Normal Conversation
60dBA – Laughter
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA – City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA – Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA – MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA – Orchestra
120dBA – Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA – Threshold of Pain
140dBA – Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA – Instant Perforation of eardrum
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition generates a modest level of noise under heavy load. It is much quieter than the last generation Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition, although not as quiet as the ASUS R9 280X Matrix Platinum. That said, the ASUS R9 280X Matrix Platinum runs around 10c hotter, even with a triple slot cooler.
The fans spin between 1,300 rpm at idle and 2,900 rpm under Synthetic load.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and record the results.
power consumption
The Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition consumes a little more power than the Vapor X version.For our overclocking tests today we used the latest version of Sapphire’s TriXX software tool.
This is the best result we have had all week from a R9 280X – achieving a maximum overclock figure of 1,282 mhz … from 1,150mhz. The memory limit was 1,762mhz, from 1,600mhz. Substantial improvements.
The final graphics score of 12,561 is a noticeable improvement, and almost in line with a reference clocked GTX780.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, although we would imagine the black and yellow colour scheme of the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition will appeal to a wide audience. I think it is one of the sexiest looking video cards available today.
Out of all the graphics cards we have tested this week, the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition is the most impressive solution. Not only does the cooler look stunning in the flesh but the build quality is exemplary throughout. Sapphire have spared no expense in selecting the highest grade components, incorporating double side black Diamond choke capacitors and a 8+2+2 phase digital power phase to ensure rock solid performance under the most extreme load situations.
The Sapphire Toxic Edition is the fastest R9 280X we have tested since launch, with the core clocked at 1,150mhz and the GDDR5 memory at 1,600mhz (6.4 Gbps effective). Thanks to the enhanced power delivery, we managed to squeeze almost 1,300mhz from the core and 1,762mhz from the GDDR5 memory (7.05 Gbps effective). Again, this is the highest manually tuned clock speed from any R9 280X this week. Some credit has to go to the capabilities of the Tri-X cooler which features three high grade aerofoil fans and gargantuan 10mm heat pipes.
We would go as far to say that the new Tri-X cooler is the best AMD cooling solution on the market. Not only did it outperform the triple slot cooler on the Asus R9 280X Matrix Platinum, but it did so by a staggering 10c under load. We wouldn’t say the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition was the quietest solution on the market, but the balance of noise to performance is about as good as we could feasibly expect. We would imagine gamers won’t mind a little fan noise under load anyway, and it is certainly much quieter than the HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition of the last generation.
When the core is overclocked to almost 1,300mhz, the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition is within sniffing distance of the reference clockedGTX780. While this might not seem like such a big deal in late 2013, we do need to look at the UK pricing today. A reference GTX780 will still cost £500 inc vat, and this Sapphire Toxic Edition is available on pre-order at Overclockers UK for £269.99 inc vat. That £230 saved could facilitate hardware upgrades, such as funding a new processor, or a memory kit and a quality power supply.
I was an advocate of the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition and have used it frequently in our reviews since it was released. The only downside with the card were the noise levels under load, especially when operating at the higher 1,200mhz core clock speed. The new Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition may have a slightly lower ‘out of the box’ core clock speed, and half the memory, but it does run quieter at all times, consumes less power at the socket… all while running cooler. The Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition cost £550 when it was first launched … it is not rocket science to work out that this is exactly twice the price of Sapphire’s latest R9 280X Toxic Edition OC.
If you are in the market for a new high performance AMD graphics card then we have to put the Sapphire R9 280X Toxic Edition at the top of the list. It is not only faster than any other R9 280X we have tested to date, but it is actually very competitively priced at £269.99 inc vat. The GTX780 might still be faster, but the price difference of £230+ means that many gamers will invest the difference into other hardware components and upgrades.
  • Beautiful looking design.
  • no expense spared with PCB component selection.
  • very high out of the box overclock (1,150mhz/1600mhz).
  • plenty of additional headroom.
  • quieter than the Sapphire HD7970 6GB Toxic Edition of yesterday.
  • Tri-X cooler is a new class leader.
  • £270 asking price makes it £230 cheaper than a reference GTX780.
  • There are quieter competitor cards.
Puppy says: One of the finest video cards we have ever tested at Kitguru.
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