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AMD Radeon R9 280X vs Nvidia GeForce GTX 770: which is the best graphics card?

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Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: which is the best graphics card?

Graphics cards are big business for AMD and Nvidia, and both have released new product ranges this year. The Radeon R9 280X and GeForce GTX 770 are crucial for both companies: they’re within reach for many PC gamers, but they’re still powerful enough to function as their only graphics purchase for two or three years.

On paper there’s not much between AMD’s R9 280X and the GTX 770. The former card will set you back at least £239, and the latter costs a mere three pounds more. They’re not far apart on the spec sheet, either; the AMD card runs at 850MHz and churns out a maximum single precision performance figure of 3,315.2 GFLOPS, and the Nvidia hardware fights back with 3,213 GFLOPS.

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Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: How we tested

To work out which is the best graphics card to buy we’ve run Battlefield 4, Bioshock Infinite and Crysis 3 at each game’s toughest setting and 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and looked the idle and peak temperatures and power use of the two cards to see which is the most effecient.

Our test rig for this test consisted of an Asus X79-Deluxe motherboard, Intel Core i7-4960X processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk.

To get prices for each card we visited www.scan.co.uk and noted down the cheapest stock-speed card we could find, although we will be referring to the various overclocked and tweaked models available for each GPU, which will be more expensive, later on in the review.

Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: Battlefield 4 Performance

Battlefield 4 is the latest instalment in EA’s shooter franchise and it’s been optimised for AMD graphics, so we had high hopes for the Radeon R9 280X.

High at 1,920 x 1,080

Battlefield 4 at High

The AMD card delivered in most of our benchmarks. The R9 280X returned minimum and average framerates of 87fps and 103.4fps, with the GTX 770 behind on 79fps and 97.71fps.

Very High at 1,920 x 1,080

Battlefield 4 at Very High

The two cards traded blows when we upgraded the quality to Ultra – Battlefield 4’s toughest test. The R9 280X’s minimum framerate of 42fps was two frames slower than the Nvidia hardware, but the AMD card fought back with an average framerate of 58.76fps – around one frame faster than the GTX 770.

It’s almost a clean sweep for the red team, then, and it’s no surprise – AMD’s gaming programme means its engineers have visited Battlefield developer DICE and optimised the game to take advantage of Radeon hardware. While the Nvidia card was faster in one test, that was a minimum framerate benchmark, and neither card struggled to play Battlefield 4 at a smooth framerate.

That means it’s a clear victory for the Radeon HD 280X: if you want to play Battlefield, AMD hardware is the kit to buy.

R9 280X vs GTX 770: which is the best graphics card for Battlefield 4?

GTX 770 vs r9 280X 2

SEE ALSO: 10 best games of 2013

Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: Bioshock Infinite Performance

Battlefield 4 was a clean sweep for AMD, but Bioshock Infinite saw Nvidia fight back.

Ultra at 1,920 x 1,080

Bioshock at Ultra

We ran the game at 1,920 x 1,080 and at its Ultra settings, and the GTX 770 served up minimum and average framerates of 21.34fps and 84.03fps: the former figure was marginally ahead of the R9 280X’s 20.25fps and 73.24fps scores.

Very High at 1,920 x 1,080

Bioshock at Very High

The result was less clear-cut when we ran the game at its less demanding Very High quality levels. While the GTX 770’s average framerate of 118.92fps trumped the 112.53fps scored by the AMD card, the R9 280X scored a minimum framerate of 29.99fps – a better score than the 21.82fps from the Nvidia card.

That minimum framerate figure means that there’s no clean sweep for Nvidia, but the GeForce GTX 770 convincingly takes the prize in this test – and the high average figures from the GTX 770 mean we’re not concerned about its slightly lower minimum result in one benchmark, especially when it took back its crown in a more demanding test.

While both cards will easily play this title across a single screen, the GTX 770 was between six and eleven frames ahead in both average-framerate benchmarks, and that makes it the winner here.

R9 280X vs GTX 770: which is the best graphics card for Bioshock Infinite?

GTX 770 vs r9 280X 1

SEE ALSO: 10 best Xbox One games

Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: Crysis 3 Performance

Crysis 3 comes from Crytek – the makers of the original Crysis, which had a reputation for making PCs cry – so it’s fitting that this game is the toughest out of the three we’ve measured in this battle.

Our results showed a consistent difference between the two cards: while the Radeon R9 280X usually had better minimum framerates, the GTX 770 always returned faster averages.

Very High at 1,920 x 1,080

Crysis 3 no AA

Both cards hit a minimum of 32fps when the game was run at its standard Very High settings, but the GTX 770 took a significant lead in the average benchmark: its 49.86fps score easily outpaced the 40.75fps of the R9 280X.

Very High at 1,920 x 1,080 with 4xAA

Crysis 3 4x AA

We added 4x anti-aliasing to the game and the R9 280X’s 26fps minimum was five frames ahead of the Nvidia card – but the GTX 770’s 38.23fps average was almost seven frames quicker than AMD.

Very High at 1,920 x 1,080 with 8xAA

Crysis 3 8x AA

That pattern was repeated when we bumped up to 8x anti-aliasing: the AMD card’s 21fps minimum framerate was four frames better than its rival, but the GTX 770 hit an average of 30.53fps – and the R9 280X could only manage 25.31fps. Crucially, that means the Nvidia card was the only one to return a playable framerate in Crysis 3.

The AMD card’s higher minimum framerates initially bode well for all-round performance in Crysis 3, but the GTX 770 was consistently quicker in average framerate tests – and it was the only card to remain playable when we ran this tough benchmark with 8x anti-aliasing. For that reason, this test goes to Nvidia.

R9 280X vs GTX 770: which is best graphics card for Crysis 3?

GTX 770 vs r9 280X 1

SEE ALSO: 10 best PS4 games

Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: Power, Heat and Noise

The Nvidia card might have taken the crown in two out of the three gaming tests, but it didn’t need extra heat or power in order to take a convincing lead.

Idle/peak power

Power Draw

When the GTX 770 was slotted into our high-end test rig, the entire machine pulled 145W from the mains – eight Watts fewer than the R9 280X demanded. The gap only widened when we stress-testing the cards: the GTX 770’s peak figure of 432W was significantly lower than the 474W pull of the R9 280X.

Idle/peak temperature

Temperature

The gap was closer in temperature tests. The GTX 770’s idle temperature of 34°C was two frames lower than the R9 280X, and both cards hit peak temperatures of 76°C. There’s little between the two cards, then, and temperature also depends on which card you buy: some will be overclocked and run hotter, while others will have better coolers.

Both cards churned out a comparable amount of noise from their dual-fan coolers during our more demanding games tests, but neither was particularly loud – speakers will easily drown them out. And, as with temperature figures, the noise level of a card will be determined by which third-party model you buy.

Once again, though, Nvidia runs out the winner in this category – chiefly because of its more frugal power use.

R9 280X vs GTX 770: which is the best for Power, Heat and Noise?

GTX 770 vs r9 280X 1

Radeon R9 280X vs GeForce GTX 770: Other Things to Consider

We’ve tested reference cards in this battle, but the graphics card market includes a wide variety of cards with different features and price points.

AMD Radeon R9 280X cards range in price from £239 to a mighty £311, and cards at the top end of the scale always arrive overclocked, with the stock speed of 850MHz boosted to 1,150MHz in most cases – and with Boost speeds that tend to go between 50MHz and 70MHz higher still.

Other models aren’t as interested in overclocking – instead of trying to hit maximum performance, they have more efficient coolers that are quieter than standard models.

The situation is similar with Nvidia, although the GTX 770 is an older card, so there are more models to choose from. While you can pay £242 for a stock-speed model, this card could cost you a mighty £467. That’s an absurd amount, and it’s reserved for EVGA’s Hydro C card, which has 4GB of RAM and two in-built connections for water-cooling. The most expensive air-cooled GTX 770 costs £312, and it comes with a core that’s been overclocked from 1,085MHz to 1,137MHz.

GTX 770 cards are available in similar formats to their AMD rivals, with most arriving overclocked – GPUs typically high around 1,150MHz, with Turbo speeds hitting at around 1,200MHz.

There are plenty of cards to choose from – but also consider your own computer before shelling out on a new GPU. Both cards need single eight-pin and one six-pin power connectors, so make sure your PSU has the right plugs – and also ensure you’ve got at least a 500W unit inside your machine.

Also ensure that you have enough physical space inside your PC to accommodate these cards: our R9 280X and GTX 770 samples are 268mm and 272mm long respectively, and other cards could be larger. They’re also wide enough to occupy two slots on your motherboard.

Both of these cards plug in to PCI-Express x16 slots, so make sure you’ve got one free, and different cards will have different display outputs – find a card that matches your monitor or make sure you’ve got the right adapter.

AMD and Nvidia also try to tempt potential buyers with free games. AMD has its "Never Settle Forever" bundle, which generally grants gamers three free titles when they buy an R9 280X – although precisely which games are available is usually up to board partners. Nvidia, meanwhile, has its Pirates, Heroes and Spies bundle, which gives anyone who buys a GTX 770 free copies of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins and Spinter Cell Blacklist.

R9 280X vs GTX770: which is the best graphics card?

It’s a close-run thing between these two cards at the checkout, but there’s a clear winner when it comes to actual performance. The GeForce GTX 770 takes a clear lead in Bioshock Infinite, and its average framerates in Crysis 3 are much higher – and in Battlefield 4, an AMD-branded game, it’s still easily able to handle top graphics levels. It does this using less power, too, which can never hurt.

Both of these cards are able to handle top-end games, but Nvidia’s GPU is ahead in more of our benchmarks. That’s why it’s our choice if you want to buy a graphics card for a little over £200.

Next, read Steam OS Guide: Steam OS and Steam Machines Explained

TLannister

December 19, 2013, 12:33 am

Interesting stuff. Got me set on the Gigabyte GTX 770 one (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D3... wish it was a bit sexier though. That r9-280x is rated well for BitCoin mining (for some reason - see reviews http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FT...

The Best

January 2, 2014, 11:32 am

Er.... anyone else notice that the AMD has far better minimum FPS, which means the games are CONSISTENTLY playable on that card, whereas the 770 drops to unplayable FPS numerous times? Anyone else notice the price difference of (here in the UK) £70, that the AMD is FAR cheaper?
Strange result of reviews...

andyvan

January 2, 2014, 12:07 pm

The price is correct as of the time of writing, but obviously if the R9 has come down in price since then it's worth considering given how close these two cards are.

On the minimum FPS, it's worth pointing out those minimums were very short (i.e. a second or so), which means a negligible impact on perceived performance. We're looking into having FPS traces for these in future to make it clearer.

Shaun Walsh

January 2, 2014, 11:20 pm

Price has also dropped on the GTX 770 as well. On Amazon you can get an EVGA 770 SC 2GB for 350... That is cheaper then the 280x, and its a more stable card with better drivers. Hands down win for nVidia if you ask me. And, the 770 is not just a rebranded 600 series...

lowki

January 8, 2014, 2:41 am

it is just a rebranded card

daniel

January 17, 2014, 1:22 pm

i chose gtx 770 because i can render with it in affter effects i have shadow play and over all everything is mostly builded for nvidia and the thing amd did with bf4 i belive that nvidia will do the same is a while so yea

Jonathan Sutherland

January 23, 2014, 4:06 am

These frame rate numbers are actually a little disappointing. Why would I spend $350 on a video card when I can get a ps4 that runs bf4 at a solid 60 FPS and not quite 1080p but close at 900p for $400? These numbers makes justifying a gaming pc that much harder especially after the price of a processor, motherboard, ram, case, hard drive, power supply, DVD/blu ray drive, and windows OEM.

TheOPMidget

January 25, 2014, 12:52 pm

because the ps4 runs it at medium settings, these are high and ultra

Jonathan Sutherland

January 26, 2014, 10:59 pm

True but my point still stands.

Yaj

February 2, 2014, 5:40 am

And PC will run ps4 settings at 120++ fps. A HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Alex Uhryn

February 4, 2014, 6:30 pm

PC MASTER GAMNIG RACE

Jonathan Sutherland

February 16, 2014, 6:07 am

Ok then, if you want to pay $1500 to play games then be my guest. Try to build a PC for $400 and you will have a PC that can run Minecraft at a whopping 40 FPS and you'll run call of duty on low settings and 720p at 60 FPS! That is if you don't buy windows or a case or an optical drive.

Ivan

February 17, 2014, 8:09 pm

Any of these cards would wipe the floor with PS4's GPU if you compared them, but the general quality of graphics these days is such that the difference between medium and very high settings is not as pronounced as it used to be, you can throw twice as much processing power at rendering your graphics and the result will be only a marginal improvement in quality. Some people care enough to pay for that.

theotherdan

February 23, 2014, 6:37 pm

I run a Q8400 in combo with a GTX 650...Rather low end and the rig is very cheap...I get 400+ FPS on Minecraft adn I ruan CoD maxed at 1080...Not really sure what your point is other than to rant...

theotherdan

February 23, 2014, 7:24 pm

The pure specs are greater on the PC cards than the Ps4 GPU...

Joaquin

February 26, 2014, 12:33 am

PCMasterRace.....Consoles will never achieve as much power as a PC will.

Jonathan Sutherland

February 27, 2014, 9:47 pm

Of course consoles will never be as powerful. Not even close. But consoles will always have optimization, without bottlenecks, and have the most power for the money. The only problem is you have to pay twice as much for the same performance from a PC

E

February 28, 2014, 1:27 pm

60 fps 1080 with 7850-7870 GPU like performance.. So that's like high settings. Here we're talking about kinda like the same resolution and framerate on very high/ultra..

Shaun Walsh

March 9, 2014, 7:15 am

Ummm, it isnt. They both share the Keplar architecture, but the 770 has more texture mapping units and SMX units. The only similarity they share is Keplar.... Thats like saying the 780 is just a rebranded 660 cause they share the keplar architecture...

PCmasterrace

March 18, 2014, 12:04 am

not true, you can customize a PC for 400$ and get better performance than a "next gen" console

Rich

March 19, 2014, 8:03 am

You will never convince people of this. I used to game at the bleeding edge on PC from 1998 when the first 3DFX was released, up until around 2009, and I had some amazing gaming experiences, but I have since changed to console simply because (as well as having more of a social life than I used to) PC gaming is such a gross inefficiency its unreal.

If you want to stay at the bleeding edge then you have to pay the price of a next-gen console each year or two, not counting all the other components that you need to keep it all running at peak performance. When you then consider the life-cycle of a modern gaming console, you pay a fortune more to keep a PC at the cutting edge running the latest games smoothly.

I since then switched to a modest laptop for my RTS/RPG gaming needs, and a console for my hardcore gaming needs, and I shall never look back. :)

Rich

March 19, 2014, 8:04 am

No you can't, stop talking crap kiddo. :)

Rich

March 19, 2014, 8:07 am

if you look at BF4 on the PS4 than that is basically the same as High settings on a PC @ 1080p. if you look at it objectively, the detail level is pretty damn good by any standards.

brendan nugent ohare

March 24, 2014, 9:29 pm

yes but you can change the spec on your pc with the requirement of games

Sandscourge Skarner

March 29, 2014, 6:18 pm

You've found a very stupid way to push consoles into this whole article. Comparatively I save $20 (at least) on every single title I purchase at release. Regardless of the price of the hardware, over time it costs me much less to have a much nicer experience.

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