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Asus Radeon R9 280X DC2 TOP Review

The R9 280X is a heck of a lot more quiet and affordable than the original HD 7970 GE.

The new 1080p king

At any given time, we have one GPU in our inventory that holds the title of “loudest card in the office.” The current title-holder is the PowerColor Radeon HD 7970 Vortex, which sounds like a jet engine. That’s just how the Radeon 7970 GHz cards are; their boosted clock speeds drum up a lot of heat, making them much louder than their Nvidia counterparts. Given this pedigree, imagine our surprise when we fired up the Asus Radeon R9 280X, which rocks the exact same Tahiti XT chip used in the 7970 GE boards. As we leaned in close to our test bed expecting to hear that oh-so-familiar fan noise, we were greeted instead with a barely audible whirring sound. It’s truly miraculous what AMD and Asus have done with this formerly unruly chip, making it whisper-quiet and also surprisingly affordable at $310, which is roughly half what it used to cost.

Note: This review was originally featured in the Holiday 2013 issue of the magazine

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MSI N780 Lightning Review

MSI includes a separate utility just for the card’s fans, letting you control the outer ones separate from the inner fan.

Too exotic (and expensive) for mere mortals

Back in October, we took a look at the MSI GTX 770 Lightning, which was a bit like a hot rod that had been given a little too much go-go juice. It was fast, and provided a plethora of performance options for horsepower junkies, but it was simply unstable, even at stock clocks. Undaunted, MSI followed it up by sending us an even bigger, badder board in the same series, the GTX 780 Lightning. Like the other Lightning cards, this is the cream of the crop from MSI in terms of board design, cooling, features, and clock speeds. In other words, if you are looking for the fastest non-Titan board MSI offers, this is it. Unfortunately for MSI, though this board was quite stable overall, we didn’t see enough of a performance advantage over other GTX 780 cards to justify its outrageous $750 sticker price.

Note: This review was originally featured in the December 2013 issue of the magazine