The new AMD GPU14 partner cards are beginning to surface, and we’re here to bring you a new offering from HIS. The HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo is the flagship R9 series for HIS at the present time. It’s factory overclocked and promises voltage control via their iTurbo software. The card is also outfitted with their best cooler to date, the IceQ X2. With the factory overclock, voltage control, and a good cooling solution, the card certainly appears to be geared towards the overclocking and enthusiast crowd. So, let’s get the card on the bench and see what HIS has in store for us!
Specifications and Features
The below specifications are provided by the HIS website.
HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo Specifications Model Name HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X² Turbo Boost Clock 3GB GDDR5 PCI-E DLDVI-I/HDMI/2xMini DP Chipset AMD Radeon R9 280X Memory Size 3072 MB Memory Type GDDR5 Core Clock 1000 MHz (Boost Clock 1050 MHz) Memory Clock 6000 Gbps Memory Interface 384 bit Power Supply
750Watt (or greater) power supply with two 150W 8-pin PCIe power connectors recommended
1000Watt (or greater) power supply with four 150W 8-pin PCIe power connectors
DisplayPort 1.2 – 4096×2160
HDMI – 4096×2160
Dual-link DVI with HDCP – 2560×1600
Interface PCI Express 3.0 x16 Outputs DLDVI-I + HDMI + 2xMini DP
GPU-Z confirms much of the above specifications. Being that the R9 280X is simply a re-branded Tahiti GPU core, the specifications will look strikingly similar to those of the HD 7970. In fact, so far all the GPU14 releases are re-brands of one kind or another, with the yet-to-be-released R9 290/290X being the exception. Something I was a little disappointed to see was the small factory overclock applied to the card. The reference design R9 280X is set to 1000 MHz core speed, and this one is overclocked a mere 50 MHz to 1050 MHz. As long as this card overclocks well, that won’t be a huge deal. We’ll find out later.
The feature images below will give you a good idea of what this card has to offer. All feature images and descriptions are courtesy of HIS.
The iPower feature promises better overclocking because of more power phases, better quality MOSFETs, and a 40% higher current output when compared to the reference design.
The next image shows the the factory overclock versus the reference design. The 850 MHz core speed they show for the reference design might be the “official” core clock, but as our recent review on the reference R9 280X showed, it never strayed from 1000 MHz Boost clock. In all fairness to HIS, we didn’t see their card stray from the advertised 1050 MHz Boost either. I suppose both cards would drop to the non-Boost speed should they reach power or temperature limits, but we haven’t seen that happen on any of the R7/R9 cards reviewed so far.
I’ve always found the IceQ X2 cooler to be one of the best proprietary coolers on the market, and I don’t expect that to change this time around either. With five copper heatpipes, dual 89 mm fans, and a copper block, it certainly has the DNA to perform very well.
HIS touts the card as having “OC Equipment”, which references their dynamic phase control PWM and advanced digital power design.
There are two crossfire connectors on the card that make it 4-Way crossfire ready. You’ll need a motherboard that supports 4-Way crossfire in order to take advantage of this, but the option is there if you ever need it.
In order to get the most out of the overclocking potential, a good software package is needed. iTurbo aims to fill that need with its user friendly interface. You can control fan speeds, auto overclock, and supposedly control voltages too. Sounds good to me!
The HIS R9 280x iPower IceQ X2 Turbo also offers the latest GCN (Graphics Core Next) technologies and a host of other capabilities listed below. These additional feature descriptors were pulled from the HIS website.
|GCN||With AMD 2nd generation GCN technology, the card optimizes DirectX® 11.2 gaming performance automatically up to 2.5 times faster! It also offers up to 4.5x compute performance and up to 95% lower GPU Idle Power Consumption!|
|Apps Faster & Smoother!||The card enables a “quality graphics” experience on everyday applications, giving huge performance boosts on image processing, file compression, media converter apps, and a lot more!• Adobe Photoshop CS6|
• Corel Winzip 16.5
• MotionDSP Vreveal
• Cyberlink Power Director
• ArcSoft Media Converter
|PCI-e 3.0 Support||Armed with the latest PCI-e 3.0 bus design maximizes performance by delivering double bandwidth per lane of PCI-e 2.x. Paired the card with the latest platforms and get the ultimate performance!|
|More Graphics, Less Power!||The new architecture of the card gets more usable processing power for your money, enabling better frame rates in the latest games at high resolutions. In addition, with AMD ZeroCore Power & AMD PowerTune technologies, you can optimize the balance between performance and power consumption of your system by adjusting the engine clock during runtime of the card. Manage the power and keep your wallet loaded!|
|Enjoy HD Beauty||With Full HD 1080p support, the card delivers high quality 1920X1080 graphics, enabling seamless full-screen video playback. See HD, hear HD and feel HD – Enjoy the beautiful graphics now with the card!|
|Enjoy Copy Protected Movies||The card is HDCP complaint, enabling users to play copy-protected content, such as commercial DVD movies.|
|Enjoy True to Life Graphics||ULTRA HD videos have resolution four times that of current HD videos, meaning images too clear that may deceive your eyes! With the card, you are set for getting the movie theater experience to your home. You may be able to watch a video shooting the Eiffel tower and zoom it in to see your friend’s face clearly from the top! Get your eyes impressed and enjoy mind-blowing graphics with extreme clarity, depth and texture!|
|See More, Win More!||The card is capable to turn your computer into a super gaming machine. Enjoy the latest 3D games with stunning graphics and effects that your enemies cannot match! Get an immersive experience with AMD Eyefinity! Expand your game across up to 4 displays while your opponents have one monitor. Along with all-new support for stereo 3D, universal bezel compensation and brand new display configurations, take the unfair advantage over your opponent and win more with the surround sight.|
|View More, Work Better||Having one dedicated screen just for twitter or Facebook and a second for outlook is not a dream anymore. The card features 2 Mini-display Ports for enhanced workspace flexibility. You can easily connect to two displays, including the 27” Apple LED Cinema Displays with the two Mini DisplayPorts. The dual-link DVI port allows you connect to a 30” DVI display up to 2560×1600. Resolution can even reach 4096×2160 with HDMI® , good for TV up to 80″!|
|Hear Better in Video Conference||Most GPUs today support only one audio stream at a time. The card, however, has Discrete Digital Multi-Point Audio that can simultaneously output multiple, independent audio streams. Audio seamlessly follows the video, providing affordable multi-display, multi-audio conferencing for consumers!|
Packaging and First Look
The familiar HIS boxing hasn’t changed over the past couple of years, but it does do a nice job of giving the potential customer the information they need. The box front and back give us plenty of marketing details on just about every aspect of this HIS offering. Both sides give additional information regarding system requirements and what’s included in the box. The box top and bottom have additional branding and a brief multilingual feature list.
Inside the outer carton is a black box that houses the accessories and the graphics card itself. The card is well protected with an anti-static bag and lots of foam pad surrounding it. The accessories include one DVI to VGA adapter, one crossfire bridge, a case badge, and the quick install guide. There was no CD included in the package, but that’s probably due to this being a review sample.
Like most HIS cards outfitted with the IceQ X2 cooler, it’s a pretty attractive affair. I like the black and silver color scheme because it will blend in nicely with black motherboards, which are a popular choice. Here are a plethora of pictures taken from various angles, enjoy!
HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo Up Close
Before disassembling the card, let’s have a look at what’s visible with the IceQ X2 cooler still attached. Display connectivity consists of one Dual-Link DVI, one HDMI, and two mini-DisplayPorts. Power connectivity includes two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors, which is a bit more robust than the reference card’s 8-pin and 6-pin configuration. A quick glance at the top and bottom sides gives us a look at the five heatpipes the IceQ X2 cooler uses (more on this later).
Disassembly begins with removing the outer plastic casing by way of four small screws. With the casing off, we get our first look at the two 89 mm fans mounted on the aluminum fin stack. Next, four spring loaded screws are removed from the back of the card, which then allows the entire heatsink assembly to be removed. At this point, there are 10 screws on the back of the card and two more attached to the slot cover that need to be removed. Once those 12 screws are removed, the support plate can be taken off. The support plate will greatly reduce any potential board flexing and also doubles as a heatsink for the memory and MOSFETs. To further enhance the stiffening effect, HIS incorporated a rib design to the top edge of the support plate.
Before we dive in for a closer look at the PCB area, here are a few pictures of the HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo in its birthday suit! The PCB area is free of any noticeable defects and by all appearances seems well constructed.
Many of today’s high end graphics cards come with a dual BIOS switch, and HIS provides one here as well. So, if you like to experiment with BIOS files… have at it. You’ve always got the safety net of throwing the switch to get you back up and running should disaster strike.
HIS uses a 9-phase power design they refer to as 6+1+1+1 PWM phases. We normally refer to this as a 7+2 power phase design (7 GPU and 2 vMem). Anyway you look at it, that’s a big increase from the 5+2 reference design. All this power is controlled by the popular CHiL 8228G VRM controller. The card also features solid state chokes and solid state capacitors throughout.
The memory consists of 3 GB GDDR5 SDRAM sitting on a 384 Bit bus width. Hynix H5GQ2H24AFR-ROC is used for the memory modules, which usually overclock quite nicely. These particular memory chips are rated for 1.5 V and 6.0 Gb/s speed, and that’s exactly what they are set to. We’ll see how far we can take them later in the review.
Lastly, we have a picture of the GPU core, which has a highly polished surface with no markings.
The IceQ X2 cooler features five copper heatpipes and a solid copper block built into the base of the aluminum fin stack. Two of the heatpipes are 8 mm in size, while the other three are 6 mm. The longer side of the aluminum fin stack has three of the heatpipes pass through it, and the shorter side has the remaining two. Each side of the fin stack gets one of the 8 mm heatpipes. The copper block is not polished to a mirror like finish, but it is smooth to the touch and nicely milled.
HIS claims the two 89 mm fans operate at a combined 29 dBA when under a light load. When the fans operate at a faster RPM under heavy GPU loads, they are said to remain very quiet… We’ll find out. The fans also have blades that HIS refers to as their Q&C design. This wavy fan blade design is said to increase air velocity and reduce noise levels.
From the PCB layout to the IceQ X2 cooler, everything looks good so far. Let’s get this thing installed to check out the bundled software and performance!
Before jumping in to our overclocking and benchmark section of the review, let’s take a quick look at the HIS iTurbo software. The below images do a great job of explaining how iTurbo works and the functions it offers. In a nutshell, we have automatic overclocking, fan control, and the option to use a “cooler” or “quieter” preset. Using the advanced area allows manual overclocking, which is probably what most of our readers will dive into.
There is one small quirk worth mentioning while using the iTurbo software. When going into the overclocking area, the available memory voltage is limited. However, after closing and opening the utility a few times, the full voltage allotment becomes available. It’s not a huge deal, but it adds a few steps to overclocking the memory.
Overclocking and Benchmarks
|Motherboard||ASUS Maximus VI Formula|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K Haswell|
|Memory||G.SKill TridentX DD3-2666 MHz 2x4GB|
|SSD||Kingston HyperX 3KSSD 240 GB|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|Video Card||HIS R9 280X iPower IceQ X2 Turbo|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block – 3X120 mm Radiator – MCP35X Pump|
Overclocking for Stability
With the help of the iTurbo software, I was able to get the card stable at 1250 MHz GPU core and 1700 MHz (6800 MHz Quad Pumped) memory speed. That equates to a +200 MHz (16%) GPU increase and +200 MHz (12%) memory gain. Not too bad, I’ll take it!
Our new “GPU Testing Procedure” has been in place since the release of the Z87/Haswell platform. If you’re not yet familiar with it, click the provided link to learn more. Below is the down and dirty version of the new procedure. Other than the synthetic benchmarks being run at their default settings, the rest of the testing is a “no-holds-barred” approach with everything set to their maximum settings.
- i7 4770K @ 4 GHz
- Dual Channel DDR3-1866 9-9-9-24
- GPU @ stock
- Monitor capable of 1920×1080
- All Synthetic benchmarks set to their default settings
- Unigine Heaven (HWbot) is run using the “extreme” setting
- Aliens vs. Predator – 1920×1080 with highest settings offered (4x AA, textures set to highest)
- Battlefield 3 – 1920×1080 at Ultra settings (4xAA/HBAO by default)
- Dirt 3 – 1920×1080 with 8x MSAA and all settings enabled and at Ultra where possible
- Metro 2033 – 1920×1080, DX11, Very High, 4x MSAA/ 16x AF, PhysX OFF, DOF enabled, Scene: Frontline
- Civilization V – 1920×1080, 8x MSAA, VSync OFF, High Detail Strategic View: Enabled, Other Settings: High, using full render frames value ( / 60)
- Batman: Arkham City – 1920×1080, VSync off, 8xMSAA, MVSS and HBAO, Tessellation set to high, Extreme Detail Level, PhysX Off
- HIS R9 280X IceQ X2 Turbo
- AMD R9 280X Reference
- ASUS HD 7970 DCUII Top
- HIS HD 7950 IceQ X2
- ASUS GTX 770 DCU OC
- EVGA GTX 760 SC
Positioning wise, the R9 280X series is pointed directly at the GTX 760. As you can see in our synthetic benchmarks results below, it not only beat the GTX 760, but also bested the GTX 770 in all but one test. Once the HIS R9 280X was overclocked, it pretty much wiped the floor with everything else in our group of comparison cards.
It’s pretty hard to argue with results like those, let’s forge on to our gaming benchmarks.
The same pattern held true with our gaming benchmarks. The HIS R9 280X almost had a clean sweep across the board with the only blemish being a loss to the GTX 770 in the Civilization V results. We also noticed some pretty descent scaling once the card was overclocked. The good news is the overclock we used for our testing is pretty easy to obtain, and just about anyone can do the same.
Again, nothing to complain about in our gaming benchmarks either. Let’s move on to temperature and power usage testing.
Temperatures and Power Consumption
Our temperature testing procedure entails running HWBot Heaven at both stock and overclocked settings. HWBot Heaven does a nice job of loading up the GPU core and never letting up. The results are normalized to 25 °C ambient. Testing included the fan control set to auto, and then again with the fan speed set to 100%. All results in the graph below depict the highest temperature recorded during the test.
Other than the overclocked temperatures with the fan speed set to auto, everything was kept quite cool. The fan only ramped up to 45% at the GPUs hottest point when set to auto, but that’s typically the case with most video cards. So, if you’re pouring voltage to the GPU, set the fan speed to manual and work from there. The other option you have is to use iTurbo to set a fan speed curve. This way you can dictate what the fan speed is at any given temperature. With the fan speed set to 100%, the GPU was kept very cool in all scenarios.
As far as acoustics go, the IceQ X2 is very quiet when set to auto. Even at 100% fan speed, it’s one of the quietest coolers I’ve come across. The IceQ X2 Cooler really does a nice job of balancing performance with noise levels.
Our power consumption testing is done with a Kill-a-Watt and wattage usage recorded at idle and load. We run both HWBot Heaven and 3DMark 11 (Combined Physics Test) to hopefully get the maximum power draw the video card can produce. I take this testing one step further and also provide results while the video card is overclocked. Keep in mind, the results below indicate total system draw and not just the video card. Everything looks good here and is right on par with other similar cards.
Pushing the Limits
For the pushing the limits section, I raised the CPU speed to 4.6 GHz and the system memory to 2400 MHz. I was able to get a Fire Strike run completed with the GPU core set to 1275 MHz and the vMem set to 1750 MHz. That produced a score just under 9000.
As it typically is, 3DMark Vantage proved to be a little tougher to complete. I had to drop the GPU core to 1260 MHz and vMem to 1725 MHz, but we still managed to break the 40,000 score barrier.
The HIS R9 280X iPower ICeQ X2 Turbo is available at Newegg for $319.99. With beefed up proprietary coolers, we expected partner cards to come in around $15 to $20 higher than AMD’s target price of $299.00. That’s exactly where this card landed. So, what does the extra $20 get you? For starters, you get a 50 MHz GPU core speed bump when compared to the reference design. You also get two more power phases, higher quality chokes/MOSFETS, and more stout power input connectors. Probably the two most compelling reasons this card needs to be given serious consideration are its overclockability and the great performing IceQ X2 cooler. The iTurbo software offers both GPU and memory voltage options, which the overclocking crowd will appreciate. iTurbo also offers the ability to control the fans using several different methods.
While the direct competing GTX 760 cards can be had between $249 and $299, they really don’t compare performance wise. Our testing showed a more direct comparison might be with the GTX 770 as it more closely matched its performance. Furthermore, it topped the GTX 770 (the 2 GB version) in almost all our testing. The GTX 770s starts around $399 and can go as high as $500 for the ones with 4 GB of memory. So, price wise, I think this card is positioned right where it should be.
In the end, we have a great performing graphics card option by HIS here. Price, performance, and a top notch cooler all add up to the Overclockers stamp of approval!