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Sapphire ITX Compact R9 285 OC Review

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Sapphire ITX Compact R9 285 OC Conclusion:

Having just had my first look at the R9 285 a few days ago, it's interesting to see that Sapphire not only put out a traditional full-size board to take care of the masses, but also put out a high performance version of the R9 285 for use in small form factor PCs; specifically systems built around an ITX form factor build. Getting a competent video card into smaller chassis is a challenge that means you will have to compromise on visual quality to run at 1080p resolutions if your chassis is small enough where it does not support a typical 9- to 12-inch long card. For this reason, we have the ITX Compact R9 285 OC. At 6.7 inches in length, your chassis selection is improved along with the ability to run high settings in games.

AMD's performance targets for the R9 285 were to crush the GTX 760 and own the price point with this latest revision of its GCN architecture named Tonga. Depending on the game you choose, it more or less lives up to that performance expectation. In some games the AMD camp is higher performing and in some the NVIDIA camp is the stronger performer, yet in a couple it's a pick 'em. As for how the ITX Compact performs against its slightly higher clocked brethren, the performance really comes down to actual clock speed in games. In this respect, it performs right where it should. As a factory-overclocked card, you do get a small boost over the reference clock speeds. Since AMD does not seem to have put together a reference card for this launch, it seems all we can compare to are factory-overclocked or tuned revisions that sport non-reference cooling solutions and fan configurations.

To fit in the size envelope, Sapphire wanted a single fan cooling solution with a massive four heat pipe based cooling solution, employed to keep the thermals in check. This is does as good as or better than some in the comparison field of non-stock cards. This also meant that Sapphire had to pull out all the high end parts in its inventory to put together the shortened PCB and power delivery circuitry that supplies the Tonga core and GDDR5 memory.

Overclocking is a way to basically add free performance for added frame rates in games. Initially I thought this card would at best deliver a small overclock due to the work done to fit the TDP. However, I was wrong when I saw the clock speeds climb, finally reaching 1078MHz on the core and 1550MHz on the GDDR5 memory. These are boosts of over 10% from both the GPU and memory, which do indeed deliver additional performance, including a nice 700+ point boost in 3DMark's Fire Strike test. Not bad if you can get it. Overclocking is a way to improve you performance-to-cost ratio, and with this card, you do get that added value.

As a design exercise, Sapphire hits the mark with the ITX Compact R9 25 OC. Its small form factor design concept is one that is ready, willing, and able to fill the performance void that exists within the LAN gaming community. By using a full-size performance target with a mini-me size physical target, Sapphire has built the card to fit the requirements. While I looked at the factory-overclocked version, Sapphire does offer an ITX Compact with lower clock speeds. Pricing should fit in the $249 to $259 range target, keeping this card in the pricing sweet spot. If you intend to build a smaller form factor PC for LAN gaming or you just want to clear up some space on your desk, a build with Sapphire's ITX Compact R9 285 OC is a pretty solid option.



  • Small footprint
  • Performance
  • Overclocking
  • GCN (version 3) Tonga Core
  • Memory performance
  • Cooling 
  • Power efficiency



  • None


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