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Differences What are the advantages of each

Front view of Radeon R9 280

Reasons to consider the
AMD Radeon R9 280

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Significantly more memory 3,072 MB vs 1,024 MB 3x more memory
Better floating-point performance 2,964 GFLOPS vs 1,488 GFLOPS Around 2x better floating-point performance
Higher clock speed 827 MHz vs 775 MHz More than 5% higher clock speed
Higher effective memory clock speed 5,000 MHz vs 4,000 MHz 25% higher effective memory clock speed
Higher texture rate 92.6 GTexel/s vs 37.2 GTexel/s Around 2.5x higher texture rate
More texture mapping units 112 vs 48 64 more texture mapping units
More shading units 1,792 vs 960 832 more shading units
More compute units 28 vs 12 16 more compute units
Higher memory clock speed 1,250 MHz vs 1,000 MHz 25% higher memory clock speed
Wider memory bus 384 bit vs 256 bit 50% wider memory bus
Front view of Radeon HD 6850

Reasons to consider the
AMD Radeon HD 6850

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Lower TDP 127W vs 200W More than 35% lower TDP

Features Key features of the Radeon R9 280  vs HD 6850 

pixel rate Number of pixels a graphics card can render to the screen every second

Radeon R9 280
26.5 GPixel/s
Radeon HD 6850
24.8 GPixel/s
960 MHz is still quite impressive and results in a nice performance increase.
Radeon HD 6850 | by techPowerUp! (Feb, 2011)

texture rate Speed at which a graphics card can perform texture mapping

Radeon R9 280
92.6 GTexel/s
Radeon HD 6850
37.2 GTexel/s
CHiL CHL8214 is a modern high-end voltage voltage controller that supports full voltage control via I2C.
Radeon HD 6850 | by techPowerUp! (Feb, 2011)

floating point performance How fast the gpu can crunch numbers

Radeon R9 280
2,964 GFLOPS
Radeon HD 6850
1,488 GFLOPS
The R9 290X’s 55% fan speed “Uber” mode is high enough to prevent GPU throttling in workloads, even under sustained load.
Radeon R9 280 | by Joel-Hruska (Nov, 2013)

shading units Subcomponents of the gpu, these run in parallel to enable fast pixel shading

Unfortunately neither HIS, nor AMD could provide help with getting the board fixed so I had to reconfigure the shaders on my own.
Radeon HD 6850 | by techPowerUp! (Oct, 2010)

texture mapping units Built into each gpu, these resize and rotate bitmaps for texturing scenes

The Radeon R9 280X is based on the 28nm Tahiti die featuring 2048 Stream processors, 128 Texture mapping units and 32 Raster Operators.
Radeon R9 280 | by hassan-mujtaba (Oct, 2013)

compute units Discrete cores within the GPU

Specifications Full list of technical specs

gpu

Radeon R9 280  vs
HD 6850 
GPU brand AMD AMD
GPU name Tahiti Barts PRO
Market Desktop Desktop
Clock speed 827 MHz 775 MHz
Is dual GPU No No
Reference card None None

raw performance

Shading units 1,792 960
Texture mapping units 112 48
Render output processors 32 32
Compute units 28 12
Pixel rate 26.5 GPixel/s 24.8 GPixel/s
Texture rate 92.6 GTexel/s 37.2 GTexel/s
Floating-point performance 2,964 GFLOPS 1,488 GFLOPS

memory

Radeon R9 280  vs
HD 6850 
Memory clock speed 1,250 MHz 1,000 MHz
Effective memory clock speed 5,000 MHz 4,000 MHz
Memory bus 384 bit 256 bit
Memory 3,072 MB 1,024 MB
Memory type GDDR5 GDDR5

noise and power

TDP 200W 127W

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