Performance: 33 out of 40
When you pair two extremely powerful (both in CFM and static pressure) to a known good design the resulting model’s performance is all but assured. Excellent, for its class, performance is what we were expecting and that is what we got. There is however, just like WaterForce X series, a quirk. Namely, sleeve bearing fans are suboptimal on a AIO. AIOs must be able to be mounted vertically or horizontally and yet sleeve bearing fans typically do not last when the AIO is mounted horizontally. Thus, we are unsure about long term performance and have adjusted our score accordingly. You may feel differently. If so add a few extra points. Either way we consider it a tie between the two series.
Ease of Use: 18 out of 20
This is an area that is exactly the same as the WaterForce X series. That is to say it is a relatively easy to work with AIO. One that really will not be overly difficult for even first-time users to get up and running. It just is one with quirks. Quirks like not including enough fan bolts or not having the USB header on the rotating part of the block. Thankfully none of these are deal breakers but they are sub-optimal quirks nonetheless.
Build Quality & Warranty: 18 out 20
While the standard/older/etc. Gigabyte Aorus WaterForce series has a few of the same quirks as the X line (e.g. thin rad paired to an upgrade pump and tubing) it does make up for it by offering a longer warranty. Five years of peace of mind is a big point in favor of this series over the 3 years the WaterForce X series offers. If this is important to you it makes the non-X series a more optimal choice.
Value: 18 out 20
Thanks to a noticeably lower price point than the X line, with similar to same performance capabilities (in apples-to-apples comparisons) the Gigabyte Aorus WaterForce is the better value than the Gigabyte Aorus WaterForce X series. Yes, both are missing extra bolts to do dual sided cooling. Yes, the X lineup has a more advanced waterblock top with much more advanced features. Neither will matter much to a lot of people. Especially people who prize overall value the most.
Final Score: 87 out 100
The Aorus WaterForce 280 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Gigabyte should be taken seriously in the All In One cooling marketplace. While not perfect, its blend of price, overall performance, and value-added features is a winning one. One that deserves to be taken seriously as it can go toe-to-toe with more firmly established AIO brands. Ignore it at your own (budgets) peril.