To date I have had the chance to take a look at a few different R9 270Xs. All of the cards have been extremely similar for the most part with most of the differences coming from small overclocks and their different cooling designs. Today I have a completely unique card that stands out from the others. You see the other cards all have 4 gigs of memory where the MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G has 4 gigs of memory. Today I’m going to see how the difference in memory affects the performance in our benchmark suite.

Product Name: MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G

Review Sample Provided by: MSI

Written by: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

Graphics Engine

AMD Radeon™ R9 270X

Interface

PCI Express x16 3.0

Memory Type

GDDR5

Memory Size(MB)

4096

Memory Interface

256 bits

Core Clock Speed(MHz)

1030MHz Core (Boost Clock:1120MHz) (OC mode)

1030MHz Core (Boost Clock:1080MHz) (Gaming mode)

1030MHz Core (Boost Clock:1050MHz) (Silent mode)

Memory Clock Speed(MHz)

5600

DVI Output

2 (Dual-link DVI-Ix1, Dual-link DVI-Dx1)

HDMI-Output

1 (version 1.4a)

DisplayPort

1 (version 1.2)

HDCP Support

Yes

HDMI Support

Yes

Dual-link DVI

Yes

Display Output (Max Resolution)

2560x1600

RAMDACs

400

DirectX Version Support

11.2

OpenGL Version Support

4.3

CrossFire Support

Yes

Card Dimension(mm)

260x129x38mm

Weight

757g

 

 


Packaging

The MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G comes boxed up in the normal MSI Gaming Series styling with a black box with red trim. Across the front you have the dragon as well, like normal. In fact the cover of the box doesn’t really say anything that lets us know that this is the 4G model, all of the information would fit a regular R9 270X Gaming with an overclock as well. Over on the side of the box they did include the 4G, so it is a little weird to print that but not include it on the front of the box as well. On the back MSI has a little more information about a few different features they are providing with their Gaming Series cards Here you will find a small breakdown of their gamming software they allows for three different performance modes with just a click of a button. There are also details on the Twin Frozr 4 cooling and their Military Class 4 components. There is also a small feature list as well as a specification listing should you need it. The only thing I would like to see included here would be a measurement of the length of the card so that people in a Frys or a Microcenter for example would be able to make sure it will fit in their PC.

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When you open everything up you will find a black box on top with the Gaming Series logo on top. Inside that box is where you will find the documentation and accessories. MSI gives you a user guide for documentation as well as a software and driver disc. For accessories you get a DVI to VGA adapter and two double Molex to 6-pin adapter cables. With this being a gaming model I would love to see them go the extra mile and make the adapter cables all black or red and black to go with the card. The R9 270X Gaming 4G is under everything else wrapped up in a static protective bag and then placed in a heavy foam padding to keep the card safe.

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Card Layout and Photos

At this point most of you have seen an MSI card with a Twin Frozr IV cooler on it. They have been using them for a while on most of their cards with a few variations like red trim for the Gaming line and yellow for Lightning cards. The R9 270X Gaming 4G isn’t any different then the rest of the cards on its exterior. Its only when you dig down under everything you will find the additional memory that makes this card a little more unique. That doesn’t make this any less of a good looking card. I really like the styling of the Tin Frozr cards because of the two extremely large fans they go with. They couldn’t fit the two fans on a normal cooler so they just add more to the height of the card to support the fans. Around the fans you have a black and red fan shroud that is made of metal. There is something about a metal fan shroud that screams quality when you put it next to a plastic fan shroud. You might not REALLY need metal, but with a video card purchase it’s nice to get something that feels solid. MSI included their MSI Gaming badge right in between the two fans as well to add a little more styling as well.

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Twin Frozr cooling is a little more than two large fans, although the big fans do play a big part. As you can see in the photos below, MSI uses heatpipes to pull the heat out away from the GPU and out to the heatsink that spans the length of the card. You have three heatpipes on the bottom and a fourth on the top. As usual a design like this puts out more air than can be pushed out the back of the card. Because of that the fan shroud doesn’t go all the way to the PCB on any of the sides. This gives the air someplace to go, but will also add a little heat into your case as well. Also noticeable in the pictures below is the MSI logo on the top edge of the card. It’s simple, but I really think that a logo or preferably the model name is great to have visible. This way you can show off what you have without having to tell someone what you have each time at a LAN.

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Along the top edge MSI did include a small switch that allows you to switch between the cards two BIOS. This should protect you a little when BIOS overclocking.

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The R9 270X Gaming 4G comes with two DVI connections on its rear I/O panel. Additionally MSI included full sized HDMI and DisplayPort plugs. The rest of the back has ventilation, although as mentioned most of the cards air won’t be pushed that direction.  Here you can also get a good view of the cards height. MSI went a little taller with the cooler, taking up space that is typically available in most cases to make room for additional cooling. Please keep this in mind if your case isn’t very wide though, it does have the potential to create clearance issues.

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For Crossfire connections, MSI stuck with the single Crossfire bridge just like on other R9 270X’s. That means if you pick up a second R9 270X Gaming 4G you will be able to run them in crossfire. I have a feeling that if you wait too long it will be hard to come across a 4 gig model once they are out of production. So if this is your plan, keep an eye out and be ready to pick one up before it is too late. 

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For power, went with the same double 6-pin connections like you would find on a reference card. With the two adapters MSI included, just about anyone should be able to hook this card up to their PSU. That is assuming it can handle the power, we will test that shortly.

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On the back side of the 270X Gaming 4G MSI really stepped up to the plate with a backplate. Typically I only see backplates on high end cards so this was a welcome addition. The backplate does have the MSI logo on it and they flipped the logo around in a way that it will be most visible when installed in a standard PC. This is one of those touches that you don’t really think about until your PC is built and you are admiring the details. What is unusual with the backplate is its length. It doesn’t cover the entire back of the card, missing an inch or more on each end.  I can’t be completely upset, because MSI included a backplate on a card that we normally wouldn’t see one on. But at the same time I really wish they would have cut it to the full length.

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Our Test Rig and Procedures

Our Test Rig

CPU

Intel i7-3960X

Memory

Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM Quad Channel  (4x4GB)

Motherboard

Asus Rampage IV X79 Motherboard

Cooling

Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC

Power Supply

Cooler Master Gold Series 1200 Watt PSU

Storage

Kingston Hyper X 120 SSD

Seagate Constellation 2tb Hard drive

Case

High Speed PC Test Bench

Our Testing Procedures

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well.

Tomb Raider

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on. 

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal.

Sleeping Dogs

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme.

F1 2012

We use the built in benchmark for F1 2012. We set our resolution to 1920x1080 and then use the “Ultra” setting.

Total War: Shogun 2

Direct X11 Benchmark High setting

Crysis 2

Using Adrenaline Crysis 2 benchmark.  1080p, 4x Anti-Aliasing, DX11, Laplace Edge Detection Edge AA, on the Times Square map, with hi res textures turned on.

Battlefield 3

Using Fraps with the game set to Ultra settings with 4x MSAA Antialiasing Deferred, 16X Anisotropic Filter, at 1920x1080.

Sniper V2 Elite

1920 x 1080 resolution, graphics detail set to ultra

Dirt Showdown

1920 x 1080 resolution, 4x MSAA multisampling, Vsync off, Shadows: ultra; Post Process: High; Night Lighting: High; Vehicle Reflections: Ultra; Ambient Occlusion: Ultra; Water: high; Objects: Ultra; Trees: Ultra; Crowd: Ultra; Ground Cover: High.

Metro Last Light

Using the included benchmark tool. The settings are set to 1920x1080, DirectX 11, quality is set to very high, Texture filtering is untouched at 4x, and motion blue is set to normal. SSAA is unselected, PhysX is unselected, Tessellation is off. We run through scene D6 three times to get an average score.

Synthetic Benchmarks

For video cards our synthetic benchmarks are limited to 3DMark Vantage 2011, and 3DMark 2013 (AKA 3DMark). In 3DMark Vantage 2011 we run both performance and extreme benchmarks. The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark, we run through Fire Strike on standard and extreme settings.

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Using the “Extreme” preset

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 heat testing

We run through Unreal Heaven at 1080p for 30 minutes to test in game heat performance and noise output of the card while under load.

Power Usage

Using Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0, we get our “load” power usage number from the peak power usage during our test. We get our numbers from a Kill-A-Watt connected to the test benches power cord.

Noise Testing

Our Noise testing is done using a decibel meter 3 inches away from the video card on the bottom/fan side of the card. We test an idle noise level and then to get an idea of how loud the card will get if it warms all the way up we also turn the fan speed up to 100% and test again. The 100% test isn’t a representation of typical in game noise levels, but it will show you how loud a card can be if you run it at its highest setting or if it gets very hot.

 

 


Cooling, Noise, and Power

To start off our performance testing I put the 270X Gaming 4G though our cooling, noise, and power testing. All three of these tests are important for various reasons but aren’t always what people think about when looking at the performance of potential video cards. To start things off, I ran the 270X 4G through the Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and recorded its peak power usage in watts. The 270X 4G came in at 360 watts at peak in Heaven Benchmark 4.0, this is spot on for what the 2GB model did in my testing previously as well. In comparison to the other R9 270X’s tested this is on the low side, but not the lowest. A lot of that is related to the overclock set as well as the amount of power the cooling fans require.

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When it came to testing the Twin Frozr IV cooling I ran it through noise testing first at idle, 50%, and 100% fan speeds. At idle the difference between all of the cards we have tested is minimal. At full fan speed the 270X Gaming 4G’s noise performance was in the middle of the pack. It was a few decibels off from the 2GB cards numbers, I can only assume this is just variations between cards because both of the coolers are of the same design. At 50% fan speed (a speed you are more likely to see in use) it came in at 66 decibels, a happy medium between the idle and 100% fan speeds.  

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As always MSI managed to put another card down near the bottom of our temperature charts for cooling performance. The 270X Gaming 4G performed extremely well with a peak temperatures of 60 degrees when looping the Heaven Benchmark 4.0. This is a huge difference from what some of the other cards we have tested in the past have done and is in near what the other 270X’s with aftermarket coolers did.

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Synthetic Benchmarks

Our synthetic benchmark testing was the first time I had a chance to put the R9 270X Gaming 4G to the test compared to its 2GB brother. In the 3DMark 11 Performance and Extreme benchmarks the difference was only slight at best with the results being within 30 points. In 3DMark Fire Strike benchmarks the difference was a little more noticeable with it being closer to a 100 point difference. Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 the memory improvement was just under an FPS, but this was enough to jump the performance of a few of the other overclocked 270X’s. Sadly none of our benchmarks test in resolutions over 1080p where the difference would be more noticeable, but even so you can still see it slightly.  

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In Game Benchmarks

When it came to in game performance testing, I ran the MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G through our standard in game test suite of 11 games covering a variety of genres. To give you an idea of what kind of performance to expect, of the 11 games tested 6 of them resulted in an average of over 60 FPS with most of those well into the triple digits. The other 5 games ranged in performance between mid-30s into the 50’s, all what I would still consider playable, although 60+ FPS is still ideal performance. As for how it performed against its 2GB brother. Well once again I think that we would see a little more of a difference at higher resolutions, but there were a few games where it was especially noticeable. Dirt Showdown for example jumped from 106.22 to 111.52 FPS with the additional memory.

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Overclocking

I put the MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G through the same overclock testing that I put all cards through. I break down the testing into three parts, GPU clock speed overclocking, Memory overclocking, and overclocking both together. To test to make sure the overclock is stable I run through test two on 3DMark at the performance setting.

Starting with the GPU clock, I bumped things up to 1150MHZ from the 1120 that the MSI card runs at (without using their included software). I had good luck with that so I moved on to 1200MHz with good luck. After that my next three attempts failed meaning the 1200MHz I had originally reached was the best our card was able to do. From there I went on to the memory overclocking starting at 6000MHz with it passing. All of my memory overclocking was successful  all the way up to the highest option available in the AMD software (6500MHz). Overall though memory overclocking didn’t yield big speed gains like the GPU clock speed overclocks, in fact a few of the tests went down in performance. My last batch of testing was just to verify that my previous results could run together. My first test failed, rather than turning one of the overclocks down I raised the power threshold and ran it again. The second pass with the increased power passed and both overclocks together gave us a nice FPS improvement over all of the other overclock results.

GPU Clock Speed Overclocking

GPU Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

1150MHz

Pass

42.23

 

1200MHz

Pass

43.75

 

1250MHz

Fail

N/A

Bluescreen

1225MHz

Fail

N/A

Bluescreen

1210MHz

Fail

N/A

Bluescreen

Memory Clock Offset Overclocking

Memory Clock Speed

Pass/Fail

FPS Result

Notes

6000MHz

Pass

41.77

 

6200MHz

Pass

41.61

 

6400MHz

Pass

41.73

 

6500MHz

Pass

41.88

 

GPU and Memory Overclocked Together

GPU Clock Speed

Memory Clock Speed

FPS Result

Notes

1200MHz

6500MHz

N/A

Failed

1200MHz

6500MHz

44.44

Turned up power to 110%

         

 

 


Overall and Final Verdict

The MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G is an interesting card to review. I previously tested the same model but with a standard sized frame buffer and loved the card. So going into this I had a good idea of what to expect when it came to the performance of MSIs Twin Frozr IV cooling, yet it somehow still managed to impress me. Not only did it do a great job of cooling at a reasonable noise level, but the overall quality is great with its metal fan shroud. To add to that for the 4G MSI bundled in a backplate, something that you don’t normally see on cards other than flagship models. The backplate did however have a little quirk with it being around an inch shorter than the PCB on both ends. I would still take a short backplate over no backplate any day!

As for the cards performance, there was a noticeable difference in all of my testing but admittedly the difference wasn’t very large at the resolutions we test at. You see, the larger frame buffer will mostly benefit people who are running higher resolution monitors or Eyefinity setups. The catch 22 is when stepping up to that, you might need even more power than an R9 270X can provide on the latest games. With that said, I think that the price difference between the 4G and the 2G is worth it if you are thinking about running on a 1440p monitor in the future for example or if you would like to have a backplate. Normally I would be worried that going higher in price would bring the 270X to close to the next model up to make it worthwhile, but at least currently there isn’t a model anywhere near it with an R9 280 model missing from AMDs lineup. As someone who runs 1440p day to day and for gaming, if my budget limited me from going with something like a 280X the MSI R9 270X Gaming 4G would be at the top of my list.

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Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #34020 10 Feb 2014 15:37
I hope everyone had a great weekend, today we take a look at another 270X, but this time with 4 gigs of ram. Take a look to see what double the ram will get you.
Dave321's Avatar
Dave321 replied the topic: #34255 28 Feb 2014 17:39
Why waste your time doing a review of a 4Gb card at 1080p. You suggest it might be worth it at higher resolutions, but give no benchmarks. Did you not have a 1440p monitor to test it with?

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