At this year’s E3 AMD announced its long awaited next generation of cards. While most of the eyes are on the Fury cards they also introduced the 300 Series. For the most part the 200 Series cards were rebranded but most of the cards did see some tweaks to clock speeds, memory capacity, and memory bus. To start off our coverage of the new cards today I am going to take a look at the R9 380 Gaming 2G from MSI. The R9 380 is a Tonga GPU card, the same GPU that was used in the R9 285 launched last fall. The R9 380 did see a boost clock speed increase over the R9 285 and the MSI I am testing today has a slight overclock over the stock R9 380 clock as well.
Product Name: MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G
Review Sample Provided by: MSI
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Model Name||R9 380 GAMING 2G|
|GPU||AMD RadeonTM R9 380|
|Core Clock (OC)||1000 MHz|
|Memory Clock||5500 MHz|
|Memory Size||2GB GDDR5|
|Memory Bus||256 bits|
DL-DVI-I / DL-DVI-D
|Power Consumption / Connector||150 W / 6-pin x2|
|Dimension / Weight||268x138x40 mm / 943 g|
Being one of MSIs Gaming Series video cards the R9 380 Gaming 2G came in their typical black and red box. On the cover the black has a circuit board design in it with the red dragon taking up the rest of the front. They did slip their logo up in the top left corner as well as the Gaming Series logo up in the top right. Next to the dragon is the actual product name, for the most part the name covers everything you need to know about the card but they did still include a note that this is a 2 GB card and it is overclocked as well. On the back of the box we actually see a few photos of the cooler but not the entire card. They highlight a few of the cards features with photos as well as include a small specification listing as well.
Inside of the packaging is a black tray with a thin box that covers the top. The box houses the documentation and accessories. That includes a driver/software disc, a quick user guide, a DVI to VGA adapter, and a small MIS Gaming book as well. Up under that box we have the actual card, it is wrapped up in a static protective bag and it sits in a thick foam cutout that keeps it safe in shipping.
Card Layout and Photos
The MSI R9 280 Gaming 2G doesn’t bring anything new to the table when compared to the last MSI Gaming card we tested. That said the card does have the same Twin Frozr V design that was introduced with Nvidia’s 900 series of cards. MSI has continued to evolve the already proven cooler design to continue to be one of the best on the market. Being one of their Gaming Series of cards the coolers fan shroud does have the same red and black theme as the packaging and all of the other Gaming Series cards. Unlike the previous TwinFrozr design this one does use a plastic fan shroud. This was a step down in quality in my opinion but using plastic did open up new styling options that they couldn’t do before. We still have the two large fans but the design has been optimized even more. This card also includes what they call ZeroFrozr as well where the fans will actually turn off in low load situations to lower noise, power, and extend fan life. They even include a sticker right on the fan when you buy it to let you know about this because people tend to get a little worried when their fans don’t turn on.
With the two large fans MSI put the heatsink parallel to the PCB where a reference card would have the heatsink set to push air down along the card not against it. This lets them have a lot more surface area. To help pull the heat out across the entire heatsink they use three large heatpipes. All three pull heat to the right side of the card along the top and on the bottom of the card two of the same heatpipes extend out to pull heat to the left side of the card as well. This design does mean that the hot air is pushed into your PC, not out the back. It comes out both the top and bottom as well as on the end of the card as well. Basically the fan shroud helps push the air down but beyond that the air is free to go wherever. One little design feature of the fan shroud that MSI slipped in with this new design is the MSI logo up on the top edge. When powered up the logo glows white and with MSI’s gaming app you can turn it on and off or set animation effects.
You don’t really see it when looking at the card at first but this is a really tall card. It is about an inch taller than the top of the PCI slot cover so there could be fitment issues with cases that don’t have much room for tall cards. Unlike most companies though, MSI did take advantage of the taller height and actually designed the PCB around it. Normally we see a tall heatsink but it is open on the back. More PCB space means they can space things out a little more to help things run cool. The downside to the custom PCB is that it makes finding waterblocks for water cooling harder.
For power the 380 Gaming 2G requires two six pin connections. MSI took a note from Asus and flipped their power plugs around backwards, notching the PCB. This lets them pack the heatsink and heatpipes in up near the connections without being in the way of unplugging them.
For display connections the 380 Gaming 2G has two DVI connections as well as a full sized DisplayPort and a full sized HDMI. With most cards moving away from dual DVI connections this is becoming a bit of a rarity but is still welcomed by most people who haven’t picked up monitors with DisplayPort connections.
The back of the R9 380 Gaming continues the black and red theme of the card, well at least the black part. The card has a black PCB but we can hardly see it because of the included aluminum backplate. The backplate is perforated for ventilation as backplates are known for heating things up slightly. There is a small MSI logo as well as a large black dragon. Both face out the proper way that will be readable if the card is installed in a standard case.
Our Test Rig and Procedures
|Our Test Rig|
|CPU||Intel i7-3960X||Live Pricing|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM Quad Channel (4x4GB)||Live Pricing|
|Motherboard||Asus Rampage IV X79 Motherboard||Live Pricing|
|Cooling||Intel Active Thermal Solution RTS2011LC||Live Pricing|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master Gold Series 1200 Watt PSU||Live Pricing|
|Case||High Speed PC Test Bench||Live Pricing|
|Our Testing Procedures|
|3DMark||The same goes for the most current version of 3DMark using the Fire Strike benchmark in normal, extreme, and ultra settings|
|Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0||Using the “Extreme” preset|
|Unigine Valley Benchmark 1.0||Using the Extreme HD preset to get an average FPS|
|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. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.|
|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. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above.|
|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. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above, except on the “high” setting AA is also turned down to 8x.|
|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. We also run this same test at 2560x1440 using the same settings as mentioned above/|
|F1 2014||We use the built in benchmark for F1 2014. We use the Ultra setting and then test at 2560x1440 and 1920x1080|
|Total War: ROME II||Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in forest benchmark|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Using the built in benchmark we test with ultra settings at 1440p|
|Sniper Elite 3||Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark|
|GRID Autosport||Ultra setting tested at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440, built in benchmark|
|Theif||Tested using the “Very High” setting at 1920x1080 and 2560x1440|
|Folding @ Home||Using the Folding @ Home benchmark we test both single and double precision using the explicit result|
|Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0 heat testing||We run through Unreal Heaven using the “Extreme” preset for 30 minutes to test in game cooling performance.|
|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 50% and 100% and test both speeds as well. 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.|
To start off my performance testing I ran the R9 380 Gaming 2G through all three 3DMark Fire Strike benchmarks to get an idea of performance at 1080p, 1440p, and 4k. Then I also ran through Unigine Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and their newer Valley 1.0 benchmark as well. In the Heaven benchmark the 380 pulled 47.3 FPS putting it slightly above the older R9 285 and keeping it right in between the overclocked GTX 770 and GTX 960. The results in 3DMark were similar in the performance and extreme benchmarks. The Ultra test was hard on the 2GB frame buffer but it outperformed the GTX 960 my a large margin but the older R9 280 outperformed the 380 here.
After doing the Synthetic benchmarks I ran the R9 380 Gaming 2G through our in game test suite. Here we can actually see what kind of performance you can expect in a variety of games. In all but Shadow of Mordor we test at both 1080p and 1440p, nearly every game is tested with the settings turned all the way up including AA and we graph the average FPS meaning you will see peaks and drops higher and lower. So when testing at 1080p out of the eight games tested only three had a result over 60 FPS, the other five were above 30. This means that three of the games would play at their highest settings without any changes and the other five would need to have things turned down slightly to run at those same settings. To be fair hitman came in with a 59.3 average FPS and Thief wasn’t too far off as well, both of those would most likely not need any adjustments as well. None of the games came in below 30 FPS though, 30 FPS is the line normally where we would consider a game unplayable.
For 1440p testing I ran through the same games with the settings still turned up only this time at the higher resolution. This time around the 380 struggle. Of the nine games tested three came in above 60 FPS, three were above 30 FPS but below 60 FPS, and three came in below 30 FPS. Considering that some of the games weren’t even playable I was still impressed that a few came in above 60 FPS. That said it is clear that this card isn’t really the ideal card for gaming at a higher resolution like this unless you plan on turning the details down.
While I can’t imagine anyone is going to be buying up R9 380’s for compute performance, I was impressed that the Single Precision results were actually above the GTX 780 that out performed the card in all of the in game and synthetic benchmarks earlier. For Double Precision testing the R9 380 came in a little below the heavily gimped GTX 980. I wouldn’t be picking this up specifically for folding or to help with video editing, but if you happen to be doing some on the side it will give you a nice bump in performance.
Cooling, Noise, and Power
For my last set of benchmarks take a look at a few of the card details that help show what kind of power supply and case you might need. By testing the power, noise, and cooling we can really see what sets similar cards apart. For the R9 280 Gaming 2G I started off with power testing. I get an idle wattage and then run through Heaven Benchmark 4.0 and note the peak wattage pulled. It is possible you will see higher numbers when testing using something like Furmark but this gives us an idea of real world performance. So just like the R9 285 the R9 30 performed extremely well at idle, pulling one of the lowest idle numbers we have seen. Under load the card did pull a little more than the original R9 285 did but it is right in the middle of the new GTX 970 and GTX 980 that are known for their relatively low power draw. At 390 watts our 6 core test bench with water cooling would run on just about any power supply although I would still leave a nice buffer.
Next I ran through three noise tests to see just how noisy that Twin Frozr cooler was. Not surprisingly it performed really well. At 100% fan speed it is below the median meaning it runs quieter than more than half of the cards tested. At 50% fan speed we can better see what we would expect for noise while gaming and even there the numbers are great. Then of course when it comes to idle testing the R9 380 Gaming 2G is added to the growing list of cards that have no idle noise at all because the fans turn off.
The last test is to see how hot the card will get when gaming. We do test on an open test bench so you can expect numbers to get a little higher in a closed case but the MSI did well with a peak temp of 66 degrees. This is spot on for where most of the cards with aftermarket coolers fall but it is good to know it will run cool.
Before I finished up testing on the R9 380 Gaming 2G I had to see how the card would overclock as well. To do this I split the overclocking into three parts, GPU, Memory, and then both together. On each I slowly bumped the overclocks up and documented what happened below. The goal here isn’t to set a world record so I’m not typically changing voltages (if I do I note it). The goal is to be able to compare from card to card how they overclock and also have an idea of what kind of performance increase you will actually see with an overclock. For this card I started out on the GPU at the stock clock to get a baseline. From there I bumped things up until I ran into a drive crash at 1150MHz. From there I tried a few more smaller changes to get our peak overclock of 1130MHz. Next I went through doing the same thing on the memory side. This time around I actually peaked out the software I was overclocking with before running into an issue. Lastly I paired up our GPU and memory overclocks to see if they would run together, sadly I ran into a driver crash the first time. I turned the GPU clock down slightly and gave it a second go successfully. In the end we went from an FPS of 51.74 to 59.87, not a bad increase for free.
|GPU Clock Speed Overclocking|
|GPU Clock Speed||Pass/Fail||FPS Result||Notes|
|Memory Clock Offset Overclocking|
|Memory Clock Speed||Pass/Fail||FPS Result||Notes|
|7000MHz||Pass||53.01||Can’t go any higher in software|
|GPU and Memory Overclocks Together|
|GPU Clock Speed||Memory Clock Speed||FPS Result||Notes|
Overall and Final Verdict
So going into the R9 380 launch we know that the 300 series cards are for the most part rehashed 200 series cards. They did go in and made a few tweaks here and there to bump their performance slightly. The R9 380 for example is based on the Tonga R9 285. The 285 is actually a great card even today, I am still running on in our Lunchbox 3 build, so I knew about what to expect coming into this. That said the 380 did see a clock speed bump over the 285 and this card had even more of an overclock over the base clock as well. So where the 285 had a stock clock of 918, our card today had a boost clock of 1GHz. So the for the most part it did outperform the original 285. The big thing I took from all of our testing was that the R9 380 is a rock solid card when playing at 1080p, our testing at 1440p weren’t as successful. But given its price it is a perfect fit for mid-range builds looking for a solid card. MSI spiced things up even more with their TwinFrozr cooler that gave us good cooling performance, kick ass styling, and nearly silent performance when gaming. In fact when you are out of game or doing low load applications the fans turn off entirely. The newish cooler design did lose the metal fan shroud that I really liked but they did make up for it by including an aluminum backplate and a backlit logo up on top.
When it comes to pricing the R9 380 Gaming 2G fell right in between the cards that performed above and below it in our testing meaning it is priced perfectly for its performance. Basically if you are in the market for a new card at around $200 this is going to be right up your alley. Bonus points because it has the styling and features you would find on a much more expensive model.
Live Pricing: HERE