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.