It’s crazy that it was all the way back in 2014 when Sapphire first introduced their R9 285 ITX Compact. That that time we were excited because Ed from Sapphire had been taking a lot of notes at our LANs on builds like our LunchBox 3 and we finally saw why. The 285 ITX Compact blew me away by standing above all of the other ITX cards on the market both in gaming performance but also in cooling performance. In fact, I know a few of the LanOC staff swapped to the card in their LAN rigs. Well I still have it in the LunchBox 3 but I’ve been itching to build a new LAN rig and the first thing I need is a compact ITX card to put in it. As luck would have it Sapphire just refreshed their R9 380 ITX Compact with 4 gigs of ram so today I’m going to put it through the ringer and find out how it performs.
Product Name: Sapphire R9 380 ITX Compact 4GB
Review Sample Provided by: Sapphire
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
1792 Stream Processors
Graphics Core Next (GCN)
1000 MHz Engine Clock
256 bit Memory Bus
GDDR5 Memory Type
4096 MB Size
|Displays||Maximum 4 Outputs|
1 x DVI-D
1 x HDMI
2 x Mini DisplayPort
4096X2160 Pixel DisplayPort Resolution
2560x1600 Pixel Dual Link DVI Resolution
1920x1200 Pixel Single Link DVI Resolution
2160P HDMI Resolution
Shader Model 5.0
AMD ZeroCore Power Technology
Quad HD Display (4K*2K Support)
Video Codec Engine (VCE)
AMD HD3D Technology
Black diamond choke
AMD Liquid VR technology
AMD Virtual Super Resolution(VSR)
AMD TrueAudio technology
Two ball bearing
2 Part Slot Occupied
6.7 x 4.57 x 1.46 Dimension /Inch
170 x 116.15 x 37 Dimension /mm
500 Watt Power Supply (Suggestion)
1 x 8-pin AUX Power Connector
2 x 8-pin AUX Power Connector is required for CrossFireX™ system.
CD-ROM or DVD-ROM drive for installing software
PCI Express® 2.0 or higher version based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard in order for the card to be compatible with.
Much like the card, the packaging for the R9 380 ITX card was amazingly small. With a lot of Sapphires cards, especially the budget cards they use small packaging to keep costs down but this box is actually even smaller. On the front is a weird robot. They have the AMD logo of course and then up in the top left corner is the cards model name. The bottom left has a few features starting with the 4GB capacity, AMD Freesync, and the card being and ITX form factor. The Overclock Edition is a sticker so they can sell a normal clock speed card along with the overclocked card but currently overclocked is the only option other than the 2GB model that has been out. The back doesn’t really have any information exclusive to the card, just information on Sapphires dedication to gamers.
Inside the small card was really packed into the inner box. The card comes wrapped in a static protective bubble wrap bag. Then from there the documentation, driver disc, and a few accessories were packed in with it tightly. See Sapphire typically includes a few accessories still where a lot of the other manufactures have dropped them to save money on everything but the higher end cards. The 380 ITX comes with a double 6-pin to 8-pin adapter on the chance you don’t have an 8-pin PCI power cable on your power supply. They also include a DVI to VGA adapter as well as a mini DisplayPort to full sized DisplayPort adapter. For documentation you get a quick installation guide, a paper with contact information, and a color page with information on registering your card. Then of course there is the driver disk, I always download the latest driver online but if you can’t get online it is still nice to have the option.
Card Layout and Photos
While the model name has changed from the original R9 285 that I took a look at and the memory capacity has increased from 2 gigs to 4 gigs from the original R9 380 ITX card, the R9 380 ITX 4GB looks exactly the same as the two previous models. This is partially because the R9 380 as a whole is actually a carry over from the R9 285, only with a higher clock speed. This card though has actually bumped that clocks speed up even farther to 1GHz and has doubled the memory. The design still has the same single large fan design. The fan shroud was and still is one of the coolest looking Sapphire cards as well with the silver and black theme. What is really unique though is how the fan shroud curves in around the fan to help keep fan noise down and get the best possible airflow.
The card and cooler is of course just over 6 inches long to keep it in that ITX form factor. That means that the card will fit anywhere that has the length of an ITX motherboard. There is a little additional height with about a half inch of PCB and fan shroud up above the top of the PCI slot cover. I didn’t have any fitment issues with the original and it was the same size, but it is something to keep in mind, especially when working with small form factor builds.
The cooling configuration consists of four heatpipes sandwiched between the thick heatsink and a contact plate that touches the GPU, memory, and power circuitry to pull all of the heat out and away from the PCB. The heatpipes help pull the heat out to the far ends of the heatsink but the meat of the cooling is still done in the center under the large fan. The fan blows down over the heatsink fins and the out the front and rear of the card. The design is basically a combination of a reference card and a normal aftermarket cooler on a card. This means there is more space for heatsink without the recessed fan design but the fan pushes down and also out with the heatsink rising up on both sides of the fan. With heat being the biggest concern in a small form factor build, especially a gaming LAN rig, I will take all the cooling that Sapphire can pack in.
The end of the card does tell us a few things. For one we can see that the heatsink takes up the entire space between the PCB and the fan shroud. Also facing out the rear is the power connection. Like previous Sapphire ITX models the 380 ITX 4GB requires a single 8-pin power connection. To make enough room for the cooling the connection is flipped around backwards with the clip on the PCB side with the PCB notched like a lot of the manufactures have been doing recently.
With the R9 380 ITX being a small card you would think that they have the same amount of space on the back like a full sized card. The difference though is this card actually needs all of the vent space is can get on the back to help push all of the warm air out of the back of your small form factor case. That means the vent on the rear of the card takes up a full slot, and even more. They still managed to pack in a lot of connection options though. You have a DVI connection, a full sized HDMI, and two Mini-DisplayPort connections. This gives you up to four monitors before daisy chaining on the DisplayPorts and people with older monitors will be happy to see DVI and VGA with an adapter are still options. Sapphire even packed small cutouts in between each connection to get the most airflow possible.
The back of the card gives us a good look at the good looking all black PCB. In addition, here we can better see that Sapphire used up every square inch of the PCB to fit the 380 into this form factor. There are a few mounting screws on the back that stick out in addition to a few PCB mounted thing like what looks to be a power choke down in the bottom right corner that stick out slightly but overall there shouldn’t be any clearance issues with the 380 ITX on the back.
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|
|Storage||Kingston Hyper X 3K 240GB SSD||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 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.|
|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|
|Cinebench R15||OpenGL benchmark|
|Unreal Valley Benchmark 1.0 heat testing||We run through Unreal Valley using the “Extreme” preset for 30 minutes to test in game cooling performance with the fan speed set to auto then again with the fan set to 100%.|
|Power Usage||Using Unreal Valley Benchmark 1.0, 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 our testing I ran the R9 380 ITX through a few synthetic benchmarks to get a feel for how the card compares to other cards. For comparison I pulled the R9 285 ITX out of our Lunchbox 3 and retested it as well. Using 3DMark the 38 ITX came in just below the GTX 780 in the performance setting. This landed the card up at the top slightly above the other R9 380’s that I have tested in the past. This wasn’t far off from the R9 285 ITX but that gap much larger when moving to the extreme and ultra tests that test inn 1440p and 4k. The extra clock speed helped in the performance test but it was the 4 gigs of vRAM that really made a difference at higher resolutions. The results from the Unigine Valley Benchmark were similar with the 380 ITX 4GB pulling and average 38.1 FPS, just below the 40 FPS of the R9 380X.
As always the synthetic benchmarks are nice but we don’t build gaming computers to benchmark we buy them to game. Because of that I tested the R9 380 ITX 4GB with 9 different games covering a range of genre and engines to see what kind of performance you can expect. In all but one of the games I test in both 1080p and 1440p to see how the card will handle both. All of the games are turned up to their highest possible settings (you can see the exact settings in the test procedures section) and I use the average FPS over the entire benchmark. You can expect higher and lower FPS depending on section of the game but an average gives us an overall idea of performance. To break things down as simple as possible I have graphed out both the 1080p and 1440p results into three categories, under 30FPS or what I consider unplayable, 30-60 FPS or playable but not perfect, and over 60FPS aka great performance.
At 1080p the R9 380 ITX 4GB performed well but not perfect with 3 games in the 60+ category and 5 in the 30 to 60 FPS range. This means that at 1080p, the most popular resolution, you will be able to play anything you want with the card but some of the games might need a little adjustment on the settings to see high FPS on all of them. At 1440p things are mostly the same with the exception that two of the games fell below 30 FPS and would need adjustment to be playable at all. It’s not all bad though, for comparison the R9 285 ITX with 2GB actually has one under 30 FPS at 1080p and 5 games are unplayable at 1440p. The extra frame buffer and higher clock speed on the 380 ITX gives a good bump in what games you can actually play in real world gameplay.
How do the numbers look compared to everything else? Well for the most part the 380 ITX 4GB came in just above its 2GB 380 brothers and of course below the R9 380X. This put it on par or just above the GTX 960 in most cases. The R9 285 ITX still did well as well but in almost every test it came in just below the R9 380’s that have a slightly higher clock speed.
I doubt that most people will be needed to build a small form factor build for editing and compute processing but on the off chance you need to I did run the R9 380 ITX 4Gb through a few tests. First I ran through both single and double precision testing using the folding at home benchmark. Here the ITX card came in a little lower than some of the other R9 380’s in the single precision test, but the difference was negligible. In the double precision test, the ITX card pulled back ahead slightly. With Nvidia pulling back on double precision performance on its newer cards the R9 380 ITX 4GB really looked good when it wasn’t far behind the GTX 980. In Cinebench R15 the 380 ITX was on par with the R9 380X but still down lower on the charts compared to the higher end cards. Oddly enough the R9 285 ITX performed better here consistently with its numbers up above the R9 390.
Cooling, Noise, and Power
The last bit of my testing is right up there with how good the in game performance is, in fact it might even be even more important. On small form factor builds, heat is the number one issue you will have to fight with and along with that a lot of the builds that are based on SFX power supplies also have to worry about power. For power testing I run through Unigine Valley benchmark and using a Kill-a-Watt I record the maximum power draw our entire test system pulls. Keep in mind this is a 6 core full sized PC so it is an extreme comparison to a smaller build but it gives us a good idea of the kind of power draw you can expect. In this case the new higher clock speeds gave the 380 ITX a bump in power draw from the 401 of the original R9 385 ITX card to 420 watts. At 401 the original was pushing the limits of the 450 watt modular SFX power supplies that were available at the time and adding 20 watts to that isn’t going to help. Lucky for us though Silverstone has actually brought out a 600 watt modular model and Corsair is prepping one soon as well so there is still a great option to power the 380 ITX in your SFF build.
Next was noise testing. I test the fan noise when the fan is running at 50% and 100% fan speed. I used to also include idle numbers but with all of the cards turning the fan off at low power usage these days I have to stick with setting the fan to specific speeds to get an idea of what to expect. Funny enough our well used R9 285 has actually gotten louder, once I had it out of the PC I could hear the fan a little more than in the past, especially at low speeds. The 380 ITX however wasn’t bad when not under load. When I heated things up it did have to do more work than a full sized card given its small size so it wasn’t a surprise that it put out a little noise. If you crank it up to 100% fan speed, something it never did on its own in my testing, you can expect it to be in the middle of the pack but this is a little loud for a single fan card. The more realistic 50% speed wasn’t exactly quest but it was still in the middle of the pack as well. All in all for such a small card I don’t think we can ask for quieter.
For heat testing I ran through two different tests. First I looped through Valley Benchmark over and over until the card hit its resting temperature using the stock fan profile. Here the 380 ITX warmed up more than I would like with a peak temp of 80 degrees Celsius. This is in line with what a reference card will run. The older 285 ITX however performed much better in this test. I then let things cool down then did the same test with the fan speed set to 100% on the card. Doing this lets us get a better idea of the actual cooling performance of the cooler rather than letting the fan speed profile run the temps up to keep noise down. Here the 380 ITX ran nice and cool at 59 degrees. Funny enough the older 285 couldn’t run as cool here. So what did all of this teach us? Well for one the 380 with more ran and more clock speed is going to run warmer than the older 285 ITX card. The cooler is still just as capable but it seems the fan speed profile has been adjusted a little to keep the noise down. I’m not a fan of running a high fan speed all of the time, but I would highly recommend changing the fan speed profile a little to have the fan speed up a little earlier to keep things running cool. If you let the 380 ITX warm up to 80 degrees that heat is going to soak into the rest of your PC over time. That said the cooler is still more than capable, that is a lot more than I can say from some of the other ITX cards I have looked at in the past that struggled to stay cool even with the fan turned up.
Overall and Final Verdict
It’s kind of hard to believe but it’s been almost two years from our R9 285 ITX review to now. In that time Asus and MSI seem to have dropped from the ITX market and Gigabyte jumped in. On top of that AMD turned things upside down and introduced the Fury Nano. Even still the Sapphire R9 380 4GB ITX is still the go to card. The Fury Nano has all of the performance but is priced as well over twice what it costs to get this card. Things hasn’t changed much, the 380 ITX has the same cooler, styling, and short of the clock speed and memory improvements it’s the same GPU really. That said it didn’t take much to keep the card up to date. The black and silver styling still looks great. The performance is great when testing at 1080p and thanks to the increased vRAM 1440p can hold its own now as well. It’s not the fastest ITX card on the market anymore but it’s the only reasonable option.
I did run into a problem with the cooling. Without touching the fan profile, the 380 ITX ran a lot warmer than I would prefer. Oddly enough it’s not the cooler or the higher clock speed, it seems like the fan profile is just a little less aggressive now. With heat being the biggest issue you can run into with a small form factor build this would be extremely concerning, but with it being such an easy fix I wouldn’t avoid getting it just because of that.
So is this the card for you? Well if you are building a full sized PC or if your SFF build has room for a full sized card I would go that direction. But if you are limited for space the Sapphire R9 380 ITX 4GB is a great option. The 2GB model is at least still currently for sale as well for a little less, if you are only gaming at 1080p that is a great option as well. If you, like me, are running the original 285 ITX from Sapphire though the slightly higher clock speed and higher memory isn’t going to net you enough of an improvement to justify replacing the card. Lucky for me though I’m getting ready to build a new LunchBox build and a refreshed Sapphire ITX is exactly what I need to get my game on at LANs this spring.
Live Pricing: HERE