MSI R9 280X GAMING Video Card Review

On our test bench today is the new MSI R9 280X GAMING series video card. Equipped with the Twin Frozr IV cooling system and high end components, we hope to see low temperatures, high performance, and solid overclocking. We will also take a look at its performance compared an overclocked GeForce GTX 770 and GeForce GTX 760.

Introduction

Microstar International (MSI) is a Taiwan-based computer hardware manufacturer founded in 1986. Primarily a designer and manufacturer of PC motherboards, MSI has expanded its business into barebones PCs, servers and workstations, communications devices, consumer electronics, Notebooks, Netbooks, graphics cards, and other various electronic products. Its company motto, "Quality Products Create Faithful Customer," believes its underlying corporate strategy of designing and manufacturing quality devices for various markets and letting its high-quality reputation earn it the trust and respect of electronics consumers worldwide.

On our test bench today is the MSI R9 280X GAMING series, the MSI R9 280X GAMING series video card.

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AMD Radeon R9 280X

AMD's R9 280X video card is a simple rebranding of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. It is based on the 28nm Tahiti GPU. The streaming processors are the same at 2,048, the ROPs are the same at 32 ROPs, the TMUs are the same at 128. The GPU architecture is based on GCN (Graphics Core Next) 1.0. The clock speed on the AMD Radeon R9 280X will run at 1GHz, just like the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition. The memory will run at 6GHz on a 384-bit bus with 3GB of GDDR5, just like the 7970 GHz Edition. The TDP is exactly the same at 250W.

What separates the AMD R9 280X from the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition is the price tag. The AMD R9 280X has a base MSRP of $299 as does this custom MSI video card. This is $200 less than the launch price of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition, which sold for $499. Basically, AMD is providing the same performance as a Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition for a much more cost efficient price.


MSI R9 280X GAMING

The MSI R9 280X GAMING video card does not come with a factory overclock. It runs at 1000MHz on the core. The memory runs at 6GHz GDDR5. Despite having no factory overclock, MSI offers one of the best and most popular overclocking utilities in MSI Afterburner. The MSI R9 280X GAMING can also utilize the new MSI Gaming App, which has three settings users can choose from. Silent mode, Gaming mode, and OC mode. Silent mode will lock the core speed at 1GHz. Gaming mode will lock the core speed to 1020MHz, and OC mode will lock the core to 1050MHz. Unfortunately the app doesn't immediately overclock the video card past 1050MHz, you will have to manually do this through MSI Afterburner.

MSI states that the Twin Frozr cooling system is the defining graphics card cooler. The MSI R9 280X GAMING video card is equipped with the Twin Frozr IV cooling system. This features two large fans, and an aluminum finned heatsink which provides a large surface area for heat to spread. There are also 5, 8mm SuperPipes. These have a liquid-state coolant that evaporates when heated to gas. The gas coolant then moves along the cavity inside the SuperPipe to cool and lower temperatures. The gas then re-condenses to a liquid-state and continues the process. To top it all off, the heatsink is specially designed to redirect extra airflow across the SuperPipe heat pipes, rounding off an accomplished Twin Frozr IV cooling system.

MSI always uses top class components when designing its high-end gaming hardware. The MSI R9 280X GAMING is outfitted with military class 4 components. These include Hi-c CAPs, which have 93% better energy efficiency than standard capacitors. There are also solid CAP's which provide efficient energy, and lower Equivalent Series Resistance (ESR). MSI has also included new super ferrite chokes. These super ferrite chokes operate at 35 degrees Celsius lower temperature, 30% higher current capacity, and 20% improvement in power efficiency. This ensures better overclocking and power stability.

The MSI R9 280X GAMING Series video card can be had for $299.99. MSI also includes a free 3 year limited parts and labor warranty. You can read more about the MSI R9 280X GAMING's specifications and features here.


MSI R9 280X GAMING Pictures

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The MSI R9 280X GAMING video card sports a black and red, aggressive, fast look, with the "Gaming Series" badge on it. It comes well packaged inside a black and red box. The video card sits snug inside of the foam. The accessory package includes a quick users guide, a driver installation CD, a CrossFire cable, one DVI to VGA adaptor, a 6-pin PCIe to dual-Molex connector, and a 6-pin PCIe to 8-pin PCIe adaptor, and lastly a DisplayPort to mini DP adaptor.

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The overall look of the video card is nice, and fits a black and red color scheme well. When handling the MSI R9 280X GAMING it felt durable, however much lighter than many video cards we handle on a day to day basis. The heatsink was well designed to do its job without a lot of extra unnecessary weight.

The MSI R9 280X GAMING will require an 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe connector, which is located along the top of the video card. Unfortunately MSI overlooked a design flaw with its power connectors. They are facing inwards towards the heatsink, which makes it extremely hard to get out, because a thumb doesn't fit well between the clip and the heatsink. Aside from this, the build quality is top notch.

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The rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI-I connector, an HDMI connector and two mini DisplayPort connectors. There is also a dual-BIOS switch located along the top of the video card near the CrossFire hubs. The MSI R9 280X GAMING measures 10 and 5/8th inches in length, 4 and 5/8th inches tall, and 1.5 inches wide. It will take up two slots in your case.


Comparison Video Cards

Ideally when we are evaluating a video card we select the video cards that are closest in price to the video card we are looking at. In this evaluation keep in mind these video card prices as we have based our comparisons on:

Reference AMD R9 280X - $299

MSI R9 280X GAMING - $309

Reference GTX 770 - $399 (MSRP supplied by NVIDIA)

Reference GTX 760 آ– $249 up to $289 for custom 2GB overclocked cards

Since the MSI R9 280X GAMING has a price of $299, it's actually closer in price to the GeForce GTX 760 than it is the GeForce GTX 770. When it comes to performance though, the idea is that a Radeon R9 280X can perform with a GeForce GTX 770 for a much cheaper price. We will be using both a GeForce GTX 760 and GeForce GTX 770 to compare for these reasons.