MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G Video Card Review

We've got an MSI R9 390X GAMING video card with 8GB of VRAM to put up against a Radeon R9 290X and GeForce GTX 980. Find out what the new AMD Radeon R9 390X is made of, and if the MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G video card can compete with GeForce GTX 980 performance, you might be surprised.


Today AMD is launching the Radeon 300 series of GPUs from the lower end Radeon R7 series of products up to the R9 series. The list of new video cards are, in order from slowest to fastest: Radeon R7 360, Radeon R7 370, Radeon R9 380, Radeon R9 390 and Radeon R9 390X. There will be a new product of video cards above the Radeon R9 390 series called R9 Fury, based on the new "Fiji" GPU. We will talk more about the Fury line when those video cards are launched. Today is specifically the launch of the R7 and R9 300 series.

We are going to specifically look at one of these video cards as we have completed a full retail review. We are going to focus on the AMD Radeon R9 390X today, the top-end of the new 300 series. The MSRP for the AMD Radeon R9 390X will be $429. As we evaluate other R7 and R9 300 series video cards we will fully go over specs and information on each GPU at that time.

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AMD states that the Radeon R9 390 series (390 and 390X) are designed for "Great 4K Gaming Experiences." That's a pretty bold statement for what these video cards are actually based on in terms of GPU and specifications.

Some key points AMD points out is that these video cards, both the 390 and 390X will come standard with 8GB of GDDR5 memory. That, combined with the 512-bit memory bus on the 390 and 390X are the primary selling points for AMD to spout "great" 4K gaming. However, as we all know, memory alone does not make performance.

Here's the rub, these video cards, the R9 390 and R9 390X, are inherently re-brands of the Radeon R9 290 and 290X respectively. Re-branding video cards is not a new concept, NVIDIA has done this plenty of times, and so has AMD. In fact, the Radeon R9 280X is a re-brand of AMD Radeon HD 7970 GPUs.

When the AMD Radeon R9 290X was released, it finally had architectural improvements over the 7970 that increased the GCN version a bit. However, that was back in 2013 that the AMD Radeon R9 290X codenamed (Hawaii) was released. So here we are two years later, and basically we are getting a re-brand of Hawaii with the R9 390 and 390X. This time, no architectural improvements.

What does that mean as far as performance and specs go? Well if you look above at the specifications for the AMD Radeon R9 390X above (the one we are reviewing today) you will note it shares all the same specifications with the AMD Radeon R9 290X. Both the AMD Radeon R9 290X and AMD Radeon R9 390X are built at 28nm, have 2816 Streaming Processors, 176 texture units, 64 ROPs and 44 Compute Units. Both utilize 512-bit memory busses with GDDR5.

There are only three things that separates the R9 390X from the R9 290X. The first thing is a higher default stock GPU clock speed of 1050MHz versus 1000MHz on the R9 290X. The second is that the memory is clocked a lot higher this time around at 6GHz versus 5GHz on the AMD Radeon R9 290X. This brings the memory bandwidth up to 384GB/sec versus 320GB/sec. Finally, the R9 390X will come standard with 8GB of VRAM versus 4GB on the R9 290X.

Even the TDP is similar to R9 290X, and in fact in our testing the power demand seems to be greater. We have found that the voltage seems to be running higher, allowing for these higher clock speeds versus R9 290X. There doesn't seem to be any improvements in power efficiency.

As far as API support goes, DirectX 12 is supported and we found this note from the reviewers guide to be most interesting. We can only think these were achieved via driver improvements, since the architecture hasn't been changed.

AMD Radeon 300 Series Graphics fully support Microsoft DirectX 12, with the following enhancements over earlier products, Faster Tessellation, Tiled Resources آ– Support for massive virtual textures, enabling dynamic loading of tiles into graphics RAM for expansive game world details


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Above you will find all the specifications and clock speeds on MSI's new lineup for the 300 series, from the R7 to R9. We are going to be evaluating the R9 390X GAMING 8G today. The MSRP is $429. As you can see it is overclocked out-of-the-box at 1100MHz (1.1GHz) which is 50MHz faster than the reference speed. The memory is also overclocked at 6.1GHz versus 6GHz reference speed. This brings the memory bandwidth up to 390GB/sec. Of course it comes standard with 8GB of VRAM, same as the R9 390.

This series of video card from MSI uses its new TwinFrozr V cooling solution. In fact, when you pick this video card up you will immediately notice its weight, this is a hefty video card, but it feels sturdy. There is a full backplate. MSI has of course customized the PCB and it is much larger than a reference card. MSI is using its Military Class 4 hardware design. To aid in noise reduction the fans on this video card also do not spin up until the GPU units 60+ C.

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This video card is very thick. The heatsink is separated into two blocks, but these are very thick and cover a lot of area. MSI designed this video card to absorb as much heat in the heatsinks without having to ramp the fans up to insane loud levels. This was a real problem for the R9 290X series, those were loud and hot. Improvements with that series has helped lead to improvements with this new series in terms of keeping it cool and quiet.

There is a DisplayPort, HDMI and two DVI connectors on board. You will need one 6-pin and one 8-pin power connector. Similar to the R9 290/X you do not need to attach any connectors for CrossFire operation. Again, this design from MSI is very hefty, the amount of metal under the shroud keeping all the components cool is massive, but the backplate and construction is very sturdy.