XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4GB Video Card Review

Today we look at the newly released AMD Radeon R9 380 GPU. We have XFX's new R9 380 Double Dissipation custom video card featuring new cooling and a factory overclock. We will also compare the XFX R9 380 to a GTX 960 4GB, in addition we will test the AMD R9 285 clock-for-clock with the XFX R9 380 to see if there are any differences.


Gameplay Summary

In The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB had a performance advantage that allowed us to utilize SSAO along with "High" graphics and post processing at 1080p. It averaged 48.2 FPS. The GeForce GTX 960 could not handle ambient occlusion with the same settings. Overclocking the XFX R9 380 provided the boost needed to enable HBAO+.

In Grand Theft Auto V the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB was playable at 1080p with "Ultra" grass, utilizing the highest settings in-game. We could not enable any advanced graphics options however. The GTX 960 was playable with similar settings but required "Very High" grass quality. Overclocking the XFX R9 380 allowed us to adjust grass quality to "Very High" and enable two advanced graphics options, high resolution shadows and long shadows.

In Dying Light the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB and GeForce GTX 960 were both playable at 1080p with the best quality settings selected and the view distance slider set to maximum. We did have shadow map size reduced to "High." Performance at these settings leaned towards the XFX R9 380. After overclocking the XFX R9 380 we found could enable "Very High" shadow map size, providing gaming with max settings at 1080p.

In Far Cry 4 the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB was playable at 1080p with "Ultra" settings enabled, but could not utilize Godrays. The GeForce GTX 960 was slower, and required us to reduce the quality to "Very High." With the max overclock applied the XFX R9 380 was capable of running Godrays at volumetric fog with "Ultra" settings.

In Battlefield 4 the GeForce GTX 960 had its first gameplay advantage at 1080p with 4X MSAA enabled, utilizing "Ultra" settings. The XFX R9 380 DD 4GB in Mantle required 2X MSAA to provide stable gameplay. After overclocking we did have the option to increase aliasing to 4X MSAA.


Overclocking was a successful endeavor on the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB. XFX does not provide any overclocking utility for use with its hardware, however you can use the Catalyst Control Center to overclock the video card. The only downside to this is you cannot manually increase the voltage. We used MSI Afterburner to achieve our highest stable overclock since it did have the voltage restriction.

The R9 380 is a rebrand of the R9 285, with increased operating speeds. The R9 285 operates at 918MHz while the R9 380 runs at 970MHz. The memory is also slightly faster at 5.7GHz compared to the old 5.5 GHz. XFX shipped this video card slightly higher than the reference R9 380 values at 990MHz, the memory is still 5.7GHz.

Our overclocking experience increased the GPU an additional 162MHz to 1152MHz. The memory also increased noticeably from 1425MHz/5.5GHz up to 1610MHz/6.44GHz. This translated well in-game by allowing us to enable a more demanding graphics option in nearly every game.

These overclocking results are better than what we saw on two R9 285 video cards. Both the MSI R9 285 GAMING 2G and the XFX R9 285 Black Edition managed to overclock to 1125MHz core/6GHz memory. The XFX Radeon R9 380 showed evidence that improved effeicency has lended itself to improved overclocking over the R9 285. This is extremely positive for the R9 380 as it was clock speed and memory bandwidth that was always holding the R9 285 back in performance. It is now able to achieve an improvement in the gameplay experience from overclocking.

If you are wondering how an overclocked GeForce GTX 960 compares to this video card's maximum overclock, we will have that for you in our next evaluation with full overclock to overclock comparisons between the XFX R9 380 4GB and a MSI GTX 960 4GB.

Power, Temperature & Fan Noise

The power consumption did seem to be slightly more efficient on the XFX R9 380 DD 4G looking back at the way the R9 285 consumed power. Compared to the GeForce GTX 960 it still drew noticeably more power, however it was justified in doing so by providing faster gameplay with more advanced graphics options in the majority of our games.

The improvements to the new Ghost Thermal 3.0 cooling technology were most noticeable in our temperature testing. The XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4GB had a maximum temperature of 63c under load. After overclocking and manually setting fans to 70% this rose to 66c.

Fan noise was not problematic. The new fans outfitted with the Ghost Thermal 3.0 technology allowed for ample airflow off the board with minimal noise. Even with fans adjusted to 70% during overclocking the noise was bearable.

AMD Radeon R9 380 Summary

In our clock-for-clock testing we downclocked the XFX R9 380 DD 4GB to the reference Radeon R9 285 clock speeds and evaluated its performance compared to a reference Radeon R9 285. The performance was strikingly similar as we expected it to be, seeing as the Radeon R9 380 is a re-brand of the Radeon R9 285. What sets the Radeon R9 380 apart from the Radeon R9 285 is twice the VRAM capacity and higher GPU clock and memory clock speeds. The improvements to efficiency have helped provide higher obtainable overclocks out of the new Radeon R9 380.

These facts together provide an overall positive vibe to the Radeon R9 380 at launch that is more positive than we felt about the Radeon R9 285 when it launch. We always felt the Radeon R9 285 was held back. The new Radeon R9 380 solves that feeling with real-world results. The Radeon R9 380 is what the Radeon R9 285 should have been all along.

The VRAM capacity difference however did not seem to be a real game changer for the Radeon R9 380. At the performance level of the Radeon R9 380 operates 1080p gaming is its sweet spot, no matter what AMD tells you. This is not a 1440p video card for decent gaming settings. Unfortunately for this video card it isn't able to play at the game settings or resolutions needed to require 4GB of VRAM in current games.

Now, it may be that future games push the need for 4GB at 1080p, and if that is true, then this video card is set. However, as it is right now at this date and time, having twice the VRAM isn't a must-have for 1080p gaming. As for a "forward looking" video card, well we suppose that is nice. If 4GB of VRAM doesn't drastically alter the price (which it doesn't) why not then. The Radeon R9 285 debuted at $249 with half the VRAM, and this one is debuting at a lower price with twice the VRAM, so that makes the R9 380 a better value already.

The Bottom Line

The XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4GB was a solid video card on all accounts. It is currently priced for $239 at Newegg, which is MSRP plus $10. This offer includes a free game: Assasin's Creed Chronicles valued at $10. You will be paying a slight premium to enjoy the improvements XFX has brought to the video card. There is some talk that these prices may go down slightly in the following weeks.

XFX has taken the new AMD Radeon R9 380 GPU and made improvements that allowed the video card to be more efficient and with exceptional temperature results. These two key areas also allowed us to achieve a higher overclock than traditionally achieved on Radeon R9 285 video cards. The overclocks lead to real-world gameplay improvements.

The XFX R9 380 DD 4GB did have the performance advantage in 4 of the 5 games we used. It was able to play with higher graphics options compared to the GeForce GTX 960 4GB. Right now 4GB GeForce GTX 960 cards are selling between $220-$240. With similar pricing we feel the XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4GB provided the better overall gaming experience and the better value in this evaluation. GeForce GTX 960 move aside, a new player is in town, and it is here to win.

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XFX R9 380 Double Dissipation 4GB