ASUS STRIX R9 380X DirectCU II OC 1080p Review

We take the new ASUS STRIX R9 380X DirectCU II OC based on AMD's new Radeon R9 380X GPU and fully test it at 1080p in today's most demanding games. We will also compare it with an AMD Radeon R9 280X and GeForce GTX 960 to see if it is worthy as an upgrade for 1080p gaming.


Back on November 19th of 2015 AMD announced and released its AMD Radeon R9 380X GPU with an MSRP of $229.99 ($239.99 for factory overclocked cards) to the masses. We evaluated a retail ASUS STRIX Radeon R9 380X DirectCU II OC video card for the launch on that date.

Unknown at the time, we only had about a 48 hour window to bring you that evaluation. We had to focus on very specific testing scenarios for the launch. We decided to test the video card at AMD's recommended gaming experience for the Radeon R9 380X, which is 1440p. We did not have time to test further resolutions such as 1080p or comparisons with other cards at the time.

After that evaluation we spent some time with the ASUS STRIX Radeon R9 380X DirectCU II OC video card and provided a full overclocking evaluation at 1440p. We overclocked the ASUS card as well as the competition video card at 1440p and we talked about the advantages to gaming at 1440p that the overclock provided. To our delight the Radeon R9 380X was a great overclocker, and certainly has some legroom in it to improve performance at any resolution via overclocking.

In today's evaluation we are going to cover the important things that we were not able to get to in our initial evaluation. We have listened to reader feedback and devised a full evaluation to provide the information you need to make an informed buying decision in regards to the AMD Radeon R9 380X.

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Our Goals

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In this evaluation we will cover firstly six games in a 1080p gameplay experience. We concluded in our initial evaluation that the Radeon R9 380X was not the best GPU for 1440p and that 1080p would probably be the preferred resolution for gaming. Now we have performed the evaluation that tests this specifically to find out how the 1080p gameplay experience really is compared to the 1440p experience. On each gameplay page we will refer back to our experiences at 1440p and compare them to the 1080p experience we have tested today.

In addition, we are going to include a third video card for comparison. We are going back to the AMD Radeon R9 280X. There are some very good reasons for this. First, let's look at a specification comparison graph which will make it clear.

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From this graph you will note that the AMD Radeon R9 380X and AMD Radeon R9 280X share the same number of stream processors, same texture units and same ROPs. In this way, they are very comparable in terms of GPU performance. However, there are some differences, which make this comparison interesting.

The AMD Radeon R9 280X is based on the older, first generation of GCN "Tahiti" GPU. Whereas the new AMD Radeon R9 380X is based on the newer "Tonga" GPU which is GCN version 1.2 basically. This means The Radeon R9 380X has newer GPU features and improvements to tessellation and data compression.

However, the AMD Radeon R9 380X you will notice has taken a step backwards on the memory frequency and bus width and bandwidth. This has been a main concern of many hardware enthusiasts when looking at the AMD Radeon R9 380 or 380X. AMD has downsized the bus width to 256-bit versus the previous 280X at 384-bit. Memory speed has also been reduced from 6GHz to 5.7GHz.

What this means is that there is a huge difference in memory bandwidth between the R9 380X and R9 280X. The original 280X has 288GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The new 380X has a lot less, 182GB/sec of memory bandwidth. That's more than half the bandwidth lost! For a new GPU, it seems the specifications went backwards in this area.

This has been a major concern of performance. Even though the AMD Radeon R9 380X supplants the Radeon R9 280X, and supposedly should be an upgrade, it takes a step backwards in this area. This is why we must include it and find out what the real deal is in terms of gameplay experience. Will this bandwidth difference be an issue, or will architecture improvements trump bandwidth? This evaluation will find out.

Another good reason to include the AMD Radeon R9 280X today is because current online prices are near to the new AMD Radeon R9 380X. This means a good question is brought up, should you save some money on a potentially cheaper AMD Radeon R9 280X or spend a little more for a new Radeon R9 380X? We will find this out as well.