MSI Radeon R9 280 GAMING OC Video Card Review

Priced at roughly $260 we have the MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card, which features pre-overclocked performance, MSI's Twin Frozr IV cooling system, and highest end components. We'll focus on performance when gaming at 1080p between this boss and the GeForce GTX 760 video card!


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 280 GAMING OC video card.

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The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC is based off of AMD's R9 280 GPU. This is not to be confused with the R9 280X. Back when AMD re-branded its GPUs, the R9 280 was not on the radar, only the R9 280X. However, we figured that in time AMD would create an R9 280 (non X) based on what the re-branding was replacing. The AMD Radeon R9 280X, for example, replaced the AMD Radeon 7970. It would then make sense to us that AMD would also re-brand the AMD Radeon 7950, and that is exactly what the AMD Radeon R9 280 is, a re-branded 7950. The AMD Radeon R9 280 officially launched on March 4th, 2014 with an MSRP of $279.

Let's look at the two to refresh our memory of what each one has to offer. The R9 280 has 1792 stream processing units, while the R9 280X has 2048, allowing for better performance. The GPU on the R9 280 runs at 933MHz, while the R9 280X by default runs at 1GHz. The R9 280's memory also runs at 5GHz, while the R9 280X operates at 6GHz. The R9 280X is more capable, and more costly. It has a price range from $280 on the low-end to $380 on the high-end. The R9 280 ranges from $230 on the low-end to $290 on the high-end.

On the NVIDIA side of things, we find that the GeForce GTX 760's price range is between $250 and $280. That price range is directly relates to the R9 280, and more specifically the MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card, which is priced at $249. Since they are so directly related in price, we will use a reference GeForce GTX 760 to evaluate the MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card. We will also overclock it later on and do some direct comparisons with our max overclock on the MSI R9 280 GAMING.

MSI R9 280 GAMING OC Video Card

The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card by default has pre-overclocked performance. MSI has applied a factory overclock to this model, which has core clock running at 1000MHz, and the 3GB's of memory's frequency is the default 5GHz GDDR5 from a reference model. A reference AMD R9 280 video card will operate at 933MHz on the core, which means that MSI has assured us 67MHz faster performance, guaranteed, on the MSI R9 280 GAMING OC.

The added benefit to the MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card, besides it already being overclocked, is that we can overclock it even more. That's right, and it is extremely simple to do thanks to MSI Afterburner. For this model it will allow us control of the power limit, core clock speed, and memory speed. MSI additionally offers its Gaming App, which has 3 modes. The most prominent is OC mode with the boost clock at 1GHz, however this is what the video card runs at by default. We hope though with MSI Afterburner and this video cards unique attributes we can squeeze every inch of performance out.

Part of what makes MSI's video cards so prominent is their ability to stay cool while performing quietly. MSI does so with its Twin Frozr IV cooling system. Let's break it down. MSI Begins cooling the R9 280 GPU with 5 copper heat pipes that are directly contacting it. These spread out to various areas on the large, fin grid array heatsink. This large surface area allows heat to even out, and be displaced by the dual-fans. To top it off MSI has a new airflow control technology, in which the largest airflow was directed at the heat pipes. This assures us cool temperatures and quiet operation.

MSI only used top of the line Military Class IV components on its MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card. MSI uses Solid CAP's, which have a lifespan of 18 years, compared to 10 years on normal components. These are specially designed to reduce ESR, or equivalent series resistance. MSI also used Hi-C CAPs which allows for 93% energy efficiency. Solid state chokes are also important. These eliminate the vibration sound under heavy loading, while providing 37.5% higher current output. This is essential when overclocked and under high load, to assure proper GPU power and stability.

The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card can be yours for $249 at Newegg, and this includes an AMD Gold gift card for 3 free games, valued at $150. The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card comes with MSI's 3 year limited parts and labor warranty.

MSI R9 280 GAMING OC Pictures

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The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC video card ships in a large box that is well insulated, assuring that the video card will arrive unharmed. The box features its most significant highlights including the overclock, Twin Frozr IV and Military Class IV components. The accessory package includes a quick users setup guide, a driver installation CD, and a flyer that explains the BIOS switch which has legacy mode and UEFI mode. Also included are a dual-Molex to 6-pin PCIe connector, a 6 to 8-pin PCIe connector, a DisplayPort to mini DisplayPort connector, along with a CrossFire bridge and a VGA to DVI adaptor.

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The MSI R9 280 GAMING OC is black and red, with a sleek, fast look. There is the Gaming Series badge with a dragon printed located on the fan housing. The two large blower fans are directly over the GPU and heat pipes. You can also see the fans are mostly matte, with some gloss on the edges. This keeps dust off the blades, while minimizing air resistance on the part of the fan where the highest volume of air is being pushed. The overall build quality is solid, and beautiful. It is very well put together and sturdy.

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The rear I/O panel houses a dual-link DVI-I connector, two mini DisplayPort connectors, and an HDMI connector. Along the bottom edge of the video card you can see four of the heat pipes coming off the GPU, and distributing to the heatsink. The fifth copper heat pipe is along the top edge of the video card.

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Also along the top of the video card near the CrossFire mounts is the Hybrid BIOS switch which has Legacy mode and UEFI mode. At the rear end of the video card along the time are the 6 and 8 pin PCIe power connectors, which MSI recommends a 500W minimum power supply to function correctly. It measures 10 and 5/8th inches in length, 1 and 3/8th inches wide, and 5 inches in height.