Sitting comfortably in the £175 mid-tier price point also occupied by the GTX 960, MSI’s Radeon R9 380 2G packs some bruising performance which consistently outdoes its chief competitor. MSI’s model is essentially a re-brand of the previous gen R9 285, albeit with a slightly improved 1000MHz clock speed in Overclock Mode.
Aside from that it’s business as usual, with a Tonga Pro GPU core, 1792 shader units, 112 TMUs, ROPs, and 28 Compute Units. If it looks familiar that’s because it is. One thing that lets this particular model down though is it features just 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit memory bus. This provides a total memory bandwidth of 176Gb/s, which is a little down at the low end, making it it difficult to set apart from the R9 285. There is a 4GB model however which makes for a much more tempting purchase in the current graphics card climate, and it's MSI's best-selling 300-series card for a reason.
Anyone familiar with MSI’s graphics cards will feel right at home with the R9 380 Gaming 2G. All of its cards follow basically the same design pattern and this particular model is no different. Much of it comes down to taste but I think it’s a pretty slick look compared to some of the models out there, even if the dragon stylings aren’t necessarily my thing. That and, well, it kind of looks like GD don’t you think?
The 2GB VRAM in this model does hold back its long-term prospects somewhat, and there are some games which it's going to struggle with when upping the settings. That said the MSI Radeon R9 380 is firmly aimed at 1080p gaming and on this front it does deliver respectable performance. As you can see from the benchmarks below of some of 2016's biggest games, maxed out no less, it's never dropping below an average of 30FPS, which isn't to be sniffedat . Should you drop a few select settings and 60FPS can be yours across the board.
MSI Radeon R9 380 Average FPS on Ultra 1080p
Click on each game to view a performance video with the MSI Radeon R9 380
|Game||Average Frames Per Second (FPS) on Ultra / 1080p|
|Dark Souls 3||55|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider||35|
|Street Fighter V||60|
|American Truck Sim||36|
|Dying Light: The Following||59|
|Call of Duty: Black Ops III||48|
Performance is impressive then, so if you pick up one of these cards you should have console crushing performance that can at least see you through until the end of the console generation. That said it doesn't come with some of the more elegant points of its GeForce counterpart; AMD's Crimson Software is still a little finicky and lacking, and it's a bit of a power hog at 190 TDP. That's all going to change in theory with Polaris, but for now these refreshed GPUs are beginning to show their age.
One other thing to consider for those trying to eke as much juice out of this thing as possible - the Radeon R9 380 isn’t a great overclocker. It’s running in an ancient Tonga GPU and, with the MSI model come overclocked out of the box, there really isn’t much headroom to push it any further. Perhaps 5% or so seems the limit, and at this stage it becomes such a power hog that it negates the benefits anyway.
MSI R9 380 Price Comparison
|R9 380 2GB||R9 380 4GB||GTX 950 2GB||GTX 960 4GB|
Overall you're looking at a great price for a great card, but I'd suggest it's almost imperative you go that extra yard and spend the £15 / $40 needed to grab the 4GB model. That's the price of a cheap game and it's going significantly boost the longevity of the card, so it's a no-brainer on that front. There's a bit of a price disparity going on between the US and the UK at the moment, but you can see the R9 380 is only marginally more expensive than a GTX 950, but it considerably beats it in pure performance. From there it's only a small jump to the juicier 4GB model, and between that and the GTX 960 it really does come down to which you'd prefer - AMD or Nvidia. Based on the early prospects of DX12, AMD might just edge for those looking at a future proofed buy.