AMD Radeon R9 380X Review: Fastest GPU Under $250

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Introducing The Radeon R9 380X

AMD is poised to make a lot of noise as we head into the holiday shopping season. The Radeon Technology Group has already announced its Radeon Software Crimson Edition, which completely revamps the company’s GPU software suite, and promises improved stability and performance. And that insane, dual-Fiji powered graphics card we had the opportunity to show you back during E3 in June, probably isn’t too far off either. Today though, it’s the mid-range GPU market that’s getting a shot of adrenaline.

As much as we all love uber-powerful, high-end graphics cards around these here parts, it’s in the more mainstream price segments where AMD and NVIDIA sell the bulk of their GPUs. Although AMD’s mid-range GPU line-up has been relatively strong for a while now, the company is launching the new Radeon R9 380X today with the goal of taking down competing graphics cards like the popular GeForce GTX 960.

The Radeon R9 380X may be a new member of the Radeon family, but it’s packing technology we’re already familiar with. Take a look at the specifications below and then we’ll dig into the rest of this story and explain...
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A Reference Radeon R9 380X - You Probably Won't See Many Of These
AMD Radeon R9 380X Review
Specifications & Features
Process  28nm 
Stream Processors  2048
Engine Clock  ≥ 970 MHz 
Compute Performance  3.97 TFLOPs 
Texture Units  128
Texture Fill-Rate  124.26 GT/s 
ROPs  32
Pixel Fill-Rate  31.04 GP/s 
Z/Stencil  128
Memory Configuration  4GB GDDR5 
Memory Interface  256-bit 
Memory Speed / Data Rate  Up to 1,425MHz/5.7Gbps 
Memory Bandwidth  Up to 182.4 GB/s 
Power Connectors  2 x 6-pin 
Typical Board Power  190W 
PCI-E Standard  PCI-E 3.0 
API Support  DirectX 12, Vulkan, Mantle 
FreeSync Support  Yes 
Virtual Super Resolution  Yes 
Frame Rate Targeting Control  Yes 

If you’ve got a really good memory, many of the main specifications listed above will ring a bell. That’s because the Radeon R9 380X is powered by a version of a GPU that was released over a year ago. The Radeon R9 380X is built around the Tonga GPU, which debuted on the Radeon R9 285 in September 2014. Although the Radeon R9 285 has only 1792 stream processors arranged in 28 compute units, with 112 texture units, and 32 ROPs, the GPU features more. In our review of the Radeon R9 285 we said, “...the Tonga GPU actually features a total of 32 compute units and 2048 stream processors. And there’s speculation that the chip may have the capability to support a 384-bit memory interface. The moral of the story is that while the Radeon R9 285 may be the first graphics card powered by Tonga, it likely won’t be the most powerful. A full implementation of Tonga will probably arrive at some point, perhaps after NVIDIA shows its next hand.”  Well, that “some point” is now.

The Radeon R9 380X has a fully-functional Tonga GPU with all 32 compute units / 2048 shader processors enabled (assuming 256-bits is the max width of the memory bus). AMD’s reference specifications call for a 970MHz+ engine clock with 4GB of 1425MHz GDDR5 memory (5.7 Gbps effective). Typical board power is 190W and cards require a pair of supplemental 6-pin power feeds. The vast majority of the Radeon R9 380X cards that will hit the market, however, will likely be custom models that are factory overlcocked and look nothing like AMD’s reference design.

partner boards

The Radeon R9 380X we’ll be testing here comes by way of Sapphire, but as you can see, a number of other board partners are at the ready with cards of their own. We don't have a full list of specifications handy for all of the cards shown above, but you can bet they are clocked higher than AMD's reference specs.

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Sapphire Nitro R9 380X - Front View

The Sapphire Nitro R9 380X we received for testing is outfitted with an oversized, dual-fan cooler, with a few beefy copper heat-pipes and a dense heatsink array. The card is overclocked right out of the box as well.
sapphire r9 380x 4
The  Sapphire Nitro R9 380X Is A Dual-Slot Solution

The Sapphire Nitro R9 380X has a GPU engine clock of up to 1040MHz and 4GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1500MHz, for an effective data rate of 6Gbps. Memory bandwidth at that speed is up to 192GB/s, which is a nice bump over the reference card’s 182.4GB/s. Like reference cards, this Sapphire model requires a pair of supplemental, 6-Pin PCI Express power feeds.
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The  Sapphire Nitro R9 380X Features A Stylized Backpate

Outputs on the card consist of a pair of DVI outs, an HDMI output, and a full-sized DisplayPort output. Of course, the Radeon R9 380X has full support for AMD’s Eyefinity multi-display technology, and it also supports FreeSync as well. Like newer Fiji-based cards, the GPU used on the Radeon R9 380X has an updated output segment that’s compatible with FreeSync / variable refresh rate technology.
Tags:  AMD, Radeon, Gaming, graphics, GPU, 380x

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