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AMD Radeon R9 380 Review (MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G)

AMD Radeon R9 380 Review (MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G)

Earlier this week AMD announced their latest generation of graphics products which started with the high end R9 FURY parts and ended with the value level R7 360 (The 350 and below are already announced OEM parts). Reviews of each part in the family are being staggered, so Fury is “coming soon” but in the mean time we can talk to you about parts such as the R9-380… so lets do that, due to its very attractive price point, using MSIs Gaming 2G version. This is our AMD Radeon R9 380 Review.

AMD Radeon R9 380 Review – The MSI Radeon R9 380 Gaming 2G

msi-radeon-r9-380-gaming-2g-review-box msi-radeon-r9-380-gaming-2g-review-bundle

MSI stick with their Dragon branding for this series of graphics cards. Inside we get a basic bundle, just documentation, a software disc and DVI to VGA connector.

msi-radeon-r9-380-gaming-2g-review-card amd-radeon-r9-380-review-top msi-radeon-r9-380-review-back amd-radeon-r9-380-review-outputs

Before we talk about the R9 380 design and specifications, the above images show what MSI have done with their card. As well as going for a large black PCB they have applied a nice chunky backplate on this model. It features the Twin Frozr V cooler on the opposite side and that has dual fans. These turn off when the GPU has low to medium load so runs silent in most desktop tasks (anything below 60c is fanless) while also extending the lifespan of the fans. These 10cm “Torx” fans have 19% more airflow than the last generation with 5% less noise at 100% speed.

A large aluminium heatsink sits below the fans and running through it are 2x8mm plus 2x6mm heat pipes. These heatpipes are soldered to the copper GPU block and the entire surface of the GPU is covered to maximise cooling potential. Looking round the card we see that it requires two 6pin power connectors and that the outputs are 2x DVI, 1x HDMI and 1xm DisplayPort. This allows us to connect multiple screens for surround gaming if needed and 4K output is supported.

Finally, on the top edge of the card we have a MSI logo, this is LED backlit and can be controlled from the MSI Gaming app which also lets us monitor and tweak the card for different scenarios (e.g.OC, Gaming, Silent). Of course for the hard-core overclockers MSI also offer Afterburner as an alternate option.


So what is a R9 380? Well essentially what we have here is a rebranded R9-285… one of the more recently released cards in the AMD 200 series. Back at the launch of that card, this is how we summed it up:

“AMD have taken some of the features from the R9-290 series and added them to a GPU of similar speed to the R9-280 series while enhancing some other aspects of the existing GPUs. This means a card which is ideal for 1080p gaming as well as 1440p, with support for Mantle, DirectX 12 and AMD TrueAudio. The usual support for CrossFire and PowerTune are present also. AMD also note that the card is capable of 4K H.264 Decode support as well as working with FreeSync which aims to enhance the display quality of games by reducing tearing and smooth out our gameplay experience.

Also worthy of note when comparing the R9-285 to the R9-280 series is that the memory bus has changed from 384-bit on 280 down to 256-bit on 285. This is due to revisions AMD have made to their Graphics Core Next GPU architecture. Essentially they have optimised aspects such as frame buffer colour data compression to increase memory bandwidth efficiency by 40% on R9-285. Geometry processing has also been boosted (4 primitives per clock cycle for 2-4x tessellation throughput over 280) and the 285 receives instruction set updates for 16-bit floating point and integer instructions which benefit low power GPU compute and media processing tasks. That’s in addition to changes to data parallel processing instruction changes, improved task scheduling and tweaks to the scaler tech (e.g. a new pre-scaler improves high ratio downscaling quality).”

As for the key specifications of this MSI model, it uses a 28nm Tonga GPU which features 1792 stream processors, 112 texture units and 32 ROPs. The engine clock is 1000MHz (a little above the average 285) and our 2GB of GDDR5 is clocked at 1400MHz (again a boost over most R9-285s).


AMD Radeon R9 380 Review – Performance

Intel Core i7-5960X X99-Gaming 5
16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2800
Samsung 850 Pro 512GB 
Corsair AX1500i Antec Kuhler 1250

Installed on a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench

Intel Wireless AC 7260
Razer DeathAdder
Razer BlackWidow Ultimate


Benq BL3201 4K Display

Windows 8.1 64-bit
AMD Drivers: 15.15 Beta
Battlefield Hardline
The Witcher 3

First up for the performance figures, 3DMark FireStrike Extreme which allows you to compare this card with your own…


And now on with the gaming. We’ve tested today at 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 primarily. High/max for the former and medium detail for 1440 res unless otherwise stated. All tests are real world gaming, not timedemos and of course the games are all patched to the latest version, like the OS and drivers are all up to date. Multiple runs were performed to ensure any random issues were removed from the final figures.

r9-380-review-gtav-1080 r9-380-review-gtav-1440 r9-380-review-witcher-3-1080 r9-380-review-witcher3-1440 r9-380-review-bfhardline-1080 r9-380-review-bfhardline-1440 r9-380-review-dota2-4k

Screenshot Gallery

r9-380-random-screens (1) r9-380-random-screens (2) r9-380-random-screens (3) 380screennew

AMD Radeon R9 380 Review – Conclusion

Looking specifically at the R9 380 from MSI, what we have is a card built to a very high standard. The overall looks are good, that great mix of red and black. The larger size fans and PCB are impressive and little touches like the backplate really add to the quality feel of the product. The LED lighting is a nice bonus and in key areas the card impresses, such as the implementation of MSIs VRM design which shares the same Military Class 4 branding and components with more expensive models. MSI also offer a good software suite and their cooler is exceptional. It allows silent/fanless operation up to 60c and even when the fans do kick in they are whisper quiet. This is one of the quietest mid-range to enthusiast cards that we have tested.

In terms of performance, MSI’s chosen clocks of 1000/1400Mhz allowed us to game at 1920×1080 with no issues. High/Ultra/Max detail all the way (the term varying from game to game). Moving up to 2560×1440 was achievable, though some games like The Witcher 3 did require a switch to medium detail. Of course we were also able to play in 4k using games based on older engines like DOTA 2. The same will be true of LoL and StarCraft 2 for those who prefer those titles.

As for the R9 380 itself… well, it’s a R9-285 isn’t it. This version is clocked a bit higher than the average 285 so we get approximately 400 points more in 3DMark but other than that, it’s the same technology in a slightly different box. Maybe it’s nice for AMD to have some branding which they feel goes top to bottom but all it really does is confuse consumers. Especially when the likes of the new R7 370 which is based on the R7 265…which was based on the 7850… consumers on that 7850 going to buy a 300 series card could look at the R7-370 and think they are getting an upgrade. Its 3years and two product rebrands since they bought their card after all. Yet the GPU inside is essentially the same. (NOTE: That’s not to say that the R7 370 is a bad card… in fact the Pitcairn GPU config lasting as long as it has is quite an achievement… it’s just becoming a mess for the end user. Especially those upgrading on a 2-3 year cycle)


As R9 380s go, the MSI Gaming 2G model is an impressive card. It allows us to game at 1920×1080 and 2560×1440 with good detail levels, even reaching up to 4k gaming given the right titles. Great looks and an exceptional cooler mean that the card gets our Recommended award.

Recommended Award


About Author

Stuart Davidson


  1. FrankyG

    For someone who has a two year old R9 280 Sapphire, would you suggest purchasing this card now as a good upgrade or waiting a bit until the price drops?

    • Hi, no. Its not a suitable upgrade for you. The R9 390, Fury cards and GTX 970 and above would be the models you should consider. I’d say watch out for the reviews of the new AMD cards mentioned and then make your decision.

  2. I am using 6870 now, should i go with 380 or 280? Thanks

    • You will probably find some great deals on 280X at the moment while retailers get rid of stock. Thats what I would go for…

      • Stefan

        The 280X is great. I use the 3GB version from MSI two years now. Have no game in ultra settings the card struggles with (in 1080p). I would recommend the 280X 100%, but the card has one issue. No FreeSync!

  3. Coming from a GTX 570 (and 1080p gaming monitor) would you recommend this card over a 390? I have no intention of purchasing a new monitor any time soon.

    • It handles 1080 gaming well, so yes. Why spend the extra money. Do check out the R9-285 though, if its significantly cheaper than the 380 where you are then buy that. They are the same thing and the 285 is being phased out so could be on sale.

  4. Would you recommend this card as the best bang for its buck or should I go with a gtx960? Although it might be not as much performant as the r9 380, the gtx960 consumes a lot less power am I right?

    • The difference in your electricity bill will be minimal, especially if you have a decent high efficiency PSU. So go with the card that has the best features (or price) for you.

  5. Cippo95

    Between a 380 and a 280x/7970, which card will perform better?
    I think the 280x but nowadays is it worth to pref a 280x on the 380?

  6. Apat Jasman

    if my proc is i5 2nd gen..which card should i upgrade between r7 370 or r9 380 ?

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