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MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G Review

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MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G Closer Look:

MSI's Gaming series cards have a specific look tied directly to the feature set. The R9 380 Gaming 2G is easily molded to fit this look, with an over-sized custom PCB built using MSI's own Military grade hardware at the component level to give the gamer and enthusiast a graphics card that is in it for the long haul. At 10.5 x 5.4 inches, the R9 380 Gaming 2G is not a small card, but about average sized for the current GPU market. From the front we get an up close and personal look at the Twin Frozr V cooling solution that uses a pair of 100mm Torx fans to push the airflow through the cooling solution. The back side of the card has a stylish looking aluminum back plate to aid in rigidity so you don't get a case of the bends that can break traces in the PCB. The top view of the card shows that even at just over 1.5 inches thick this is a two slot card. The Super SU pipe and additional heat pipes protrude over the top of the PCB, furthering the industrial look of the card. The R9 380 Gaming 2G is a PCIe 3.0 rated card for use in a 16x PCIe slot, but does feature backwards compatibility.

 

 

 

When you pull the R9 380 Gaming 2G out of the foam enclosure, MSI identifies the card as supporting Zero Frozr technology. A system where the fan blades totally stop when a non-demanding or 3D load is not present on the card. An interesting feature set that does work as intended to reduce power consumption and noise levels. Each of the I/O ports and the PCIe connection are protected with covers that, with the exception of the PCIe and one of the outputs, can be left on to prevent dust intrusion.

 

 

Display connectivity on MSI's R9 380 consists of a single full size DisplayPort 1.2 port, a single HDMI 1.4 port, and one each of DL-DVI-I and DL-DVI-D ports supporting Eyefinity 2.0. A vent above the HDMI and DP ports helps reduce the heat build up in the chassis with the open design of the Twin Frozr V cooling solution. At the back end of the card, the fan shroud overhangs the PCB and directs the airflow through the entirety of the Airflow Control technology heat sink.

 

 

Rated to use only 150 watts of power, the R9 380 Gaming 2G comes with a pair of 6-pin PCIe power connections that, at best, can deliver 225 watts to the card. With that low of a load you should be able to get by with a quality 500 watt power supply. Crossfire is supported on the R9 380 Gaming 2G thanks to AMD's XDMA interface for bridgeless Crossfire, a solution that drives the data through the PCIe bus. On the fan shroud is an LED lit image of the MSI Dragon that can be controlled via the MSI Gaming App to pulse slowly, flash, and three other combinations for some animation in your case. The aluminum backplate works together with the memory heat sink to manage the rigidity of the card with the load imparted by the Twin Frozr V cooling solution.

 

 

Peeling off the Twin Frozr V cooling solution, the card looks a bit naked. Not NSFW naked, but devoid of anything covering the details of the card. At the I/O end of the PCB is the majority of the Military Class 4-based power circuit using Super Ferrite chokes, Aluminum core solid capacitors, and Tantalum based Hi-C Caps. All components that meet the US miltary spec MIL-STD-810G.

 

 

MSI has done a ton of work over the past few years to improve the design and functionality of its heat sink packages known as Twin Frozr thanks to the pair of fans used. What we get on the R9 380 Gaming 2G is Twin Frozr V. This iteration uses several unique ideas to really improve cooling performance. To start you get a pair of Torx fans. What's so special here? These 100mm fans feature two different fan blades: a traditional blade and what is called a dispersion blade that increases air pressure and volume to push air through the heat sink. The blade design is said to be worth a 19% improvement in airflow without increasing noise by forcing the air down instead of around the heat sink. The heat sink is equipped with a pair of features that improve cooling performance by using special air diverters that direct airflow through the fin array closest to the heat pipes. Any standard heat pipe would not fit the bill, so MSI uses a series of flattened 8mm nickel plated copper Super SU pipes that more effectively transfer the thermal load from the contact plate to the aluminum fin array. Pretty cool stuff when you get down to it, as it just works.

 

 

At the heart of the R9 380 Gaming 2G, we have what could be considered a tweaked and enhanced Tonga core now named Antigua. This GCN core offers up support for DirectX 12, Vulkan, and Mantle APIs, Freesysnc, Frame Rate Targeting, and Virtual Super Resolution. It is designed to take on the GTX 960 at 1440p resolutions. To that end the GCN core is still built on the 28nm process and is loaded with 1792 stream processors, 112 texture units, and 32 ROPs. Sound familiar? Look a bit back on one of our R9 285 reviews to see how close this core is to AMD's Tonga core. Core clock speed is factory set on this card to 1000MHz, giving us a higher base core clock than the R9 285. The memory subsystem is improved using a more efficient design to allow the 2GB of GDDR5 from Samsung to over perform when running through the 256-bit bus. Memory clock speeds are set to 1400MHz out of the gate, so we should see some headroom for the enthusiast.

 

 

It looks like a little bit of the same as we saw with the R9 285, but with added capabilities and improved clock speeds right out of the box. There is no doubt that MSI's design philosophies pay big dividends when it comes to cooling and tuning for performance. To that end, let's see if the bullseye is hit when compared to the GTX 960.




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