PowerColor PCS+ R9 380X Myst Edition Reviewccokeman -
Category: Video Cards
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PowerColor PCS+ R9 380X Myst Introduction:
A little over two years ago I looked at another Myst Edition card from PowerColor, the PCS+ HD 7870 Myst Edition. It was a bit unique in that it did not use the standard GCN Pitcairn core, but was based on the Tahiti LE core. While not as unique in that respect, this latest version of the Myst Edition uses an enhanced Tonga core code named Antigua. This Graphics Core Next 1.2 core is mounted to what amounts to a custom card from PowerColor. The company has packed its latest cooling solution, an all-digital Gold PowerKit power supply, and management circuitry and design work into a card that is built to try and fill the performance/price gap between the GTX 960 and GTX 970.
Priced at $229, the price point is right on target to fill that price gap of between $170 and $299 after price drops right after the launch of the R9 380X. To fit the performance envelope, AMD spec'd out the R9 380X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory running at 1475MHz through a 256-bit bus to help with the push on 1440p performance, while we get a core loaded with 34 compute units, 2048 streaming processors, 128 texture units, 32 ROPs, and sporting a factory overclocked 1020MHz clock speed that complements the overclocked memory on this card.
Let's see if the $229 price point is right for the performance delivered by the PCS+ R9 380X Myst Edition from PowerColor.
PowerColor PCS+ R9 380X Myst Closer Look:
PowerColor's packing goes back to basics with a simple black background with red highlights that draw the buyer's eyes towards the messaging. The top edge of the box has the PowerColor logo, while right in the middle we get the PCS+ logo and model of the card packed inside. In this case it is the R9 380X Myst Edition. The top right highlights that the card is part of AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture and supports True Audio technology. Along the bottom left are a list of supported technology and card specific features including the onboard 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 4K, DX12, and Eyefinity support. The back side highlights the basic system requirements to run the PCS+ R9 380X Myst. The mid point of the box highlights additional AMD specific features such as FreeSync, Virtual Super Resolution, and Liquid VR. Along the bottom half of the board are the detailed PowerColor specific features, including details on the all-digital VRM using the company's Gold Power Kit. Additionally there is some good detail on the PCS+ cooling solution using a special heat pipe design.
PowerColor's PCS+ R9 380X Myst Edition card is a full sized video card that comes in at 10.5 inches long. From the front you get a glimpse of the PCS+ cooling solution and 90mm dual ball bearing propeller blade fans that push all the airflow through the large by huge aluminum fin array. The back side of the card uses a back plate and Solid Pin Design screws that go through the backplate to secure the fin array to the card without using just the PCB as support. The backplate is the main means of support for the card. This rigid design ensures you do not have a flexible card that can crack the internal traces of the card, rendering it useless. That truly stinks. Having had that happen, it's not a good feeling to see your money go to the scrap heap. The top and bottom view gives you a good idea of just how large the cooling solution is on this card. While it looks like more, there are only three heat pipes running through the contact plate and fin array. Built to be used in a 16x PCIe 3.0 slot, the card is backwards compatible with earlier standards.
Display connectivity consists of a pair of dual link DVI-D ports, a single HDMI 1.4a port, and a full size DisplayPort 1.2 port. With this configuration, you get Eyefinity support using up to six panels and 4K support up to 60Hz when using the DispalyPort 1.2 port. The I/O bracket is large enough to properly vent the thermals generated by the 28nm GCN 1.2 core. The back end of the card is open with a small portion of it blocked by the down leg of the shroud that has a design feature on it. Equipped with a metal shroud, you usually have a rattle until you locate the source of it and tweak the shroud. Where the rear of the shroud comes down at the back of the card it was riding on the screw underneath it, causing a small rattle that was fixed with that slight tweak to the shroud.
Power needs are supplied via a pair of 6-pin PCIe connections on the top of the PCB. With a total of 225W coming into the card, 150W of power coming in through the dual 6-pin plugs and 75W through the PCIe slot, you get up to 225W supplied to the card. The R9 380X is rated for a 190W TDP, so the power supplied has a bit of overhead available that can be used once you start overclocking. PowerColor lists a 500W minimum power supply requirement for this card. That should be adequate as long as you are not beating it up with the rest of the system components. CrossFireX is supported and no longer do you need a bridge connection, thanks to the ability to transfer the data through the PCIe bus.
Pulling the PCS+ cooling solution off the PCB gives you a look at the rest of the onboard components, including the 4+1+1+1 phase Gold Power Kit all-digital voltage control circuit. The Gold Power Kit solution uses DirectFET tech that can handle up to 100% more current and PowerPak SO-8 MOSFETs that run 15% cooler. A small aluminum finned heat sink covers the VRM circuit on the back end of the card and is cooled from the airflow exiting the main fin array. The large fin array is attached to an all copper base that is connected to three nickel plated 8mm heat pipes running in a GSG configuration that PowerColor feels is incredibly efficient. A fact not lost on us when the cooling results come into play. A pair of propeller bladed 90mm dual ball bearing fans are used to push airflow through the aluminum fin array. These fans are designed to push airflow and run quiet while doing so.
AMD's Tonga/Antigua core is built using TSMC's 28nm process. Antigua is an enhanced version of the Tonga Graphics Core Next architecture, packing five billion transistors into an 366mm2 die. Inside the die are 34 compute units, 2048 streaming processors, 128 texture units, 32 ROPs, and a 256-bit memory controller handling the onboard 4GB of GDDR5. The standard clock speed for the R9 380X is 970MHz. Thankfully that low of a clock speed will not do for a build such as this R9 380X Myst Edition. PowerColor slapped an additional 50MHz worth of clock speed onto the core for a 1020MHz base clock speed from the factory. Elpida GDDR5 memory, 4GB in total, is used on the PCS+ R9 380X Myst. Here PowerColor did not just follow the pack and increased the clock speed to 1475MHz or an effective 5900MHz data rate.
Sporting a nice factory overclock, the PCS+ R9 380X Myst Edition should easily deliver performance results in the range it is designed to cover. Let's see if it does indeed hit the mark.