In the end, drawing a sweeping conclusion is difficult when there’s no actual reference graphics card. The next best approach is evaluating cards from AMD’s partners. MSI’s design cools effectively and minimizes noise, in spite of even higher power consumption than the previous generation.
AMD’s partner can’t be blamed for trying to optimize what it was given. The MSI R9 390X Gaming 8G and R9 380 Gaming G2 aren’t bad graphics cards per se; more than anything, we wanted to see a better (or really any) cooling solution for the R7 370 Gaming 2’s voltage regulator.
If you want to be objective, these cards might be able to handle the workloads they’re designed to address based on their price points. But when you compare the efficiency and overall performance of Nvidia’s competing models, AMD can’t come close. It can’t be disputed that Maxwell is the more modern architecture, and AMD’s rebranded boards can only do battle by offering them at a fitting price point.
Many enthusiasts care little about energy costs; if that’s you, you’ll have little trouble finding a 300-series card that makes you happy. But, in the end, real progress looks a lot different, and all that’s really left is the hope that AMD’s next launch is accompanied by an architecture able to remedy some of the areas where this one is showing its age. Unfortunately, and we’d like to be clear about this, the upcoming Fiji GPU will only be found in AMD’s high end for now.
Nvidia showed with its GeForce GTX 750 that a company can introduce its newest technology on a mainstream product and still get power users excited. AMD will take the opposite approach and start at the top again. With a bit of luck, it might reclaim the prestigious single-GPU performance crown. That’s not going to make the company a lot of money though; bragging rights alone won’t pay the rent (or a nine-digit R&D budget).
All three of the GPUs in AMD’s newest graphics cards are being pushed as far as they will go. If you like to overclock, don’t count on a lot of available headroom.
The larger amount of graphics memory on AMD’s Radeon R9 390X is a welcome addition, but the 380’s 2GB is just not up to today’s standards. This really impacts performance in many games, especially when HD textures and mods come into play. It’s behind the times, and we’re perplexed by the company’s rationale there. A 4GB version would have been the way to go.
AMD’s Radeon R7 370 is actually the most palatable of its three models, competing readily in the entry-level segment using acceptable efficiency, in spite of being three years old.
So, is this just another rebrand? Sadly, that’s pretty much the bottom line. There’s no real innovation to speak of in AMD’s 300 series, at least as far as these models go. Let’s hope for the company’s sake that Fiji doesn’t turn into Bermuda.
MSI R9 390X Gaming 8G
|Pros||Quiet • Short|
|Cons||Overclocking • Power consumption • Weight|
MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G
|Pros||Quiet • Short|
|Cons||Memory capacity • Overclocking|
MSI R7 370 Gaming 2G
|Pros||Quiet • Size • Weight|
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