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Sapphire ITX Compact R9 380 Review

Conclusion

Sapphire’s ITX Compact R9 380 is the first card I’ve tested based on AMD hardware in this price class. Previously, I tested four GTX 960s, which are all direct competition in both price and performance. Given Sapphire's compact form factor, I was really expecting a loud card that ran hot. I was pleasantly surprised to find that just isn’t the case.

Sapphire did a wonderful job on this card's cooling solution. The four heat pipes effectively dissipate heat, and the dual ball bearing fan proved quiet, even under load. It would be nice to have the fan shut off completely at idle. But even at its lowest setting, our audio equipment didn't pick it up.

As for performance, I was happy with the results. Some of the tests settings I chose were too much for the GPU, but in every case, you could dial those details back for a more enjoyable experience. At the beginning of this story, I asked if Sapphire’s ITX Compact R9 380 could be used in a living room gaming PC, and the answer is yes. Most enthusiasts would be happy to have it for gaming at 1080p.

I also wondered if it would be a suitable choice for gamers attending LAN parties. While I didn’t test any popular esports titles, today's top competitive games don't require top-tier graphics cards. This is more than enough rendering power to drive those games at 1080p and potentially even higher, though on-board memory will almost certainly become a limiting factor.

I was pleasantly surprised by this little card's overclocking headroom, too. Despite the tiny stature of its heat sink, Sapphire managed to cram in four copper heat pipes and they proved their worth. The GPU jumped by more than 100MHz, yet the temperature only increased by a few degrees. Performance was also noticeably improved in many tests.

Sapphire’s ITX Compact R9 380 delivered reasonable performance in most of our suite, yielding playable frame rates in all but one of our tests. Shadow of Mordor proved too much for this card to handle with the Very High preset enabled. That may be due to its 2GB of on-board memory though, since the GeForce GTX 960 suffered a similar fate. GTA V was also hampered by available memory. The settings used exceed what we had available, according to the game (though you can't trust the built-in indicator; it's not entirely accurate). The rest of our tests sometimes dipped into the 30 FPS range, so many gamers will want to scale back on detail or buy a higher-end model.

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Kevin Carbotte is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering Graphics.

Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • chaosmassive
    please do review on Nano card, it has been released almost a week ago
    Reply
  • Cryio
    " I was really expecting a loud card that ran hot. I was pleasantly surprised to find that just isn’t the case."

    The very definition of everyone's perception on the Internet of AMD's GPUs, unfortunately.

    Don't know why the author expected this, when we found out the from the beggining that the 380 is both faster and more efficient than the 960.
    Reply
  • Yuka
    Great article guys. Thanks for giving a little more light to this little card.

    I'm only missing one piece of information (unless I missed it somehow): the speed graph for the card. I have an intuition that the big dips you see in the FPS charts are attributed to the card throttling back due to increased GPU usage. I'd like to confirm that.

    In any case, it seems like a pretty capable card.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • Joe Black
    Personally I like the practical, functional look.
    Reply
  • Haravikk
    Looks like a great option for my upcoming (much delayed) Mini-ITX build. Though I really wish on cards this size they'd ditch the other interfaces and just switch to mini-displayport; DVI connectors are a big space waster, and with the card's size I can't help but think that more room for the exhaust grille would be more valuable than an interface that I could easily just buy an adapter for.

    With the card supporting FreeSync it also makes a lot of sense to get a monitor that supports it anyway to get the full benefit from the card, in which case you can get one with mini display port of at least mini HDMI (not sure if FreeSync works on mini display port?)

    But yeah, it's time to start getting rid of DVI connectors that take up half a slot.
    Reply
  • wtfxxxgp
    " I was really expecting a loud card that ran hot. I was pleasantly surprised to find that just isn’t the case."

    The very definition of everyone's perception on the Internet of AMD's GPUs, unfortunately.

    Don't know why the author expected this, when we found out the from the beggining that the 380 is both faster and more efficient than the 960.

    Your quote is misrepresentative of what the author said in every way. He referred directly to the small footprint as being the reason for his initial expectation.

    That said, I don't know how anyone can say that it is more efficient than the 960. That's simply not true - it draws TWICE the power but is not even twice as fast, so efficiency being BETTER than 960? I want what you're smoking. Please.
    Reply
  • wtfxxxgp
    @ TOMS - when is the GPU chart being updated - last one was JUNE guys...

    Isn't it a monthly event?
    Reply
  • rgd1101
    16568340 said:
    please do review on Nano card, it has been released almost a week ago

    Nano was a paper launch.
    Reply
  • kcarbotte
    16568340 said:
    please do review on Nano card, it has been released almost a week ago

    The Nano was only announced last week.
    Some reviewers may have cards right now, but the card is not actually out until the 11th, and reviews won't be up anywhere until that date.
    Reply
  • dorsai
    I just can't see buying any 2gig card in today's gaming environment even at 1080...it's not a matter of IF but When you'll want to play a game and end up disappointed in the performance a 2gig card delivers. It's just makes some much more sense to spend another 25-50 bucks and get a card with 4gig...even an older 280x with 3gig makes a lot more sense to me.
    Reply