How We Test
In order for us to compare results between cards reviewed by any of our reviewers, Tom’s Hardware standardized the test bench that we all use for 2015. By doing this, each of our locations can have different sets of cards and still compare from the pool of results that any of us have obtained. Starting with an MSI X99S XPower motherboard, each test bench has an Intel Core i7-5930K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Crucial Balistix Sport DDR4, two Crucial 500GB SSDs and an 850W power supply from be quiet!.
Software and Drivers
In the recent Sapphire Fury Tri-X article, I received a lot critical feedback about the 15.15 driver. When the card was supplied to me for testing, I only had a limited time with it, and sadly that sample had to be returned after a few days (before AMD released its latest driver). For this evaluation, all tests run on the R9 390 Nitro Overclocked are performed using AMD's 15.7 Catalyst release. An R9 380 is thrown in for comparison at 1080p, if only for a bit of performance perspective at different price points. That board was tested using the 15.7 Catalyst driver as well.
I also have a comparison to the Fury. Its results come from our prior review, so the scores were generated using 15.15. Igor did manage some spot tests that indicated 15.7 had no meaningful impact on frame rates, so our numbers should reflect Fiji's performance accurately. The results from the 290X are also pulled from the Fury Tri-X review, which were actually carried over from the Fury X review from May.
Results from the GTX 970 SC were run on the latest WHQL Nvidia driver, 353.30, as we did not have previous results for this card on this test bench. The GTX 980 results were pulled from our initial GTX 980 Ti review, and as a result use driver version 347.25 (except for GTA V, which was tested using 352.90 beta).
|Direct X||DirectX 11|
|Graphics Drivers||GeForce GTX 980 Ti: Nvidia 352.90 Beta DriverAll GeForce Cards in Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: Nvidia 352.90 Beta DriverGeForce GTX Titan X, 980, and 780 Ti in all other games: Nvidia 347.25 Beta DriverRadeon R9 290 X: AMD Catalyst 15.5 BetaRadeon R9 Fury X and Fury: AMD Catalyst 15.15|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor||Built-in benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Battlefield 4||Custom THG Benchmark, 100-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Metro Last Light||Built-in benchmark, 145-sec Fraps, Very High preset, 16x AF, Normal motion blur|
|Tomb Raider||Version 1.01.748.0, Custom THG Benchmark, 40-sec Fraps, Ultimate preset|
|Far Cry 4||Version 1.9.0, Custom THG benchmark, 60-sec Fraps, Ultra preset|
|Grand Theft Auto V||Build 350, Online 1.26, In-game benchmark sequence #5, 110-sec Fraps, FXAA: On, MSAA: 2x, Texture Quality: Very High, Shader Quality: Very High, Shadow Quality: High, Reflection Quality: Very High, Water Quality: High, Particles Quality: Very High, Grass Quality: High, Soft Shadows: Softer, Post FX: Very High, Anisotropic Filtering: 16x|
To measure sound levels, I took readings with a handheld dB meter positioned two inches from the card's I/O bracket. The meter I have at my disposal is only sensitive to 35 dB, so anything lower than that registers as zero. If the card makes an audible noise that the meter does not detect, I mark it as 34 dB. If no audible noise is observed, then it receives a 0 dB result on the graph.
To test power consumption using our reference platform, a bit of creative math is needed. Since Haswell-E processors don’t have integrated GPU cores, we can’t boot the system without a discrete board installed to get a baseline. We are able to estimate consumption based on the approximate power draw of the test bench, though. In our observations, we’ve found that the approximate power draw from everything other than the GPU is 120W. By deducting that from the recorded wattage reported on our in-line power meter, we can calculate the approximate draw of the GPU.