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AMD Radeon R9 380X Nitro Launch Review

FHD (1920x1080) Gaming Results

AMD positions the Radeon R9 380X as a QHD/1440p graphics card. However, if we’re honest, most buyers will probably use it to drive the still-popular FHD resolution and happily max-out their detail settings.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The difference between AMD's Radeon R9 380 and 380X is only about seven percent, which really isn’t that much. Both graphics cards average close to 40 FPS, and it's really hard to tell them apart subjectively in the real world. Both cards would, however, benefit from slightly lower detail settings.

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Grand Theft Auto V

New game, same results? Almost, but not quite; the new graphics card’s lead shrinks to five percent. Both cards do manage to produce playable frame rates, even though most enthusiasts would prefer significantly better performance. You'd want to dial back graphics quality to achieve this.

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Metro: Last Light

This title is also a classic hardware benchmark, since it heavily features tessellation. AMD’s latest pulls ahead, managing a more comfortable nine percent lead. It’s interesting to see that the GeForce GTX 960, purportedly the weakest card on paper, manages to secure a position in between AMD’s two contenders.

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Bioshock Infinite

Now what? AMD’s Radeon R9 380X beats its smaller sibling by six percent. If you think that's subtle, just wait until you actually play the games we're testing. You won’t notice the difference at all.

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Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is one of AMD’s flagship titles. Both of the company's primary contenders fare well in it. For the first time, the Radeon R9 380X manages a double-digit lead over the X-less 380 (a full 10 percent). However, this difference is still barely noticeable when you sit down to play. Elsewhere, AMD's Radeon R9 390 plays in a league of its own, and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 is left in the other cards’ dust.

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Battlefield 4 (Campaign)

Battlefield 4 has seen many patches, and the drivers should be perfectly optimized for it. Consequently, this game is still worth a look. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 manages to beat AMD’s Radeon R9 380 and is, in turn, beaten by the 380X. Again, a six percent difference is of no consequence during a subjective gaming comparison, though.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

We finally get a look at what happens when Tonga faces a real challenge and the driver does its part. AMD’s newest card pulls ahead of its stablemate by 16 percent, yielding our first impressive result. Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 can’t keep up with either of its main competitors.

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Thief

Things get more challenging again, with power consumption going up to the level we saw running Metro: Last Light. When the dust settles, AMD’s Radeon R9 380X comes out ahead by eight percent. Once again, this is barely noticeable in a real-world situation. The frame-time curves are very similar, after all.

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Ashes of the Singularity

Since there are really no mature, or even finished DirectX 12 games on the market, we had to go with the pre-beta build of Ashes of the Singularity. Consequently, consider the results subject to change. There's just not enough optimization in place yet. At least we'll get some idea of where performance may stand in the future. Ark: Survival Evolved would have been nice to test, but because its DirectX 12 patch kept getting pushed back, we had to skip it.

The individual frames' render times from the different views are interesting. The total rendering time is congruent with how demanding the benchmark scenes are.

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We programmed our own interpreter that automatically analyses the log files and gives us the number of CPU calls and a ratio of the frames that were actually rendered.

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Bottom Line

With few exceptions, the R9 380X Nitro provides a good gaming experience at FHD using the highest settings. Enthusiasts who prefer high frame rates at or above their monitor’s native refresh rate need to dial down the quality settings, though.

Really, there's not much difference between AMD’s Radeon R9 380X and the older X-less version when it comes to real-world gaming. Both of the cards we tested came overclocked from the factory and didn’t offer much room for further tuning, so this is really all of the performance you'll get from them.

Fortunately for AMD, Nvidia doesn’t really have a competing product in this category. The GeForce GTX 960 is just too slow, and the 970 is significantly more expensive. AMD’s new Radeon R9 380X is positioned right in the middle of that gap, whereas the 380 is a bit closer to Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960. Its price is competitive with the GeForce as well, though.