Our benchmark selection was largely dictated by the limited amount of time AMD gave us with its official drivers prior to launch. Company representatives let us know that this was the package that’d enable the best possible experience with its newest cards, which is why we didn’t get to include titles like The Witcher 3. We emphasized a wider variety of benchmarks rather than delving into frame time analysis for only a few games. The fact that the only differences here are core and memory clock rates made our decision easier. There is no sensational news to report, so we opted to include three different resolutions.
Gaming @ 1920x1080 (FHD)
We turn all of the detail settings as high as they’ll go in order to give the highest-end cards a challenge. Multi-sample AA is disabled as well to give the mid-range boards a chance to shine. The entry-level models aren’t competitive under this combination; they have to be run at lower graphics settings.
The factory-overclocked Radeon R9 390X can’t compete with the similarly-tuned GeForce GTX 980 Ti and 980. Nvidia’s 970 is the only card that succumbs to AMD’s flagship in certain situations. The Radeon R9 380 is really neither here nor there, since its deficit behind the 390X is just too large. The R7 370 rises to the challenge of gaming at 1920x1080, though fans of smoother frame rates will want to turn the detail presets down a notch.
Gaming @ 2560x1440 (QHD)
The Radeon R9 390X with its stock overclock runs Assassin’s Creed Unity faster than an overclocked GeForce GTX 970, but doesn’t really stand out against the 290X in spite of its doubled on-board memory. The differences are marginal and probably due to higher clock rates.
We can make the same recommendation for AMD’s Radeon R9 380 at QHD that we made for its R7 370 at FHD: dial back your graphics settings if you want a smooth experience, but games are definitely playable. The overclocked R7 370 is out of its depth at this resolution.
Gaming @ 3840x2160 (UHD)
AMD’s Radeon R9 390X doesn’t only get an overclock, it also boasts two times the GDDR5 memory. It’s the latter, not the former, that helps AMD catch an overclocked GeForce GTX 980, which it even beats in places. Of course, it can’t come close to Nvidia’s more recent releases like the 980 Ti.
The entry- and mid-level graphics cards can’t contend with this resolution. A dearth of on-board memory contributes to making practically all games unplayable. The Radeon R9 390X’s 8GB are a great fit for 4K though, no question. You only need this much memory at lower resolutions if you’re installing high-def textures and demanding mods.