Introduction & Closer Look
It isn’t unusual for the 2 largest graphics card manufacturers (AMD & NVIDIA) to re-use their current GPU architecture over and over again; both companies have been guilty of it. But are refreshes that much of a big deal these days? I mean if you go back over the last couple of years, NVIDIA used their Kepler GK110 on a whopping 4 different cards, with the GK104 being used on 4 different card launches too; how can anyone lay into AMD about their refreshes then? Well it comes down to performance and NVIDIA actually did improve their game a little, but have AMD?
Yes, the AMD 300 series is a bit of a refresh from the previous 200 series and not a lot has changed, or has it? We have previously seen the 370 and 380 models (MSI and XFX respectively) and we couldn’t find much different, except for better launch pricing and of course, more VRAM. That alone to me is desirable enough, but what about the flagship 300 series cards?
Enter the new AMD gold standard with the R9 390x and today we have MSI’s iteration in the shape of the R9 390x Gaming 8G with a superb 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM over a large 512bit memory bus. AMD have however stuck with the 28nm fabrication process meaning that this particular monster has a total TDP of 275w; a whoppingly large power draw. AMD have codenamed their 390x chip Grenada XT, but in reality, it is a recycled Hawaii XT variant; previously featured on the R9 290x range.
So how have MSI improved the stalwart AMD Grenada/Hawaii XT powerhouse? Well to start with, we have possibly the best MSI Twin Frozr V cooler I have seen in the flesh thus far; it’s bigger, it’s heavier and it screams premium from the rooftops. So as we mentioned already, this card packs the MSI Twin Frozr V cooler with a twin fan configuration, with a semi-passive design which has been very popular among consumers. In true MSI Gaming fashion, the card/cooler is all red and black, with the left fan containing the MSI dragon and the right fan simply displaying the MSI logo.
To further improve over the 290x models, the new R9 390x features 8GB of GDDR5 which is a fantastic addition for those wanting to play those frame hungry games at larger resolutions, without risking being bottlenecked down by say 2-4GB of VRAM. The Twin Frozr V cooler features a much larger heat sink on the 390x model in comparison to say the MSI GTX 980Ti Gaming 6G which is currently on the market. This is due to the higher TDP of 275w on the AMD card which means more heat; something MSI have prepared for!
Even with a 275w TDP, the MSI R9 390x Gaming 8G needs 1 x 8pin and 1 x 6pin to power this beast; AMD also specify that a 750w power supply is the recommended requirement for this card.
With all “premium” top tier graphics cards that MSI produce lately, the R9 390x features one of the nicest pre-applied back plates in the industry with a subtle contrast of blacks; the MSI dragon being the main contrasting piece. This not only adds a premium and sweet look to the card, but also makes it aesthetically pleasing when installed inside a system.
When connecting your monitor, whether that be 1080p, 1440p or even 4k HD, MSI have included 2 x Dual link DVI ports, 1 x HDMI 1.4a port and 1 x full size DisplayPort connection. Plenty of connectivity for multi monitor setups and I am quite miffed when some cards only come with a single DVI connection; I personally don’t use DisplayPort yet so this kind of configuration makes sense to me.
So let’s take a quick look at the specifications, the testing setup/methodology and see how this AMD red cladded beast performs…