MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) Graphics Card Review
   
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MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) Graphics Card Review

November 26th, 2013 James Leave a comment Go to comments

Overview

 

As you may know in recent weeks AMD has launched its R9 line-up of new Graphics Cards consisting of the 290, 280 and 270; today we will be taking a look at one of the 280’s; the MSI Radeon R9 280X TWIN FROZR GAMING. As some of you may know the AMD R9 280 and 270 are not new cards (unlike the 290); these cards are based on (actually the same!) as the outgoing 7970 and 7870 cards, so what we have here is really a re-branded 7970GHz Edition.

This card from MSI sports MSI’s latest TWIN FROZR custom cooler and comes with a factory overclocked Core speed of 1050MHz (up 50MHz), the 3GB of GDDR5 memory runs at 1500MHz (6000MHz effective) and the card supports DirectX 11.2.

 

MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - box front MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - box back

 

The front of the box sports the somewhat familiar (especially here at pcG) Dragon of MSI’s GAMING series products. There’s not much given away on the front of the box, other than the endorsement from Fnatic and the OC (overclock) logo in the bottom left corner.

The back of the box lists the specifications and features (see below) and also highlights many of the MSI Radeon R9 280X OC Edition GAMING Graphics Card’s features and technologies, as follows:

  • GAMING APP / EASY TUNE, EASY PLAY
  • OC Mode – Tune up core clock and fan speed to gain a best performance
    Gaming Mode – Provide a stable Gaming experience with higher core clock
    Silent Mode – The best operating environment with extremely low noise
  • MILITARY CLASS 4 – TOP QUALITY & STABILITY
  • One of the deciding factors in performance is the quality of the components used. That is why MSI only use MIL-STD-810G certified components for its Gaming cards because only these components have proven to be able to withstand the torturous circumstances of extreme gaming and overclocking.
  • ADVANCED THERMAL DESIGN / COOLER & QUIETER
  • MSI’s Twin Frozr has been the industries defining graphics card cooler. The first Twin Frozr kicked of the dual-fan trend and today MSI stays true to its dual-fan dual slot design where others have to resort to less effective means, for instance triple-slot cooling.
  • EXPERIENCE – PREDATOR / SHARE FOR FUN
  • A built-in screen and video capturing tool named Predator which captures your screen as still images or videos with the push of a button and allows you to capture and record your coolest, goofiest and most awesome gaming moments on your PC!

     

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - inner box

     

    On opening the box we get to see the inner-box adorned with the MSI GAMING Series logo. Lifting out the inner-box allows you to see the MSI Radeon R9 280X OC Edition GAMING for the first time (I think I’ve seen a card like this before!).

    The card itself was well packaged within the inner box with thick soft-cell foam and wrapped inside an anti-static bag.

     

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - box and card MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - box contents

     

    Within the inner box we find a Quick User’s Guide, CrossFire connector, Display Port-Mini Display Port adapter, DVI-VGA Adapter, Power Adapter, 6-pin to 8-pin adapter, and a Drivers & Utilities disc.

    At the time of this review the MSI Radeon R9 280X OC Edition GAMING Graphics Card is retailing for approximately £250 and comes with a 3 year warranty.

     

    Specifications/Features

    courtesy of MSI

    Graphics Engine R9 280X
    Bus Standard PCI Express x16 3.0
    Memory Type GDDR5
    Memory Size(MB) 3072
    Memory Interface 384 bits
    Core Clock Speed(MHz) 1000MHz Core (Boost Clock:1050MHz) (OC mode)
    1000MHz Core (Boost Clock:1020MHz) (Gaming mode)
    1000MHz Core (Boost Clock:1000MHz) (Silent mode)
    Memory Clock Speed(MHz) 6000
    DVI Output 1 (Dual-link DVI-I)
    HDMI-Output 1 (version 1.4a)
    Mini DisplayPort 2
    HDCP Support Y
    HDMI Support Y
    Dual-link DVI Y
    Display Output (Max Resolution) 2560×1600
    RAMDACs 400
    DirectX Version Support 11.2
    OpenGL Version Support 4.3
    CrossFireSupport Y
    Card Dimension(mm) 269x128x34 mm

    * Additional details available here

     

    First Impressions

     

    MSI R9 280X Gaming MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - GAMING SERIES

     

    First impressions are good, the card itself looks great (but of course we’ve seen this design before (here)), therefore I’m going use the same write-up as I’ve used before as there’s no point reinventing the wheel, so to speak: The colouring is good (red’s always a good choice!) and the fans look really rather cool too. I rather like the new MSI GAMING Series emblem in the centre of the card, lending the overall design a touch of class. The card’s design looks purposeful and more than capable of doing the job, I guess we shall see soon enough! The card’s (dual slot design) isn’t large either with an overall length of around 270mm.

     

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - front MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - back

     

    The front of the card is dominated by the two 11 blade intake fans, these fans help the MSI Radeon R9 280X OC Edition GAMING to run 20% cooler than the reference design, while remaining almost twice as quiet!

    The back of the card is relatively featureless and as you can see there’s no additional back-plate.

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - left side MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - right side

     

    Looking at the left of the card we see the MSI logo and a heat-pipe, with the two power connectors at the far end (x1 8-pin & x1 6-pin). The heat pipe is unfortunately rather close to the power connectors, meaning removal of the plug is somewhat awkward.

    There’s not much to see on the other side of the card, but in the image above you can clearly see the four large heat-pipes and the heat-sink within the frame of the card.

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - outputs MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - end

     

    Looking at the outputs from the card we can see that the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING OC Edition has x4 ouputs (x1 DVI-D, x1 HDMI & x2 DisplayPort). In addition to this we can see the exhaust vents, although unlike the reference design this card’s cooling design means that the warm air is exhausted both inside and outside of the case. This is often better for the cooling of the cards, but it also means that you’ll want to make sure that the warm air the card generates within the case is also exhausted via a case fan/s.

    The far end of the card reveals very little, apart from giving you an idea of the cooling design within.

     

    Hardware Installation

     

    Installation into our Test Rig (see below) and into the MSI Z87-G45 GAMING motherboard was simple enough, made a little simpler by the card’s relatively short length at 269mm. Cabling was easy with just x1 8-pin and x1 6-pin power connections needed. The power connectors were easy enough to insert, but far more difficult to remove as the clip that needs to be depressed is too close to the heat-pipe, meaning that you risk flexing the card when trying to press the clip down.

  • Test Rig Setup

  • Case Cooler Master HAF XB Power Supply Corsair AX760i
    Motherboard MSI Z87-G45 GAMING CPU Intel Core i5-4670K
    CPU Cooler Raijintek Themis RAM Kingston HyperX Beast 8GB 2400MHz
    Graphics Card MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) SSD (mSATA – on-board port) ADATA SX300 (64GB)

     

    MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - installed (top) MSI R9 280X GAMING OC Edition - installed (side)

     

    Testing Methodology/Setup

     

    Our Test Rig was treated to a fresh install of Windows 7 Home Premium 64Bit (Service Pack 1) with all associated drivers also installed. AM​​D Catalyst™ 13.11 Beta9.2 Driver was installed and used throughout testing (Note all AMD Drivers now seem to be Beta, I guess we’re all now AMD Testers then!?).

    For testing purposes we used both MSI’s Gaming App (here) and MSI Afterburner (here), both of which are included with the card.

     

  • Overclocking the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) via the MSI Gaming App
  •  

    MSI Gaming App

     

    As you can see there are 3 modes available, obviously we would chose OC mode as opposed to Gaming to ensure maximum performance. The good news here is that the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) Graphics Card remained both cool and quiet even while in OC mode.

     

  • Overclocking the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) via the MSI Afterburner
  •  

    MSI Afterburner

     

    Using MSI Afterburner we were able to overclock the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) even further, by increasing the Power Limit to 120%, the Boost Clock by an additional 50MHz and the memory by 100MHz. This gave us a real world Boost Clock of 1100MHz and a Memory speed of (6400MHz effective).

    I have to admit to being a little disappointed with the core overclock as we have seen other 7970 based cards (remember that an AMD R9 280X is basically a 7970GHz Edition) go much further. It almost seems like there’s an artificial barrier at 1100MHz, beyond which the card will start crashing in games like Battlefield 4. In the past we have seen 7970GHz Edition cards overclock to 1200MHz… 🙁

     

  • Benchmarks Used:
  •  

     

  • Games Played:

    • Battlefield 4
    • Metro Last Light

     

    Hardware Performance

     

  • MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) – Gaming Mode (Core: Core: 1020MHz / Mem: 6000MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 22.50 61.00 38.50 7108
    UNiGiNE Heaven 21.00 65.00 44.00 FPS 36.4 Score 916
    UNiGiNE Valley 21.50 65.00 43.50 FPS 44.0 Score 1840
    Tomb Raider 22.50 64.00 41.50 62.7 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 22.00 66.00 44.00 53.67 (average)

     

  • MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) – OC Mode (Core: Core: 1050MHz / Mem: 6000MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 22.00 61.00 39.00 7251
    UNiGiNE Heaven 22.00 65.00 43.00 FPS 37.0 Score 933
    UNiGiNE Valley 22.50 65.00 42.50 FPS 44.6 Score 1864
    Tomb Raider 23.00 64.00 41.00 64.9 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 22.50 67.00 44.50 55.00 (average)

     

  • MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) – Afterburner OC Settings (Core: Core: 1100MHz / Mem: 6400MHz)
  • Benchmark Ambient Temperature Max GPU Temp Delta Temp Result
    3DMark (Fire Strike) 23.50 63.00 39.50 7479
    UNiGiNE Heaven 23.00 67.00 44.00 FPS 38.5 Score 970
    UNiGiNE Valley 23.00 66.00 43.00 FPS 46.6 Score 1949
    Tomb Raider 22.50 65.00 42.50 68.4 FPS (average)
    Metro Last Light 22.50 68.00 45.50 57.33 (average)

     

    So the first AMD 280X based GPU we have seen here at pcGameware courtesy of the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) has performed well. The card comes with a decent factory overclock of 50MHz (while using OC Mode in the MSI Gaming App) and remains amazingly cool and quite during testing. The maximum temperature that we saw was a meagre 68 degrees Celsius and the card was hardly audible at this temperature. Proving that the TWIN FROZR cooler was more than capable of dissipating the heat generated by the R9 280X core and memory.

    The only disappointment was the card’s reluctance to overclock much further, the Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) just refused to go past 1100MHz; if we tried to push beyond this games such as Battlefield 4 would just crash. This is a little strange as we have seen 7970GHz based cards push all the way to 1200MHz in the past…

     

    Final Thoughts

     

    The MSI Radeon R9 280X TWIN FROZR GAMING came well packaged as per usual for MSI and with the TWIN FROZR GAMING design this 280X is one good looking card. The 280X Gaming is one cool card too, with overclocked temperatures never surpassing 70 degrees Celsius, proving the latest TWIN FROZR design to be extremely efficient at dissipating heat. So it looks good and its cool to, but what about the most important aspect of all, the performance?

    The out of the box performance (Core: 1050MHz) is very good, seeing the card produce some impressive benchmark scores. Unfourtunetely the MSI Gaming app (when using this card) is a little pointless; as for one the Silent Mode is surely not going to be used by anyone (is it!), and the difference between the Gaming Mode and the OC Mode is only 30MHz, which I think is a little meager.

    As far as overclocking was concerned the card was also a little reluctant to overclock much further, with our highest overclock being only 1100MHz (50MHz up from the default). This seems a little strange as we have seen other 7970GHz cards overclock all the way to 1200MHz. I have raised this with MSI and if I hear anything back of interest I will post back here.

    So while the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) is undeniably a good card, I was expecting a little more, but with retail prices of around £250, you do indeed get an impressive amount of Gaming performance for your money.

     

    Verdict

    Please Share, Like & Comment below, we really value your thoughts and opinions…

     

      Design/Quality pcGameware awards the MSI Radeon R9 280X GAMING (OC Edition) a Silver
    Performance
    Value
    Overall

    Many thanks to MSI for providing this sample for review

     



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