MSI R9 380 Gaming 2GB Review – on a tight budget? Looking for a graphics solution under £150? Want to play the latest games comfortably at 1080p? Well, the R9 380 might just be the card for you. Okay, we’ll drop the advertising pitch. But seriously, if you’re looking for a budget buy to build your 1080p gaming/LAN rig, the 380 is a serious competitor.
Small and light, the R9 380 series brings to the table that faithful Tonga core – an architecture that’s been providing AMD with budget-crunching frames since 2011. Here, of course, we’re referring to the Tahiti core found in AMD’s 7000 series graphics cards from yesteryear, being reworked into the Tonga architecture late at the end of the R9 200’s life cycle. Either way, it’s a powerful core. Featuring 1,792 shaders and 2GB of GDDR5 (or 4GB version, depending on which option you go for) on a 256-bit bus, this card is designed from the ground up for gaming at 1080p.
That’s all well and good, but should you buy it? It’s certainly appetising for those on a tight budget. The performance is less than desirable if you’re looking to game at 1440p or 4K, but it copes very well at the lower-end resolutions, achieving benchmarks in line with that of the GTX 960 – showing that even an ageing core can keep up with the best of the new breed.
The one major problem the R9 380 has over its Nvidia rival is power draw. Requiring an additional six-pin connector, the 380 also pumps out a whopping 65W more heat, making those fans spin that extra bit faster.
That being said, MSI’s R9 380 Gaming is a stunning card. The build quality is phenomenal for a GPU at this price point.
Featuring MSI’s Twin Frozr cooler, now in its fifth iteration, the card rests snugly at around 72°C, even when overclocked. The fans rarely spin up above 70 per cent, and when they do, it’s still not noticeable in comparison to the reference cooler.
Another feature becoming increasingly commonplace in the market nowadays is the addition of 0dB fan speeds. It’s fantastic if you’re just browsing the web or playing Minesweeper, but it does take a little while to get used to the fans not spinning when powering on. Once your monitor’s booted and you’ve stopped panicking over whether your card’s dead or not, however, we’re sure you’ll appreciate this new piece of software.
What’s more impressive is how MSI has managed to pack such a solid card into such a low price point. The cooler is the same design that you’ll find on MSI’s 390 and 390X, featuring the same backplate and LED lighting features. Put simply, it… looks… stunning. There’s no way around it, and regardless of whether that backplate helps cool the card down or not, it suits the card perfectly and looks fantastically clean in a tidy build.
But back to the all-important question: Is this the graphics card for you? That depends entirely on what you want to do with your rig. If you’re content with gaming at 1080p, then the R9 380 is undoubtedly a strong contender. However, if you’re wanting to go further and push that resolution-based barrier beyond the confines of the traditional, you might want to look to the R9 390 or the Fury X. At those levels, this card simply won’t cut it.
- Fantastic cooler
- Whisper quiet
- Strong 1080p performance
- Clean looks
- Good price (£150)
- Poor performance at 1440p
- Power thirsty
- Requires two six-pins
MSI R9 380 Gaming 2G Specifications
- GPU AMD Tonga
- Stream processors 1,792
- Texture units 112
- ROPs 32
- Transistors 5 billion
- Memory capacity 2,048MB 5.6GHz GDDR5
- TDP 190W
- 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI,
- 1x DVI-I, 1x DVI-D