One video card to the next. We just reviewed MSI's R9 390X Gaming 8GB card at the mid-to-high range, the A10-7870K APU at the low-end, and now we're moving on to nVidia's newest product: The GeForce GTX 950.

NVidia's new GTX 950 is priced at $160, but scales up to $180 for some pre-overclocked models. The ASUS Strix GTX 950 that we received for testing is a $170 unit. These prices, then, land the GTX 950 in an awkward bracket; the GTX 750 Ti holds the budget class firmly below it and the R9 380 & GTX 960 hold the mid-range market above it.

The new GeForce GTX 950 graphics card hosts Maxwell architecture – the same GM206 found in the GTX 960 – and hosts 2GB of GDDR5 memory on a 128-bit interface. More on that momentarily. The big marketing point for nVidia has been reduced input latency for MOBA games, something that's being pushed through GeForce Experience (GFE) in the immediate future.

This review benchmarks nVidia's new GeForce GTX 950 graphics card in the Witcher 3, GTA V, and other games, ranking it against the R9 380, GTX 960, 750 Ti, and others.

The hardware industry has been spitting out launches at a rate difficult to follow. Over the last few months, we've reviewed the GTX 980 Ti Hybrid (which won Editor's Choice & Best of Bench awards), the R9 Fury X, the R9 390 & 380, an A10-7870K APU, and Intel's i7-6700K.

We've returned to the world of graphics to look at MSI's take on the AMD Radeon R9 390X, part of the R300 series of refreshed GPUs. The R300 series has adapted existing R200 architecture to the modern era, filling some of the market gap while AMD levies its Fiji platform. R300 video cards are purely targeted at gaming at an affordable price-point, something AMD has clung to for a number of years at this point.

This review of AMD's Radeon R9 390X benchmarks the MSI “Gaming” brand of the card, measuring FPS in the Witcher 3 & more, alongside power and thermal metrics. The MSI Radeon R9 390X Gaming 8G is priced at $430. This video card was provided by iBUYPOWER as a loaner for independent review.

Our recent review of EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti Hybrid landed the card dual-awards on the site, granted for supreme overclocking capabilities and a remarkably low thermal footprint. CES 2015 saw the showcase of a KINGPIN GTX 980something we previewed – for extreme overclocking with unlocked voltage and multiple BIOS chips. World-renowned GPU overclocker KINGPIN yesterday teased photos of his upcoming GTX 980 Ti card by EVGA.

The Fury X has been a challenging video card to review. This is AMD's best attempt at competition and, as it so happens, the card includes two items of critical importance: A new GPU architecture and the world's first implementation of high-bandwidth memory.

Some system builders may recall AMD's HD 4870, a video card that was once a quickly-recommended solution for mid-to-high range builds. The 4870 was the world's first graphics card to incorporate the high-speed GDDR5 memory solution, reinforcing AMD's position of technological jaunts in the memory field. Prior to the AMD acquisition, graphics manufacturer ATI designed the GDDR3 memory that ended up being used all the way through to GDDR5 (GDDR4 had a lifecycle of less than a year, more or less, but was also first instituted on ATI devices).

Over 6 months ago, AMD released their Omega drivers with much fanfare. You can see our coverage of it here, along with some VSR vs. DSR benchmarks. The Omega drivers included new features, bugfixes, and optimizations.

It's been known for some time that AMD's R9 Fury X produces a high frequency whine that is primarily audible on an open-air bench. We noted in our testing that the noise output is of no consequence once the card is installed in an enclosure, but made clear that there is a definitive high-pitched whine from the cards.

AMD today issued a statement that it would be using a different adhesive going forward. The company acknowledged the noise issues and has made promises to replace cards found to emit the noise. AMD's full, unedited statement can be found below:

Our recent Fury X driver comparison took rumors of a disparate relationship between press and launch drivers to task, ultimately finding that no real difference existed. This testing procedure exposed us to the currently discussed “coil whine” and “pump whine” of the new R9 Fury X. Today's test seeks to determine with objectivity and confidence whether the whine is detrimental in a real-world use case.

AMD's R9 Fury X video card emits a high frequency whine when under load. We have located this noise on both of our retail units – sold under Sapphire's banner, but effectively identical to all Fury X cards – and reviewers with press samples have cited the same noise. The existence of a sound does not inherently point toward an unusably loud product, though, and must be tested in a sterile environment to determine impact to the user experience. The noise resembles coil whine, for those familiar with the irritating hum, but is actually an emission from the high-speed pump on the Fury X. This relegates the noise to what is ultimately a mechanical flaw in the engineering rather than something electrical, as coil whine would suggest.

Our R9 Fury X analysis is still forthcoming, but we interrupted other tests to quickly analyze driver performance between the pre-release press drivers and launch day consumer drivers.

All testing was conducted using a retail Fury X, as we were unable to obtain press sampling. This benchmark specifically tests performance of the R9 Fury X using the B8, B9, and release (15.15.1004) drivers against one another.

The purpose for this test is to demystify some rumors that the Fury X would exhibit improved performance with the launch day drivers (15.15.1004), with some speculation indicating that the press drivers were less performant.

 

Regardless of how its mechanics pan-out, Star Citizen is slated to claim the throne as one of the most graphically intense PC games in recent history. This is something we discussed with CIG's Chris Roberts back when the Kickstarter was still running, diving into the graphics technology and the team's intent to fully utilize all tools available to them.

We've been trying to perform frequent benchmarks of Star Citizen as the game progresses. This progress monitor comes with a massive disclaimer, though, and is something we'll revisit shortly: The game isn't finished.

The recent launch of the GTX 980 Ti, R9 Fury X, and AMD 300 series cards almost demands a revisit to Star Citizen's video card performance. This graphics benchmark looks at GPU performance in Star Citizen's 1.1.3 build, testing framerates at various settings and resolutions.

Following our initial review of AMD's new R9 390 ($330) and R9 380 ($220) video cards, we took the final opportunity prior to loaner returns to overclock the devices. Overclocking the AMD 300 series graphics cards is a slightly different experience from nVidia overclocking, but remains methodologically the same in approach: We tune the clockrate, power, and memory speeds, then test for stability.

The R9 390 and R9 380 are already pushed pretty close to their limits. The architectural refresh added about 50MHz to the operating frequency of each card, with some power changes and memory clock changes tacked-on. The end result is that the GPU is nearly maxed-out as it is, but there's still a small amount of room for overclocking play. This overclocking guide and benchmark for the R9 390 & R9 380 looks at the maximum clockrate achievable through tweaking.

All these tests were performed with Sapphire's “Nitro” series of AMD 300 cards, specifically using the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Tri-X and Sapphire Nitro R9 380 Dual-X cards. Results will be different for other hardware.

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