AMD Driver Stabilization
Shortly after the Fury X launched, and our subsequent review went live along with all the others, AMD seemed to get more serious about driver support. The company has picked-up its game-specific drivers – though still a little slow at times, like with Fallout 4 – and just recently emphasized a plan to deliver six WHQL drivers per year. This announcement, alongside the Radeon Software update (same link as the previous), shows a renewed commitment to software support.
As we ran the cards through the bench in this review, we encountered zero visible issues (flickering, black screens, crashes) attributable to AMD's drivers or software. This is huge, as that's the first time I've written those words in a recent AMD GPU review. The drivers are stabilizing. Speed needs to be worked on a bit still – AMD should push harder for day-one (or day-zero, really) readiness – but it's getting close to that target.
We commend AMD for finally getting its priorities straight and working on its software-driver distribution.
X99 Benchmarks – Newer Games, but No R9 380 or R9 390
This was discussed in test methodology, but it's worth bringing up again here: We're between two benches right now, transitioning, but we wanted to bring you all the latest game benchmarks. That includes Assassin's Creed: Syndicate (launched today) and Fallout 4, both tested on our X99 platform. The rest of the games were tested on the Z97 platform.
Fallout 4 Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. GTX 960, GTX 970
Assassin's Creed Syndicate Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. GTX 960, GTX 970
See the methodology page to understand what our settings were and why we made the listed changes.
In AC: Syndicate, 1080p at “Ultra Custom” pushes the 380X ($230) to about 54FPS average, with reasonable 1% and 0.1% lows at 42 and 40FPS, respectively. The GTX 960 4GB ($230) card, AMD's price-direct competition, sits at 53FPS AVG and 46/42FPS lows. A tight race that ends with AMD about 1.87% ahead. Outside of margin of error, but not by much.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate, as you'll find in our next article – publishing almost immediately after this one – is interesting primarily for its disparity shown between 2GB and 4GB cards. The GTX 960 4GB and GTX 960 2GB are devices we've previously shown to output largely disparate performance in the Assassin's Creed series, but we also noted that some games simply don't care about the extra 2GB VRAM. For the most part, the cards perform nearly identically. A few shining stars, like Assassin's Creed Syndicate and Unity, show a massive performance delta between the two (16%, in this case). The 2GB GTX 960, then, gets thoroughly trounced by the 4GB R9 380X and 4GB GTX 960.
The R9 380X retains a lead through 1440p, but it's sort of irrelevant – 38FPS and ~27FPS lows don't exactly make an enjoyable experience.
Star Wars Battlefront Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. GTX 960 2GB, 4GB, etc.
The GTX 960 cards seem about tied with the R9 380X at 1080p Ultra in Star Wars Battlefront, with all three devices pulling a decent framerate for the multiplayer FPS:
Here's the platform we're transitioning to other tests, but still use for some of the “core” benchmarks.
COD: Black Ops III Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. 390X, GTX 960, GTX 970
First off, check our Black Ops III optimization guide to fully understand all of the graphics settings.
At 1080p / ultra, AMD sits at a playable 66FPS average (though has somewhat harsh lows). The R9 380X is flanked the GTX 960 cards, the 4GB model outperforming by 2FPS AVG (2.99%) and the 2GB model underperforming by 2FPS (~3%).
The Witcher 3 Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. R9 390, R9 380, GTX 960, GTX 970
Running the Witcher 3 at 1080p / ultra, with modifications mentioned in the methodology, the R9 380X pushes to within 23% of the R9 390 ($320), but only sits 2FPS (5.4%) above the R9 380 ($200). The GTX 960 rests at 34FPS. Lower settings are required for playability, though the 380X sits in the lead here.
1440p performance is no good, for the most part. You're generally not going to be using the 380X for 1440p or 4K gaming (and still have high settings) -- it's just too much for the 1080-focused card to handle.
GTA V Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. R9 390, R9 380, GTX 960, GTX 970
GTA V shows one of the biggest gaps between the R9 380X and the GTX 960 4GB. With a 63FPS vs. 54FPS ranking (380X vs. 960, respectively), a ~13% margin appears that heavily favors AMD. The 380, at 57FPS, is about 8.4% behind the R9 380X.
Metro: Last Light Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. R9 390, R9 380, GTX 960, GTX 970
The 380X maintains its ~5% lead over the R9 380 – not really an impressive jump for ~$30-$40, but that's enough to keep the 380X ahead of the GTX 960 cards. Metro: Last Light is getting a little long in the tooth these days, but still offers an extremely reliable benchmark with near-perfect reproduction of results.
Shadow of Mordor Benchmark - AMD R9 380X vs. R9 390, R9 380, GTX 960, GTX 970
Shadow of Mordor plants the 380X ~6.7% ahead of the R9 380, and a staggering 19% ahead of the GTX 960's 51FPS. Note well, though, that the GTX 960 maintains significantly stronger 1% and 0.1% lows that will improve smoothness of frame delivery; AMD has work to do in this department. Granted, 62FPS over 51FPS is a large gap.
GRID: Autosport - AMD R9 380X vs. R9 390, R9 380, GTX 960, GTX 970
Talk about long in the tooth, but we're still using GRID for now – it's easy to run and reliable.
The R9 380X is 6.9% ahead of the R9 380 here, and 3.9% behind the GTX 960 (only 2GB shown). Blows get traded between the 380X and 960 on some benchmarks.
Let's move on to power, thermals, overclocking, and the conclusion.