MSI R9 280 Gaming v PNY GTX760 XLR8 – £185 shootout

We all love to play games! It is likely your dream graphics card will be either a GTX 780 Ti or R9 290X. Not fast enough for you? – then how about AMD’s R9 295X2 or Nvidia’s Titan Z? Be prepared to dig deep into your bank account at £1,100 and £2,300 respectively … yes, it really is enough to make grown men cry. Back in the real world – and if recent correspondence with our readers is anything to go by then many of you wanted to see which hardware offers a better gaming experience under the £200 ‘sweetspot’ – an R9 280 or a GTX760. So with this in mind we went shopping online.

We opted for two cards we have never reviewed before.

On the Nvidia side of the equation we picked the PNY GTX 760 XLR8, currently priced at £177.31 inc vat on Scan.

To represent AMD – we selected the MSI R9 280 Gaming Edition, currently priced at £186.82 inc vat on Scan.

Both solutions are very closely priced and well below the £200 budget we set for ourselves in this article. Why only two cards? There is not much point including three or four more R9 280′s or GTX760′s because the performance results will be very close, related to minor changes to the core clock speed. For £180 you aren’t going to get much better than these cards.

We test today with the latest Forceware and Catalyst drivers at both 1080p and 1600p resolutions.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming ships in a compact box featuring the distinctive MSI ‘Dragon’. No pictures of the hardware on the front sadly but the company do mention the Twin Frozr IV cooler bottom left.

The bundle includes a software disc, some video and power converter cables and some literature on the product. I was pleasantly surprised to see a Crossfire bridge cable also included.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming is a nice looking card, finished like many of the other cards in their range. The Black and red cooler comprises two large fans with a MSI badge set between them. The PCB is black to match.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming is fully Crossfire capable. There is a BIOS switch which offers different speeds.

933MHz Core (Boost Clock:1000MHz) (OC mode)
933MHz Core (Boost Clock:972MHz) (Gaming mode)

We test the card in the default 972mhz position today.

It takes power from a single 8 pin and 6 pin connector.

The fan connector is located right at the edge of the card. For some reason it was disconnected on our card when we received it, but it was easy enough to reconnect.

It is a good looking solution from any angle – with some tasty heat pipe exposure along the upper length.

On the backplate is a DVI connector, alongside an HDMI and two mini DisplayPort connectors.

The Twin Frozr IV cooler is a very effective design. MSI have formed it around a nickel plated core with 5 heatpipes. One of the heatpipes is thicker than the other four and runs along the length of one of the heatsinks.

The core clock speed of this card is 972mhz. The Tahiti core is manufactured on the 28nm process. It has 32 ROP’s, 112 texture units and 1792 unified shaders. The 3GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory runs at 1,250mhz (5Gbps effective) and is connected via a 384 bit memory interface.
On this page we present some high resolution images of the product in our studio. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.

Gold lettering on a black box. Not wonderfully creative but effective enough.

The bundle includes a software disc, video converter cable and some literature.

The PNY GTX760 XLR8 is built using the reference cooler with a gold PNY sticker on the front. The PCB is black and rather small with part of the cooler actually extending the overall length.

The card takes power from two 6 pin PCIe connectors.

The card is fully SLi capable, as shown above.

The PNY GTX760 XLR8 backplate has two DVI connectors, alongside a full sized HDMI and DisplayPort connector.

An overview of the PNY GTX760 XLR8. The GK104 core is built on the 28nm process. The core is clocked at 980mhz, with a boost speed set to 1,033mhz. The card has 32 ROP’s, 96 texture units and 1,152 CUDA cores. The 2GB of Hynix GDDR5 memory is clocked at 1,500mhz (6Gbps effective).
On this page we present some high resolution images of the product in our studio. These will take much longer to open due to the dimensions, especially on slower connections. If you use these pictures on another site or publication, please credit as the owner/source. You can right click and ‘save as’ to your computer to view later.

Today we test with the AMD Catalyst 14.6 Beta driver and the Nvidia Forceware 337.88 driver.

We are using a test rig supplied by PCSPECIALIST and built to our specifications. If you want to read more about this, or are interested in buying the same Kitguru Test Rig, check out our article with links on this page.We are featuring results today with an Apple 30 inch Cinema HD Display at 2560×1600 and 1920×1080 resolutions.

Windows 7 Enterprise 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Unigine Valley Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Fraps Professional
Steam Client

Thief 2014
Total War: Rome 2
Tomb Raider
Metro: Last Light

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform generally under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests games across five closely matched runs and then average out the results to get an accurate median figure. If we use scripted benchmarks, they are mentioned on the relevant page.

Some game descriptions edited with courtesy from Wikipedia.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming outperforms the PNY GTX760 XLR8 by a noticeable margin, scoring 36,479 points against 31,465.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

Quite a difference in the previous Direct X 11 benchmark by Futuremark. The score differences are around 1,300 points in favour of the R9 280 Gaming.
3DMark is an essential tool used by millions of gamers, hundreds of hardware review sites and many of the world’s leading manufacturers to measure PC gaming performance.

Futuremark say “Use it to test your PC’s limits and measure the impact of overclocking and tweaking your system. Search our massive results database and see how your PC compares or just admire the graphics and wonder why all PC games don’t look this good.

To get more out of your PC, put 3DMark in your PC.”

The latest benchmark from Futuremark shows a considerable advantage for the MSI R9 280 Gaming solution, scoring 7,418 points in the graphics test compared against the 6,184 points scored by the PNY GTX760 XLR8.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset.

A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.

Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.

Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
Multicore CPU support
Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
Powerful C++ API
Comprehensive performance profiling system
Flexible XML-based data structures

We use the settings shown above at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600.

Nvidia cards generally score better in this benchmark, although the performance of the MSI R9 280 Gaming is clearly way in advance of the PNY GTX760 XLR8.
Valley Benchmark is a new GPU stress-testing tool from the developers of the very popular and highly acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. The forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains amazes with its scale from a bird’s-eye view and is extremely detailed down to every leaf and flower petal.

This non-synthetic benchmark powered by the state-of-the art UNIGINE Engine showcases a comprehensive set of cutting-edge graphics technologies with a dynamic environment and fully interactive modes available to the end user.

We test with the settings above both at 1920×1080 and 2560×1600.

Quite closely matched in this benchmark, with the MSI R9 280 Gaming having a slightly performance advantage.
In Thief 2014 Players control Garrett, a master thief, as he intends to steal from the rich. Similar to previous games in the series, players must use stealth in order to overcome challenges, while violence is left as a minimally effective last resort.

We test at 1080p and 1600p, both with Direct X rendering (Nvidia and AMD) and Mantle rendering (AMD only). Settings are maximised.

It is clear the MSI R9 280 Gaming is the clear performance leader. Performance is also a little better when AMD’s own ‘Mantle’ rendering is selected. It is in fact the only configuration tested at 1600p which maintains a constant frame rate above 25 at all times.
Total War ROME 2 is the eighth stand alone game in the Total War series, it is the successor to the successful Rome: Total War title. The Warscape Engine powers the visuals of the game and the new unit cameras will allow players to focus on individual soldiers on the battlefield, which in itself may contain thousands of combatants at a time.

Creative Assembly has stated that they wish to bring out the more human side of war this way, with soldiers reacting with horror as their comrades get killed around them and officers inspiring their men with heroic speeches before siege towers hit the walls of the enemy city. This will be realised using facial animations for individual units, adding a feel of horror and realism to the battles.

We test at both 1080p and 1600p with the ULTRA quality preset.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming manages to hold playable frame rates at both 1080p and 1600p. The PNY GTX760 XLR8 struggles to maintain playable frame rates at 1600p and image quality settings would need to be reduced.
Tomb Raider received much acclaim from critics, who praised the graphics, the gameplay and Camilla Luddington’s performance as Lara with many critics agreeing that the game is a solid and much needed reboot of the franchise. Much criticism went to the addition of the multiplayer which many felt was unnecessary. Tomb Raider went on to sell one million copies in forty-eight hours of its release, and has sold 3.4 million copies worldwide so far.

We use the ULTIMATE profile at 1080p and 1600p, as shown above. We want the best image quality possible.

A very demanding game at these image quality settings and again the MSI R9 280 Gaming maintains playable frame rates at both resolutions. The PNY GTX760 XLR8 struggles to maintain playable frame rates at 1600p.
Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. 4A Games’ proprietary 4A Engine is capable of rendering breathtaking vistas, such as those showing the ruined remnants of Moscow, as well as immersive indoor areas that play with light and shadow, creating hauntingly beautiful scenes akin to those from modern-day photos of Pripyat’s abandoned factories and schools.

We tested this particular game with the extremely demanding built in benchmark at both 1080p and 1600p. Settings detailed above. Direct X 11 mode, Quality is set at Very High, 16 AF, normal Motion blur, Tessellation Normal, Advanced PhysX disabled and SSAA disabled.

A very demanding benchmark which shows a strictly ‘worst case scenario’. The MSI R9 280 Gaming maintains better frame rates than the PNY GTX760 counterpart.
Grid 2 is the sequel to the racing video game Race Driver: Grid. It was developed and published by Codemasters. The game includes numerous real world locations such as Paris, numerous United States locations, and many more, and also includes motor vehicles spanning four decades. In addition, it includes a new handling system that developer Codemasters has dubbed ‘TrueFeel’, which aims to hit a sweet spot between realism and accessibility.

We test at 1600p with the highest image quality settings possible and 8xMSAA on both cards.

MSI’s R9 280 Gaming outperforms the PNY GTX760 XLR8 by a considerable margin, holding much higher frame rates at all times.
Watch Dogs is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story. Outside of missions, players can freely roam the open world of Chicago. The world may be fully explored from the beginning of the game without restrictions, although story progress unlocks more gameplay content.

This game has (so far) been poorly optimised for the PC platform, having been ported over from the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles. We have been unwilling to include this game in our usual suite of game tests, but it is very popular with our audience and included it today for the first time.

We test at the settings shown in the screenshots above at 1080p and 1600p.

Even though the game has some issues (especially when driving at fast speeds), it is generally a much better experience on the MSI R9 280 Gaming. We hope the developer continues to patch the game over the coming months as it can be slightly ‘juddery’ during specific game sections.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 24c – a comfortable environment for the majority of people reading this.Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by playing Crysis Warhead for 30 minutes and measuring the peak temperature. We also have included Furmark results, recording maximum temperatures throughout a 30 minute stress test. All fan settings were left on automatic.

Not surprisingly, the MSI Twin Frozr IV is the better cooler – peaking at 71c when gaming.
We have built a system inside a Lian Li chassis with no case fans and have used a fanless cooler on our CPU. The motherboard is also passively cooled. This gives us a build with almost completely passive cooling and it means we can measure noise of just the graphics card inside the system when we run looped 3dMark tests.

We measure from a distance of around 1 meter from the closed chassis and 4 foot from the ground to mirror a real world situation. Ambient noise in the room measures close to the limits of our sound meter at 28dBa. It isn’t a real world situation to be measuring with a case panel off only a few centimeters away from a video card. Our noise figures may therefore be lower than other publications who record at closer distances, or without a fully closed case muting the noise.

Why do this? Well this means we can eliminate secondary noise pollution in the test room and concentrate on only the video card. It also brings us slightly closer to industry standards, such as DIN 45635.

KitGuru noise guide

10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA – MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA – Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA – Threshold of Pain
140dBA – Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA – Instant Perforation of eardrum

The MSI R9 280 Gaming is quieter under load, although Nvidia’s reference solution is surprisingly capable too.
To test power consumption today we are using a Keithley Integra unit and we measure power consumption from the VGA card inputs, not the system wide drain. We measure results while gaming in Crysis Warhead and the synthetic stress test Furmark and record both results.

The Nvidia GTX760 XLR8 consumes a lot less power at the socket, around 158 watts when gaming, compared to 197 watts for the MSI R9 280 Gaming.
To overclock both cards we used MSI’s Afterburner software, which is based on RivaTuner. It is one of the more reliable and consistent ways of analysing potential overclocking capabilities.

The MSI R9 Gaming could be pushed to 1,151 mhz, translating to a 18.4% core clock increase. The PNY GTX760 XLR8 hit 1,116mhz, translating to a 13.9% core clock increase.

Even with the maximum overclock possible, the PNY GTX760 XLR8 couldn’t catch the MSI R9 Gaming at ‘out of the box’ clock speeds. This goes to show that even the fastest GTX760 solutions on the market will struggle to compete. We can say that even the fastest GTX760′s such as the 1,110mhz KFA2 GTX760 HOF, priced at £215.99 would be slower than the R9 280 Gaming.

We reanalysed several games such as Watchdogs and Tomb Raider, and the frame rates on the PNY GTX760 XLR8 would only increase by 2-4 at 1600p – still falling short of the MSI R9 280 Gaming at the ‘out of the box’ speeds.
‘Which card should I get to game at 1080p with my limited budget? The GTX760 or the R9 280?‘. We get asked this question a lot, especially on our busy Facebook page. The good news is that thanks to recent price drops the choices available this month are extremely compelling. We took a trip to SCAN in the UK and picked up two cards around the £185 mark – the MSI R9 280 Gaming and the PNY GTX760 XLR8. We haven’t analysed either of these cards this year, so it makes it all the more interesting.

If you have already read the review from the start then you will already know, yes, there is a clear winner.

The PNY GTX760 XLR8 is available for around £180 and performance for the price is pretty good. While the PNY card has been clearly outperformed by the MSI R9 280 Gaming Edition, at 1080p it is actually a very capable board, holding playable frame rates with high image quality settings – even in some of the more demanding Direct X 11 titles.

While there are other, slightly higher clocked GTX760 solutions available for less than £200 it was clear that even when we overclocked the PNY GTX760 XLR8 to 1,116mhz, it was still unable to keep up with the MSI R9 280 Gaming at the ‘out of the box’ speeds.

Frame rates would only increase by 2-4 frames per second in many of the Direct X 11 games we tested. Even the flagship KFA2 GTX760 HOF clocked at 1,110mhz and priced at £215.99 inc vatwouldn’t keep up with the MSI R9 280 Gaming. This is even before we follow the same procedure with the MSI R9 280, and enhance the clock speeds via software.

Nvidia’s reference cooler on the GTX760 performs very well, aided by the fact that the GTX760 is quite a cool running card anyway, demanding minimal power under load. It may be a single fan solution, but Nvidia could teach AMD plenty about designing a good reference cooler.

At around £180 inc vat, the PNY GTX760 XLR8 delivers reasonable value for money and will satisfy many gamers who want to play the latest titles at 1080p with high image quality settings. There is no doubt these cards are lagging behind the AMD R9 280 after recent price drops, but Nvidia fans have been very satisfied with the performance since they were released.

Nvidia reference cooler is good.
solid performance at 1080p.
low power drain under load.
A quiet card.

It is facing a very tough time against the R9 280 at the same price.
Even at 1,100+ it won’t compete against the R9 280 at 970mhz.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming is without question the clear winner in our £185 shootout. It manages to produce some marvelous frame rates at 1080p and it can even cope with some Direct X 11 games at 1600p with high image quality settings enabled. A few years ago, you would have had to spend close to £300 to get similar performance, so there is no doubt is a good time to invest in a new graphics card.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming isn’t the fastest R9 280 we have seen under £200, but we selected two cards today that we feel represent both Nvidia and AMD hardware at this very competitive price point.

Even when we left the MSI R9 280 Gaming at the ‘out of the box speeds’ and overclocked the PNY GTX760 XLR8 to 1,100mhz+, the Nvidia solution just couldn’t keep up. If we applied the same methodology and overclocked the R9 280 to over 1,100mhz it was in a completely different playing field.

The MSI Twin Frozr IV cooler is exceptionally good, and it is very quiet at all times even under extended synthetic load via Furmark. When gaming you would be hard pressed to hear it running, especially if you have a couple of performance case fans operating at the same time.

The MSI R9 280 Gaming isn’t supplied in the highest state of overclock, but we managed to increase the core clock speeds from 970mhz to 1,151mhz. An 18.5% additional overclock is quite impressive and it did push performance to the next level, generating another 4-5 frames per second with some of the games we tested today.

You can pick up the MSI R9 280 Gaming from Scan in the UK for around £185 inc vat. At this modest price it is certainly one of the best value for money purchases you could make, especially if you value extremely low noise when gaming … such as late night gaming in a bedroom environment.

The recent price drops on the R9 280 are impressive, but they will surely hurt sales of the R9 270X, which is still priced around the £170 inc mark (and even up to £180!) via many etailers today.

Looks great.
runs cool and quiet.
plenty of additional overclocking headroom.
decent bundle including a Crossfire cable.

After recent price drops it is difficult to fault.
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