ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC Review

For many gamers the sweet spot for graphics cards is around the £200 mark. Over the years this has been a truly competitive sector with both AMD and NVIDIA vying aggressively for market share. With this specifically in mind AMD have just updated their range, releasing the R9 380X which will hit retail at £199.99 inc vat. So how does it stack up?
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In today’s market there are surprisingly few current generation GPU options available at the £200 mark. Nvidia have had the GTX970 available for some time, but the prices for these cards are firmly in the £250 sector (HERE). Their less powerful GTX 960 is £100 less, available around £150 (HERE). AMD released their R9 380 earlier this year, and prices are competitive against the GTX960 (HERE). The R9 390 is AMD’s solution directly priced to compete against the GTX970 (HERE).
Based on this information we can see that the AMD R9 380X is occupying a lone spot at £199.99 inc vat right now. Well – that is until Nvidia bring a new card out to specifically target this price point.
GPUR9 390XR9 290XR9 390R9 290R9 380XR9 380R9 285Fury XFury
LaunchJune 2015Oct 2013June 2015Nov 2013Nov 2015June 2015Sep 2014June 2015June 2015
DX Support121212121212121212
Process (nm)282828282828282828
Processors281628162560256020481792179240963584
Texture Units176176160160128112112256224
ROP’s646464643232326464
Boost CPU Clock10501000100094797097091810501000
Memory Clock6000500060005000570057005500500500
Memory Bus (bits)51251251251225625625640964096
Max Bandwidth (GB/s)384320384320182.4182.4176512512
Memory Size (MB)819240968192409640964096204840964096
Transistors (mn)620062006200620050005000500089008900
TDP (watts)275290275275190190190275275
The R9 380X is quite similar in specification with the R9 380 – incorporating 32 ROPs, a 256 bit memory interface with core clocks and memory clocks both set to reference speeds of 970 mhz and 1425 mhz (5.7Gbps effective) respectively. There are however 128 texture units on the R9 380X, compared with the R9 380’s 112. The Stream Processor count has also been increased from 1792 to 2048.
The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC has enhanced clock speeds, and we will look at this in more detail on the next page of the review.
For the last couple of weeks we have been testing many graphics cards with the latest AMD and Nvidia drivers and we made the switch to the 64 bit version of Windows 10 as well.
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The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC box artwork is as we would expect from the company. It features their futuristic high tech OWL artwork with some technical data strewn across the rear of the box. ASUS highlight the 0dB noise characteristics of their DirectCU II cooler when it falls below a certain thermal point.
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The bundle includes literature on the product, and a software disc alongside a power converter cable. You can also get access to ‘World Of Warships’ as a bonus.
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The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC is well built, comprising two large fans inside a cooler shroud. Some Strix artwork adorns the cooler in various places. ASUS have fitted the card with a backplate to protect the sensitive components and to help reduce hot spots on the PCB.
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ASUS are using their patented ‘Wing-blade’ fans which they say are ‘3x quieter’ than the reference AMD solution. The graphic above is actually from an ASUS presentation and while the plane imagery could be considered a little corny, ASUS say that the concept was inspired by the U.S Air Force A10 attack jet.
The fans on this card will only activate when a specific thermal temperature is reached. This means at idle, or in low load situations the Strix R9 380X will be completely silent.
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The card takes power from two 6 pin PCIe power connectors, shown above.
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The I/O plate of the R9 380X is home to a DVI-I and DVI-D connector, as well as a full sized HDMI (v1.4) and DisplayPort connector. Sadly as this is not a HDMI 2.0 capable port, there is no support for Ultra HD 4K at 60hz over the HDMI connector.
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The Direct CU II cooler is comprised of three thick heatpipes which run into a copper base on one side and two separate racks of aluminum fins on the other.
This card is an 8 Phase power design which uses digital voltage regulators to minimise power noise by 30% and enhance power efficiency by 15%. Asus say the design also widens voltage modulation tolerance and improves overall stability and longevity by 2.5 times over the reference card.
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Above, a GPUz overview of the R9 380X hardware which we highlighted in detail on the previous page. We can see the R9 380X is based on the 28nm Tonga core which was originally released in August 2014 and first seen on the R9 285 with our launch review on 2nd September 2014 (HERE).
The R9 380X incorporates 32 ROPS, 128 Texture units, and 2,048 Stream Processors. The 4GB of GDDR5 Elpida memory is connected via a 256 bit memory interface.
Asus have overclocked the core on this R9 380X to 1,030mhz (a 6.2% overclock on reference) and the memory runs at reference speeds of 1,425 mhz (5.7Gbps effective).
We received a new Catalyst 15.11.1 beta driver to use with the R9 380X and we wanted to make time to test the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II at both reference clock speeds and when overclocked to the limit.
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ocspeeds
Even though ASUS have overclocked the solution out of the box, there is clearly some additional headroom available via software. All results in this review today will show reference speeds, alongside our manually tweaked speeds above.
On this page we present some high resolution images of the product taken with a Canon 1DX and Canon 28-70mm F2.8 lens. 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 Kitguru.net as the owner/source.
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We have been retesting a slew of graphics cards over previous weeks, focusing on the latest Nvidia and AMD drivers (AMD Catalyst 15.8 and Nvidia Forceware 358.50). We have also selected some new game sections to benchmark during our ‘real world runs’.
Additionally, even though it is not close to being finished, we wanted to include some findings from an early access build of the (Windows 10) Direct X 12 capable Ashes of The Singularity by Stardock (website HERE) – this uses the Nitrous game engine. We are confident this is not an indication of how the game will run when it reaches retail at a future date, but still, it is interesting to showcase today. You can buy it from STEAM, over HERE.
If you want to read more about our test system, or are interested in buying the same Kitguru Test Rig, check out our article with links on this page. We are using an Asus PB287Q 4k and Apple 30 inch Cinema HD monitor for this review today.
We unfortunately didn’t get time to add in detailed 1080p tests as we only had a couple of days to produce this review for launch.
If you have other suggestions please email me directly at zardon(at)kitguru.net.
ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC (1,030 mhz core / 1425 mhz memory) & ( 1,146 mhz core / 1517 mhz memory) – Catalyst 15.11.1 beta.
Comparison Cards on test:PowerColor Radeon R9 390 PCS+ (1,010 mhz core / 1,500 mhz memory) & (1,150 mhz core / 1,693 mhz memory).
Sapphire R9 295X2 (1,018 mhz core / 1,250mhz memory)
AMD Fury X
 (1,050 mhz core / 500 mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX Titan Z (706 mhz core / 1,753 mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX Titan X (1,000 mhz core / 1,753 mhz memory)
Asus GTX980 Strix (1,178 mhz core / 1,753 mhz memory)
Nvidia GTX980 Ti (1000 mhz core / 1,753 mhz memory)
Palit GTX970 (1,051 mhz core / 1,753 mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 390X Tri-X 8GB (1,055 mhz core / 1,500 mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 390 Nitro 8GB (1,010 mhz core / 1,500 mhz memory)
Sapphire R9 380 Nitro 4GB (985 mhz core / 1,450 mhz memory)
Palit GTX960 Super JetStream (1,279 mhz core / 1,800 mhz memory)
Software:
Windows 10 64 bit
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark 11
3DMark
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
FurMark
Games:
Ashes Of the Singularity DX12 mode (early access build)
Grid AutoSport
Tomb Raider
Grand Theft Auto 5
Metro 2033 Redux
We perform 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.
Game descriptions edited with courtesy from Wikipedia.
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.
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The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC performs well in this test, with the additional manually tweaked speeds adding another 1,000 points to the final score.
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At the extreme resolution test we can see that the overclocked GTX960 Super JetStream slightly outperforms the R9 380X, until we manually overclock it to the limit.
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.”
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The Asus Strix R9 380X outperforms the Sapphire R9 380 Nitro and GTX960 JetStream, but even when overclocked to the limit it can’t quite catch the GTX970.
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We can see a pattern emerging with the Asus Strix R9 380X slotting in between the R9 380/GTX 960 and R9 390/GTX970. Considering the price points, this actually makes a lot of sense.
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
unigine heaven setts
We test at 2560×1440 with quality setting at ULTRA, Tessellation at NORMAL, and Anti-Aliasing at x2.
unigine heavenheaven 2015-11-16 14-13-59-79heaven 2015-11-16 17-16-47-50
The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC clearly outperforms both R9 380 and overclocked GTX960, but it is some distance behind the GTX970 in this tessellation heavy benchmark.
Grid Autosport (styled as GRID Autosport) is a racing video game by Codemasters and is the sequel to 2008′s Race Driver: Grid and 2013′sGrid 2. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on June 24, 2014. (Wikipedia).
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We test at 2560×1440 with 8xMSAA and with the ‘ULTRA’ profile enabled.
grid 1440p
At 1440p we can see the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC has a clear advantage over the R9 380 and GTX960 and is around 12 frames per second behind the R9 390.Grid Autosport (styled as GRID Autosport) is a racing video game by Codemasters and is the sequel to 2008′sRace Driver: Grid and 2013′s Grid 2. The game was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on June 24, 2014. (Wikipedia).
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We test at 3840×2160 with 8xMSAA and with the ‘ULTRA’ profile enabled.
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At Ultra HD 4K the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC closes the rather significant frame differential between the GTX 970 (at 1440p it was 22fps) but remains a little behind, even when manually overclocked to the limit. The GTX960 by comparison is really struggling to maintain playable frame rates.
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. (Wikipedia).
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We test at 1440p with the ‘ULTIMATE’ image quality profile selected.
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This is a very demanding engine, especially at these settings. At 1440p the game is playable, although if you want solid 60+ frame rates, then you would need to drop the image quality noticeably.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. (Wikipedia).
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We test at 3840×2160 (4K) with the ‘ULTIMATE’ image profile selected. We normally reduce the image quality profile to ‘ULTRA’ at this resolution, but we decided to keep it at the highest image quality possible.
tomb raider 4k
At Ultra HD 4k, you really do want a GTX980 ti, Titan or Fury GPU to get the most from this engine. At normal image quality setting preset, the game is actually playable with the R9 380X. If we had more time before tight publication deadlines we could have looked at this in more detail.
Grand Theft Auto V is an action-adventure game played from either a first-person or third-person view. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story.
Outside of missions, players can freely roam the open world. Composed of the San Andreas open countryside area and the fictional city of Los Santos, the world of Grand Theft Auto V is much larger in area than earlier entries in the series.
The world may be fully explored from the beginning of the game without restrictions, although story progress unlocks more gameplay content. (Wikipedia).
We maximised every slider – FXAA was enabled, although we left all other Anti Aliasing settings disabled – based on reader feedback from previous reviews. ‘Ignore Suggested Limits’ was turned ‘ON’.
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We found some intensive sections of the Grand Theft Auto 5 world and tested each card multiple times to confirm accuracy. The game demanded around 3.5GB of GPU memory at 1440p and just over 4GB at 4K.
GTA5 1440p
These are very demanding image quality settings, and we had to enable the ‘ignore suggested limits’ when testing the 2GB Palit GTX960 Jetstream. Manually overclocking the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC helped increase the minimum frame rate from 23 to 25 frames per second however some reductions in image quality would be needed to get smoother frame rates.Grand Theft Auto V is an action-adventure game played from either a first-person or third-person view. Players complete missions—linear scenarios with set objectives—to progress through the story.
Outside of missions, players can freely roam the open world. Composed of the San Andreas open countryside area and the fictional city of Los Santos, the world of Grand Theft Auto V is much larger in area than earlier entries in the series.
The world may be fully explored from the beginning of the game without restrictions, although story progress unlocks more gameplay content. (Wikipedia).
We maximised every slider – FXAA was enabled, although we left all other Anti Aliasing settings disabled – based on reader feedback from previous reviews. ‘Ignore Suggested Limits’ was turned ‘ON’.
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We found some intensive sections of the Grand Theft Auto 5 world and tested each card multiple times to confirm accuracy. The game demanded around 3.5GB of GPU memory at 1440p and just over 4GB at 4K.
GTA5 4k
The best experience at 4K is only possible with a Fury X, Titan or GTX 980ti.Metro 2033 Redux is a remake of the original game, with enhanced graphics. We often test with Metro Last Light Redux, but decided to mix things around for this review today. We test at 2560×1440 with the following settings: Quality-Very High, SSAA-off, Texture Filtering-16x, Motion Blur-Normal, Tessellation-Normal, Advanced Physx-off.
metro 1440p
Another demanding engine at these settings, however we can see the overclocked R9 380X falls in between the GTX960 and R9 390, averaging between 35 and 40 frames per second.
Metro 2033 Redux is a remake of the original game, with enhanced graphics. We often test with Metro Last Light Redux, but decided to mix things around for this review today. We test at 2560×1440 with the following settings: Quality-Very High, SSAA-off, Texture Filtering-16x, Motion Blur-Normal, Tessellation-Normal, Advanced Physx-off.
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Fairly smooth frame rates at these settings are only possible with the fastest GTX980 ti cards or Sapphire R9 295X2 installed.
Ashes Of The Singularity is still in the early phases of development, although you can buy it from STEAM as an ‘early access’ game overHERE. This game has a Direct X 12 mode available, if you are using Windows 10. We don’t expect our results today will be indicative of the engine performance when the final game is released in the future, but it is interesting to include as an additional test.
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We test at 3840×2160 with the ‘Crazy’ Profile enabled, but with Anti Aliasing disabled.
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The manual overclock slightly increases the all batches average result.
The tests were performed in a controlled air conditioned room with temperatures maintained at a constant 23c – 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.
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The dual fan cooler performs very well, holding gaming temperatures at 65c under extended load.
We install the graphics card into our system and measure temperatures on the back of the PCB with our Fluke Visual IR Thermometer/Infrared Thermal Camera. This is a real world running environment playing Tomb Raider for extended periods of time.
Details shown below.
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The backplate works very well, leveling out the PCB temperatures. The hottest spot on the card measured around 60C under extended load – shown above via our thermal imaging camera.
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. 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
noise
The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC is an exceptionally quiet card. At idle and under low load situations the fans don’t spin – making this a very solid choice for a powerful media center style build. Under greater loads once the temperature reaches 60c, the fans spin up, peaking at around only 1,200 rpm.
These are very slow spinning fans under the default ASUS profile, however you can obviously trade for greater cooling performance by manually tweaking settings in an application such as MSI Afterburner.
The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC exhibited no coil whine at all, even under stressful and extremely synthetic test parameters.
We measure power consumption from the whole system when idle and when gaming, excluding the monitor.
power consumption
Under gaming load, the system demands 240 watts from the socket. This puts power demand a little greater than the GTX970 under load. Nvidia as we all know are currently leading the way in regards to power efficiency.
It seems rather unusual that AMD are able to target a price point that Nvidia are currently neglecting, but that is how it stands today. Right now you can either spend £150 on a GTX960 or R9 380, or make the jump to £250 for a GTX970 or R9 390. AMD have seen the £200 hole in the market and have launched the R9 380X to grab some sales during the holiday season.
We are not sure if partners will be releasing reference cooled R9 380x solutions, but we didn’t receive one from AMD for launch so have placed our focus on a modified ‘Strix branded’, overclocked solution from ASUS. It is a very fine card from the Taiwanese engineering giant and likely significantly better than any reference design from AMD. Regular readers will know that AMD’s adoption of coolers incorporating a small, single, high spinning fan has frustrated me for many years.
Unfortunately I only had a couple of (long) days to prepare this article and have not had additional time to perform 1080p analysis from all the hardware featured in this review. I had to revert to 1440p and 4K resolutions as I have very recently tested a plethora of cards at these settings.
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The tests today verify that the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC delivers performance characteristics as we would expect – planted firmly between the R9 380/GTX960 (£150-£160) and R9 390/GTX970 (£250+). As such the results are not massively exciting, but the card is a cost effective option for a budget restricted enthusiast gamer who has just perhaps just adopted a new 1080p or 1440p screen.
The ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC is likely to be one of the better cards at launch today. It is supplied with a proprietary dual fan cooling system, which is extremely quiet in operation and will maintain load temperatures in the low to mid 60’s (Celsius). We appreciate how the fans disable completely at idle and low loads when the operating temperature is held at around 59c or less. This is actually one of the quietest graphics cards we have tested when left to run via the automatic profile.
You will be able to buy the ASUS Strix R9 380X DirectCU II OC for around £199.99 inc vat, we will add links later when we get them.
Discuss on our Facebook page, over HERE.
Pros:
  • AMD occupy the lone slot at £200.
  • Asus cooler is exceptionally quiet at all times.
  • more core headroom available via software.
  • decent out of the box overclock.
  • zero coil whine.
Cons:
  • not the most exciting release from AMD, but it targets a price point.
  • power demand is greater than a GTX970 under load.
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