MSI R9-390 Gaming 8G – AMD 300 series with a custom kick from MSI

Testing Methodology

The OS we use is Windows 8 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.

Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows Vista occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.

We ran each test a total of 3 times, and reported the average score from all three scores. Benchmark screenshots are of the median result. Anomalous results were discounted and the benchmarks were rerun.

Test Rig

Test Rig
Case Test Bench
CPUs Intel i7-4770K
Motherboards ASUS Maximus VI Formula
Ram Gskill TridentX 8GB (2x4GB) 2666Mhz 11-13-13 Dual-Channel Kit
CPU Cooler Custom Liquid Cooling
Hard Drives 8x Western Digital RE4 2TB 7200RPM 3Gb/s Hard Drives (Raid 5)
SSD 3x Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD
Optical ASUS DVD-Burner
PSU Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W Gold
Mouse Tt eSPORTS Theron Gaming Mouse
Keyboard Tt eSPORTS Meks G1 Illuminated

Synthetic Benchmarks & Games

We will use the following applications to benchmark the performance of the MSI R9-290X Gaming video card.

3DMark 11
3Dmark 2013
Sleeping Dogs
Tomb Raider
Metro 2033
Unigine Heaven 4.0
Batman Arkham City
Dirt 3 Showdown
Metro Last Light
Sniper Elite V2

3DMark 11

3d11 3d11x

Here we see the 390 Gaming pulls some respective numbers even besting the previous gen 290X by a decent margin while being a bit behind the new Nvidia 900 Series cards, but at the price point it’s hardly a complaint.

3DMark 2013

firestrike extreme firestrike

In 3DMark Firestrike and extreme the MSI Gaming model does well to hold its own against some higher priced competition being bested only by the new 970/980 offerings

Unigine Heaven 4.0

Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.


Heaven pushes the 390  past the 970 and even the original TITAN to deliver performance just shy of the 980 reference model.

Sleeping Dogs

sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs is actually a game that is actively bundled by AMD and here with the 390 comes to life just about stomping everything in its path even being shoulder to shoulder with the 980 models.

Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Even after many years, Metro 2033 is still one of the most demanding DX11 video games available to really push the limits of your system. Here the MSI 390 slides in for the top spot as this game seems to really pull some good performance from every AMD card we test it on.

Batman Arkham City

batman AC

Batman Arkham City is a fun game and utilizes FXAA fully. It is nice to see the full screen anti-aliasing getting picked up by popular titles. Here being an Nvidia based title I was happy to see that the 390 pulls a good spot being bested only by the top Nvidia GPU the GTX 980 models.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider once again is a heavily pushed title by AMD and so you can imagine my surprise when the 390 pulls in behind the 980 in this test but still not a bad position to be in when you look at the price.

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light

Here we have Metro Last Light which is a brand new game added to our testing platform. If you thought Metro 2033 was stressful you have seen nothing yet. The particles and lighting, as well as the PhysX effects all add up to an amazing looking game that can put a stun even the most powerful system in its tracks. Here the MSI 390 once again shows the ongoing trend as it settles in right on the heels of the 980 models.

Sniper Elite V2

sniper elite V2

Sniper Elite V2 is a fun game which, when first released, was quite stressful but still playable on most higher end cards. By now, most cards have surpassed it, and today is no different however the 390 falls far behind the Nvidia parts as the game is not very well optimized for AMD cards as seen by the history in our testing.

Dirt 3 Showdown

dirt showdown

Dirt 3 Showdown is a visually beautiful game with excellent lighting and overall motion blurring creating a real visual spectacle of a game. The MSI 390 Pulls some nice results once again slotting in just behind the current gen Nvidia parts

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  1. If I understood well, this card is basically at price of GTX970 yet it mostly it outperforms it, to a level sometimes just behind GTX980?
    Only thing I’m confused, will it support DirectX 12 as much as GTX970 does?

    • I believe so. Other R9 390s are made to support DirectX 12 so it is hard to see why not.

    • Actually all GCN cards have better DX12 support than Nvidia, because they have Resource Binding Tier 3, when 900 series has Tier 2. Nvidia has that 12.1 feature level, but it’s meaningless.

    • Outperforms the GTX970? Are you fucking blind or are you just another noob ATI fanboy?

      • Not sure if you’re intentionally being stupid, but in most of the benches presented, the 390 outperforms the 970; even if marginally.

        Seems you’re the one with the vision problems.

      • Also, ATI is a defunct brand and AMD hasn’t used the name for about five years now.

  2. Which card should I buy 390 or 970. I have 550 watts psu

    • I would say you should buy the 390 or the 390x (if you have the money), the only problem is that the driver is still in th BETA and can give some problems

  3. huh? 390x 330$? when launched? im seeing the 390 r9 at 330 right now. like right, now.

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