Bottom line: The new 1080p champ
Add it all up and there’s only one conclusion to reach: Despite the higher power draw, the Radeon R9 380 is clearly the best graphics card for the money in the $200 price range. It consistently out-performs the heavily overclocked GTX 960 SSC in everything but GTA V, though Nvidia’s card hangs closely enough to be tempting if the R9 380’s power draw is a concern, or if you’re building a home theater PC and need an HDMI 2.0 port to output a 60Hz signal to a 4K TV. (The GTX 950 supports HDMI 2.0; the Radeon R9 380 is limited to HDMI 1.4a’s 30Hz at 4K.)
For your money, you’ll get a mostly uncompromising mainstream 1080p gaming experience, hovering around 60fps at Ultra settings in many cases, though you may need to tone down some of the more extreme anti-aliasing options or set the graphics options to High in some of most strenuous titles—but only if the 60fps barrier is sacrosanct to you. If you’re fine with a console-quality 30fps, the VisionTek Radeon R9 380 never faltered below that mark, even with all the bells and whistles enabled in the most strenuous games.
But if console-quality graphics aren’t a bother, you can save some money by dropping down to the $150-$170 price range, where the tables turn and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 950 reigns supreme. Graphics cards in that range can hit 40fps-plus at 1080p on High graphics settings.
For most people, we’d recommend saving your pennies for a few weeks more and stepping up to the $200 price range. The leap in graphics performance is massive, delivering a much more compelling 1080p gaming experience for a price that still won’t break the bank. It’s crazy how much performance you can get for $200 these days (though the R9 380 is not an upgrade from the older R9 280 and 280X, which were priced higher).
When Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960 made its debut, we said that AMD needed to drop the Radeon R9 285’s price to $200 to remain competitive. With the Radeon R9 380, AMD did just that—and the little bit of extra oomph in the card’s clock speeds help make AMD’s offering the most enticing for mainstream gamers today.
As far the specific vendor implementation goes, the VisionTek Radeon R9 380’s stock-clocked offering may not push the envelope as fiercely as some other custom-cooled designs on the market, but the overall package is very clean and competent indeed, and that limited lifetime warranty is pretty darn enticing.