AMD Radeon R9 380X review feat. Sapphire: The best graphics card for 1080p gaming, priced to fight

AMD's Radeon R9 380X fills a gaping hole in the world of graphics cards, and it's competitively priced, too.

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While AMD’s positioning the card as an entry-level 2560x1440 gaming option, the text on Sapphire’s Nitro R9 380X box says it’s aimed at gaming at high levels at 1080p. As such, we’re comparing the card against both cheaper 1080p-focused graphics cards—the $200 VisionTek R9 380, $200 EVGA GeForce GTX 960 SSC, and $160 EVGA GeForce GTX 950 SSC—as well as the pricier $300-and-up Sapphire Nitro R9 390 and EVGA GeForce GTX 970 FTW, which are great 1440p options.

Every game was tested using its in-game benchmark, using the default graphics settings stated unless noted otherwise, with V-Sync, G-Sync, FreeSync, and any vendor-specific features (like Nvidia’s Multi-Frame-Sampled Anti-aliasing technology) disabled.

While some high-profile DirectX 12 benchmarks have arisen in recent months, we’re not using them yet, as they’re based on unfinished titles. No DirectX 12 games are currently available, though they’re expected to start trickling out before the end of the year. Simply put, while DirectX 12 is incredibly exciting in theory, in practice it’s too early to start testing cards with it yet.

Note that any '0' scores on these charts mean we didn’t test that particular graphics card using that particular setting, because we’re mixing 1080p and 1440p. You can click on any graph to enlarge it if you’d like.

Got it? Good. Let’s dig in.

380x gta v

Grand Theft Auto V’s memory requirements at higher settings and resolutions can hammer top-end cards, but it scales well and isn’t as intensive at 1080p or 1440p. Because the game doesn’t have overarching preset graphics settings like “Medium” or “Ultra,” we tested it a few different ways: with FXAA enabled and every option set to Normal at 1080p, with FXAA enabled and every option set to Very High at 1440p, and using the same 1440p settings but with 4x MSAA and Reflection MSAA enabled.

GTAV’s favoritism towards Nvidia cards shines through here. Note that while we test with everything set to Normal at 1080p to level the playing field, the Radeon R9 380X can turn the vast majority of settings up to High or Very High and still hit a constant 60fps. (We’ll probably start testing at higher graphics settings in the future.) Without MSAA enabled, the R9 380X averages over 50fps even at 1440p.

380x dai

The card cruises past the crucial 60fps barrier at High settings in Dragon Age Inquisition too, delivering performance that's a solid 5 to 10 frames per second faster than the $200 options. DAI’s Ultra setting almost goes overboard on the quality and anti-aliasing options, which nukes frame rates but doesn’t offer a comparable increase in eye candy in return. Still, if you want to crank everything to 11, the Sapphire Nitro R9 380X can do so to the respectable tune of 44fps at 1080p. It hits similar frame rates with High settings at 1080p—far below what the R9 390 and GTX 970 offer.

Next page: Additional games performance benchmarks

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