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Asus Strix Radeon R9 390X review: Keeping up with the high-performing Joneses

Brad Chacos | July 16, 2015
The new Radeon R9 390 and R9 390X graphics cards aren't mere re-brands!

The Strix R9 390X delivers more thoughtful touches, as well. The card comes with a slick backplate adorned with the Strix owl logo. A nifty, pulsating red LED on the side is also festooned with a white Strix logo. (I'm a sucker for case lighting.) Asus manufactures the card with what it calls "8-phase super alloy II" materials, claiming it all to be aerospace-quality parts. The super alloy II capacitors boast two-and-a-half-times the lifetime of traditional capacitors, while Asus says its fortified components and DIGI + VRM power delivery solution delivers top-tier overclocking capabilities.

This card screams "premium," but be warned, tiny case owners: All those features turn the Strix R9 390X into a fairly bulky graphics card.

The Strix R9 390X sips 275W of power through one six-pin and one eight-pin connector, and it packs all the connections you could reasonably need, with DVI-I, HDMI, and a trio of DisplayPorts. The HDMI connection is only 1.4a, meaning it's limited to 30Hz at 4K resolutions, but realistically speaking neither the 390X nor Nvidia's competing GTX 980 deliver a compelling single-card 4K experience, no matter what each company's marketing teams claim. These cards are better for 2560x1440 gaming. If you decide to try it anyway, or want to slap multiple R9 390X cards in your system in a CrossFire setup, the DisplayPorts support 4K at 60Hz.

Speaking of gaming...

Asus Strix R9 390X gaming performance

As ever, we tested the Asus Strix R9 390X on PCWorld's dedicated graphics card benchmark system. Our build guide for the rig details its innards in-depth, but here's the Cliffs Notes version of the key details:

We tested each title using the in-game benchmark provided, and stuck to the default graphics settings unless mentioned otherwise. V-Sync, G-Sync, and FreeSync were always disabled.

To get a true feel for the $469 Strix R9 390X's place in the world, we've compared it to Asus' $580 Strix Fury and AMD's older reference R9 290X, as well as Nvidia's $500 reference GTX 980. Benchmarks for the $650 Fury X and reference GTX 980 Ti are also included, so you can get a feel for the card's 4K capabilities since AMD keeps hammering the 390X's 4K potential. (Spoiler: Don't use it as a single-card 4K gaming solution unless you want to play at Medium settings.)

First up: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The game may kick off with an Nvidia splash screen, but AMD graphics cards have held the upper hand in pure frame rate over the past couple of months. We test the game using the default Medium and High graphics presets, and then by cranking everything to its highest setting (which the Ultra preset doesn't actually do). For the "crank everything to 11" test we use the free, optional HD Textures Pack add-on, which just chews through memory. Not that the R9 390X's 8GB of RAM really cares.


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