MSI Radeon R9-280X Gaming
MSI as always dresses to impress with its non reference designs and well with the Radeon R series of cards there is no mistaking a MSI card from the rest as they carry very distinctive cooler designs and honestly when first seeing this card I was at a loss to tell it apart from the Nvidia 770 version I had tested some time ago when looking at it from the fans side. However once you get past the fans and shroud designs that is where the similarities end.
The Radeon R series cards for the most part are actually a relaunch of the previous gen cards for the most part with only the top end R9-290X actually being an entirely new Hawaii based GPU. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as with this refresh or relaunch so to speak AMD has dropped the price of its models in a way which caused an immediate response and a drop from the NV camp which tells us that while Nvidia may still hold the performance crown for now the competition is starting to heat back up.
The R9-280X we are looking at today is a 3GB card with a Tahiti based GPU and for all intensive purposes is a HD7970 GHz edition card with a new name. The great part about this though is this R9-280X model launches with a MSRP of $299.99 which means while it may be an aging model it is a top end card in the 300 dollar price range with a full custom PCB and loads of performance. Lets not forget this is a 3GB card which means that even at extended resolutions you have some framebuffer headroom should you come across the need to feed multiple high res displays or even a 4K display.
Military Class 4 Components
MSI has long touted the Military Class components on their cards due to the fact that they are specially tested components, not just by them but by a third party testing center according to the enclosed certificate. “Military Class components” sounds nice, but are they really necessary on a card or motherboard? Honestly, no as most times the reference components are good enough to do their job. However, they are not designed to push the limits to the extreme. The answer is better and stronger components. Most manufacturers worth their salt will use better components, so in order to try and stand out, MSI uses “Military Class” components in an attempt to ensure better hardware reliability.
Military Class Component Testing
When MSI puts military class components to the fire they are not joking as they come to the table claiming to have passed multiple tests following Mil spec (MIL-STD-810G) Tests including:
- Temperature Shock testing: Sudden thermal changes which can normally wreak havoc on electrical components are fully tested on these components to ensure they can last through some of the worst conditions liek lets say what the extreme enthusiasts community may employ them for. Although im sure the Lightning card will be more in that category its still nice to know its there.
- Humidity Testing: Testing of components in different humidity conditions can make a big difference as to the capabilities of the cards as different areas can have much different environments and not every deployment will be like a sterile lab and knowing they can take that kind of abuse once again is a major plus.
- Vibration tests: This one is a little nuts but being in California I guess if I have an earthquake I can ensure the shaking wont affect the components.
- Low Pressure Testing: This once again is a little extreme as deployment for different elevations especially extreme enough to require low pressure testing is gonna be extremely rare if ever but it will handle it.
- High Temperature Testing: This one should be a standard for every component in a high end PC as thermals are the enemy of every enthusiasts rig so I like to see such attention paid here.
- Low Temperature Testing: Once again I think something more targeted at the Lightning model, but the fact that they test these cards to withstand LN2 benchmarking temperatures tells me that under standard gaming stresses this card is gonna run and keep on running.
- Shock Testing: This is once again more extreme as these are similar to drop or rough impact testing which wel even if the card survives im sure other components may not fare so well in this kind of scenario.
So what we can take from this is that this card may survive the nuclear apocalypse or even a Zombie infestation but well in the case of a nuclear apocalypse this card looks like it could probably take it, and with The North Korea situation maybe you can hide behind a stack of these cards.
Advanced Twin Frozr IV Cooler
MSI introduced the Twin Frozr cooler quite some time ago. The Twin Frozr is MSI’s version of the custom cooler to keep the GPU and components cool on the card.
Here we see some advantages of the cooler design, including the dual propeller blade fans which work in tandem to ensure plenty of air is moved through the fin array for a cooler running GPU and also onboard components.
The propeller blade design is made to offer some serious airflow without the fan noise we had heard before and compared to the MSI 660 Ti we had tested previously it definitely sounds like they got the fan noise down quite a bit.
The complete cover heatsink is a nice dual purpose design as it works as a heatspreader for the VRM/memory components but also it helps stiffen the PCB quite a bit which makes for a much stronger and more durable card.
MSI offers its own software utility. MSI Afterburner is co-developed with Rivatuner which is very similar to what the other top manufacturers are offering.
There we see it above with multiple options including voltage control and power limit controls to ensure our overclock ceiling is just a little bit higher. Do note that some options may not show up right away and need to be enabled in settings otherwise they will be hidden.
MSI Gaming App
The Gaming app is a cool design as it offers a simple to use interface where users can quickly set a overclock or even Eco setting without having to work with the Afterburner app which for some can be a bit confusing especially for a newer or inexperienced user
Above you can see the small footprint of the gaming app. there is an addition to this gaming app vs the very first one I had used on the GTX 770 which it now has a cooldown button which you will notice as the snowflake above the silent mode button. This allows quick timed bursts of the fan up to 70% to rapidly cool the card when needed I am guessing if benching or stressing the card this could be pretty handy to cool down quickly between runs.