MSI Radeon R9 390X GAMING 8G Overclocking Review

Author:Brent Justice

Editor:Kyle Bennett

Date: Monday , July 06, 2015

We take the new MSI Radeon R9 390X GAMING 8G video card and overclock it to it fullest and compare it with an overclocked GeForce GTX 980 at 1440p and 4K in today's latest games. Find out how much overclocking the R9 390X improves performance, and which video card is best performing. Can R9 390X overclock better than R9 290X?


On June 18, 2015 AMD launched its AMD Radeon 300 series of GPUs. While these are mostly "re-brands" of the Radeon 200 series, all of the GPU series got a refresh in terms of add-in-board manufacturer custom video card designs and a boost in VRAM footprint and clock speeds.

Since video cards of the Radeon 300 series are mostly re-brands of the Radeon 200 series manufacturers have quite a lot of experience and R&D involved in designing video cards around these GPUs, and certainly this is a good thing. This means that for the Radeon 300 series manufacturers were able to create the most up-to-date and efficient printed circuit board and heatsink/fan designs around these new AMD GPUs.

What that means for us is, we get video cards that are cooled better, potentially more efficient in power and cooling and potentially able to overclock much better than the re-brand counterparts. That is what we are testing today, a video card that is a re-brand of the AMD Radeon R9 290X, but due to small GPU enhancements and manufacturer enhancements, may overclock a lot better than the previous Radeon R9 290X.

We have fully evaluated the stock performance of the MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G. This video card retails for $429 with Prime Shipping from Amazon and sells for $429 from Newegg with $5 shipping.

While the AMD Radeon R9 390X is based on the AMD Radeon R9 290X GPU, it bumps the clock speed up to 1050MHz and uses different memory that is running a lot faster than Radeon R9 290X video cards ever ran. AMD Radeon R9 290X ran at 5GHz memory, and now R9 390X runs at 6GHz, which is a nice bump up in memory bandwidth. To coincide with that memory bandwidth increase the R9 390X now comes standard with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, up from the stock 4GB on the 290X. This added capacity can help in 4K resolution with CrossFire configurations.

The new MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G bumps the clock speed up a bit further to a 1100MHz stock clock. This means it is running 100MHz faster than Radeon R9 290X, and 50MHz faster than reference R9 390X. If you go back to AMD Radeon R9 290X overclocking reviews you will note that some cards couldn't even overclock to 1100MHz in the early days. The MSI R9 390X is already running higher at its stock clocks than some original R9 290X cards could overclock to.

MSI has also bumped up the RAM speed to 6.1GHz for a little bit more performance as well. Again, this is a much faster than many R9 290X cards could ever overclock to.

The big question though is how much more can we push out of the MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G knowing it is already at levels that rival Radeon R9 290X overclocks, since it is basically the same GPU? We are going to find that out today, and we will compare that with past R9 290X overclocks to see how the new R9 390X overclocks.

To compare performance we have taken a reference NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 video card and also overclocked it to its maximum potential with the stock cooling. The GTX 980 can be found for sale as as low $479 as well, so this is a perfect comparison.

GeForce GTX 980 Overclock

We don't need an entire page on GeForce GTX 980 overclocking because we have already covered that in previous evaluations. Please refer to our GeForce GTX 980 Overclocking article and read all about overclocking our reference GeForce GTX 980.

All of the gameplay data shared here today is freshly collected. We are using the newest 353.30 driver and up-to-date game versions and patches as these things can make a big difference in performance over time.

The GTX 980 GPU overclock is 1516MHz in-game, and the VRAM is running at 8GHz. The default frequency the GTX 980 runs at is 1240MHz. Therefore, this is a 276MHz overclock. It should be noted we did watch the in-game GPU frequency in every game tested here today (as always); it never fluctuated below 1516MHz in any game. We did see it occasionally rise to 1540MHz, but it would not sustain that clock for very long.

Keep in mind this is using the NVIDIA reference card cooler, which is fairly robust in stock form. It is possible retail video cards with custom cooling solutions may overclock better.

Test Setup

For the new MSI R9 390X GAMING 8G video card we are using AMD supplied drivers for use only with the R9 300 series. This is driver version: "AMD-15.15-Radeon300-Series-Win8.1-Win7-64Bit-June15." For the GTX 980 we are using GeForce 353.30. Drivers are at default settings on all cards.