With AMD and NVIDIA jockeying for position by releasing new graphics cards aimed at pleasing PC gamers, a third-party manufacturer is attempting to work its magic to improve on both companies’ reference designs.
ASUS has announced its Strix range of R9 300-series graphics cards (GPUs); they’re armour-plated Radeon cards that use aerospace-grade materials to increase their strength and durability. They’re also 30 per cent cooler and incredibly quiet thanks to a triple wing-blade coolant fan and the latest generation of ASUS’ proprietary DirectCU III cooling technology.
That’s a good thing, because AMD has been taking a bit of a beating lately; arch-rival NVIDIA has been producing quieter, cooler GeForce graphics cards that outperform AMD’s Radeon cards to the point where AMD’s traditional strategy of dropping their asking price hasn’t won gamers over. So any new features to make them more competitive are more than welcome.
Unfortunately for AMD, despite any third-party bolt-ons this latest generation of cards probably won’t do much to close the gap. Tomshardware has tested several MSI cards, and reached the conclusion that the 300 series is little more than a re-branding of the old 200-series cards with a handful of tweaks, with minimal performance increases but much higher power consumption.
Not even the R9 390X’s massive 8GB of video RAM seems to help the card’s performance figures much, as the 390X beats its cousin the R9 290X by only a handful of frame rates even at 4K resolutions, an area where more video memory traditionally has a dramatic impact on performance.
Still, the 390X ends in the top 3 on most benchmarks, only getting beaten (technically) by the likes of NVIDIA’s 980 cards and only by a few frames per second each time. This could make AMD’s top-performer quite attractive for power gamers who don’t mind that it uses a lot of electricity compared, and who instead value its lower price point over NVIDIA’s comparative expense.
To put that in context, you can pick up an R9 390X – AMD’s current top card – for R7 399, while NVIDIA’s top card, the GTX980 Ti goes for a whopping R11 999 from Evetech.
Whether ASUS’s Strix tweaks will help the R9 300 cards into the hearts of gamers remains to be seen, but cooler and quieter is a good place to start.