MSI Radeon R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr OC in CrossFire Video Card Review

MSI Radeon R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr OC in CrossFire Video Card Review

We get a chance to run a pair of new Radeon R9 280X Twin Frozr Gaming video cards from MSI together in CrossFire mode. Let's see how it performs.

| Oct 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

VIEW GALLERY - 34 IMAGES

CrossFire and SLI are both technologies that have really come so far since their introductions, but we really don't get a chance to test the technology nearly as much as we'd like. Fortunately today, though, we've got a chance to test out CrossFire on a pair of the new AMD Radeon R Series video cards.

The particular cards we're looking at today are the R9 280X 3GB offerings that comes from MSI and are part of the Twin Frozr Gaming series, which is one that has really impressed us since its introduction. We're also really glad to have the R9 280X 3GB as our first CrossFire setup. The other day we got the chance to check out the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC and found ourselves really impressed with what the new model was able to do.

Today, though, is all about the MSI R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr OC cards and we're looking forward to see what kind of performance CrossFire brings with the latest models.

Let's take a closer look at one of the cards, before we move into the performance side of things.

Package

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You can see the standard Twin Frozr Gaming color scheme here. You can see the model number in the top right corner and mention that we're dealing with an OC Edition in the bottom left corner.

Turning over you can see some of the main features including Military Class 4 components which bring with it Hi-C Caps and Solid Capacitors. Along with that, we've got support for the MSI Gaming App, Advanced Thermal Design via the Twin Frozr IV cooler and mention of UEFI BIOS support via the included switch that we'll take a closer look at in just a moment.

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Moving inside the package, you can see we've got a fairly standard with a quick user guide and driver CD. We've also got dual Molex to 6-pin PCIe and 6-pin to 8-pin PCIe connectors, DVI to VGA connector, CrossFire bridge and a mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort connector.

The Card and Specifications

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Moving away from the package and onto the card itself, you can see a fairly standard setup thanks to the Twin Frozr IV cooler taking up majority of the card. You can also see the really good looking black and red color scheme that comes with the all the Gaming series cards.

Behind the two big fans, you can also see the massive heatsink that covers majority of the PCB, along with a couple of heat pipes coming out the bottom of the card to move heat away from the GPU.

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Looking around the card, you can see that power comes in the form of single 8-pin and 6-pin PCIe power connectors. Staying across the top of the card and moving closer to the front, you can see the CrossFire connectors, which we're going to be making use of today.

Just to the left of the CrossFire connectors, you can see a switch that lets you change between two BIOSs that are installed on the card. If you don't have a motherboard that supports the UEFI BIOS, you can switch to the other BIOS.

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We've got a single Dual-Link DVI connector, along with a HDMI and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. You can see that MSI has chosen to drop the second Dual-Link DVI connector to throw a second DisplayPort connector in the form of a Mini DisplayPort.

Specifications

As we mentioned already, the cards we're dealing with are pre-overclocked out of the box. A reference R9 280X 3GB comes out of the box with a 1000MHz core, while the 3GB of GDDR5 comes in at 6000MHz QDR.

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Looking above, you can see that MSI has chosen to leave the memory clock alone, but bump the core clock slightly by 50MHz to 1050MHz. The other main piece of information we see here is that CrossFire is of course enabled via 2 GPUs.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS and Corsair.

We've got a number of setups here today and we've thrown a few higher-end cards into the mix since we're dealing with a higher-end setup today.

Along with our MSI R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC cards in CrossFire mode, we've also got the R9 270X 2GB, PowerColor PCS HD 7950 2GB overclocked to over 1100MHz, reference HD 7970 GHz 3GB and the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC sitting by itself.

As for the NVIDIA side, we've got the Colorful GTX 760 iGAME 2GB OC, reference GTX 770 2GB and the recently reviewed MSI GTX 780 Lightning 2GB, which is overclocked to 1020MHz on the core.

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

Why are some graphs incomplete?

Adding new game benchmarks is a long, tedious and time consuming task as every video card has to be re-tested in those new benchmarks. Because of that reason we have always just evaluated our benchmark line up every six months. To stay up to date and current with the latest benchmarks and games available, we've changed our approach to adding new benchmarks.

Our benchmark line up will progress and be updated as newer more intensive games with benchmarks comes to light. While this will mean that initially you may only see a single video card in those particular graphs, as the weeks go on and we test more and more video cards, the results will grow quickly. This will help keep our benchmark line up as up to date as possible as we introduce and remove games on a constant basis.

Benchmarks - 3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, we have strong performance straight out the gate. You can see our CrossFire setup comes out ahead of all our other setups here today.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark

Buy It Here

Fire Strike is our new showcase DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. It is our most ambitious and technical benchmark ever, featuring real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today. Fire Strike will only be available in the Windows editions of 3DMark initially.

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Looking at one of our newer benchmarks, you can again see performance that is really strong at both presets.

We've got a good jump on our other setups, including a strong 30% increase over the overclocked MSI GTX 780 Lightning 3GB.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Tessellation has always been an area that AMD hasn't been quite as strong in, but the new R series cards bring with it some excellent performance, and we continue to see some great performance numbers out of our CrossFire setup here.

Benchmarks - Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.sega.com/?t=EnglishUSA

Product Homepage: http://www.pso2.com/us/html/index.html

Play Phantasy Star Online 2 and experience revolutionary combat in an action-driven, free-to-play multiplayer online RPG from SEGA. Take a journey into an immersive sci-fi fantasy narrative and explore mysterious worlds to unravel their secrets. Join fellow adventurers and fight against the legions of darkness to banish them from the galaxy.

Score explanation: Less than 2000: Please adjust your game settings because the processing load is quite heavy.

2000 through 5000: The game runs fine at the setting, if you have room, you can adjust some settings.

5001+: The game works wonderfully at this setting.

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PSO2 doesn't make the best use of CrossFire and for that reason you can see we're behind the single overclocked GTX 780 3GB Lightning.

Fortunately with a score of over 13,000, we've got no problem with performance under this game.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1

Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 numbers are strong at all resolutions and you can see we're not going to run into any problems playing this game at any resolution.

The numbers are so strong that you'd happily have this kind of setup running on a 120Hz screen.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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We continue to follow the trend with really strong numbers at all resolutions that see our CrossFire setup sit well ahead of our other setups, including a 70% increase on the overclocked MSI GTX 780 3GB at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com

In F1 2012 players will feel the unparalleled thrill of becoming a FORMULA ONE driver with a host of new features, wide-ranging technical and gameplay advancements and extensive competitive and co-operative multiplayer components. F1 2012 will feature all of the official teams, drivers and circuits from the 2012 FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, including the debut of the 2012 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX at Austin, Texas and the return of Germany's famous Hockenheim circuit to the calendar.

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Because of the FPS wall, you can see that our numbers aren't quite as strong when compared to other setups here.

The good news is with averages of around the 140 FPS mark, it's not a wall we're worried about.

Benchmarks - Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://enterthemetro.com/ /

Metro: Last Light takes place one year after the events of Metro 2033, proceeding from the ending where Artyom chose to call down the missile strike on the Dark Ones. The Rangers have since occupied the D6 military facility, with Artyom having become an official member of the group. Khan, the nomad mystic, arrives at D6 to inform Artyom and the Rangers that a single Dark One survived the missile strike. Khan believes the Dark One is the key to humanity's future, and wants to make peace with it, while Ranger leader Colonel Miller wants to kill the creature due to its potential threat. Miller sends Artyom to the surface with a mission to kill the Dark One; he is accompanied by Anna, Miller's sarcastic daughter and the Rangers' best sniper.

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Metro Last Light numbers are fantastic. You can see great numbers at all resolutions.

More importantly, though, you can see we manage to just break into the 60 FPS realm at the highest resolution, with a 61 FPS average.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/uk/dirtshowdown/360/

DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series, uncaged in 2012. Pick up and play controls combine with electrifying events, frenzied crowds and stunning graphics to deliver high octane, dive in and drive thrills from event one.

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We again hit a wall, but with averages in the 130 FPS area, just like F1 2012, we're really not worried about the wall.

Compared to the other high-end setups as well you can see that performance is almost double at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.alientrap.org/

Product Homepage: http://www.nexuiz.com/

Nexuiz is an Arena First Person shooter coming soon to consoles. Nexuiz is fast paced with extremely competitive game play. IllFonic brings Alientrap Software's Nexuiz to next-gen gaming consoles around the world while staying true to the game play refined over the years through development. IllFonic introduces a new Victorian influenced art style that is simultaneously futuristic and sophisticated. Nexuiz for consoles is powered by CryENGINE 3.

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Nexuiz numbers look great and the last time we got a chance to look at Nexuiz with CrossFire we found that throwing a second card into the mix did nothing. You can see that's clearly not an issue here.

We would've liked a few more FPS at 1920 x 1200 so we could've broken into the 60 FPS realm, but overall the numbers at 1920 x 1200, along with 1680 x 1050, aren't too bad at all. A small detail drop at 1920 x 1200 would get those extra couple of FPS we want.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://sniperelitev2.com/us/age.html

Sniper Elite V2 features detailed sniping simulation with advanced ballistics, taking into account gravity, wind, velocity, bullet penetration, aim stability and more. Guaranteed to provide players with the most realistic simulation of military sharpshooting yet available.

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Sniper Elite V2 continues the trend with some fantastic numbers across the board at all resolutions that again see our MSI CrossFire setup ahead of everything else.

Benchmarks - Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://eu.square-enix.com/en

Product Homepage: http://www.sleepingdogs.net/

The core gameplay of Sleeping Dogs consists of giving the player an open world environment in which to move around freely. Sleeping Dogs is played as an over-the-shoulder, third-person perspective action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls Wei Shen, a Chinese-American police officer, as he goes undercover to infiltrate the Sun On Yee Triad organization. On foot, the player character has the ability to walk, run, jump, climb over obstacles and swim, as well as use weapons and martial arts in combat. Players also drive a variety of vehicles including cars, boats, and motorcycles.

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Sleeping Dogs looks good, but like a couple of other games, we're hitting a bit of an FPS wall.

The good news is like those other games, the wall is happening around the 130 FPS mark, which is more than enough to enjoy silky smooth gameplay, including for users of 120Hz monitors.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com

Buy It Here

The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Looking above, we again hit a FPS wall. Like we've seen in our other benchmarks, though, the numbers are still extremely strong at all resolutions.

Please Note: We still include Far Cry 2 in our benchmarks (we know it's old) as a way for our readers to get a general representation of how older games perform on new hardware.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.ioi.dk/

Product Homepage: http://hitman.com/

Hitman: Absolution is an action-adventure stealth game developed by I/O Interactive and published by Square Enix. It is the fifth entry in the Hitman game series, and runs on I/O Interactive's proprietary Glacier 2 game engine. Before release, the developers stated that Absolution would be easier to play and more accessible, while still retaining hardcore aspects of the franchise. The game was released on 20 November 2012, which is in the 47th week of the year (in reference to the protagonist, Agent 47).

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While we're hitting an FPS wall again here, you can see that the minimum in the 60 FPS range and the average in the 70 FPS range is plenty.

Of course with 120Hz monitors, we'd really prefer to see those averages sit a bit higher. You can see the same issue isn't seen on the single GPU solution.

Benchmarks - Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.nixxes.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.tombraider.com/us/base/agegate?refer=184&

Tomb Raider is an action-adventure platform video game. Published by Square Enix, Tomb Raider is the fifth title developed by Crystal Dynamics in the Tomb Raider franchise. As the first entry in a new Tomb Raider continuity, the game is a reboot that emphasizes the reconstructed origins of the culturally influential lead character Lara Croft. Tomb Raider was released on 5 March 2013 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows to universal critical acclaim.

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Tomb Raider performance is extremely strong at all resolutions with playable numbers at every resolution, including 2560 x 1600 which has minimum of 60 FPS and an average of 83 FPS.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://irrationalgames.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.bioshockinfinite.com

BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game and the third installment in the BioShock series. Previously known as "Project Icarus", it is being developed by Irrational Games and was released worldwide on the Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 platforms on March 26, 2013. BioShock Infinite is not part of the storyline of previous BioShock games but features similar gameplay concepts and themes.

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BioShock Infinite sees great numbers at all resolutions with an average of 85 FPS.

We again also see the MSI setup come out ahead of all the other setups here.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

While we test all our games with maximum in-game settings, turning on Anti-Aliasing (AA) and Antistrophic Filtering (AF) helps take the intensity of our testing to another level.

Here we see video cards go from playable FPS to an unplayable FPS and the real power houses continue to help break that 60 FPS mark we always aim for to provide a smooth gaming experience.

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It comes as no surprise that even with AA and AF on, the CrossFire setup continues to be very strong at both resolutions.

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Even with two R9 280X video cards, you can see that Metro Last Light still doesn't manage to hit the 60 FPS average we need at either resolution.

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With AA and AF on, you can see that Just Cause 2 continues to not be a problem for this setup, with great numbers at both resolutions.

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Moving into Sleeping Dogs, you can see some strong numbers at both resolutions. Saying that, though, we'd prefer an extra couple of FPS at 2560 x 1600 so we could hit a 60 FPS average. The good news is with the in-game settings maxed out, just a small adjustment would bring that number up to where we want it to be.

Temperature Test

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Coming in at 73c under load, the setup doesn't run too bad coming in at similar numbers to previous generation HD 7900 offerings.

Sound Test

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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While the cards do run a little warm, you can see that noise levels are fantastic on the setup.

Even with two cards, you can see that the MSI setup is sitting almost at the bottom of the graph.

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Looking above, you can see that the power draw numbers for the dual card setup is high.

What's really impressive, though, is the fact that the idle number sits at just 134 watt.

Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts

Hitting at $299.99 at the time of writing, the MSI R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC comes in at a really strong price point, sitting in line with the cheapest R9 280X offerings. The setup we're looking at today comes in at twice that price bringing us up to $600. Considering the GTX 780 3GB starts at $649.99 and the performance of this setup here today is stronger than the GTX 780 3GB in almost every situation, we see some good value from this setup.

With the aggressive pricing of the new R9 series and the generally strong performance we see from multi-card setups these days, you can see that this CrossFire setup really has value. At the same time we completely understand that going down the path of multi video cards isn't for everyone. For the most part we would also like to say that CrossFire isn't perfect, but you can see today the only game that caused issues in the past was Nexuiz and we can see today that this isn't a problem with some great performance gains being seen.

Moving away from the actual performance numbers, though, and looking at the performance of the MSI cooler, you can see it's strong. The Twin Frozr IV cooler has always been strong and you can see here today that while the hottest core is a little warmer at 73c, the noise levels of the card are impressive. Considering the performance of the setup here today, the fact that we're able to have such low noise levels is fantastic.

Fortunately the good news for us is that this isn't going to be the last R Series based CrossFire setup as we have more coming in the following weeks. If what we're seeing today, though, is anything to go by, performance should be strong, and value should also be impressive.

While we didn't test the performance of a single MSI R9 280X 3GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC here today, based on the performance of the Sapphire R9 280X 3GB TOXIC we tested the other day, we have an idea of how the model would perform. Saying that, it's of course going to be a little slower due to the overclock being not as high.

On the other hand, if you're happy to go down the multi video card path and you're looking for a setup that's going to come in cheaper than the GTX 780 3GB, this is a really nice option. Performance on its own is fantastic and the quality of the MSI version really is strong thanks to the Twin Frozr IV cooler that always impresses us.

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Last updated: Apr 7, 2020 at 12:32 pm CDT

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR -

Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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