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MSI Radeon R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming Overclocked Video Card Review

MSI Radeon R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming Overclocked Video Card Review

MSI doubles the memory on the new Radeon R9 280X to a massive 6GB! We see just how it goes today under our tests with our regular set of apps and games.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Fri, May 9 2014 10:05 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

Introduction of the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC

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VIEW GALLERY - 33 IMAGES

MSI has always done a good job of us impressing us with their line of video cards. They continue to have some of the best series on the market and really do cater for every kind of user with everything from extremely quiet cards to some of the best overclocking cards in the world thanks to their Lightning series.

Today, the card we're looking at is part of the popular Twin Frozr Gaming series. The Twin Frozr name has been around for as long as we can remember, and last year, we saw the company introduce the Gaming title into the name. With a new color scheme and a partnering with FNATIC, we have seen the new series offer some excellent motherboards and video cards since its inception.

Today, the particular model we're looking at is part of the popular R9 series. The R9 280X is a model that, like almost the whole AMD R series line up, has impressed us since launch. Having seen companies attack the model in many ways, we're looking forward to seeing what MSI brings to the table today with its Twin Frozr Gaming version.

The big stand out, though, on this particular version of the R9 280X is the fact that MSI has doubled the memory to a massive 6GB. It will be interesting to see if that does anything for performance.

Package - What comes inside the box

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Taking a look at the box, you can see we've got the normal Twin Frozr Gaming setup going on with a black and red color scheme and the dragon on the front. You can see the model and the series on the front of the box along with mention that the card is an OC Edition and carries with it the Twin Frozr IV cooler.

Turning the box over, you can see we've got a description of some of the main features, including an expansion on the Twin Frozr IV cooler and information on the Military Class 4 components, which includes Hi-C and Solid Capacitors.

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Moving inside the box, you can see we've got the normal Quick User Guide and driver CD. You can also see a leaflet on the Hybrid BIOS that is offered via the switch. It shows the benefits of using the Legacy or Hybrid BIOS. The latter isn't supported on all systems, though.

In the cable department, you can see a DVI to VGA connector, CrossFire bridge, mini DP to DisplayPort connector, and dual Molex to 6-Pin PCIe and 6-Pin PCIe to 8-Pin PCIe power connectors.

Video Card Details and Specifications

Close up with the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC

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Taking a look at the card, you can see the overall design isn't anything too out of the ordinary. We've seen the Twin Frozr IV cooler a number of times already, and you can see we've got two large fans sitting on top of a massive aluminum heat sink. Behind it, you can see the copper plate that goes over the GPU, and you can see a number of heat pipes that come out of it to help push the hot air away. While only aesthetic, you can also see the great looking black PCB, which is something we're always a fan of.

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Taking the time to move around the card, you can see that power comes in the form of a single 8-Pin and 6-Pin PCIe power connector. Here we can also see one of the heat pipes that comes out the core and makes it way down the end of the heat sink. Moving across the top of the card to the front, you can see we've got our two CrossFire connectors along with our dual BIOS switch, which gives us access to the Hybrid and Legacy BIOS.

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When it comes to the connectivity side of things, we've got a pretty solid setup going on with a Dual-Link DVI-I, HDMI 1.4a, and two Mini DisplayPort connectors to round things off. What we really like is the fact that MSI has included a Mini DP to DisplayPort connector in the bundle.

Specifications

As we mentioned at the start, the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is indeed an OC card, meaning it comes overclocked out of the box. Coming in at 1050MHz on the core, this is 50MHz up on the default 1000MHz clock seen on the R9 280X. As for the massive 6GB of GDDR5 that this particular card is sporting, it carries with it the standard 6000MHz QDR memory clock.

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Today, though, we're going to be overclocking the card, and looking above, you can see that the core has been pushed up to a strong 1200MHz. As for the 6GB of GDDR5, that's also been bumped up to a strong 7000MHz QDR. This is a strong overclock, and we're hoping for some strong performance moving forward.

Test System Setup & FPS Numbers Explained

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 bunch of cards in our graphs here today starting with the reference R9 280X 2GB. Moving up from that, we've got the R9 280 Dual-X from Sapphire, the R9 280X Double D Black Edition from XFX, and the reference R9 290 4GB from AMD.

As for the NVIDIA side of things, we've got the reference GTX 770 2GB to round off our collection of cards today.

The FPS Numbers Explained

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

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

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Starting off with 3DMark 11, we can see some excellent performance out of the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC. The strong overclock we achieved really helps push performance up by roughly 10 percent at both presets.

3DMark Fire Strike

Version and / or Patch Used: 1

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Fire Strike sees some excellent performance at both presets. Compared to the Double D edition of the R9 280X from XFX, you can see a strong performance gain from our MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC, which has managed a very strong overclock.

Benchmarks - Unigine Heaven & Phantasy Star Online 2

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 3

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Looking above, you can see that the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC performs very well under Heaven. You can see at both resolutions the MSI offering manages to sit just a little behind the more expensive R9 290 4GB.

Phantasy Star Online 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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PSO 2 has always benefited well from overclocking, and you can see that the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC manages a strong gain over the XFX Double D Edition.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2 & Just Cause 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Lost Planet 2 sees the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC perform very well. Compared to the XFX version, we see some excellent performance gains at the higher resolutions. The move from 70 FPS to 81 FPS at 2560 x 1600 is especially fantastic.

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Just Cause 2 continues the trend of strong performance from the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC. Looking above, you can see that the MSI offering manages to perform pretty much in line with the more expensive R9 290 4GB.

Benchmarks - F1 2012 & Metro Last Light

F1 2012

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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F1 2012 numbers across the board are strong with the 161 FPS limitation being hit at both 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. At the highest resolution, you can again see that we're only just a few FPS behind the more expensive R9 290 4GB.

Metro Last Light

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Metro Last Light sees some excellent performance out of the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC. Unlike the Double D 3GB Edition from XFX, you can see that our MSI offering is able to break the 60 FPS barrier at 1920 x 1200.

Benchmarks - Dirt Showdown & Nexuiz

Dirt Showdown

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Dirt ShowDown sees the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC perform slightly ahead of the XFX offering at all resolutions. That slight increase, though, is enough for the card to pretty much line up with the more expensive R9 290 4GB again.

Nexuiz

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking above, you can see that the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is the only other card outside of the R9 290 4GB here that is able to break the 60 FPS barrier at 1680 x 1050. While behind the R9 290 4GB at the lowest resolution, you can see we're ahead at 1920 x 1200 and in line with it at 2560 x 1600.

Benchmarks - Sniper Elite V2 & Sleeping Dogs

Sniper Elite V2

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

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Sniper Elite V2 numbers are great across the board. At the highest resolution, you can see a strong performance increase from the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC, which sees our card move out of the 60 FPS range and into the 70 FPS, giving us more breathing room, which is something that is always appreciated.

Sleeping Dogs

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Sleeping Dogs numbers are slightly ahead of the XFX Double D Black Edition at all resolutions. The gains aren't huge here, though. The main thing is that we've got playable FPS at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - Hitman Absolution & Tomb Raider

Hitman Absolution

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Hitman Absolution numbers across the board are extremely strong at all resolutions with playable numbers being seen. Comparing the two R9 280X offerings here, you can see that there's really no difference between them with the overclock and extra memory really doing little under this game.

Tomb Raider

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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Looking at Tomb Raider, you can see we've got playable FPS at both 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. Just like we saw under Hitman Absolution, though, you can see both our R9 280X cards perform almost identical at all resolutions.

Benchmarks - BioShock Infinite & Battlefield 4

BioShock Infinite

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

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BioShock Infinite, like Tomb Raider and Hitman Absolution, sees both R9 280X offerings perform very similarly to each other. As for playability, we've got solid numbers at both 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. It's only at 2560 x 1600 that we see our setups fall short of the 60 FPS number we need.

Battlefield 4

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Origin Update

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Looking at Battlefield 4, we can see that performance at all resolutions is strong with playable numbers being seen. Comparing the two R9 280X offerings, though, you can see little difference between the setups with the overclock and RAM not doing much here.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF Testing

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 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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Looking at Metro Last Light, you can see that the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is bringing itself a 10 percent increase over the XFX version of the card. Like all our other cards here, though, you can see we fall well and truly short of the FPS we need.

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The MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC sees a nice performance boost at both resolutions. The 2560 x 1600 performance, though, is the one that really interests us as we move from the 61 FPS average on the XFX card to a solid 68 FPS.

While both are over that 60 FPS number we're on the hunt for, the extra 7 FPS really gives us some extra breathing room, which is something that is always appreciated when just getting into the 60 FPS range.

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While the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC sees a slight performance boost over the XFX version, you can see that we fall short of that 60 FPS number we need at both resolutions.

Temperature & Sound Testing

Temperature Test

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

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Under load, the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC comes in at 75C. You can see this puts the card in the top half of the pack. Overall, though, the number isn't too bad considering the strong overclock we achieved on the card.

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 a little on the warm side, the noise levels on the card are fantastic. You can see we're sitting well into the bottom half of the pack. Considering the performance and the overclock, these numbers are really impressive.

Power Consumption Testing

Power Consumption Test

Using our PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01--or "Power Thingy" as it has quickly become 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 video cards installed. Keep in mind that 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 percent more. We test at the exact same stage every time, so tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum--only an 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 will result in a higher draw.

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Power consumption levels are pretty standard, coming in a little shy of 500 watts. For a setup like this, we'd recommend a solid 650-watt power supply as a minimum.

Pricing, Availability, and Final Thoughts

It really comes as no surprise to us--and most likely to you too--that MSI has put together a really solid card here. The biggest question with the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is what's the price difference when compared to the 3GB version of the card. Comparing the two MSI Twin Frozr Gaming OC cards only, you're talking about a price difference of about $50 to $60.

With no surprise, the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is one of the most expensive R9 280X cards on the market. With that said, however, MSI is one of the few companies, or only company, to offer a 6GB variant of this model. In the end, though, this is all good and well. The main questions we need to answer are whether or not the extra memory justifies the $50 price increase and should you consider it?

Performance of the card is actually really strong. You can see at times with the overclock we manage to line up with the R9 290 4GB offering. On that note, we know the price of an MSI R9 290 4GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC is roughly 10 percent higher. It feels like ultimately you'd be better off throwing the extra money towards the R9 290 4GB, especially considering that you can throw some overclocking into the mix on that card as well, pushing performance even further.

Of course, you have to take note that the jump from a 3GB R9 280X to a 4GB R9 290 is around $100. You might be able to stretch the budget out to a 6GB version of the R9 280X but not stretch it as far to go into the R9 290 range. Overall, though, we'd have to say that the performance improvements on the card and general quality of the card make for a worthwhile price increase. If you can afford it and you're gaming at a higher resolution or on a multi monitor setup, then we'd say go for it.

From the bundle side of things, it's pretty strong, and outside of the performance, another area that stands out is the connectivity. We like the inclusion of two Mini DP ports. We like even more that MSI has thought about this being not a standard connection for people and has chosen to include a mini DP to DisplayPort connector in the bundle.

As for the quality of the card, it's typical MSI, and that's only a good thing. A 6GB card isn't going to be for everyone. If you're able to spend a bit more money and game at a higher resolution, we'd say take the jump on this 6GB card. Keep an eye out for an article comparing this card and our 3GB one on our new 4K monitor in the coming weeks. It will be extremely interesting to see what the extra memory does then.

PRICING: You can find the MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC Video Card for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC Video Card retails for $499.27 at Amazon.

Canada: The MSI R9 280X 6GB Twin Frozr Gaming OC Video Card retails for CDN$557.88 at Amazon Canada.

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PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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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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