GeForce GTX 970 & Radeon R9 390: Are They Nonetheless Sport?

Earlier this year, we decided to wipe the venerable GTX 980 Ti along with the Radeon R9 Fury X to see how they got modern titles and what, if anything, has changed since we last checked out. Although I've only compared about six games for this test, we've seen competition results between the GTX 980 Ti and Fury X. Since then we have had many requests to create a similar article comparing the Radeon R9 390 and the GeForce GTX 970, which is exactly what we are doing.

I have 22 games in a row, most of which are very new tiles and all have been tested at 1080p and 1440p. For comparison, we not only have the GTX 970, but also the GTX 1070, 1060, 1050 Ti, RX 480 and RX 470, so that we can find out exactly where the R9 390 fits into today's landscape.

For testing, I took my old HIS Radeon R9 390 IceQ X2 OC graphics card, compared it in the factory configuration and then again with a custom overclocking. The card has a core clock rate of 1020 MHz as standard, which corresponds to an insignificant increase of 2% compared to the AMD reference clock frequency. I was able to manually increase the core frequency to 1120 MHz, which corresponds to another 10% overclocking. By default, the GDDR5 memory is clocked at 1500 MHz, and for our custom overclocking I increased it to 6.800 Gbps to 1700 MHz.

Finally, all tests were performed using our Intel Core i7-7700K test system, which was overclocked to 4.9 GHz with 32 GB DDR4-3000 memory.

Test system specifications and memory

The R9 390 behaves like a champion in Far Cry Primal, leaves the RX 480 behind and beats the GTX 970 comfortably. Even taking overclocking into account, the R9 390 offers just enough headroom to be one step ahead of the overclocked GTX 970.

At 1440p, the R9 390 remains very strong at 48 fps, while the overclocked GTX 970 is eliminated at only 43 fps. It seems that the R9 390's larger memory buffer plays to its advantage here that both cards played much better at 1080p.

The division is a visually challenging game with the highest quality preset, but still the 390 does very well and averaged 58 fps at 1080p after overclocking. This made it a little faster than the GTX 970 for a good measure. Starting at 1440p, players should slightly reduce the quality setting, since 43 fps on average with drops below 30 fps are not ideal. The same applies to GTX 970 owners.

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