This time, we tested two mainstream video cards: the Radeon R9 380 and the GeForce GTX 960, both with 4 GiB. Which one is the faster? Let’s find out!
Recently, we published a comparison between two entry-level video cards: the Radeon R7 360 and the GeForce GTX 750 Ti. We have also compared video cards from the high-end segment, like the Radeon Fury X and the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Now, we have tested two intermediate video cards with GPUs that are direct competitors: the Radeon R9 380 from AMD and the GeForce GTX 960 from NVIDIA.
The cards we tested are the HIS IceQ X2 OC 4 GB Radeon R9 380 and the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960, also with 4 GiB. Keep in mind that both video cards are also available in 2 GiB versions, which can show a little different performances, compared to the models we used.
The Radeon R9 380 chip brings 1,792 processing cores, working at 970 MHz on the reference model, but the HIS Radeon R9 380 we tested comes 2% overclocked, running at 990 MHz. The analyzed card comes with 4 GiB of GDDR5 VRAM, with 5.7 GHz clock (3.6% overclock when compared to the 5.5 GHz of the AMD reference card), resulting in a 182.4 GiB/s bandwidth, with 256 bit bus.
On the other hand, the GeForce GTX 960 reference model has 1,024 processing cores running at 1,178 maximum clock, but the Gigabyte model we used in this test has a 10.7% overclocking (on the “Gaming” mode, there is also an “OC” mode that raises the clocks rates a little more) and runs at 1,304 MHz maximum clock. The memory uses the same nominal clock of the standard model, 7 GHz, reaching a 112.2 GiB/s bandwidth with 128 bit bus.
Please keep in mind that the obtained results are valid for the tested cards only, and other cards based on the same chips but with different clock rates can perform differently.
Just for curiosity, we also included in our comparison a GeForce GTX 950 from Gigabyte, a Radeon R7 360, and a GeForce GTX 750 Ti, so you can have an idea how fast the mainstream video cards are compared to entry-level ones. Remember, however, that the direct competitors we are comparing are the Radeon R9 380 and the GeForce GTX 960.
In the table below, we compare the main specs from the video cards we included in this review. Prices were researched at Newegg.com for this article.

Video card

Core clock

Turbo clock

Effective memory clock

Memory bus

Memory bandwidth

Memory

Processing cores

TDP

DirectX

Price

Radeon R9 380

990 MHz


5.7 GHz

256 bits

182.4 GB/s

4 GiB GDDR5

1,792

190 W

12

USD 190

GeForce GTX 960

1,241 MHz

1,304 MHz

7.01 GHz

128 bits

112.2 GB/s

4 GiB GDDR5

1,024

120 W

12.1

USD 178

GeForce GTX 950

1,102 MHz

1,279 MHz

6.6 GHz

128 bit

105.6 GB/s

2 GiB GDDR5

768

90 W

12.1

USD 135

GeForce GTX 750 Ti

1,020 MHz

1,085 MHz

5.4 GHz

128 bit

86.4 GB/s

2 GiB GDDR5

640

60 W

11.2

USD 95

Radeon R7 360

1,070 MHz

1,070 MHz

6.5 GHz

128 bit

104.0 GB/s

2 GiB GDDR5

768

100 W

12

USD 95

Now let’s take a closer look to the tested video cards.
[nextpage title=”The Radeon R9 380″]
In Figure 1 you can see the HIS R9 380 IceQ X2 OC 4GB video card (the actual card we tested is an OEM sample, so it hasn’t the stickers at the cooler.) It is a dual slot video card with a twin 90 mm fan cooler, and it is 10.6 inches (270 mm) long.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 1: the Radeon R9 380 from HIS

Figure 2 shows the video connectors of the HID Radeon R9 380. It has one DVI-D, one DVI-I, one HDMI (version not informed), and one DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. The card supports up to six video monitors (using a DisplayPort hub).

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 2: video connectors

In Figure 3 you see the top of the card. It uses two six-pin PCI Express power connectors.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 3: top view of the Radeon R9 380

Figure 4 unveils the solder side of the Radeon R9 380. There are no memory chips at this side.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 4: solder side

Figure 5 shows the Radeon R9 380 with its main cooler removed. It is a bit cooler with copper base, five heatpipes (three 6-mm and two 8-mm) and two 90 mm fans. Besides the main cooler, there is also a heatstink on the voltage regulator transistors. The memory chips do not touch the cooler.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 5: the Radeon R9 380 with its cooler removed

In Figure 6 you see the R9 380 with the voltage regulator heatsink removed. Notice that there are eight memory chips, and the voltage regulator has five phases. At the center, the “Tonga” chip, which is manufactured under 28 nm technology.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 6: Radeon R9 380 without the heatsinks

Figure 7 shows one of the memory chips of the Radeon R9 380. It is a SKhynix H5GC4H24AJR-T2C chip, with 4 Gib (512 MiB) capacity and 5.0 GHz maximum clock, which means the memory is already overclocked at this video card.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 7: memory chip

[nextpage title=”The GeForce GTX 960″]
In Figure 8 you see the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960 video card, model GV-N960G1 GAMING-4GD. It uses two slots, has a cooler with three 90 mm fans, and is 11.7 inches (298 mm) long.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 8: the  Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960 (GV-N960G1 GAMING-4GD)

Figure 9 unveils the video connectors of the Gigabyte GeForce GTX 960. It has one DVI-D, one DVI-I, one HDMI (version not informed), and three DisplayPort outputs. The card supports up to four simultaneous video monitors.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 9: video connectors

In Figure 10 you see the top of the card. It uses two PCI Express power connectors, one six pin and one eight pin.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 10: top view

Figure 11 shows the solder side of the G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960, which is covered by a metal backplate.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 11: solder side

Figure 12 shows the solder side of the card with the backplate removed, revealing four memory chips.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 12: solder side without the backplate

Figure 13 shows the GeForce GTX 960 with its cooler removed. The cooler has three segments, using four heatpipes, and also cools the voltage regulator circuit and two of the four memory chips of the component side.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 13: cooler removed

In Figure 14 you see the five-phase voltage regulator circuit, the GM206 chip, and the memory chips.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 14: component side

Figure 15 shows one of the eight memory chips present on the GeForce GTX 960. It is a  Samsung K4G41325FC-HC28 chip, with 4 Gib (512 MiB) capacity and 7.0 GHz maximum clock. Notice that the memory is working at its maximum nominal clock rate, so there is no room for overclocking it inside its limit.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960Figure 15: memory chip

[nextpage title=”How We Tested”]
During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between the tests, the only variable component was the video card being tested.
Hardware Configuration

  • CPU: Athlon X4 880K running at 4.4 GHz
  • Motherboard: ASRock FM2A88X Extreme 6+
  • CPU Cooler: stock
  • Memory: 16 GiB DDR3-2133, four G.Skill Ripjaws Z F3-17000CL9Q-16GBZH 4 GiB memory modules configured at 2,133 MHz dual channel
  • Boot drive: Kingston HyperX Savage 480 GB
  • Video Monitor: Philips 236VL
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX500M

Operating System Configuration

  • Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • NTFS
  • Desktop video resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz

Driver Versions

  • AMD driver version: 16.5.2.1
  • NVIDIA driver version: 358.91

Software Used

Error Margin
We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.
[nextpage title=”3DMark”]

3DMark is a program with a set of several 3D benchmarks. Fire Strike benchmark measures DirectX 11 performance and is targeted to high-end gaming computers, while Sky Diver also measures DirectX 11 performance being aimed at average computers. The Cloud Gate benchmark measures DirectX 10 performance.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On Fire Strike, the Radeon R9 380 was 5% faster than the GeForce GTX 960.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On the Sky Diver benchmark, the Radeon R9 380 performed the same way the GeForce GTX 960.
Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On Cloud Gate, the Radeon R9 380 also had the same performance of the GeForce GTX 960.

[nextpage title=”Gaming Performance (part 1)”]

Battlefield 4

Battlefield 4 is one of the most popular games of the Battlefield franchise, being released in 2013. It is based on the Frostbite 3 engine, which is DirectX 11. In order to measure performance using this game, we walked our way through the first mission, measuring the number of frames per second (fps) three times using FRAPS. We ran this game at Full HD, setting overall image quality at “medium.”
The results below are expressed in fps and they are the mean between the three collected results.
Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On Battlefield 4, the Radeon R9 380 and the GeForce GTX 960 performed the same way.

Dirt Rally

Dirt Rally is an off-road racing game released in April 2015, using Ego engine. To measure performance using this game, we ran the performance test included in the game, in Full HD resolution and image quality configured as “medium” and MSAA off.
The results below are expressed in fps.
Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

In this game, the GeForce GTX 960 was 15% faster than the Radeon R9 380.

Dying Light

Dying Light is an open-world horror game launched in January 2015, using the Chrome Engine 6. We tested the performance at this game with all quality options as “high” and Full HD resolution, measuring three times the frame rate using FRAPS.
The results below are expressed in fps and they are the mean between the three collected results.
Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960
On Dying Light the GeForce GTX 960 was 6% faster than the Radeon R9 380.

Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto V, or simply GTA V, is a open-world action game released for PCs in April of 2015 and uses the RAGE engine. In order to measure the performance on this game, we ran the performance test of the game (the plane portion), measuring the frame rate with FRAPS. We ran GTA V at Full HD, with image quality set as “high” and MSAA as 2x.

The results below are expressed in frames per second.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On GTA V, the GeForce GTX 960 was 23% faster than the Radeon R9 380.

Mad Max

Mad Max is an open-world action game launched in September of 2015, using the Avalanche engine. In order to measure the performance using this game, we ran its intro, measuring the framerate with FRAPS three times. We ran the game at Full HD, with image quality set as “normal”.

The results below are expressed in fps and they are the mean between the three collected results.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

On Mad Max, the Radeon R9 380 and the GeForce GTX 960 had similar performances.

Rise of the Tomb Rider

Rise of the Tomb Rider is an adventure/action game launched in January of 2016, based on Foundation engine. In order to measure the performance using this game, we ran the benchmark included on it, using Full HD resolution and graphics quality “medium”.
The results below are expressed in frames per second.
Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960
On Rise of the Tomb Rider, GeForce GTX 960 was 13% faster than the Radeon R9 380.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an open-world RPG released in May of 2015 and based on the REDengine 3 engine. In order to measure the performance on this game, we walked around at the first scene of the game, measuring the frame rate with FRAPS three times. We ran the game at Full HD with image quality set to “medium.”

The results below are expressed in fps and they are the mean between the three collected results.

Radeon R9 380 vs. GeForce GTX 960

In this game, the Radeon R9 380 was 5% faster than the GeForce GTX 960.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
When we directly compared the Radeon R9 380 from HIS and the Gigabyte G1 Gaming GeForce GTX 960, both with 4 GiB memory, we can say they are video cards with similar performances, since each one was a little faster in some games, and a little slower in other ones.
On the other hand, it is necessary to say the GeForce GTX 960 we tested is a model with a reasonable overclocking, which means that if we compare other Radeon R9 380 (some models come with a higher overclock rate than the 2% of the tested model) with a GeForce GTX 960 with clock rates closer to the standard, it is possible the Radeon R9 380 performs faster on all games. Nowadays, on the video card market, almost every model has a little factory overclocking over the reference model, so it is impossible to generalize the results for any video card that uses the same GPU.
We concluded that both video cards are great models. Both of them allow for an excellent gaming experience in Full HD, with medium or high image quality and high framerate. Only if you have a 1440p or a 4K display, will you really need more firepower than these cards offer.