Finally, AMD has released a truly new graphics card. But how does it fare against the competition?
Last week began the launch of AMD’s newest line of graphics cards, the Radeon 300 series. For the most part, those cards were a refresh of the 200 series that came before it, but with some added clock speeds and faster video RAM. While most of those cards are fine and make our list of recommended components, there was nothing particularly thrilling about them.
Today, however, AMD has released the R9 Fury X, a GPU made with technology we have not yet seen. It’s launching at $650 and taking aim at NVIDIA’s new $650 GTX 980 Ti. The first round of benchmark reviews are in (linked below), and we have taken a very close look at them.
Before we weigh the good and bad, let’s establish some background:
The R9 Fury X is a new, different type of card. Most notably, it uses high-bandwidth memory (HBM), a new type of high-performance video RAM expected to be better than the normal GDDR5. The Fury X also uses a closed-loop water cooling system, as opposed to the fan cooling on the upcoming R9 Fury (non-X) set to launch in July. We’ve seen a closed-loop cooling system in an AMD card previously with the R9 295X2, but that card also came with a wallet-and-soul-crushing launch price of $1500. By comparison, the Fury X’s HBM VRAM allows the card to be very small, much shorter than the R9 295X2, and theoretically better performing.
Given the background, we had hoped that AMD would come through with a total victory with the Fury X, but the results are somewhat mixed.
- This is an extremely well-designed reference card. It’s AMD’s best single GPU card to date.
- The card maintains spectacular temperatures, heavily praised by nearly every reviewer. It averages 50°C with normal gaming, and only goes up to ~60°C under heavy loads.
- Good temperatures come from not only the liquid cooling, but also great power management, where AMD has caught up to Nvidia. This is an efficient card.
- Quiet fans
- Small form factor
- Competes well with the 980 Ti at 4K
- The overall performance is slightly below the 980 Ti
- Multiple reviewers report a “pump whine” coming from the card (though AMD is aware of the problem and will reportedly have it fixed for consumer models)
- The card itself is compact, but it has an extra water-cooling unit attached to it, and that needs extra space in your PC case
- Despite AMD’s marketing, this card is not capable of “extreme 4K performance”
- Limited overclocking potential
- No HDMI 2.0. There are 3 DisplayPorts.
- “Only” 4GB of VRAM. The benchmarks show that this is not much of a factor at 1440p, and the card is not really 4K gaming ready, where 4GB of VRAM would be an issue.
The takeaway is that if you are playing at 4K resolution, then this card is on par with the 980 Ti for the same price, but with a smaller form factor and lower temps. Unfortunately, 4K gaming is still not optimal with this card (or the 980 Ti), unless you’re OK with averaging 30-40 FPS on newer titles.
Let’s take a look at some game benchmarks from TechPowerUp to see what we mean:
As we can see, AMD new card performs excellently at 1440p, but is not as great at 4K. The story is similar if you check the same benches for the performance of the 980 Ti. We are still waiting for a single-GPU solution that can play games at 4K with “extreme performance”.
On 1440p or 1080p, the performance slightly trails the 980 Ti, but it is not a huge gap. So, AMD’s price of $650 is acceptable, but not game changing, and its claim of “extreme 4K performance” is not exactly accurate.
But at least the card is competitive. Updated drivers may also help push performance up a bit, but drivers can only do so much. And while the new HBM VRAM is very cool, it does not result in huge magic performance gains.
In the end, we at Logical Increments agree with the conclusion reached by most reviewers: The R9 Fury X does not kill the competition, but it is respectable on its own. We will be adding the Fury X as an alternative recommendation to the GTX 980 Ti in the countries where it’s available for the same price.
AMD has been absent from the top end of the graphics charts for a while, and it returns to share the throne instead of stealing the crown. Welcome back, AMD!
Benchmarks and reviews: