AMD R9 Fury X Review
Wow. There is life in the old dog yet.
AMD had spent so long languishing behind nVidia that people were starting to speculate about their demise. The HD5870 was probably the last card that was a genuine challenger. The R9 290X got close but the Ti variant of the 780 and then the GTX980 spread the gap. It was going to take something special to put the two big manufacturers neck and neck again and AMD have pulled it out of the bag. By going with High Bandwidth Memory, allying that to an AIO cooling solution and really pushing some big Stream Processor numbers into their GCN GPU, the R9 Fury X is just about a match for the GTX980Ti. If you'd have suggested that a year ago we'd have had some serious doubts.
There has been a lot of speculation about how near to the Titan X the Fury X gets. Much has been said about AMDs relative silence on the subject. That stupid assumption that if they aren't shouting about it from the rooftops that it doesn't get close. Sure it doesn't always match up to the Titan X, but equally it's never disgraced no matter what we threw at it. It isn't even aiming at that card anyway. Given how much of a surprise the GTX980Ti was when it released and the lengthy development time for any graphics card we'd assume that it was intended to go up against the GTX980, and if that is the case then mission completed with honours. Against the GTX980Ti it's, if anything, even more impressive. Both at stock the results are seriously close, yet the R9 Fury X costs less. There is almost nothing not to like. If you are hoping this is an overclocking beast voltage options are locked out, you can tweak the 'max clock' and power target but we didnt get anywhere with ours. Seeing as this will be a reference design only we dont think the vendors will get the chance to play with bios tweaks etc so it may well be a card to fit and forget and not one for the tweakers (going by how ours responded).
This is also the first iteration of the High Bandwidth Memory. Imagine how beneficial it will be when they've had time to refine the idea and perhaps bring even higher speeds to the table. If it matches full speed GDDR5 at only 500MHz then how blistering would it be at 1GHz or more?! Okay we can't review things based upon theoretical future performance, but it's a massive step in the right direction and we're hugely impressed.
Usability is a massive leap forward from reference Radeons of old. AMD have finally given up on their attempts to produced a combined GPU/George Foreman Grill and it's all the better for it. Although in our most extreme testing we saw 63°C (still a low amount) in the majority of games it was around, or below, the 50°C mark. Quiet and cool?! Two things that a Radeon hasn't been for a long time. Add that to the surprisingly good looks and we think it's a winning package. A couple of little elements that we particularly like, and show AMDs attention to detail, is the "current GPU power" lighting is a row of LEDs above the power inputs rather than a wholesale change to the logo, and this can be disabled entirely. Secondly the faceplate section of the shroud is only held on with four screws, so grab your Dremel or 3D printer if youre posh and get customising.
When it comes to the size of the card AMD have their sights firmly focused on small form factor builds including maybe having a power house in the front room, sadly its not quite as clear cut as that. To allow it to be fitted into a full sized system the hose length is 48cm and feels long even in a huge case. So if it feels long in a large case its going to look very messy when fitted in something small and compact. Then there is the flip side of this in that all of us with big tall fire breathing gaming rigs in our full tower cases are likely to look at this and thing it looks a little..... small. We cant help but think that the small card moniker should have been left to the upcoming 'Fury Nano' and the flagship 'X' should have been a full sized PCB. Its almost like they got so focused on showing off the possibilities of shrinking the PCB size with HBM that they have not thought about anything other than that. It all just feels a little confused and is trying to please too many people but in the end it doesn't really master any of them.
We're delighted to award the R9 Fury X our OC3D Gold and Innovation Award. It's good to have you back, AMD.