AMD Radeon R9 Fury X Video Card Review

We review AMD's new Fiji GPU comprising the new AMD Radeon R9 Fury X video card with stacked chip technology High Bandwidth Memory. We take this video card through its paces, make comparisons and find out what it can do for us in real world gameplay. Is this $649 video card competitive? Is it truly geared for 4K gaming as AMD says?

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AMD Radeon R9 Fury X

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The AMD Radeon Fury X is at the top-end of the Fury series. The Fury X is supposed to be the fastest video card AMD produces in single-GPU format. There will be a dual-Fiji GPU video card out later this summer, but as far as single-GPU goes the Fury X should be the cream of the crop. The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X will retail for $649, matching the same MSRP as the GeForce GTX 980 Ti meaning these are direct competitors in terms of cost.

AMD's R9 Fury Design Goals

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AMD has made it poignantly clear that the AMD Radeon R9 Fury series is built for 4K gaming, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. In a recent discussion with AMD's Sr. Manager of Graphics PR on the merits of VRAM at 4K gaming the design goal was spelled out for us quite clearly, and we surely want to make that point known to you all. It was stated to us:

This card is built for 4K gaming, not 1440pآ….

It doesn't get any more clear than that folks, just like the AMD Radeon R9 390 series, the Fury series is built for 4K, not 1440p or 1080p even if those resolutions are the more common resolutions gamers are playing at right now.

This fact is backed up once again in the reviewers guide and other documentation as such:

We are proud to introduce the new AMD Radeonآ™ R9 Fury X graphics card ready to drive the current UltraHD 4K displays and next generation of virtual reality head mounted displays.

and

The Radeonآ™ R9 Fury X is the premiere graphics solution for 4K gamers, or gamers/system builders looking to get into 4K gaming.

Specifications

Why are we harping so much on AMDs design goals? For that, let's look at the specifications. The AMD Radeon Fury X does have a beefed up architecture and has more streaming processors and a lot more texture units.

The AMD Radeon Fury X has 4096 streaming processors, which is 1280 more than the R9 290X/390X. It however isn't equal to what the Radeon R9 295X2 has which is two full R9 290X GPUs equaling 5632 streaming processors. Unless the GPU is just that much faster we already we know we aren't looking at performance as fast as the AMD Radeon R9 295X2, the Fury X must sit somewhere between the 390X and 295X2.

AMD beefed up the texture units by a lot on the Fury X, up to 256 texture units versus 176 on the R9 290X/390X. This brings the texture fillrate up to a very high 268 GT/sec. However, while the stream processors and texture units were beefed up AMD left the ROPs alone.

The AMD Radeon R9 Fury X only has 64 ROPs, same as the R9 290X and 390X, meaning the pixel fillrate is the same as those GPUs. The GeForce GTX 980 Ti on the other hand has 96 ROPs and a much higher pixel fillrate. Why is pixel fillrate important? 4K demands many more pixels, and pixel fillrate makes a difference at resolutions like 4K.

HBM

The other major specification change with the AMD Radeon Fury series is HBM or High Bandwidth Memory. Instead of GDDR5 The AMD Radeon Fury series uses a new type of memory. This memory can be installed right alongside the GPU die on the same package, making for much better performance and a lot less space used. HBM has great potential, but the first generation of the technology is limited to 4GB of VRAM, but we may see this expanded later on.

AMD is using HBM on the Fury series, the memory bandwidth climbs to 512GB/sec, which is the most memory bandwidth on any video card today. However, the technology limits Fury and Fury X to only 4GB of capacity. VRAM capacity is important at 4K, with the general rule that more is merrier.

We are going to talk a lot more about this in the conclusion, but suffice it to say AMD is pushing the AMD Radeon Fury series for being a 4K video card, but it has half the VRAM that the less expensive Radeon R9 390X has which is also billed as a 4K video card. Both the $429 R9 390X 8GB video card and the $649 Fury X 4GB video card are "4K" cards according to AMD, and we want you to think about this throughout this evaluation.

Hardware

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To keep the Fury X well cooled, AMD has designed a closed loop liquid cooling system. This means the video card itself only needs to be 7.5" long, and with no fans.

The radiator and 120mm fan are built to take on more TDP than this video card delivers by default. By default the card is set at 275W TDP, but it has the capability to go up to 375W TDP when overclocking.

The radiator is built for a 500W TDP giving it plenty of headroom to keep the GPU cool during extreme overclocking. The Fury X requires two 8-pin power connectors, but in non-overclocking mode it won't really use all that power, the two 8-pin connectors are for when you take the card to its 375W TDP limits in overclocking.

As far as I/O goes, this video card makes a bold move in doing away with DVI ports. Instead you will find three DisplayPort connectors and one HDMI connector. The HDMI connection support is not version 2.0. AMD recommends and uses DisplayPort 1.2a for 4K 60Hz content. We have something to say about this in the conclusion.