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AMD Radeon R9 Fury X High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) Video Card Review

By: Anthony Garreffa | AMD Radeon GPU in Video Cards | Posted: Jun 24, 2015 2:23 pm
TweakTown Rating: 86%Manufacturer: AMD

This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X.

 

What's Hot

 

High Bandwidth Memory: This is the one of the most exciting technologies to ever be put on a video card, or any product, period. HBM is the future - plain and simple. It allows for smaller video cards, less power consumption and in the future some seriously high memory bandwidth that we should see topple 1TB/sec in 2016 with HBM2.

 

AMD's Industrial Design: The Fury X is AMD's best looking card to date; it is just hands down gorgeous. The soft touch, short video card and style is just great. AMD needs a good pat on the back here.

 

Super Small - Thanks To HBM: This is the shortest flagship video card we've ever seen. The R9 Nano will change this, but until then, people are going to be quite shocked at how powerful a tiny little card like the Fury X can be.

 

 

Impressive 4K Performance: This is where AMD needed to battle the hardest, and we're happy to say that the 4K performance was impressive. It is neck and neck with the GTX 980 Ti and Titan X in most of our benchmarks, with NVIDIA winning some, and losing some to the Fury X.

 

What's Not

 

Fiji Doesn't Really Bring Anything New to the Table: Where NVIDIA's Maxwell architecture really delivered some big changes, the Fiji architecture doesn't stand out. I've personally said to NVIDIA that people actually know 'what' Maxwell is, where most people don't refer to the Fury X as 'Fiji'. The Radeon R9 Fury X is still powered by the Graphics Core Next 1.2 architecture, but we're with the second update on the third iteration of GCN. It's not technically GCN 1.3, as I'm guessing AMD might be saving that for 2016 with the shrink to 16nm and the use of HBM2.

 

$649 Pricing: This is the one part of the Fury X strategy I don't think AMD had planned with the GTX 980 Ti in mind. At $649, it's good value for money, but not great value for money. At this price, you really have to weigh up your decisions, as the GTX 980 Ti can be had for the same price, without the need of the cumbersome radiator and water cooling nuisance.

 

Only 4GB of VRAM - WTF, AMD!: Really? Just 4GB of HBM? This isn't AMD's fault... but a limitation of HBM1. HBM2 will allow 8GB+ of VRAM, but for now AMD is stuck at 4GB. So their flagship video card has 4GB of VRAM, while their new refreshed 290X in the form of the 390X features 8GB of VRAM... yeah.

 

HDMI 1.4a, Not HDMI 2.0!: This might not sound like a lot, but it's a huge omission from a new iteration of the GCN architecture. HDMI 1.4a is limited to 4K at 30Hz, but HDMI 2.0 has support for 4K at 60Hz. It's not a big deal, but for some people who are buying big 4K TVs or HDMI-based monitors with 4K 60Hz support... this sucks.

 

Stock Water Cooling SUCKS: This could just be me, but I hate watercooled GPUs. The installation of the Fury X takes time, it requires that you have a large enough space to mount the radiator (which is quite thick). This can really play around with your configuration, especially in smaller cases. So where the benefits of a smaller card come in, they are quickly outweighed by a hefty-sized radiator.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

So there you have it: our review on the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X. Are you surprised? Shocked? Impressed? Disappointed? Excited? With this being the first flagship single GPU the company has released in over 18 months, I have to admit that I expected more. With the gigantic lead up to the Fury X, I was hoping for the Fury X to be a clear Titan X killer. What we do have is the Fury X being a card that competes against the GTX 980 Ti, which I think NVIDIA surprised AMD with when they released it. The GTX 980 Ti is a cut down Titan X that manages to equal the price of the Fury X, and battle with the new HBM-powered card at 4K.

 

amd-radeon-r9-fury-high-bandwidth-memory-hbm-video-card-review_10

 

But you know what? We're not done with Fury X... not in the slightest. We're going to follow up on this review with an avalanche of Fury X content, where we're going to do some serious GPU showdowns against the Hawaii-based R9 390X, 390X in CrossFire, 290X, 290X in CrossFire and that's just the AMD side of things.

 

We're going to see how the Fury X stands up against the GTX 980, GTX 980 SLI, GTX 980 Ti, GTX 980 Ti SLI, Titan X and of course, Titan X SLI. I plan to bring the world the absolute bleeding edge of GPU content, with the Fury X being the star of this show. The HBM-powered card is going to be the centerpiece of some interesting GPU battles, of which we're going to kick off on the weekend and continue into the weeks coming. 1920x1080, 2560x1440, 3440x1440, 3840x2160 and 11520x2160 are all going to be tested - with all of our video cards about to be thrashed, keep your eyes peeled here at TweakTown for the latest and greatest video card content on the planet.

 

It's almost too early to tell what the Fury X is going to do in the market. With low stock levels, AMD is going to have a hard time getting these into as many gaming PCs as they want. But, with the new Fury card around the corner on July 14 (or possibly earlier, according to our sources) this could be the card to wait for. The normal Fury will be a card that partners like SAPPHIRE, MSI and HIS can release - without the huge radiator. It will be an air-cooled card, that should be slightly slower than the Fury X at stock, but I'm interested to see what the AIBs can do with the overclocking and cooling solution.

 

For now, the Radeon R9 Fury X replaces the R9 295X2 in terms of the 'super-ultimate-OMG' enthusiast class video card from AMD, but you know what - the R9 295X2 isn't that far behind the Fury X, and that's really saying something for the Hawaii-based card from last year.

 

Should you buy a Fury X? Well, that's up to you. If you take away the performance side of the card, AMD has engineered the most impressive card it has ever made. A super-small, powerful card that is next to silent in your PC. It's a marvel to look at, but let's face it - when you're dumping down 649 clams for a flagship card, you want it to beat the rival card in the GTX 980 Ti by a decent margin, right? Especially considering the HBM that this card is packed with.

 

amd-radeon-r9-fury-high-bandwidth-memory-hbm-video-card-review_19

 

The Radeon R9 Fury X is a confusing card... as it seems like AMD needed HBM to one up NVIDIA. Why couldn't AMD build a performance card without the water cooling, and make it longer? I think enthusiasts would've preferred that, especially when looking at 2, 3, and 4-way CrossFire setups. An air-cooled Fury X would've been perfect. But a watercooled Fury X means that serious enthusiasts and multi-monitor gamers are really limited when it comes to multi-GPU with Fury X.

 

Standing on its own, the Fury X is an impressive card, it really is. But I don't think it's what I expected with all of this lead up and marketing from AMD. I expected something truly special from the use of High Bandwidth Memory, and I'm feeling quite disappointed to be honest. In games where memory bandwidth and VRAM are put to good use, the Fury X really excels, but other than that, there's one fact that needs to be highlighted.

 

AMD needed High Bandwidth Memory to even compete against NVIDIA and its continued use of GDDR5... so where will that leave us next year when both companies are on equal footing with the use of HBM2? If this is all AMD can manage with HBM1, and NVIDIA can continue to battle the Fury X with its GDDR5-based offerings, what will NVIDIA do to AMD when it moves over to not just HBM2, but the Pascal architecture and 16nm?

 

It places AMD in a hard position. The Radeon R9 390X is a rebrand, no matter what anyone says. The Fury X is an impressive card for sure, but the forced watercooler is something I do not like, and as a consumer (and someone with 10 years of IT retail experience selling custom PCs), this is something that will not sell well to the general consumer. It's a purely enthusiast orientated card, leaving the rest of the Fiji-based offerings to pick up the pieces. The next card we'll be testing is the Radeon R9 Fury, which we'll be getting very soon - and these cards, in my opinion, will be the exciting ones. Air coolers, and hopefully close to Fury X performance with a lower price.

 

In closing, the Fury X is a great card. AMD needed a great card to combat NVIDIA, but if the Fury X was released before the GTX 980 Ti and its $649 pricing, I think AMD could've clawed back some of that lost GPU market share, but the Fury X won't do that. At the end of the day, the best card to buy right now is still the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. A great card that beats the Fury X in most situations, with great custom cards from the likes of ZOTAC, EVGA, ASUS and everyone else.

 

The GTX 980 Ti has a normal air cooler, and not something that requires that you have space at the rear or side of your PC to install the radiator. This is the worst part of the Fury X... the fact that you need to use a massive radiator in your PC. If the Fury X was an air cooled card, I think I would've been happier with the Fury X, but here we are. Bring on the Radeon R9 Fury and Nano, AMD.

Product Summary Breakdown

Performance (overclocking, power)90%
Quality (build, design, cooling)90%
General Features (display outputs, etc)80%
Bundle, Packaging & Software90%
Value for Money80%
Overall TweakTown Rating86%

The Bottom Line: AMD is back in the game somewhat with the Radeon R9 Fury X, with HBM being a true highlight at 4K. But the appalling use of HDMI 1.4a and the radiator and watercooler really bring down something that could've truly been great.

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