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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

Card Specifications

 

AMD has built the new Radeon R9 Fury X around its new Fiji architecture, with AMD still on the same 28nm process that all of NVIDIA's current cards are made on. The Fury X has 4096 stream processors, 256 Texture Units, and 64 ROPs. We have 4GB of HBM spread out on a huge 4096-bit memory bus providing 512GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

 

The Fury X has an Engine Clock of up to 1050MHz, while its 4GB of HBM is clocked at 500MHz. The card is powered by two 8-pin PCIe power connectors, consuming up to 275W. We have support for FreeSync, Virtual Super Resolution and Frame Rate Targeting Control - which we're going to look at in a future article, as this is an excellent new feature that will save your card from pushing countless frames per second, and precious power.

 

 

Only 4GB of VRAM

 

Sure, the new Radeon R9 Fury X features that spiffy new High Bandwidth Memory, but with yields reportedly very low on the next-gen RAM, the Radeon R9 Fury X only features 4GB of it. If you remember a few months ago, NVIDIA had some troubles with the marketing of its GeForce GTX 970 and the 4GB of RAM that it included, where the '3.5GB of VRAM on GTX 970' troubles started.

 

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AMD's marketing was quicker than I've ever seen jumping on it, saying that their Radeon R9 290X actually had the 'full 4GB'. Now that the refreshed and rehashed R9 290X is here under the guise of the 390X, I'm quite disappointed that AMD's ultra flagship video card only features 4GB of RAM.

 

While 4GB of VRAM is enough for most games, AMD has painted itself into a corner here. The Radeon R9 390X features 8GB of GDDR5... while the twice-as-expensive, next-generation R9 Fury X only features 4GB, but of the special HBM. There is a good jump in memory bandwidth, but additional memory bandwidth doesn't just automatically equal increased performance, which we hope to show you a sneak peak at in this review, and some follow up articles on Fury X.

 

The point I'm making is: 4GB of HBM is not enough for a flagship card. Not in the second half of 2015, and not when this is the card that is meant to be swinging AMD around from losing double-digit GPU market share in the last eight months to NVIDIA and it's Maxwell-powered GTX 900 series of cards that just continue to sell units like mad.

 

At the unveiling event of the Fury X in Sydney, Australia, I personally asked AMD if it was an architectural limit of the Fiji (or GCN architecture) that was limiting the Fury X to 4GB of HBM, but before Richard Huddy could answer, he was cut off from finishing the answer. I think the yields on HBM are super low, as we exclusively reported not too long ago, and there are technological limits on HBM1 which only allow 4GB maximum.

 

HBM2 is coming in 2016, where we will see 8GB introduced, as well as the bandwidth to double from the maximum of 512GB/sec to around 1TB/sec (or 1024GB/sec). This, mixed with the shift to the 16nm process, is going to be one of the most exciting times for technology, ever. Mental note - prepare a new pair of pants for the first HBM2-based video cards.

 

 

Cooling Setup

 

Now this is where AMD has gone down a very different road when it comes to NVIDIA. NVIDIA's flagship video card, the GeForce GTX Titan X, features a normal reference air cooler from NVIDIA. But, the new AMD Radeon R9 Fury X uses a full liquid cooler, which cools nearly every part of the card. This isn't a first, as the Radeon R9 295X2 donned a closed loop cooling solution.

 

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The Radeon R9 Fury X and its radiator in full glory.

 

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The Fury X's cooling system keeps all of the essential parts of the card under water, with the ASIC, VRM, and DRAM all cooled with its included and very much built-in 120mm radiator. While this is an incredibly bulky cooler that I don't like, it does keep the card incredibly cool and quiet - with AMD reporting that it keeps the GPU at under 50C, and the noise from the fan itself at less than 32dBA.

 

I really would've preferred to have had AMD make a larger card that featured a standard cooler, like the much smaller R9 Nano does, but this is an enthusiast card.

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