Introduction & Testing Details
This is something I've been wanting to do since AMD unveiled the Radeon R9 Fury X all those months ago now, but trying to get four of these cards isn't the easiest thing to do. Getting two of them for a couple of weeks of testing was easy enough, but now we have had four Fury X cards for a week now, throwing them through some rigorous testing.
It's still early days in the life of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), where we haven't quite seen the performance benefits of HBM. We have definitely enjoyed having smaller enthusiast video cards in all of the Fiji-powered cards, the R9 Nano, R9 Fury, and R9 Fury X. The R9 Nano in particular is an amazing achievement for AMD - price and issues aside.
But the Fury X... oh the Fury X. Team Red fans salivate over the HBM-powered Radeon R9 Fury X. It is the fastest card that AMD has on its roster, apart from the dual-GPU Radeon R9 295X2. But the card is in shorter supply in some markets, and the performance isn't perfect for how much AMD praised it pre-release.
Well, it has been a few months now and we have the new Catalyst 15.7.1 drivers to test out - so we're going to be looking at the scaling of the Fury X in single card, 2-way, 3-way, and 4-way CrossFire. We have some more NVIDIA cards on the way, so once they get here we will take a look at the performance between four Fury X cards, versus four Titan X cards in a true multi-GPU battle.
I've played Battlefield 4 on a 64-player server to provide some real-world performance numbers. I've found this is one of the best ways to provide the most realistic performance numbers, as it involves actual gameplay in a large server that really strains most setups.
For now, I'm going to be using the same suite of benchmarks I've been using on my Tweakipedia articles, which uses a mix of synthetic benchmarks with Futuremark's 3DMark and Unigine Heaven. After that, we have a bunch of titles with built-in benchmarks (which does not represent actual in-game performance) but they are repeatable for you at home to gauge the performance of your PC or GPU.
Over time, I will be adding in new benchmarks and a new section that will concentrate solely on real-time gaming benchmarks. This will take more time per review, as I'll have to invest time into actually physically playing the games, but it'll be worth it in the long run. For now, let's get right into the synthetic benchmarks and see how this video card performs.
Battlefield 4 Testing
This is one game that we did differently, as it does not feature a built-in benchmarking feature. When it comes to Battlefield 4, there are countless ways you can benchmark it. Some find a spot in the single player campaign which is easily repeatable, and use that. For our testing, we've chosen to use a 64-player online multiplayer server for real-time performance statistics.
We joined a 64-player map and played for five minutes using FRAPS, pulling our minimum/average and maximum FPS. We did this for each test, we run the game for 5 minutes at 1080p/1440p and 4K. We are using a custom Ultra preset (disabling AA). It's time consuming, but it gives us a perfect look into true real-world performance.
Test System Configuration
We have another new start for VGA benchmarking adventures, where not only are we adding in 3440x1440 results, but we've also shifted to a high-end Core i7-5960X to remove any potential CPU bottlenecks. Corsair sent us over their kick-ass AX1500i PSU, which provides 1500W of power for our 3- and 4-way GPU testing that we have coming very soon.
Anthony's Video Card Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Rampage V Extreme - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- CPU: Intel Core i7 5960X - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Cooler: Corsair H110 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Memory: Kingston 16GB (4x4GB) HyperX Predator DDR4 3000MHz - Buy from Amazon
- Storage #1: SanDisk Extreme II 240GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage #2: Intel 730 Series 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Lian Li PC-T80 Open-Air - Buy from Amazon
- Power Supply: Corsair AX1500i - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit - Buy from Amazon
- Drivers: NVIDIA GeForce 355.65 and AMD Catalyst 15.7.1
Benchmarks - Synthetic @ 4K
Heaven - 4K
Heaven is an intensive GPU benchmark that really pushes your silicon to its limits. It's another favorite of ours as it has some great scaling for multi-GPU testing, and it's great for getting your GPU to 100% for power and noise testing.
Heaven - 4K w/8x AA
I ran the Heaven benchmark twice at 4K, once with no anti-aliasing and then another run with 8x anti-aliasing enabled. I did this because we're running $2600 worth of video cards, and I want to stress them out as much as possible in at least one of the tests.
Starting off with the Heaven results at 4K without AA enabled, the scaling between 1, 2, 3 and 4 GPUs is actually quite good. The Fury X on its own is capable of 27FPS, but we see an 89% improvement from adding a second GPU. We have another 43% performance by adding in the third Fury X, while another 24% performance is gained from the fourth Fury X.
The same performance and scaling is apparent in the 4K w/8x AA run of Heaven, with 20FPS on the single Fury X and 39FPS with the 2-way CrossFire representing a 95% increase in performance. Adding in the third Fury X results in an additional 38% performance, while 4-way CrossFire adds another 33%.
Benchmarks - 4K
Battlefield 4 @ 4K
Battlefield 4 makes great use of DICE's incredible Frostbite 3 engine, with some great dynamic destructible environments in both the single-player and multiplayer sides of the game. The same engine has been deployed into many other games made by publisher EA, such as the new Need for Speed, and Mirror's Edge Catalyst.
You can buy Battlefield 4 at Amazon.
GRID Autosport is powered by Codemasters' own in-house 'EGO 3.0' engine, and while it was released last year, it is still one of the best looking driving games on the market. This is in the face of Forza Motorsport 6, Project CARS, and other driving games. While it looks great, it also runs beautifully even on modest hardware.
Metro: Last Light
We recently changed over to Metro: Last Light Redux, with developer 4A Games making the Redux version of Metro: Last Light the 'definitive' version of the game. Redux had a fresh coat of paint on the already impressive 4A Engine, and it really pushes our GPUs to their limits.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is one of the most graphically intensive games we test, with Monolith using their own Lithtech engine to power the game. When cranked up to maximum detail, it will chew through your GPU and its VRAM like it's nothing.
Thief has been around for quite a while now, with the latest version of the first-person stealth game powered by Epic Games' older Unreal Engine 3. While it's old, it has some great multi-GPU scaling that we use to test out our various GPU setups.
You can buy Thief at Amazon.
Tomb Raider is still such a gorgeous game, with developer Crystal Dynamics using their own 'Foundation' engine to build Lara Croft into the new world. One of the best parts about Tomb Raider is the absolutely stellar multi-GPU scaling, so this is an important test to see how well our NVIDIA GeForce SLI and AMD Radeon CrossFire setups scale.
You can buy Tomb Raider at Amazon.
Irrational Games built BioShock Infinite on a heavily modified version of Unreal Engine 3, putting it on the same playing field as Thief. It's still a great game to test on our various video cards, but this is one of the games we will soon be replacing as we get into the end of the year.
You can buy BioShock Infinite at Amazon.
You can find our performance summary of all of our gaming tests later in the review.
Performance Summary & Power Consumption
Performance at 4K
Battlefield 4: We start off our 4-way Fury X journey with Battlefield 4, where we have a stable 60FPS with a single card. We have some great scaling with 2-way CrossFire, with an additional 75% performance. But, the third and fourth Fury X cards do absolutely nothing to our frame rates.
GRID: Autosport: This is another game that I knew wouldn't scale well on 4-way GPUs, with a single Fury X managing 83FPS. Adding in a second Fiji-powered Fury X and we see 117FPS, providing us with scaling of 41%. But the third and fourth Fury X cards do nothing to the frame rate, adding just 1FPS to the average FPS bringing us up to 118FPS.
Metro: Last Light Redux: I actually expected more performance here, but moving from a single GPU to dual GPUs provides a large 83% increase in performance, while we only have another 3FPS from another Fury X, and a further 3FPS when adding in the fourth Fury X.
Shadow of Mordor: This is a game that I knew we would see better CrossFire scaling, kicking things off with 45FPS average on a single Fury X. Another Fury X provides 81FPS average, where we have 80% scaling. The third Fury X adds another 33% performance, while the fourth Fury X boosts us up by another 12%.
Thief: Thief is usually a game where we see great multi-GPU scaling, but anything above two GPUs is unused. Instead, we see a huge increase in the minimum FPS, where on the single and dual-GPU setups we have 7FPS compared to 23FPS minimum and 34FPS minimum on the 3-way and 4-way setups, respectively.
Tomb Raider: Tomb Raider has nearly perfect multi-GPU scaling, where we have 62FPS on a single Fury X and 119FPS on the CrossFire setup, showing us 92% scaling. The third Fury X adds another 50% performance, while the fourth Fury X adds another 29%. This is the best example of the 4-way Fury X cards yet.
BioShock Infinite: The single Fury X performed well, with 52FPS in BioShock Infinite, with 71% scaling for the second card. Adding in the third Fury X had us bumping up performance numbers by 19%, while the fourth Fury X actually resulted in less performance at 103FPS average.
A single R9 Fury X uses around 350W of power, which is not too bad at all, but as soon as you throw another card into the mix, the power consumption continues to climb. 3-way and 4-way GPU systems are always power hungry, with the 4-way R9 Fury X setup being no exception.
As you can see, the single R9 Fury X uses 360W, while two use 560W, three cranks it up to 800W, while 4-way R9 Fury X uses 1000W. During our testing, we found that Tomb Raider was quite good at 4-way scaling, with it using up to 1260-1300W of power. An insane number by any standard.
Is Four Always Better Than One?
No. It's quite a simple answer; 4-way GPUs doesn't always offer a great experience. This isn't limited to AMD either, with 4-way SLI systems performing just as badly. We will be doing some 4-way Titan X and 4-way GTX 980 Ti in the near future, where we will be able to compare performance between the best from AMD, and the best from NVIDIA in one massive, hardware showdown.
For now, 4-way GPUs sucks balls. The performance benefits from a single Fury X to 2-way CrossFire are great, and in all of our games, the performance is much better. You're looking at around an average of 70-80% performance gains on a 2-way setup, which is worth the money.
But the performance gains fall off of a cliff in most of our games, with around 30% gain for spending another $649. The fourth GPU just sits there using power, as well as costing yet another $649. If you're benchmarking all of the time, then 4-way GPUs are always great. If you're only playing Tomb Raider, then you might want to look at 4-way GPUs, but in reality we know that's not going to happen much of the time.
What would I recommend? Well, we're looking at 4K gaming, so let's start there. A single Fury X provides between 35-60FPS average in our games. A single card is not enough to enjoy 60FPS minimum, which is where a second Fury X steps in. Fury X in 2-way CrossFire is the best price to performance, as you're going to enjoy 60FPS+ in virtually any game on the market at its highest settings.
As it stands, if you want to game at 4K and you've got the money to splurge out on 4-way Fury X cards; don't. Grab yourself two of them and use them in CrossFire, and you'll have 4K 60FPS+ gaming enjoyment and you would've saved $1300 in the process.
In the future, we should see much better multi-GPU scaling from our games thanks to Windows 10 being here, which includes DirectX 12. Game developers need to start getting elbow deep in those tens of millions of lines of code, and optimizing it for multi-GPUs. Secondly, VR is going to need serious GPU horsepower. VR gaming is aiming for 1080p 90FPS, so we're going to need at least a Fury X for that. 2560x1440 @ 90FPS is going to require the same amount of GPU horsepower that 4K 60FPS does, if not a bit more as you're going to want 90FPS minimum versus 60FPS average at 4K.
I think that VR is the tipping point of both AMD and NVIDIA pushing developers to get better multi-GPU scaling, especially when we look at AMD's use of Asynchronous Shaders, DirectX 12 finally being here, and new architectures from both AMD and NVIDIA being around the corner.
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