Today is the official launch date of the long-awaited AMD Radeon R9 Fury X, world's first video card to implement High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). The card is based on the 28nm Fiji GPU, it offers 4096 stream processors, 256 TMUs, 64 ROPs, a 4096-bit HBM bus, a 1050MHz core and 4GB HBM memory clocked at 1000MHz effective.
The Radeon R9 Fury X is a watercooled card and the PCB is surprisingly short as the adoption of HBM enables more compact card designs. Unfortunately, a brief look at the first reviews shows the card is not going to have an easy time versus NVIDIA's GeForce offerings.
TechPowerUp notes that at a $649 price level, the card matches that of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti exactly but is unsure if the card can win at that price level. Performance-wise the R9 Fury X almost matches the GTX 980 Ti at 4K resolution with a difference of 3 percent but at lower resolutions it falls flat on its face. The site mentions the card has low gaming noise but says this is offset by the pump noise and higher idle noise. On top of this, overclocking potential of the card is slim (and memory overclocking has been completely disabled) and despite significant power efficiency enhancements versus the previous generation, the card still uses a lot more power than NVIDIA's high-end cards.
When run through our benchmarks the R9 Fury X shines at 4K resolution, almost matching GTX 980 Ti, with just 3% difference. NVIDIA's GTX Titan X is still 8% ahead, but the performance is extremely game dependent. Most of our titles have the Fury X head to head with NVIDIA's offerings, sometimes slightly ahead, but then there are some games where the Radeon falls behind a lot. If we cherry pick and exclude Project Cars or World of Warcraft, then Fury X almost exactly matches GTX 980 Ti - at 4K, but consider that the next game that comes out and that you want to play might have similar troubles. As soon as we start looking at lower resolutions, the performance gap suddenly widens. 4K, vs. GTX 980 Ti: -2%, 1440p: -9%, 1080p: -14%, 900p: -18%. This means that for anything below 4K gaming, which includes 1440p, the Fury X can not compete with NVIDIA's offerings. So if you are thinking about 144 Hz 1080p gaming, then GTX 980 Ti is the way to go now. For 4K gaming the Fury is good though, and it looks like AMD's driver team has gotten more active, too, a driver for Batman: Arkham Knight was released shortly after the game's launch, a welcome improvement that will hopefully last.
The Tech Report mirrors the conclusion that the Radeon R9 Fury X is a close match overall for the GTX 980 Ti but describes it as struggling to live up to its considerable potential. The site hopes AMD can fix the problems they've identified with a driver update and hopes the firm can iron out issues with the whiny water pumps. A lot of reviews complain about whiny noise so it appears this issue isn't limited to a set of faulty cards.
Speaking of which, if you dig deeper using our frame-time-focused performance metrics—or just flip over to the 99th-percentile scatter plot above—you'll find that the Fury X struggles to live up to its considerable potential. Unfortunate slowdowns in games like The Witcher 3 and Far Cry 4 drag the Fury X's overall score below that of the less expensive GeForce GTX 980. What's important to note in this context is that these scores aren't just numbers. They mean that you'll generally experience smoother gameplay in 4K with a $499 GeForce GTX 980 than with a $649 Fury X. Our seat-of-the-pants impressions while play-testing confirm it. The good news is that we've seen AMD fix problems like these in the past with driver updates, and I don't doubt that's a possibility in this case. There's much work to be done, though.
HardOCP says Fury looks great on paper but has underwhelmed and disappointed in terms of real world gaming performance. The site notes the R9 Fury X more closely resembles the performance of a GeForce GTX 980 4GB, which sells for $490, rather than that of the GeForce GTX 980 Ti. In fact, the site even wonders who this card is really built for, claiming Fury X feels like a tech demo not fully realized:
Limited VRAM for a flagship $649 video card, sub-par gaming performance for the price, and limited display support options with no HDMI 2.0 and no DVI port. To be honest, we aren't entirely sure who the AMD Radeon R9 Fury X is really built for? The AMD Radeon Fury X is a confusing product, like a technology demo not fully realized, a showcase for HBM only but with no real substance. The AMD Radeon Fury X looks to be a great marketing showcase, but its prowess starts waning when you consider its value to gamers and hardware enthusiasts.
Tom's Hardware notes AMD has plenty to be proud of but in the end the Radeon R9 Fury X is not faster, not cheaper nor more elegant than NVIDIA's gaming champion:
There, sitting alongside Nvidia’s gaming champion, Radeon R9 Fury X now shares the throne. It’s not faster, it’s not cheaper and it’s certainly not any more elegant. The card is just enough to yield a bit of parity. And for the AMD faithful, that’s enough to warrant a purchase. We have to wonder if the company stopped just short of the gold, though. More speed, a lower price, some sort of game bundle—it could have gone in several directions, really, to convince enthusiasts that Fury X is the better buy.
The number of reviews on launch date is also much smaller than usual as AMD had a very limited supply of Fury X cards available for members of the press. We still wonder what this means for actual retail availablity