The Tech Report asked AMD about progress on the waterpump whine noise issue experienced by Radeon R9 Fury X video cards. AMD replied this issue affects only a small batch of video cards and that this problem has been resolved in current production parts:
AMD received feedback that during open bench testing some cards emit a mild "whining" noise. This is normal for most high speed liquid cooling pumps; Usually the end user cannot hear the noise as the pumps are installed in the chassis, and the radiator fan is louder than the pump. Since the AMD Radeon R9 FuryX radiator fan is near silent, this pump noise is more noticeable.
The issue is limited to a very small batch of initial production samples and we have worked with the manufacturer to improve the acoustic profile of the pump. This problem has been resolved and a fix added to production parts and is not an issue.
PC Perspective redid the test with two retail cards and has some bad news. The two cards they bought did not include any fix for the whiny pump noise, in fact, the site claims the retail cards exhibit worse noise, in terms of both whining and buzzing, than the review sample they received from AMD!
The site also stresses that the noise emitted by the Radeon R9 Fury X pump is very different than the typical sounds of air movements generated by high-end air cooling solutions. The pump noise is a high pitched squeal that doesn't blend in with background noise and it's constant, even when idle and in Windows.
There are few things to take away from this testing. First, the currently selling and shipping AMD Radeon R9 Fury X cards do not include any kind of fix for the pump whine or sound levels of the cooler. Though AMD tells me that we just had a miscommunication or misinterpretation of the comments they shared with us prior to our NDA, I think it is at the very least fair to say that AMD was hoping to deflect the issue on launch day. Now that retail cards are out and end users (not just us) are getting their hands on them, I think its obvious that the sound issues are more of a problem than AMD would like to admit.
Second, the sound of the Fury X cards is very different than the sounds you are used to seeing associated with current flagship graphics cards. Even though the NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti reference cooler is louder than the Fury X under a gaming load, the high frequency of the sounds we are hearing on the Fury X make it more annoying and grating. Everyone's tolerance for this kind of thing is going to be slightly different, but all three people in our office agreed that we would rather hear the more "white-noise-like" sounds of air movement at a constant rate than the high pitched squeal that AMD is dealing with.
TPU on the other hand points out some buyers report their card does not have the whiny noise. It's plausible that AMD and Cooler Master (the firm behind the card's liquid cooling solution) have indeed fixed the problem but unfortunately there's no way to know which retail card has it or not.
It seems the only visual cue is that the revised cards appear to have a 2-color chrome Cooler Master badge on the pump-block, whereas the older version from the initial batches had a multi-color logo. This logo can only be seen after removing the card's front plate so this identification method is far from practical.