AMD Fury X – too little, too late?
If the new flagship graphics adapter from AMD has started in the last month or two, then the competition it would have looked much more impressive, and the effect which it produced for the company and the Radeon brand as a whole, would be much more meaningful.
Fury X is a really great product, the center of which is one of probably the most innovative graphics processors created by AMD in recent years. Add to this the new revolutionary technology of the organization of a local video buffer (High Bandwidth Memory) – innovation, which in the NVIDIA camp you will not see until next year when it is expected the appearance of Pascal. Let’s not forget about the quite original overall design Fury X is the flagship video card is uncharacteristically modest for a model of this class size and as standard comes with water cooling.
In short – the ultimate temptation for the most avid gamers and enthusiasts. Unfortunately, in spite of its impressive performance and equally impressive results, Fury X was a little late and unlikely to get all of the attention that the principle deserves.
Fast and furious
Because we have already paid enough attention to the theoretical and technical side of new generation graphics cards from AMD R300 – twice (see here and here), in a review of Fury X we will not dwell on the rough figures. Anyway, many of today’s gamers and lovers of high-speed hardware is not so much concerned about the number of stream processors available their new GPU or even the clock speed of its memory and processor.
Mainly they are concerned about one thing: what can a particular model with a particular game, and maybe in some popular synthetic benchmarks (mostly 3D Mark benchmark).
All this we will talk below, but first a few words about the most interesting technical innovations on offer Fury X.
Again let me remind you that most of the key engineering innovations in the new graphics processor is the so-called High Bandwidth Memory (HBM). In fact it is a new kind of memory or, to be more precise – a new method of integration typical for all modern graphics adapters, the local buffer.
I think you know that there is no modern graphics card without its own video RAM. As a rule, it is faster than the system RAM used by all other applications, and operate at very high clock frequencies.
The more complex and more realistic become a modern 3D application (i.e. games), the higher the requirements to the volume and speed of local video buffer. Today is not rare graphics cards with 4, 6, 8 and even 12 GB of video RAM!
This, however, the problem arises – the more memory the graphics card is equipped with, the more places are occupied by chips of GDDR memory on its PCB. As a result, we see graphics cards with a length of 30-35 cm and more. A large amount of memory and creates other inconveniences – for example, limits the ability to increase bus bandwidth, which is connected to the GPU. It with his hand puts a limitation on the performance of the card as a whole.
HBM addresses many of these problems in an elegant way. Instead of «breaking down» the available memory on separate chips, the technology of NVM allows you to «dazzle» them with one another in a special silicon «sandwich». So the memory takes much less space (about 95% less than the GDDR chips of identical volume), provides up to 3.5 times more bandwidth and better cooled.
As you can see, the background model ASUS GeForce GTX 970 Strix, Fury X looks smaller and more neat. In addition, the card quite cool and quiet – the maximum temperature even after intensive testing does not exceed 55-56 degrees, which, of course, is not the only merit of a new type of memory. AMD «cheated» and instead of the traditional air-cooling equipped Fury X a compact water cooling.
It keeps the temperature low, but creates slightly high expectations from the actual operating parameters of the map – especially with respect to models based on the same graphics chip, but was developed by AMD partners like Sapphire Tech, for example. They feature more or less the classic air-cooled and probably will be offered at more attractive prices, but their operating temperature is higher.
Visible disadvantage compared to direct competitors from the Maxwell-based adapters from NVIDIA related to the amount of energy that consumes Fury X – 294 watts. This figure is quite high, especially if we compare it with the needs of the GeForce GTX 970 (154 W), GTX 980 (171 watts) or even a GTX 980 Ti (250W).
The drivers of the next generation
It is no secret that one of the most critical «Achilles ‘ heels» of almost the entire Radeon family from time immemorial remains drivernya support. With years of graphic adapters AMD brand has created a good name of hardware and the ugly from a purely software point of view products.
With the R300 generation company clearly intends to eliminate this weakness and the new generation of Catalyst drivers includes a number of features which the Radeon fans have waited long enough. There are three key innovations, which are indeed a serious concern for gamers: Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC), Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) and support for AMD FreeSync.
Briefly about each:
Frame Rate Target Control (FRTC) is a function which allows to record the number of fps in most DirectX 10 and 11 game titles at a certain level. Want to know what is the meaning of these options, when the community of fans of computer games traditionally want the opposite – i.e. as many frames per second?
The meaning is the optimization. In combination with a graphics card of high class (which is undoubtedly Fury X) many modern games give the really serious number of frames per second, especially with the most popular at present, Full HD resolution. Video card like Fury X, for example, even at a higher resolution type QHD (2560×1440) easily reaches more than 130 fps at maximum settings.
It is not just many is too many, especially on LCD displays with a refresh rate of 60 Hz. Using Frame Rate Target Control, you can limit the number of fps, for example, up to 60 frames per second – a figure that is generally considered optimal. The advantage of this is that your card won’t work «at full speed» and generate more noise and heat to give you speed, which in practice is not necessary for a comfortable game.
Virtual Super Resolution (VSR) AMD is the answer to Dynamic Super Resolution of NVIDIA. Essentially we are talking about identical technologies with a different name. With its help, you can force the video card to «draw» each frame in a higher resolution than your display. The purpose of this complicated procedure is to further increase the image quality – finer detail and the effect similar to that achieved by activating the so-called anti-aliasing (anti-aliasing).
Finally, support for FreeSync — adaptive sync technology developed by AMD. About the principles that underpin it, we have already spoken, and the benefits of it is to ensure smooth game play even at lower number of frames per second – far below the «magic» optimum 60 fps.
Of course, each of these three functions are available for all adapters on the R300 generation as for previous generation models that support them. In practice, however, the greatest benefit of them will be able to retrieve the owners of graphics cards is high and the highest class (R390X, Fury, Fury X) – especially in relation to Frame Rate Target Control and Virtual Super Resolution.
After a very detailed and technical introduction, let’s get to the most interesting part of the review and check out what is a Fury X in practice.
We have tested the adapter on a PC with the following configuration:
- CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K – 3.4 GHz
- Parent Board: ASRock Z77 Extreme3
- RAM: Corsair 12GB DDR3 1600MHz
- Disk: SSD Samsung 830 Pro 128GB
For all the test titles used 4K resolution (for maps of this class just a shame to put a Full HD or below) and the maximum level of graphics settings.
Now, what did the test.
In Shadow of Mordor at 3840 x 2160 pixels and Ultra settings average number of frames per second that made up Fury X, made up slightly more than 37.
In principle, any result above 40 fps means smooth and relatively comfortable game. Of course, the closer to the border at 60 frames per second, the better, but do not forget two important points: in our case we used the 4K resolution and a relatively weak processor, which somewhat limits the graphics card and not allow it to reveal its full potential.
Going to compromise, i.e. lowering the graphics setting from Utra to Very High, we got a jump of 55 frames per second – perfect score for a comfortable game. And again, what we are talking about resolution four times higher than Full HD!
Similar situation with Tomb Raider. At the level of the Ultimate settings and 4K resolution X Fury showed the result of 44 frames per second with activated technology for realistic rendering of hair TressFX and 52 of the frame without her.
The results of the burn-in test Dragon Age: Inquisition is even more interesting: the level of Ultra graphics and 4K resolution the adapter can reach 67 fps!
Of course, this has the merit of Mantle from AMD, which use the game engine was optimized.
We checked the Fury X and the popular 3D Mark. The rest of the results in real games, it was clear that in this synthetic test, the card did not disappoint. 11346 points – an achievement that is better than 90% of all results stored in database Futuremark. And at 2000 points above the level of a desktop gaming PC high class that meets the requirements to operate a set of virtual reality-type Oculus Rift.
Maximum performance. Quite a lot of interesting and innovative technologies – both in hardware and in software (drivername) level. Cool and quiet during operation. Surprisingly compact size for the graphics adapter of this class. AMD Fury X has all the necessary qualities of a winner. Unfortunately, there is one big BUT, which bears the name of GeForce GTX 980 Ti. Competitor from NVIDIA is available almost at the same price, but faster, cooler and less greedy for energy. In addition, in our market, for example, models based on the GTX 980 Ti is already available, while the Fury X adapters in the performance of key partners AMD (Sapphire, Power Color, Asus, Gigabyte) only expected.
All this leads us to the conclusion that we did back in the beginning of the review: AMD X Fury is an excellent, bold step forward for the company, but too late and insufficient.