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The AMD R9 Fury Performance Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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AMD’s R9 Fury X and its Fiji XT core have been the subject of hot debate since their launch late last month. While the Fury X’s performance wasn’t able to compete against NVIDIA’s GTX 980 Ti in every situation, it made a good accounting of itself at 4K and proved that with good enough cooling, even a relatively inefficient architecture can achieve competitive power consumption numbers.

With the Fury X launch behind us, there are still three cards left to roll out within AMD’s revitalized lineup: the Fury Nano, a dual GPU Fury and the standard Fury. Arguably the most important of these is the R9 Fury, which happens to be the subject of today’s review.

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The R9 Fury X may be the Radeon lineup’s flagship for the time being but the R9 Fury will likely be the linchpin which either cements success or prompts failure. It’s meant to be a volume mover, much like the R9 290 and HD 7950; something more affordable than the harder-to-produce Fiji XT while still netting awesome performance numbers. At $550 it fits into a key segment for AMD between the R9 390X and the Fury X. More importantly, it also falls directly into the yawning gap between NVIDIA’s $649 GTX 980 Ti and $499 GTX 980, though its price is closer to the latter. Indeed, unless NVIDIA has something up their collective sleeves, the R9 Fury will have free reign within an extremely enticing price point.

One interesting aspect is how this launch is being handled. Unlike the R9 Fury X which, from the cooler on down, is built completely by AMD and then distributed through their various board partners the R9 Fury won’t have a reference design and board partners are free to spec out their own cooling solutions. For the time being, the PCB with its integrated core / HBM combo is still supplied by AMD but that should change in the next few months.


To create the Fiji Pro core within their R9 Fury, AMD is taking cores which aren’t able to meet the stringent specification guidelines set out for the R9 Fury X and then reusing them in their lower priced card by cutting out some Compute Units. This allows AMD to increase wafer yields substantially, improving ROI while also bringing a more affordable product to consumers.

The actual cuts being done here aren’t all that deep. The Fiji Pro core makes due with just eight less Compute Units than its bigger brother so there’s 512 less cores and 32 fewer Texture Units. Meanwhile, the remainder of the architecture remains exactly the same so the R9 Fury still receives 4GB of HBM operating over a 4096-bit bus, 64 ROPs and a whopping 2MB of L2 cache.

The number of ROPs may play a key role here since the ROP to CU ratio in the fully enabled Fiji core pointed towards some potential bottlenecks taking place within the Render Back-Ends. Since Fiji Pro now features less SIMD engines feeding into those ROP-containing RBE’s, we will hopefully see less of a negative impact in certain games. If you want a complete rundown of the Fiji architecture and its substantial abilities, head over to our R9 Fury X review where we go over everything in detail.


Past the obvious core-level similarities between the Fury X and Fury, there isn’t much to distinguish one from another from a frequency perspective either. There’s a slight 5% drop-down in core speeds which will likely be made up for in the various overclocked SKUs AMD’s board partners have coming (for example, Sapphire’s R9 Fury Tri-X OC operates at 1040MHz) while the memory remains identical. Naturally, due to these limited changes and a lack of integrated water cooling unit, the Fury receives the exact same 275W TDP as the Fury X.

Judging from specifications alone, the R9 Fury may end up being an extremely popular graphics card since its price bracket is currently unoccupied by a competing solution. It may also work to pull some sales pressure off the top-line Fury X and hopefully enhance AMD’s lagging market share.

Something else we have to mention is availability. For all intents and purposes the R9 Fury X was launched when it was in order to fulfill a promise AMD made to their investors. While we can debate all day about whether or not that strategy ultimately harmed everything from drives to the cooling system’s maturity, there’s no denying availability has been limited at best.

While the cut-down core within the R9 Fury should allow its stock situation to be substantially better than its sibling in the future, High Bandwidth Memory production ramp-up is what will cause a bottleneck for the next little while. With SK Hynix’s production timelines taken into account, we expect broader availability of any Fury-branded card to be achieved in mid to late August.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
A Closer Look at the Sapphire R9 Fury Tri-X OC

A Closer Look at the Sapphire R9 Fury Tri-X OC



Initially, Sapphire will have a pair of R9 Fury cards in the channel: the reference clocked Fury Tri-X and the Fury Tri-X OC. The OC model will be considered a very limited production SKU since supposedly its core needs to be highly binned to run at its stated clock speed. At $569, the extra $20 nets you just 40MHz more which isn't all that impressive when you consider NVIDIA's board partners have achieved some pretty impressive out-of-box clock speeds from their cards.


If you were impressed by the Fury X’s compact design and reference liquid cooler, Sapphire’s R9 Fury Tri-X will bring things crashing back to earth. This is one massive card with a mass that has been dictated by the Fiji core somewhat extreme thermal profile. All told, the card takes up about 12” of length (306mm) and it also has a heatsink that’s just over two slots in height. Sapphire calls this a “2.2 slot” design and it may cause some installation issues on smaller, more compact motherboards. Nonetheless, the Tri-X cooler does look great though doesn’t it?


The large Tri-X cooler is topped off by a trio of Aerofoil 90mm dual ball bearing fans which use Sapphire’s second generation Intelligent Fan Control allowing them to completely turn off during idle periods. Once core temperature reaches 50°C, the fans gradually kick in to insure a self-imposed 75°C temperature threshold isn’t surpassed.


Below the fans lies the mother of all heatsinks which boasts a solid copper contact plate and seven heatpipes (1x 10mm, 2x 8mm and 4x 6mm) that quickly transfer heat to a densely packed fin array. While Fiji may run thermonuclear-hot, this heatsink design should allow for low temperatures without the need for an expensive and finicky liquid cooler while also maintaining an acceptable amount of fan noise.


If the top area of this card had you interested, the more-visible back will likely leave you salivating. Sapphire has used AMD’s reference PCB which -due to Fiji’s integration of memory modules directly onto the GPU die- is extremely short but they’ve still managed to integrate the massive cooler without the whole affair looking ridiculous.


To create a sense of design continuity, there’s a stylized aluminum backplate that sees its graphics continue towards a die-cast frame that supports the fin assembly and reduces card flexing. This frame actually continues onto the card itself and acts as a secondary full-contact secondary heatsink for PCB components. Supposedly the overhang also causes less back pressure for the rearmost fan, improving cooling performance.


Like most current-generation AMD cards, the R9 Fury has a dual BIOS switch and Sapphire has decided to populate each spot with a separate BIOS. The position furthest away from the I/O plate engages the standard 275W profile and fan speeds while the other selects a 300W setting alongside more aggressive fan speeds. In testing, the 300W position didn’t help overclocking or overall performance so we recommend you use the default one.


Despite using a cut-down Fiji core, the R9 Fury still requires a pair of 8-pin power connectors. Since this card uses the same PCB as the higher end R9 Fury X, it comes with the same bank of eight activity LEDs that can be changed to blue, red or switched off using the small DIP switch nearby.


There isn’t anything in the way of distinguishing features on the rear I/O plate with Sapphire’s card boasting three DisplayPort outputs and a single HDMI 1.4a connector.
 
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SKYMTL

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Messages
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup



Processor: Intel i7 4930K @ 4.7GHz
Memory: G.Skill Trident 16GB @ 2133MHz 10-10-12-29-1T
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79-E WS
Cooling: NH-U14S
SSD: 2x Kingston HyperX 3K 480GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Dell U2713HM (1440P) / ASUS PQ321Q (4K)
OS: Windows 8.1 Professional


Drivers:
AMD 15.15.700
NVIDIA 352.90


*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 2 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings


The Methodology of Frame Testing, Distilled


How do you benchmark an onscreen experience? That question has plagued graphics card evaluations for years. While framerates give an accurate measurement of raw performance , there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes which a basic frames per second measurement by FRAPS or a similar application just can’t show. A good example of this is how “stuttering” can occur but may not be picked up by typical min/max/average benchmarking.

Before we go on, a basic explanation of FRAPS’ frames per second benchmarking method is important. FRAPS determines FPS rates by simply logging and averaging out how many frames are rendered within a single second. The average framerate measurement is taken by dividing the total number of rendered frames by the length of the benchmark being run. For example, if a 60 second sequence is used and the GPU renders 4,000 frames over the course of that time, the average result will be 66.67FPS. The minimum and maximum values meanwhile are simply two data points representing single second intervals which took the longest and shortest amount of time to render. Combining these values together gives an accurate, albeit very narrow snapshot of graphics subsystem performance and it isn’t quite representative of what you’ll actually see on the screen.

FCAT on the other hand has the capability to log onscreen average framerates for each second of a benchmark sequence, resulting in the “FPS over time” graphs. It does this by simply logging the reported framerate result once per second. However, in real world applications, a single second is actually a long period of time, meaning the human eye can pick up on onscreen deviations much quicker than this method can actually report them. So what can actually happens within each second of time? A whole lot since each second of gameplay time can consist of dozens or even hundreds (if your graphics card is fast enough) of frames. This brings us to frame time testing and where the Frame Time Analysis Tool gets factored into this equation.

Frame times simply represent the length of time (in milliseconds) it takes the graphics card to render and display each individual frame. Measuring the interval between frames allows for a detailed millisecond by millisecond evaluation of frame times rather than averaging things out over a full second. The larger the amount of time, the longer each frame takes to render. This detailed reporting just isn’t possible with standard benchmark methods.

We are now using FCAT for ALL benchmark results, other than 4K.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,857
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Performance Consistency & Temperatures Over Time

Performance Consistency & Temperatures Over Time


AMD’s R9 Fury X required a water cooling setup to retain acceptable temperatures but the Fury has been cut down enough that supposedly it can make due with standard –albeit high end- air cooling solutions. Sapphire has arguably one of the best looking designs on the market with their Tri-X but can it successfully cool down the Fiji core?


First impressions are certainly positive with the Sapphire card more than holding its own even though for this test we downclocked it to reference speeds of 1000MHz. It does hit the 75°C mark but that’s still a long shot away from worrysome and is actually quite good considering how publicized AMD’s thermal output is.


Sapphire doesn’t rely on throttling to keep core temperatures in line either. Rather, they apply judicious increases in fan speeds which allows the Fiji Pro remain at 1000Mhz without any change throughout testing.


Performance is blissfully consistent across the benchmark and initial results point towards the R9 Fury being within just a few percentage points of its bigger brother.
 

SKYMTL

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Thermal Imaging / Acoustics / Power Consumption

Thermal Imaging



A few strategic thermal images don’t show any worrying temperature buildup but we have to wonder why Sapphire didn’t take advantage of that awesome looking backplate and use it for cooling rear-mounted VRM components. As it stands, the few components that are visible through backplate cut-outs do tend to run quite hot.


Acoustical Testing


What you see below are the baseline idle dB(A) results attained for a relatively quiet open-case system (specs are in the Methodology section) sans GPU along with the attained results for each individual card in idle and load scenarios. The meter we use has been calibrated and is placed at seated ear-level exactly 12” away from the GPU’s fan. For the load scenarios, Hitman Absolution is used in order to generate a constant load on the GPU(s) over the course of 15 minutes.


Quiet is the name of the game here. Sapphire has shown they can effectively cool the Fiji Pro core without excessive fan noise. That is one heck of an accomplishment and points towards how efficient their Tri-X design really is.

System Power Consumption


For this test we hooked up our power supply to a UPM power meter that will log the power consumption of the whole system twice every second. In order to stress the GPU as much as possible we used 15 minutes of Hitman Absolution running a continual scene while letting the card sit at a stable Windows desktop for 15 minutes to determine the peak idle power consumption.


The R9 Fury X wasn’t a particularly efficient card but its combination of extremely low temperatures and an optimized 28nm core meant some significant strides were made over Hawaii. The R9 Fury is no different but in many ways it exemplifies the massive improvements AMD has made.

Without the extra wattage that a pump and a fully-enabled Fiji core bring to the table, the R9 Fury in reference form consumes a bit less than the GTX 980 Ti but significantly more than the reference GTX 980. Sapphire’s minor 40MHz OC ups consumption by a good 9W but that’s just a drop in the bucket.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
1440P: AC:Unity / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed: Unity


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While it may not be the newest game around and it had its fair share of embarrassing hiccups at launch, Assassin's Creed: Unity is still one heck of a good looking DX11 title. In this benchmark we run through a typical gameplay sequence outside in Paris.




Battlefield 4


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In this sequence, we use the Singapore level which combines three of the game’s major elements: a decayed urban environment, a water-inundated city and finally a forested area. We chose not to include multiplayer results simply due to their randomness injecting results that make apples to apples comparisons impossible.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,857
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Montreal
1440P: Dragon Age: Inquisition / Dying Light

Dragon Age: Inquisition


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Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most popular games around due to its engaging gameplay and open-world style. In our benchmark sequence we run through two typical areas: a busy town and through an outdoor environment.




Dying Light


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Dying Light is a relatively late addition to our benchmarking process but with good reason: it required multiple patches to optimize performance. While one of the patches handicapped viewing distance, this is still one of the most demanding games available.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
1440P: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


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The latest game in Ubisoft’s Far Cry series takes up where the others left off by boasting some of the most impressive visuals we’ve seen. In order to emulate typical gameplay we run through the game’s main village, head out through an open area and then transition to the lower areas via a zipline.




Grand Theft Auto V


In GTA V we take a simple approach to benchmarking: the in-game benchmark tool is used. However, due to the randomness within the game itself, only the last sequence is actually used since it best represents gameplay mechanics.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
1440P: Hitman Absolution / Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Hitman Absolution


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Hitman is arguably one of the most popular FPS (first person “sneaking”) franchises around and this time around Agent 47 goes rogue so mayhem soon follows. Our benchmark sequence is taken from the beginning of the Terminus level which is one of the most graphically-intensive areas of the entire game. It features an environment virtually bathed in rain and puddles making for numerous reflections and complicated lighting effects.




Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor


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With its high resolution textures and several other visual tweaks, Shadow of Mordor’s open world is also one of the most detailed around. This means it puts massive load on graphics cards and should help point towards which GPUs will excel at next generation titles.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,857
Location
Montreal
1440P: Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


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When it was released, Thief was arguably one of the most anticipated games around. From a graphics standpoint, it is something of a tour de force. Not only does it look great but the engine combines several advanced lighting and shading techniques that are among the best we’ve seen. One of the most demanding sections is actually within the first level where you must scale rooftops amidst a thunder storm. The rain and lightning flashes add to the graphics load, though the lightning flashes occur randomly so you will likely see interspersed dips in the charts below due to this.




Tomb Raider


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Tomb Raider is one of the most iconic brands in PC gaming and this iteration brings Lara Croft back in DX11 glory. This happens to not only be one of the most popular games around but it is also one of the best looking by using the entire bag of DX11 tricks to properly deliver an atmospheric gaming experience.

In this run-through we use a section of the Shanty Town level. While it may not represent the caves, tunnels and tombs of many other levels, it is one of the most demanding sequences in Tomb Raider.



 
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