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The AMD R9 Fury Performance Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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1440P: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


Total War: Attila is the only strategy title in our benchmarking suite simply because it is one of the most resource-hungry. It gobbles resources with good reason too: this game happens to be one the best looking of the series thus far. Our benchmark sequence uses the in-game tool since, after hours of gameplay, it seems to show a perfect blend of in-game elements.




Witcher 3


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EBSQMEqpqro?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
4K: AC: Unity / Battlefield 4

Assassin’s Creed: Unity


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/8V96SFIvFKg?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/y9nwvLwltqk?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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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Messages
13,410
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Montreal
4k: Dragon Age: Inquisition / Dying Light

Dragon Age: Inquisition


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/z7wRSmle-DY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MHc6Vq-1ins" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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
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Messages
13,410
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Montreal
4K: Far Cry 4 / Grand Theft Auto V

Far Cry 4


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sC7-_Q1cSro" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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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13,410
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4k: Hitman Absolution / Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Hitman Absolution


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8UXx0gbkUl0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/U1MHjhIxTGE?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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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Joined
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Messages
13,410
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Montreal
4K: Thief / Tomb Raider

Thief


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/p-a-8mr00rY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/okFRgtsbPWE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

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.



 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
4K: Total War: Attila / Witcher 3

Total War: Attila


Total War: Attila is the only strategy title in our benchmarking suite simply because it is one of the most resource-hungry. It gobbles resources with good reason too: this game happens to be one the best looking of the series thus far. Our benchmark sequence uses the in-game tool since, after hours of gameplay, it seems to show a perfect blend of in-game elements.




Witcher 3


<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EBSQMEqpqro?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​

Other than being one of 2015’s most highly regarded games, The Witcher 3 also happens to be one of the most visually stunning as well. This benchmark sequence has us riding through a town and running through the woods; two elements that will likely take up the vast majority of in-game time.


 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


Our experience overclocking the R9 Fury X wasn’t all that great since it only had about 10% of overhead, which doesn’t really amount to much when you consider NVIDIA’s current generation typically reaches substantially more than that. In addition, AMD has effectively locked down HBM overclocking, stating that the bandwidth available should be more than sufficient for even a heavily overclocked Fiji core.


The R9 Fury follows directly in its sibling’s footsteps. There’s only about 10% of additional speed available on the core and memory has been locked out of every available OC tool. In addition, voltages can’t be changed. The end result was a continual core clock of 1107MHz which is quite disappointing considering Sapphire’s heatsink was nowhere near its thermal capacity.


 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion


AMD’s R9 Fury X was launched amidst a huge amount of optimism but, despite being a good graphics card, it ultimately failed to distinguish itself from the competition. In the eyes of many, it is too expensive for what’s being offered performance-wise and AMD’s feature set tends to lag behind in many ways. While the R9 Fury exhibits the same feature-bound limitations as its sibling, it is infinitely more appealing due to three simple factors: price, performance relative to competing solutions and its lack of a clunky water cooling solution.

Let’s start with the 500 pound gorilla in the room: the Fiji architecture’s abysmal performance in some key titles. The R9 Fury X could have been an outstanding GPU had it not been for sub-standard framerates in games like Battlefield 4, Grand Theft Auto V and Shadow of Mordor. Now before you go on a tangent and blame a lack of driver maturity for any missteps, consider this: the Fiji’s design is essentially an upscaled and very slightly updated version of a core that’s been around for more than two years now. If AMD still hasn’t been able to squeeze optimal performance out of such an old architecture, there are some serious problems that need to be addressed. Drivers should be a solution, not an excuse.



With all of that being said nothing has changed this time around (particularly at 1440P) and the R9 Fury finds itself lagging behind in those same situations, though sometimes not as drastically. Luckily, its substantially lower price makes any disparity between the new Radeon and GeForce lineups all that much more palatable. Indeed AMD’s $549 price for this thing is absolutely perfect, laser targeting a yawning $150 gap between the GTX 980 Ti and GTX 980.

With the GTX 980 and GTX 980 Ti safely bracketing it, the R9 Fury represents an excellent solution for anyone that wants a bit more power than the GTX 980 or R9 390X but can’t justify the $649 entry cost of the R9 Fury X or GTX 980 Ti. At 1440P it performs closer to the GTX 980, though still handily beating the GM204-based NVIDIA card.

Like its larger sibling the Fury’s stance improves when switching over to 4K where it is within spitting distance of the 980 Ti and extends an already-impressive lead over the GTX 980. Granted, there are plenty of pre-overclocked GTX 980’s on the market that can somewhat bridge the gap but they’re typically just as expensive as a stock-clocked R9 Fury.

In many ways these numbers will put more pressure on the R9 Fury X than they will on anything within NVIDIA’s current stable. This card comes within only a few percentage points of its bigger brother and with a bit of overclocking (granted, there isn’t much left in the frequency tank) the situation becomes even tighter. Perhaps even more importantly the R9 Fury does without that horribly clunky closed loop liquid cooler, effectively eliminating all of the installation, longevity and pump noise headaches it brings to the table.

Many wondered why the R9 390X was priced so high relative to outgoing R9 290X cards and now you see the reason. I’ll take the lower power consumption of Fiji over Hawaii any day but the 390X’s price / performance ratio relative to the Fury may cause some folks to jump ship in order to save over a hundred bucks. At 1440P it loses by a scant 10%, at times nearly matching the Fury’s framerates.

Sapphire’s R9 Fury Tri-X is an interesting card to say the least. Since the Fiji Pro core will always be paired up with a board partner-designed cooling solution we’ll likely see plenty of options but Sapphire’s Tri-X cooler cooler proved to be a willing participant in the review. There’s no escaping the fact that AMD’s new architecture runs stupidly hot but this heatsink shrugged the extreme thermal load aside while still delivering excellent acoustical results and some room for overclocking. This card’s titanic size and raw thermal dissipation mass also makes me wonder how much will need to be cut from the Fury Nano in order for it to achieve reasonable temperatures in such a compact form factor. But that’s another conversation for another time…

The real question is whether or not Sapphire’s R9 Fury Tri-X OC is worth a premium over the Tri-X equipped stock-clocked version. In terms of real-world framerates its paltry 4% overclock equates about 2% and at the very most 3% better performance. Considering NVIDIA’s board partners are achieving substantially higher thresholds on their OC SKUs, we have to wonder where this hesitation is coming from and just how restrictive this architecture really is to overclocking. One way or another, for these kind of numbers there’s just no reason to spend more money on Sapphire’s OC model. Stick with their perfectly capable reference-clocked board.

If there’s any card that will put a modicum of fear into NVIDIA, it will be the R9 Fury since it successfully attacks a price point that currently lacks a GeForce alternative. It may have been designed to alleviate some sales pressure from the R9 Fury X but one has to wonder whether or not it will render AMD’s flagship somewhat disposable in short order. This is a perfectly targeted graphics card that, when paired up with Sapphire’s awesome Tri-X cooler, combines excellent performance results and whisper quiet operation into a product that should be poised for huge success.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
13,410
Location
Montreal
A Twist in this Story? The 15.7 Drivers

A Twist in this Story? The 15.7 Drivers


Less than 48 hours before this review was published, AMD told us about their new 15.7 drivers. For those of us who are accustomed to AMD launches the distinct lack of time between their driver announcement, the availability of said drivers for the press and a key product review came as no surprise. This happens far too often. Nonetheless, even though we were given less than two days with them there was (barely!) enough time to retest the Fury before you read this.

Before you read any further and to avoid the risk of boring you, there aren’t any performance benefits for Fury cards versus 15.15. You’ll see some pretty charts below but they’re mostly window dressing since performance parity was a foregone conclusion here.

So what are the 15.7 drivers if not a performance enhancer for AMD’s latest architecture? Well, they’re a massive step forward in the features department. Not only do they bring technologies previously rolled into Fiji to lower-end SKUs but there are also some key Crossfire profiles for older cards. All cards now live under the same unified driver umbrella whereas before the 300-series and Fury cards had their own software path. There’s also DX12 / Windows 10 compatibility which may not be a big deal now but it will play an increasingly large role in the future.

Perhaps the most important addition to the 15.7 driver stack is Crossfire support for AMD’s FreeSync technology. The lack of multi card support in FreeSync was one of our main critiques when we reviewed it. We’ll be sure to test this in the near future.

Aside from the above-mentioned elements, there’s also an expanded number of Virtual Super Resolution scaling options being unlocked for GPUs and APUs and the addition of Framerate Target Control for 200-series GPUs.

According to AMD, the performance benefits are somewhat nebulous. On one hand there are claims of improved framerates….but only when compared against the Omega drivers which weren’t even compatible with the Fiji architecture.

At this point you may be wondering why we didn’t actually use the 15.7 drivers for the benchmarks in this review. Unfortunately, they weren’t stable in our system. There were random system lock-ups, driver crashes and even a few freezes during the Windows 8.1 startup sequence. Those issues aren’t conducive to the 20+ hours of GPU testing that typically goes into one of our reviews. The 15.15’s meanwhile were stable as can be. We were however able to keep things working long enough to get through one loop of our typical benchmarking suite, though there were countless stability interruptions.



So there you have it: exactly as AMD described, there isn’t anything to distinguish these two driver sets from one another on the performance front. While there are times when one or the other pushes a bit ahead, these new drivers are a literal carbon copy of the 15.15’s since all of the differences can easily be chalked up to margin of error.

It is certainly good to see AMD adding a boatload of features for current and previous generation GPUs. They should be commended for that regardless of how long it took to get Crossfire working in a FreeSync ecosystem. Our stability issues may be due to any number of incompatibilities but the fact remains that AMD’s drivers still feel like they’re sitting on a somewhat shaky foundation. We’d like to think that will change in the near future but for the time being, we’re sticking to 15.15 for GPU reviews.
 
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