The AMD R9 Fury Performance Review
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.
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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