Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury DC3 4G Review: AMD’s Big Bet Almost Pays Off

AMD’s unique Radeon R9 Fury sequence was unveiled with a lot fanfare a short time in the past. It is no secret that AMD’s total product portfolio has been fairly stagnant for years now, however this was the corporate’s – if not the whole ‘s – most fascinating announcement in a very long time. Whereas most have been anticipating one or two launches, AMD confirmed off 4 merchandise: the top-end Radeon R9 Fury X with its industry-first built-in liquid cooler, an air-cooled equal referred to as Radeon R9 Fury, a compact variant for small-form-factor PCs referred to as the Radeon R9 Fury Nano, and an unnamed dual-GPU monster that won’t be out there for a while but.

The Fury X was the primary to launch internationally, adopted by the inexpensive Fury a couple of weeks later. Nevertheless, the latter card has arrived first in India. Notably, board companions akin to Asus and XFX won’t be able to customize their Fury X playing cards with totally different coolers, however they’ll with the Fury. As a cost-sensitive market with comparatively fewer fanatics, maybe AMD felt that the water-cooled Fury X wouldn’t have a lot enchantment right here.

With a Fiji-based card lastly in our fingers, we will discover AMD’s most important launch in years. The corporate hasn’t been in a position to launch a significant GPU refresh for a very long time nevertheless it has made one very, crucial leap with this era: 3D-stacked high-bandwidth reminiscence (HBM); the successor to GDDR5. The graphics card’s RAM banks are usually not arrayed across the GPU, however are as an alternative applied straight on the GPU die, nearly like a big processor cache.

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Excessive-bandwidth 3D stacked reminiscence
Clearly, the massive story right here is that AMD is the primary to market with stacked HBM on the GPU die. It is a phenomenal technical and technological achievement – it has taken the higher a part of a decade of analysis and improvement, to not point out large investments, to tug this off. That is the results of AMD being daring and taking an enormous step. Regardless of its persistent monetary struggles within the face of a dwindling total PC market, AMD evidently remained dedicated to this mission all alongside within the hope that it will lead to an enormous turnaround. The Radeon R9 Fury playing cards are the primary tangible outcomes of that long-term considering.

Way back, AMD engineers predicted that reminiscence bandwidth would change into an enormous bottleneck for graphics playing cards (and computer systems at giant). Brute-force pace will increase can solely scale up to now earlier than elevated energy consumption cancels out any advantages. As an alternative, AMD selected a drastic departure which might require not solely a complete new reminiscence structure, but in addition new manufacturing strategies and new supporting requirements to make it materialise.

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The objective was to scale back latency by utilizing a number of low-clocked reminiscence chips with their very own pathways to the GPU; successfully a a lot wider bus serving all of them. For the primary era of HBM, as seen right here, AMD has gone with 1GHz reminiscence on a four,096-bit bus, in comparison with as much as 7GHz on 128-bit, 256-bit or 384-bit buses as has been widespread to this point.

Sixteen conventional chips would have been required to realize that type of bandwidth, however putting every of them across the GPU and wiring them to it will have been impossibly inefficient. So, AMD began engaged on putting the reminiscence chip dies one on high of one other – a method generally known as 3D NAND stacking – and bringing them bodily nearer to the GPU.

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The tip result’s 4 stacks of 4 reminiscence dies on the identical substrate because the GPU itself. With the intention to wire all of them collectively, AMD needed to develop what it calls an “interposer” – the bodily medium by which the reminiscence and GPU talk. The interposer itself is a silicon chip with 1000’s of microscopic traces; a lot denser than can be potential on a circuit board. As well as, AMD makes use of what are referred to as By means of-Silicon Vias (TSVs), that are traces that run by the interposer and reminiscence die stacks, connecting the upper layers with out interfering with decrease ones’ operations.

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AMD nonetheless has to take care of the realities of physics, so one huge limitation right here is that the 16 dies nonetheless solely quantity to 4GB of complete reminiscence. That is not rather a lot for a contemporary graphics card, least of all a flagship one. There’s additionally solely up to now a brand new sort of reminiscence can enhance efficiency if the GPU itself is not sturdy sufficient. Lastly, the entire GPU-HBM-interposer contraption is much more sophisticated to fabricate, elevating prices. HBM is the form of factor that can undoubtedly be revolutionary, however may need a era or two to essentially get to that time.

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The R9 Fury GPU
Remoted from its environment, the core GPU logic is pretty odd. Codenamed Fiji, that is the one new GPU in AMD’s 2015 lineup – all of the Radeon 3xx playing cards are principally simply Radeon 2xx ones with minor updates. Even Fiji does not have any generational benefits over its Three-series siblings aside from the HBM. We’ll have to attend not less than one other era for a leap past the traditional 28nm course of.

Opposite to early hypothesis, air-cooled Fury isn’t similar to the liquid cooled Fury X by way of specs. The clock pace is lowered by a tiny fraction, from 1.05GHz to 1Ghz, and the Fury has a couple of execution items disabled for a complete of three,584 versus four,096. These are fairly minor cuts, however we suspect that thermals could have a much bigger half in any efficiency distinction there may be between the 2.

Asus hasn’t overclocked this card by default – notice the shortage of the letters OC after DC3 within the mannequin quantity – however there may be some leeway for tweaking utilizing the bundled software program.

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The Asus Strix Radeon R9 Fury DC3
That is one large graphics card. We have gotten used to seeing playing cards with small, understated coolers, because of basic enhancements in energy effectivity over the previous few years leading to decrease warmth dissipation. All that goes out the window right here – Asus has outfitted its Strix Radeon R9 Fury with a three-fan monster cooler that extends properly past the sting of a typical ATX motherboard and rises about an inch and a half above regular.

We’re a bit shocked, as a result of one of many water-cooled Radeon R9 Fury X’s largest promoting factors is its compact 7.5-inch depth. It appears that evidently greater than the cardboard itself, it is the air cooler that must be so large. Actually it is as huge as a number of the dual-GPU playing cards we have come throughout.

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You are going to want a well-ventilated cupboard for the reason that three followers expel sizzling air inside your PC. Fortunately they do not should be spinning on a regular basis – Asus’ cooler can work passively when there is not a lot of a load on the GPU. Elements of the large heatpipes could be seen above and beneath the shroud. Whereas Fiji is an all-new GPU, it is clear that AMD and Asus do not count on it to match Nvidia’s present architectural benefits by way of warmth, noise, and energy consumption.

By way of styling, the Strix R9 Fury DC3 is a bit sedate. Even the pink accents are a uninteresting, deep shade. Three followers as an alternative of two imply that this card cannot be anthropomorphised to appear to be owls’ faces in the identical means that current DC2OC fashions have been. Actually the heatsink is so giant that it appears there actually was no room for artistic design touches in any respect. The one actual little bit of aptitude is a lighted pink strip on the highest. We did not actually like its plasticky styling or the truth that it pulses when your PC goes to sleep and can’t be managed.

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The 2 Eight-pin PCIe energy connectors stick out upwards however are masked by the overhang of the cooler shroud. Every one has an LED that lights up pink if there is a free connection or white if every thing’s nice. The rear of the cardboard has a backplate for stability. On the far finish, you will discover one HDMI port and three DisplayPort 1.2 video outputs together with a legacy dual-link DVI-D port (which Fury X playing cards lack). Our evaluate unit got here with a driver disc and a single 2×6-pin to 1×8-pin PCIe energy adapter.

Efficiency
Our lab take a look at bench consists of the next parts:

  • Intel Core i7-4770Okay CPU at inventory speeds
  • Asus Z97-Professional (Wi-Fi ac) motherboard
  • 16GB of Adata 1600MHz RAM
  • 120GB Kingston HyperX Fury SSD
  • Cooler Grasp Hyper 212X CPU cooler
  • Corsair RM650 energy provide
  • Asus PB287Q 4K monitor
  • Home windows Eight.1

The motive force used was AMD’s Catalyst 15.7.1. We examined utilizing quite a lot of artificial benchmarks, built-in recreation benchmarks and our personal run-throughs with frames per second and body timings measured utilizing FRAPS.

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Asus’s DirectCU Three cooler may scale back noise to zero when the cardboard is idle, however there’s a noticeable hum when the followers spin up. Relying on the load although, not all three may spin. The center one, straight above the GPU, is the primary to activate.

We began with 3DMark, the longtime graphics card benchmark suite. We ran the superior Hearth Strike take a look at thrice, utilizing optimised presets for 1080p, 1440p and 4K. The scores have been 12,zero31, 6,502, and three,583 respectively. On the decrease finish, the Strix Radeon R9 Fury was rated as higher than 93 p.c of all recorded scores, however on the excessive finish, it was solely higher than 51 p.c. For reference, the scores have been all a bit decrease than these recorded with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti on precisely the identical take a look at bench.

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We additionally ran Star Swarm, an intense 3D area battle simulation which may reap the benefits of AMD’s optimised Mantle API. With out it, the cardboard scored 47.71fps however with it, the rating rose dramatically to 78.17fps. Unigine Valley gave us 71.5fps total at 1080p and 45.4fps total at 1440p. In all circumstances, this card lagged behind the GeForce GTX 980 Ti.

GTA V is likely one of the most demanding video games presently out there, and has fine-grained visible high quality settings and a really thorough built-in benchmark. We first tried a couple of guide playthroughs however stored experiencing points at 4K because of the 4GB VRAM restrict. GTA V can simply burn by 6GB of reminiscence so we needed to scale back fairly a couple of parameters. We settled on 16xAF, no AA, and medium settings throughout. The sport was nonetheless fairly satisfying, however we all know it might have been higher. With that executed, the inner benchmark gave us a mean of 31.311fps – slightly underwhelming.

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Far Cry four will also be fairly demanding, nevertheless it ran fairly easily at 4K, with the standard set to Extremely, and SMAA and HBAO+ enabled. We recorded 38fps on common, with body occasions at 26.2ms on common and 34ms on the 99th percentile.

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Battlefield four ran moderately properly at 4K, with the standard set to Extremely. We managed to get 35fps on common, with body occasions various between 28.7ms total and 41.5ms for the 99th percentile. Decreasing the decision to 1440p with all different settings the identical resulted in an enormous soar to 85fps and really tight timings of 11.8ms and 17ms respectively.

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Alternatively, Crysis was totally unplayable at 4K with the settings at Very Excessive. Body charges typically fell all the way down to single-digit ranges and we could not get by sufficient of a stage to report a significant pattern of information. We reverted to 1440p with 8xMSAA, 8xAF and Very Prime quality, and have been in a position to play at a snug 32fps with timings between 31ms and 42.1ms.

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Verdict
We had excessive hopes for AMD’s revolutionary new know-how, particularly given how badly the corporate wants a breakthrough. Sadly, that hasn’t occurred but. The Radeon R9 Fury is a robust high-end GPU, nevertheless it does not do something notably new or result in any drastic enchancment that its competitors hasn’t already achieved. It’s best matched towards the GeForce GTX 980, which is rather less than a 12 months outdated however nonetheless going sturdy. The brand new GeForce GTX 980 Ti beats the Radeon R9 Fury constantly, although that choice is barely dearer.

Having 4GB of VRAM on a graphics card of this class is unquestionably a handicap. We ran right into a roadblock with one present AAA title, which is an effective indication of what video games releasing over the following few years would require by way of assets. The long-term prospects for Radeon R9 Fury card house owners are usually not very clear at this second.

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The excellent news is that the HBM structure is solely clear to , software program and the top person expertise. It simply works, and it is potential that issues will enhance over time as builders have an opportunity to optimise for it. Issues may also change into fascinating as DirectX 12 begins seeing mainstream adoption. It is also all the time good to have choices – hopefully GeForce GTX 980 playing cards will now see a worth drop, which has been overdue for some time already.

AMD followers who need prime quality at 1440p and know they don’t seem to be going to purchase a 4K monitor anytime quickly can undoubtedly think about this card. It’s already slightly piece of historical past; a vastly vital milestone in PC know-how improvement. Nevertheless, those that care extra about practicalities akin to warmth dissipation and energy consumption will discover Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 or 980 Ti extra appropriate.
Execs

  • Good efficiency for 1440p gaming
  • Silent when idling

Cons

  • 4GB VRAM limitation
  • Big and unwieldy
  • Runs sizzling, requires two Eight-pin PCIe connectors

Rankings (Out of 5)

  • Efficiency: Three.5
  • Worth for Cash: Three
  • Total: Three.5

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