The hardware industry has been spitting out launches at a rate difficult to follow. Over the last few months, we've reviewed the GTX 980 Ti Hybrid (which won Editor's Choice & Best of Bench awards), the R9 Fury X, the R9 390 & 380, an A10-7870K APU, and Intel's i7-6700K.
We've returned to the world of graphics to look at MSI's take on the AMD Radeon R9 390X, part of the R300 series of refreshed GPUs. The R300 series has adapted existing R200 architecture to the modern era, filling some of the market gap while AMD levies its Fiji platform. R300 video cards are purely targeted at gaming at an affordable price-point, something AMD has clung to for a number of years at this point.
This review of AMD's Radeon R9 390X benchmarks the MSI “Gaming” brand of the card, measuring FPS in the Witcher 3 & more, alongside power and thermal metrics. The MSI Radeon R9 390X Gaming 8G is priced at $430. This video card was provided by iBUYPOWER as a loaner for independent review.
After an extended period of hardware silence, AMD has recently made its resurgence with updated GPU and CPU lines. The Radeon 300 series refreshed the existing R200 lineup, followed shortly by the architecturally revamped Fiji GPU on the Fury X; we've reviewed both of these launches (R9 390 & 380 review / Fury X review). Back in May, we also posted about the company's promised Kaveri refresh – the A10-7870K – and its market positioning.
Today we're reviewing that APU.
Windows 10 was officially released yesterday. With Windows 10 comes DirectX12 and some other changes, such as Xbox Live for the PC. Of course, Windows 10 (and Dx12) also requires new drivers. Both AMD and nVidia have released drivers within the last week to support Windows 10. Because Windows 7 and 8.1 users can upgrade to Windows 10 for free within a year, these drivers are significant to migration as a potentially large portion of users will be shifting simultaneously.
We’ll first cover AMD’s newest 15.7.1 driver, then nVidia’s 353.62 driver.
The Fury X has been a challenging video card to review. This is AMD's best attempt at competition and, as it so happens, the card includes two items of critical importance: A new GPU architecture and the world's first implementation of high-bandwidth memory.
Some system builders may recall AMD's HD 4870, a video card that was once a quickly-recommended solution for mid-to-high range builds. The 4870 was the world's first graphics card to incorporate the high-speed GDDR5 memory solution, reinforcing AMD's position of technological jaunts in the memory field. Prior to the AMD acquisition, graphics manufacturer ATI designed the GDDR3 memory that ended up being used all the way through to GDDR5 (GDDR4 had a lifecycle of less than a year, more or less, but was also first instituted on ATI devices).
It's been known for some time that AMD's R9 Fury X produces a high frequency whine that is primarily audible on an open-air bench. We noted in our testing that the noise output is of no consequence once the card is installed in an enclosure, but made clear that there is a definitive high-pitched whine from the cards.
AMD today issued a statement that it would be using a different adhesive going forward. The company acknowledged the noise issues and has made promises to replace cards found to emit the noise. AMD's full, unedited statement can be found below:
Our recent Fury X driver comparison took rumors of a disparate relationship between press and launch drivers to task, ultimately finding that no real difference existed. This testing procedure exposed us to the currently discussed “coil whine” and “pump whine” of the new R9 Fury X. Today's test seeks to determine with objectivity and confidence whether the whine is detrimental in a real-world use case.
AMD's R9 Fury X video card emits a high frequency whine when under load. We have located this noise on both of our retail units – sold under Sapphire's banner, but effectively identical to all Fury X cards – and reviewers with press samples have cited the same noise. The existence of a sound does not inherently point toward an unusably loud product, though, and must be tested in a sterile environment to determine impact to the user experience. The noise resembles coil whine, for those familiar with the irritating hum, but is actually an emission from the high-speed pump on the Fury X. This relegates the noise to what is ultimately a mechanical flaw in the engineering rather than something electrical, as coil whine would suggest.
Our R9 Fury X analysis is still forthcoming, but we interrupted other tests to quickly analyze driver performance between the pre-release press drivers and launch day consumer drivers.
All testing was conducted using a retail Fury X, as we were unable to obtain press sampling. This benchmark specifically tests performance of the R9 Fury X using the B8, B9, and release (15.15.1004) drivers against one another.
The purpose for this test is to demystify some rumors that the Fury X would exhibit improved performance with the launch day drivers (15.15.1004), with some speculation indicating that the press drivers were less performant.
Monitor manufacturer AOC has announced its new G2460PF and G2770PF monitors, two displays that come equipped with AMD's FreeSync at a native 1080p resolution. Most notably, the monitors are slated to ship at the still slightly unattainable 144Hz refresh rate.
Following our initial review of AMD's new R9 390 ($330) and R9 380 ($220) video cards, we took the final opportunity prior to loaner returns to overclock the devices. Overclocking the AMD 300 series graphics cards is a slightly different experience from nVidia overclocking, but remains methodologically the same in approach: We tune the clockrate, power, and memory speeds, then test for stability.
The R9 390 and R9 380 are already pushed pretty close to their limits. The architectural refresh added about 50MHz to the operating frequency of each card, with some power changes and memory clock changes tacked-on. The end result is that the GPU is nearly maxed-out as it is, but there's still a small amount of room for overclocking play. This overclocking guide and benchmark for the R9 390 & R9 380 looks at the maximum clockrate achievable through tweaking.
All these tests were performed with Sapphire's “Nitro” series of AMD 300 cards, specifically using the Sapphire Nitro R9 390 Tri-X and Sapphire Nitro R9 380 Dual-X cards. Results will be different for other hardware.