Our recent review of EVGA’s GTX 980 Ti Hybrid landed the card dual-awards on the site, granted for supreme overclocking capabilities and a remarkably low thermal footprint. CES 2015 saw the showcase of a KINGPIN GTX 980 – something we previewed – for extreme overclocking with unlocked voltage and multiple BIOS chips. World-renowned GPU overclocker KINGPIN yesterday teased photos of his upcoming GTX 980 Ti card by EVGA.
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.
Regardless of how its mechanics pan-out, Star Citizen is slated to claim the throne as one of the most graphically intense PC games in recent history. This is something we discussed with CIG's Chris Roberts back when the Kickstarter was still running, diving into the graphics technology and the team's intent to fully utilize all tools available to them.
We've been trying to perform frequent benchmarks of Star Citizen as the game progresses. This progress monitor comes with a massive disclaimer, though, and is something we'll revisit shortly: The game isn't finished.
The recent launch of the GTX 980 Ti, R9 Fury X, and AMD 300 series cards almost demands a revisit to Star Citizen's video card performance. This graphics benchmark looks at GPU performance in Star Citizen's 1.1.3 build, testing framerates at various settings and resolutions.
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.
AMD's most recent video card launch was September of 2014, introducing the R9 285 ($243) on the slightly updated Tonga GPU. Tonga was laterally imposed to take the place of the Tahiti products, namely the HD 7970 and its refresh, the R9 280. The Radeon 7970 video card shipped in late 2011 on the Tahiti GPU, a die using TSMC's still-fabbed 28nm process, and was refreshed as the R9 280, then updated, improved, and refreshed again as the Tonga-equipped R9 285. At its core, the 285 would offer effectively identical on-paper specs (with some changes, like a 256-bit memory bus against the 384-bit predecessor), but introduced a suite of optimization that yielded marginally improved performance over the R9 280.
All of this is to say that it's been a number of years since AMD has introduced truly new architecture. Tahiti's been around four years now, Hawaii shipped in 2013 and was a node refresh of Tahiti (more CUs, ROPs, and geometry / rasterizer processors), and Fiji – the anticipated new GPU – won't ship for a short bit longer. Filling that space is another refresher line, the Radeon 300 series of video cards.
AMD's lull in technological advancement on the hardware side has allowed competitor nVidia to increase competition in some unchallenged market segments, like the high-end with the GTX 980 Ti ($650) and mid-range with the GTX 960 ($200). The long-awaited R9 300 series video cards have finally arrived, though, and while they aren't hosting new GPUs or deploying a smaller fab process, the cards do offer marginally increased clockrates and other small changes.
This review benchmarks the AMD R9 390 and AMD R9 380 graphics cards against the preceding R9 280, R9 290(X), GTX 960, and other devices. The R7 370 and R7 360 also launch today, but won't be reviewed here.
In our GTX 980 Ti overclocking endeavors, it was quickly discovered that the card encountered thermal bounds at higher clockrates. Driver failures and device instability were exhibited at frequencies exceeding ~1444MHz, and although a 40% boost in clockrate is admirable, it's not what we wanted. The outcome of our modest overclocking effort was an approximate ~19% performance gain (measured in FPS) for a selection of our benchmark titles, enough to propel the 980 Ti beyond the Titan X in gaming performance. Most games cared more about raw clock speed of the lower CUDA-count 980 Ti than the memory capacity of the TiX.