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.
Listed on AMD's official R9 Fury X documentation is the liquid cooling solution. The PDF indicates that Cooler Master is slated to provide AMD's Fury X CLC, marked by part number “DCV-01647-A1-HF” in the document.
Cooler Master recently lost a lawsuit with CLC supplier Asetek, where a jury ruled that Cooler Master would owe Asetek a 14.5% royalty on all Seidon AIO coolers sold. We are yet unsure if the Fury X stock CLC will be subject to the same legal agreements as the Seidon AIO units.
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 a recent update to the site for AMD-exclusive manufacturer XFX, leaked images of the company's impending R9 390X card were posted for public review. The images were likely posted in error and have since been removed.
The product render shows XFX's R9 390X marketing, resembling Hawaii rebranding from the R9 290X as an 8GB device. The R9 390X will lack HBM and other architectural updates to Hawaii – items that will only be found on the company's Fury and Fury X GPUs.
AMD's GPU and CPU business have jointly struggled to retain marketshare over the past year, a point emphasized by a 38% year-over-year dip in GPU/CPU revenue. Still, despite its biggest GPU competitor holding 75.98% of AIB marketshare (JPR) and its biggest CPU competitor holding ~92% of server sales (Gartner) and 82.7% of desktop sales (Mercury), AMD still trudges on and attempts to make its mark on consumers. Recently, it has mostly done so through competitive price drops, holding claim to value-adds over nearby alternatives.
AMD has shown its flexibility and versatility best with APUs. These APUs have offered an affordable solution – easily deployed in HTPCs – for users seeking moderate graphics performance without an add-in board. The A10-7850K was joined by the slightly cheaper A8-7650K at CES this year, and now AMD hopes to revitalize its lineup with “Kaveri Refresh.”
Johan Andersson, a Frostbite developer under EA, today posted a photograph of AMD's new liquid-cooled video card. It is already known that the R9 300-series video cards are due for release in the summer – likely June – and that the flagship devices will be liquid cooled, but little has been officially announced. The pictured Pirate Islands card is assumed to be a 390X.
The Witcher 3's bombastic launch included bonus, spill-over fanfare surrounding the use of nVidia's GameWorks middle-ware in Project Cars. AMD spewed fire, telling Ars that GameWorks “completely sabotaged” AMD's performance, further stating “it's wrecked our performance, almost as if it [were] put in to achieve that goal.” This implication of an nVidia-branded torpedo to AMD's performance garnered attention on reddit and other social networks, following a week of similar postings related to Project Cars. We decided to do some of our own research.
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