As usual, we'll sum up our test results with a couple of value scatter plots. The best values tend toward the upper left corner of each plot, where performance is highest and prices are lowest. We've converted our 99th-percentile frame time results into FPS, so that higher is better, in order to make this layout work. These overall numbers are produced using a geometric mean of the results from all of the games tested. The use of a geomean should limit the impact of outliers on the overall score, but we've also excluded Project Cars since those results are dramatically different enough to skew the average.
The R9 Fury outperforms the GeForce GTX 980 by 1.1 frames per second overall. That's essentially a tie, folks. Since we're talking about an FPS average here, this result is more about potential than it is about delivered performance. In that respect, these two cards are evenly matched. Most folks would stop there and draw conclusions, but we can go deeper by using a better metric of smooth animation, the 99th-percentile frame time, as we've demonstrated on the preceding pages. When we consider this method of measuring performance, the picture changes:
We saw substantially smoother gaming across our suite of eight test scenarios out of the GeForce GTX 980 than we did from the Radeon R9 Fury. This outcome will be nothing new for those folks who have been paying attention. Nvidia has led in this department for some time now. I continue to believe this gap is probably not etched into the silicon of today's Radeons. Most likely, AMD could improve its performance with a round of targeted driver software optimizations focused on consistent frame delivery. Will it happen? Tough to say, but hope springs eternal.
The rest of the pieces are there for the R9 Fury to be a reasonably compelling product. The Fiji GPU continues to impress with its power efficiency compared to the Hawaii chip before it. Although the Fury X's water cooler is nice, it apparently isn't strictly necessary. Asus has engineered a startlingly effective air cooler for the Strix R9 Fury; it's quieter than any of the GeForce cards we tested with Nvidia's reference cooler.
Also, you may have noticed, the cuts AMD has made to the Fiji GPU aboard the R9 Fury just don't hurt very much compared to the Fury X. The gap in performance is minimal and, as I've mentioned, the Fury still has a 7.2-teraflop shader array and 512 GB/s of memory bandwidth lying in wait. Games don't yet seem to be taking full advantage of the Fiji GPU's strengths. Should games begin using Fiji's prodigious shader power and memory bandwidth to good effect, the Fury seems well positioned to benefit from that shift. Unless you really want that water cooler, I can't see paying the premium for the Fury X.
So the R9 Fury has its virtues. The difficult reality at present, though, is that this card is based on a bigger GPU with a larger appetite for power than the competing GeForce GTX 980. The Fury has more than double the memory bandwidth via HBM. It costs about 50 bucks more than the 980. Yet the Fury isn't much faster across our suite of games, in terms of FPS averages, than the GTX 980—and it has lower delivered performance when you look at advanced metrics.
We should say a word about the R9 390 and 390X, as well. The XFX R9 390 we tested is something of a bright spot for AMD in this whole contest. This card's price currently undercuts that of the Asus Strix GTX 970, yet it offers very similar performance. The value proposition is solid in those terms. The downside is that you're looking at an additional 120W or so of system power with the R9 390 installed instead of the GTX 970. That translates into more noise on the decibel meter and more heat in the surrounding PC case—and, heck, in the surrounding room, too. Buyers will have to decide how much that difference in power, heat, and noise matters to them. We can say that the XFX card's cooler is pretty quiet, even if it's not as wondrous as the Strix GTX 970's.
The R9 390X, meanwhile, offers somewhat higher performance at the cost of, well, more money—but also substantially higher power consumption. Asus has done heroic work creating a cooler that will keep this thing relatively quiet while gaming, but it's hard to imagine a smart PC builder deciding to opt for the 390X's additional 167W to 199W of system power draw compared to a GeForce GTX 970 or 980. Perhaps the right user, who wants maximum performance across a triple-4K display setup, would find the 390X's 8GB of memory compelling.
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312 comments — Last by Freon at 8:56 AM on 08/03/15
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