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Asus' Strix Radeon R9 Fury graphics card reviewed

Fiji goes air-cooled

New Radeons are coming into Damage Labs at a rate and in a fashion I can barely handle. The first Radeon R9 Fury card, the air-cooled sibling to the R9 Fury X, arrived less than 24 hours ago, as I write. I'm mainlining an I.V. drip consisting of Brazilian coffee, vitamin B, and methamphetamine just to bring you these words. With luck, I'll polish off this review and get it posted before suffering a major medical event. Hallucinations are possible and may involve large, red tentacles reaching forth from a GPU cooler.

Radeon R9 Fury 1000 MHz 3584 4 GB HBM 2 x 8-pin 275W $549.99*
Radeon R9 Fury X 1050 MHz 4096 4 GB HBM 2 x 8-pin 275W $649.99

Despite my current state, the health of AMD's new R9 Fury graphics card appears to be quite good. The Fury is based on the same Fiji GPU as the Radeon R9 Fury X, and it has the same prodigious memory subsystem powered by HBM, the stacked DRAM solution that's likely the future of graphics memory. That means the Fury has the same ridiculous 512GB/s of memory bandwidth as its elder brother. The only real cut-downs come at the chip level. The Fiji GPU on Fury has had eight of its 64 GCN compute units deactivated, taking it down to "only" 3584 stream processors and 224 texels per clock of filtering power. The Fury's only other concession to being second in the lineup is a 1000MHz peak clock speed, 50MHz shy of the big dawg's.

At the end of the day, the Fury still has the second most powerful shader array in a consumer GPU, with 7.2 teraflops of single-precision arithmetic power on tap, and it has about a third more memory bandwidth than a GeForce Titan X.

The card we have on hand to test is Asus' Strix rendition of the R9 Fury. Although all Fury X cards are supposed to be the same, AMD has given board makers the go-ahead to customize the non-X Fury as they see fit. Asus has taken that ball and run with it, slapping on its brand-spanking-new DirectCU III cooler. This beast is huge and heavy, with a pair of extra-thick heatpipes snaking through its array of cooling fins. The cooler is also one of the tallest and longest we've seen; it protrudes about two inches above the top of the PCIe slot cover, and the card is about 11.75" long.

Like a number of aftermarket cards from the best manufacturers these days, the Strix R9 Fury's fans do not spin until the GPU reaches a certain temperature. Generally, that means the fans stay completely still during everyday operation on the Windows desktop, which is excellent.

The Strix is premium in other ways, too many for me to retain in my semi-medicated state. I do recall something about Asus including a year-long license for XSplit Premium, so you can stream your Fury-powered exploits to the world. There's also an "OC mode" that grants an extra 20MHz of GPU clock frequency at the flip of a switch. Oh, and I think those tentacle hallucinations may have been prompted in part by the throbbing light show under the Strix logo on the top of the cooler.

Asus expects the Strix R9 Fury to cost $579.99 at online retailers, a little more than AMD's suggested base price for Fury cards. That sticker undercuts any GM200-based GeForce card, like the GTX 980 Ti and Titan X, and it's roughly 50 bucks more expensive than hot-clocked GTX 980 cards based on the smaller GM204 GPU.

The Radeon R9 300 series, too
The R9 Fury isn't the only new Radeon getting the treatment in Damage Labs. I've finally gotten my hands on a pair of R9 300-series cards and have a full set of results for you on the following pages.

The R9 390 and 390X are refreshed versions of the R9 290 and 290X before them. They're based on the same Hawaii GPU, but AMD has juiced them up a bit with a series of tweaks. First, GPU clock speeds are up by 50MHz on both cards, yielding a bit more goodness. Memory clocks are up even more than that, from 5 GT/s to 6 GT/s, thanks to the availability of newer and better GDDR5 chips. As a result, memory bandwidth jumps from 320 to 384 GB/s, putting these cards also well ahead of the Titan X and anything else from the green team in terms of raw throughput. Furthermore, all R9 390 and 390X cards ship with a thunderous 8GB of GDDR5 memory onboard, just to remove any doubt.

Finally, AMD says it has conducted a "complete re-write" of the PowerTune algorithm that manages power consumption on these cards. Absolute peak power draw doesn't change, but the company expects lower power use when running a game than on the older Hawaii-based cards.

Nope, this isn't the Fury card I just showed you. It's the Strix R9 390X, and Asus has equipped it with the same incredibly beefy DirectCU III cooler. This card is presently selling for $450 at Newegg, so it undercuts the GeForce GTX 980 while offering substantially higher memory bandwidth and double the memory capacity.

Meanwhile, at $330, this handsome XFX R9 390 card has the GeForce GTX 970 firmly in its sights. This puppy continues a long tradition of great-looking cards from XFX. Let's see how it stacks up.