Radeon R9 Fury graphics card review: AMD's furious bid for enthusiast gaming supremacy

AMD's air-cooled counterpart to the liquid-chilled Radeon Fury X doesn't topple its big brother, but the Asus Strix version of the Radeon Fury firmly outpunches Nvidia's GTX 980.

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AMD’s water-cooled, luxuriously designed Radeon Fury X graphics card was supposed to be the star of the show—the technology-packed counterpunch to Nvidia’s ferocious GeForce GTX 980 Ti. AMD drip-drop-dripped information about the Fury X in the days ahead of the card’s launch, slowly teasing enthusiasts with leaks and glimpses and internal benchmarks. In the end, the $650 Fury X lived up to its name, proving competitive—though not quite dominant—to Nvidia’s beast, and promptly selling out in stores.

But forget about the Fury X.

It’s the Fury X’s little brother that AMD should be shouting about from the rooftops: the $550 Radeon Fury. Sure, it’s not quite as powerful as AMD’s liquid-chilled flagship, but the Radeon Fury is nothing less than a stellar card that clearly outpunches its GeForce GTX 980 counterpart in many titles—something the Fury X can’t quite claim against the 980 Ti.

Let’s dig in.

AMD Radeon Fury detailed

AMD originally implied that the Radeon R9 Fury was merely an air-cooled version of the Fury X, but that’s not quite true.

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AMD Radeon R9 Fury’s stock specs. (Click any image in this article to enlarge it.)

The Fury indeed mimes the vast majority of the Fury X’s technical features, from its 4GB of cutting-edge high-bandwidth memory (HBM) to its 275W power draw via a pair of 8-pin connectors. All of the software features found in the Fury X also work with the Fury, from Frame Rate Target Control to Virtual Super Resolution.

The differences from the Fury X are fairly major, however. First, and most noticeable: The Radeon Fury is indeed air-cooled, while the Fury X is available only in its liquid-cooled reference design. AMD partners are allowed to slap customized hardware and overclocks on the Fury, which Asus did to full effect with the Strix R9 Fury DirectCU III OC we reviewed.

The card largely replicates the design of Asus’ Radeon R9 390X Strix, featuring Asus’ vaunted DirectCU II tri-fanned cooling system for cooler, quieter running. Those fans actually stay off (and therefore silent) until the card hits 65 degrees Celsius, relying on the beefy heatsinks and pipes underneath to cool things down. The card runs super quiet.

The sleek-looking backplate on the top of the card leaves the back of the Fiji GPU and HBM exposed for more airflow. (The pulsating, illuminated red-and-white Strix logo on the side of the card is a nice touch, too.) Interestingly, while the reference-only Fury X eschews a DVI port completely, Asus stocked the Strix Fury with DVI-I, HDMI (still 1.4, sadly), and a trio of DisplayPorts. Sapphire’s competing Tri-X R9 Fury still lacks a DVI output.

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Details about the Asus Strix R9 Fury DirectCU III OC.

While the Fury X was a pint-sized powerhouse, measuring in at just 7.6 inches, the air-cooled Strix Fury is a full-width graphics card, measuring 11.8 inches long. Sapphire’s Tri-X R9 Fury is also a full-length card, though that’s due to Sapphire's extending the cooling assembly beyond its shorter-than-normal circuit board. In other words: Don’t expect Fury boards to be as tiny as the Fury X.

More significant than the aesthetics and cooling are the Fury’s under-the-hood tweaks, which AMD didn’t mention previously. The Fury sports a cut-down version of the beefy new Fiji GPU found in the Fury X, chopping off 32 texture units, 512 stream processors, and 50MHz off the max clock speed, to 1000MHz boost. The Asus Strix Fury is clocked at 1000MHz, but hits 1020MHz when using "OC Mode" in the company's GPU Tweak II software.

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AMD’s Fiji GPU, found in the heart of the Strix Fury and the Fury X. The four small squares along the edges are the HBM, integrated on the die.

We received our review sample a scant 15 hours before the embargo time for reviews lifted, so we were unable to test out the Fury’s overclocking capabilities. However, the modest factory OC on the Asus Strix Fury (and Sapphire’s Tri-X R9 Fury, as well, at 1050MHz) suggest that this card may not be an overclocking fiend. Remember: Our attempts to overclock the liquid-cooled Fury X resulted in a mere 60MHz boost, good for an extra 2 to 3 frames per second in gameplay. The Strix Fury packs 12-phase Super Alloy Power II materials, DIGI + VRM, and Asus’ stellar GPU Tweak II overclocking software to help you squeeze all the performance you can out of the card.

Before we move on to the meat of the review—performance benchmarks!—a few quick notes. The R9 Fury, of course, supports AMD’s defunct Mantle API, as well as its performance-enhancing Vulkan successor and the similar DirectX 12 technology coming with Windows 10.

Radeon Fury performance benchmarks

Let’s clear the air right off the bat: While the Radeon Fury isn’t quite as capable as the Fury X or the GTX 980 Ti—though it comes close—it pummels the GTX 980 in many games, and it’s a dead heat in the handful of titles where it’s close. Heck, you could even feasibly use this for single-card 4K resolution gaming for today’s games, but if you do you’d definitely want to invest in a FreeSync panel to smooth things out. The GTX 980 and R9 390X simply don’t offer that.

Continue to the next page for Radeon R9 Fury benchmarks.

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