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AMD Radeon R9 Fury X graphics card review: AMD's thoughtful 4K powerhouse

Brad Chacos | June 25, 2015
AMD's Radeon R9 Fury X kicks ass.

The braided cables connecting the radiator to the card itself are a nice touch and far more aesthetically appealing than the R9 295x2's plastic tubes. Be mindful of where you place the discrete radiator/fan combo, however: At 2.5 inches of total width (the same as the R9 295x2's), they jut far enough into the case of PCWorld's GPU testing machine to bang against our CPU's closed-loop liquid cooling. 

Final design note: You won't be able to buy aftermarket variants of the Fury X with custom cooling or hefty overclocks applied by add-in board vendors like Asus or Sapphire. AMD says the Fury X is a reference design only, though the air-cooled Radeon R9 Fury scheduled for a July 14 release will have vendor-customized designs available.

The elephant in the room

Normally, this is where I'd leap into gaming benchmarks, but I wanted to talk about a more advanced issue first: overclocking.

With power pins capable of sucking down 100W of additional energy, a liquid-cooling solution rated for up to 500W of thermal capacity, and a redesigned AMD PowerTune/OverDrive that gives you more control over fine-tuning your card's capabilities, the Radeon R9 Fury X seems tailor-made for hefty overclocking. Heck, AMD even touted the card's overclockability (that's a word, right?) at its E3 unveiling. "You'll be able to overclock this thing like no tomorrow," AMD CTO Joe Macri said. "This is an overclocker's dream."

That's... well, that's just not true, at least for the review sample I was given.

I was only able to push my Fury X from its 1,050MHz stock clock up to 1100MHz, a very modest bump that added a mere 1 to 2 frames per second of performance in gaming benchmarks. You can't touch the HBM's memory clock--AMD locked it down. And any time I tried upping the Fury X's power limit in AMD's PowerTune utility, even by 1 percent, instability instantly ensued.

An AMD representative told me that "We had a very limited number of OC boards." When I asked whether there will be different variants of the Fury X, given this "OC board" talk, I was told that there will only be one SKU, and it's the usual "silicon lottery" when it comes to your GPU's overclocking capabilities. (Overclocking capabilities vary from individual GPU to individual GPU; another Fury X could have much more headroom than ours, for example.)

All that said, we've heard through the grapevine that we're not the only ones experiencing disappointing overclocks with the Fury X, either. So if you're considering picking up a Fury X, peruse the following gaming benchmarks knowing that you may not be able to eke out additional performance via overclocking.

 

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