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AMD R9 300-series, Fury X graphics cards officially revealed

Tom Morgan
16 Jun 2015
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High bandwidth memory the star of the show at AMD's Fury graphic card reveal

AMD had officially revealed its latest graphics card range, a top-to-bottom line-up that includes the usual numbered Radeon cards and something of a curve ball - a new high-end flagship, the R9 Fury X.

The Fury X is built around AMD's new Fiji GPU architecture, which was designed from the ground up to use High Bandwidth memory, or HBM, instead of the industry standard GDDR5. According to AMD, the power requirements for supplying enough memory bandwidth to a modern GPU are now so high that memory is actually restricting the amount of power available for the GPU itself. The GDDR5 chips themselves are also a fixed size, meaning you need a larger circuit board in order to accommodate more memory.

AMD’s alternative is to combine both memory chips and GPU into a single package, using a silicon interposer. The greater proximity lets data transfer across a much wider memory interface than with GDDR5, and as more data can be transferred in a single clock cycle, the chips can be clocked at a lower speed and power consumption is lowered.

High Bandwidth memory takes up less space on a circuit board because the chips are designed in 3D, with each individual die stacked on top of each other. A single stack of four HBM dies has a 1,024-bit bus size through eight independent 128-bit channels. This 1GHz effective clock speed creates a total bandwidth of 128GB/sec per stack, yet uses just 1.3v. GDDR5 typically runs at 1.5v, has a 32-bit bus width for a maximum 28GB/sec per chip based on a 1,750MHz clock speed.

That’s a lot of numbers, but essentially HBM-equipped graphics cards should have a much wider memory bandwidth than a GDDR5-equipped card, even if the latter has more physical memory available. AMD had better hope that’s the case, as its first generation HBM cards will be limited to 4GB. Nvidia has high-end GPUs with 6 and even 12GB of dedicated video memory, so performance and power consumption will make or break the Fury.

The cards themselves benefit from the die shrink, with AMD revealing a 6in R9 Nano card which should be small enough to fit inside a mini-ITX or home theatre PC case. The full-size R9 Fury X is smaller than existing high-end Radeon GPUs, and the mainstream high end R9 Fury has room for optional integrated water cooling as an alternative to standard air cooling, without taking up any extra space on the PCB. You'll still need to make room for the 120mm radiator, however.

Built with 4K resolutions in mind, the Fury X stomps all over AMD's previous top-end card, the Radeon R9 290 X with 4096 stream processors versus 2816, 8.6 terraflops of processing power versus 5.6Tflops and 8.9 billion transistors versus roughly 6 billion. It supports DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5 and AMD's own Mantle API for rendering next-generation games at the highest quality settings.

VR gaming was also a priority for AMD's engineers, adding support for the company's support for the proprietary LiquidVR technology which it claims will allow for more immersive virtual reality experience. This lets developers access the underlying GPU power, rather than use APIs and layers of abstract code for VR rendering, which avoids adding extra latency to the system.

Fury might sound like an odd name to choose, given that all of AMD’s recent graphics cards have followed a similar numerical pattern, but it has precedent. ATI used the Fury brand for its Rage graphics cards, before the Radeon brand was introduced and before AMD took the company over.

AMD expects the Fury range to go on sale in the coming months, although didn't set an exact date. The R9 Fury X should cost $649, and is set to go on sale on the 24th June. The Fury will follow several weeks later for $549.

AMD hasn't ignored the Radeon brand, however. The company also revealed a new Radeon line-up, headlined by the Radeon R9 390 and Radeon R9 390 X, full-length graphics cards equipped with a whopping 8GB of GDDR5 RAM. These cards are built for 1440p resolution, high frame rate and FreeSync adaptive sync gaming, with pricers set to start at around $329 for the R9 390 and $429 for the R9 390 X.

Lower down the range, the R9 380 drops the memory down to 4GB, but should still be able to play games at 1440p resolution. It's when you reach the R7 series cards that you'll have to drop the resolution down to 1080p. AMD expects these gamers to be mostly interested in eSports titles like DOTA 2 and League of Legends, where smooth frame frates are more important than super-high frame rates.

That's why the 4GB R7 370 and 2GB R7 360 will include Frame Rate Target Control, or FRTC. Essentially, it forces the GPU to only render the maximum number of frames to match your monitor refresh rate, rather than rendering as many frames as it can and discarding the ones that aren't required. This means it uses less GPU power, produces less heat and keeps the fans spinning at a low, inaudible volume. If you prefer the absolute best image quality, though, Virtual Super Resolution support lets you downscale 4K resolution games down to your monitor's resolution. Considering the R7 370 will cost $149, and the R7 360 just $109, AMD is certainly doing its best to lower the requirements for entry for major eSports titles.

Unfortunately we're still waiting on hardware specifics to see what AMD has done under the hood, as rumours indicate the 300-series is little more than a rebrand of the 200-series range (which itself was a modified version of the 7000-series GPUs). We'll have to wait until later in the week to bring you the details, when AMD puts the entire 300-series GPU range on sale.

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