AMD's R9 Fury X
AMD's R9 Fury X Supplied

AMD's chance to leapfrog Nvidia with more than just numbers

IT'S been a while since gaming hardware has seen a significant generational jump in performance, but AMD's new Fiji chip R9 cards look like the change digital entertainment fans have been waiting for.

It's easy to blame the slow progress in GPU improvement over the last two generations (both ATI and Nvidia) on consoles, and that's because the latest iteration of Xbox and Playstation are under-specced to the point of strangling any need for innovation out of the industry.

The level of quality expected of current-generation consoles was easily attained by PCs more than five years ago, so why are AMD and, to a slightly lesser extent, Nvidia still pushing for more power now?

I want one. Genuinely impressed.

A photo posted by Kieran Salsone (@websinthe) on

 

4K Monitors are the gadget industry's next big play

The current High Definition resolution for monitors is 1920x1080 (1080p) and the industry has done well to proliferate content designed for that resolution and has made sure we've all bought TVs and Monitors capable of enjoying it.

Displays are now capable of far higher resolutions now, with manufacturers and content creators aiming for the 4K resolution mark. While moving from 1920x1080 to 3840x2160 is a significant improvement (four times) in resolution, it does require hardware capable of pumping out four times as many pixels at the same framerate - something even the most powerful current-generation cards struggle to do.

TV and cinema content designed for 4K is also sparse at this stage, so the main thrust of development is and has been in gaming, where existing content can be changed to render at higher resolutions to suit the hardware.

Note the size of the mini-map in the corner. Will be fun to see games built for 4k.

A photo posted by Kieran Salsone (@websinthe) on

 

Enter AMD and their Fiji chip line of graphics cards

The new R9 cards fit two rough categories, euphemistically but accurately referred to by AMD's Chief Gaming Scientist Richard Buddy as their "eSports" and "Enthusiast" cards.

The former category is the more affordable of the two and will be the cards bought by the majority of gamers. These will play games like League of Legends, Counterstrike, and DOTA 2 close to perfectly. You'll be able to run a 4K display reasonably but not spectacularly.

The latter category has the beast cards like the R9 Fury X - cards designed for playing AAA titles at Ultra settings on full 4K. By all reviews, the Fury X keeps up with NVidia's whopping GTX980 Ti but with newer architecture. Future-proofing seems assured, especially when it comes to the other gadget change we've seen since the last generation of GPUs - VR. The GTX 980 Ti is the end of an era while the Fury 9 is the start of one.

A photo posted by Kieran Salsone (@websinthe) on

 

Next year you will strap your display to your head

AMD brought along Oculus's Crescent Bay prototype Virtual Reality headset to show off how they've built the R9 cards to play friendly with VR from the word go.

I've used every iteration of the Rift since the first development kit and it's true that it has come a long way. The new displays resolve at 1080x1200 per eye - 25% more pixels than a 1080p display, with the refresh rate set to 90hz. Long story short - no current generation console could handle anything close to the required power to run this.

The trouble with VR headsets is that the display needs to react to your movements faster than the lag between your senses and brain. If it can't, the user might end up with motion-sickness. Fortunately, the Fury X had no issues keeping up.

Eve Valkyrie

A video posted by Kieran Salsone (@websinthe) on

 

DirectX 12 will suck much less than DirectX 11

Plenty of PCs are designed with multiple graphics cards to get a better balance of performance and price - but that arrangement has been fraught as game developers have had to code support directly into their games. DX12 will handle that itself, leaving developers with more budget or more development as the coding requirement falls.

By the looks of it, with the release of DX12 we'll see closer to a doubling in performance for adding a second card to your PC.

Not just numbers - form factor makes it portable

The R9 family of cards is surprisingly small.

The new architecture means even the high-end cards would fit into a micro case for use in media centre PCs and compact rigs.

Sure, the Fury X draws a remarkable amount of power, but the results for lounge-room entertainment will be staggering.

CardR9 FURY XR9 390XR9 390R9 380
GPU ARCHITECTURE28nm28nm28nm28nm
API SUPPORT6,7,8DirectX® 12, Mantle, OpenGL® 4.58, Vulkan™, OpenCL™ 2.0DirectX® 12, Mantle, OpenGL® 4.58, Vulkan™, OpenCL™ 2.0DirectX® 12, Mantle, OpenGL® 4.58, Vulkan™, OpenCL™ 2.0DirectX® 12, Mantle, OpenGL® 4.58, Vulkan™, OpenCL™ 2.0
HIGH-BANDWIDTH MEMORY1 (HBM)YesNoNoNo
PCI EXPRESS® VERSION173333
VIRTUAL SUPER RESOLUTION (VSR)4YesYesYesYes
AMD FREESYNC™ TECHNOLOGY5YesYesYesYes
AMD LIQUIDVR™ TECHNOLOGY9YesYesYesYes
4K RESOLUTION SUPPORT3YesYesYesYes
FRAME RATE TARGET CONTROL (FRTC)11YesYesYesYes
DDMA AUDIOYesYesYesYes
HDMI (WITH 4K, STEREO 3D, DEEP COLOR & X.V.COLOR™)YesYesYesYes
AMD POWERTUNE TECHNOLOGY13YesYesYesYes
AMD ZEROCORE POWER TECHNOLOGY13YesYesYesYes
AMD TRUEAUDIO TECHNOLOGY15YesYesYesYes
AMD EYEFINITY TECHNOLOGY10 (MAXIMUM DISPLAYS)Up to 6 displays with DisplayPort MST hubUp to 6 displays with DisplayPort MST hubUp to 6 displays with DisplayPort MST hubUp to 6 displays with DisplayPort MST hub
AMD HD3D TECHNOLOGY18YesYesYesYes
VIDEO CODEC ENGINE (VCE) (WITH H.264, MPEG-4 ASP, MPEG-2, VC-1 & BLU-RAY 3D)YesYesYesYes
GPU CLOCK SPEEDUp to 1050 MHzUp to 1050 MHzUp to 1000 MHzUp to 970 MHz
MEMORY BANDWIDTH512 GB/s384 GB/s384 GB/s182.4 GB/s
MEMORY INTERFACE4096-bit HBM512-bit GDDR5512-bit GDDR5256-bit GDDR5
MEMORY AMOUNT4GB HBM8GB GDDR58GB GDDR5Up to 4GB GDDR5
STREAM PROCESSING UNITS4096 (64 Compute Units)19281625601792
(44 Compute Units)19(40 Compute Units)19(28 Compute Units)19
REQUIRED POWER SUPPLY CONNECTORS2x 8-pin1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin2 x 6-pin
AMD CROSSFIRE™ SUPPORT12 (MAXIMUM NUMBER OF GPUS AND CROSSFIRE BRIDGE INTERCONNECT REQUIRED)4, no4, no4, no2, no
FORM FACTORFull height, dual slot, liquid-cooledFull height, dual slotFull height, dual slotFull height, dual slot

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