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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Bottom line

There you have it: Despite rocking a cut-down version of AMD’s hulking new Fiji GPU, the Asus Strix Fury still packs a hell of a punch, landing closer to the GTX 980 Ti than the GTX 980 in terms of performance in general. And it’s definitely a vast improvement over the older R9 290X in performance, power consumption, and sheer heat.

Out of the box, the Fury delivers exactly what you’d want out of a card with its price point. For $50 more than the GTX 980, it offers a solid jump in performance. The Radeon Fury is unequivocally a top-notch 2560x1440 gaming option, period.

Don’t expect its release to shake up pricing too hard, though: The GTX 980 and Radeon R9 390X still seem positioned well when it comes to price/performance. 

The Fury also delivers a (comparatively) cheap entry into reasonable 4K gaming. That said, there are some concerns that prevent the Fury from being an absolute must-buy for folks looking for a lower-cost, single-card 4K experience, however, no matter how close it comes to the Fury X and GTX 980 Ti.

radeonr9fury backangleflat rgb xl

The Asus Strix R9 Fury.

First of all, with High graphics settings enabled at 4K resolution, it juuust squeaks past the 30fps minimum required for a decent gameplay experience with a few of the titles (Dragon Age, GTA V, Sleeping Dogs). To be honest, 4K gaming on a single GPU is still in its infancy, and games only become more demanding as time goes on. If you’re looking to play games at 4K resolution with a single graphics card today, you’d probably be better off spending the extra $100 for higher frame rates and grabbing a Fury X, GTX 980 Ti, or AMD’s beastly dual-GPU Radeon R9 295x2, which outpunches both of the others. The slightly higher performance those cards provide would give you a more comfortable level of future-proofing.

You wouldn’t want to drop $550 on a graphics card and have to drop down to Medium settings at 4K in next year’s hottest games. That would hurt.

6050 asic hbm 4k 02

High-bandwidth memory: The first iteration of this revolutionary technology is both a blessing and a curse.

Related, while HBM is a powerful new technology delivering an insane amount of memory bandwidth, the 4GB cap on the first-generation version is worrisome for people looking to dip their toes into 4K gaming. Gaming at such a high resolution absolutely chews through RAM, and current-day titles like GTAV and Shadow of Mordor are already skirting the Fury’s 4GB capacity at 4K. The Fury can run today’s games at 4K without issues, but what about tomorrow’s? AMD’s engineers think driver optimizations can keep things running smoothly in the future, but it’s yet to be proven.

Pushing the card even further is another potential hesitation point for enthusiasts. While we didn’t have time to test the Fury’s overclocking chops, the GPU itself proved resistant to MOAR POWER when we tested the Fury X. GeForce cards built using Nvidia’s supremely power-efficient Maxwell architecture are known for their extreme overclocking prowess, with some chips hitting an insane 20 percent OC. That said, the Strix Fury solidly beats the GTX 980 in most games, so even Maxwell’s vaunted overclocking capabilities might not be enough to tip the scales.

Don’t let those qualms turn you off the Radeon Fury, though. Out of the box, the air-cooled Fury does everything we’d hoped it’d do—perhaps even a bit more—by blowing the pants off Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980 in most games and delivering a stunning 2560x1440 gaming experience. This card comes highly recommended at that resolution.

And if you're looking for the lowest-cost way to start legitimate 4K gaming today, the Radeon Fury delivers—as long as you keep our caveats about future-proofing in mind. And you buy a FreeSync monitor.

Interested in more Radeon Fury coverage? Stay tuned for July 14, the day AMD's air-cooled monster hits the streets. We'll have a review of not one, but two Furies running in CrossFire.

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