Unleash the Fury X: Building a powerful, yet tiny PC with AMD's top GPU and APU

AMD just released a new flagship graphics card and APU, so we crammed both into a tiny PC to see how they perform.

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Putting the motherboard into the case is also as easy as it gets with a mini-ITX build. With larger cases, you’re usually required to install stand-offs that may need to go in various different locations, depending on the type of motherboard being used. With standard mini-ITX stuff, though, it’s simply a matter of popping in the custom IO shield that came with the mobo—forgetting to do so is a common PC building mistake, so watch out!—and securing everything in place with a quartet of screws.

foundation Marco Chiappetta

The foundation of this system is a mere 6.7 inches square and a few inches tall, thanks to the mini-ITX form factor.

The Thermaltake Core V1 has vertically mounted drive trays that are compatible with both 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch drives. We used one for the AMD Radeon R7 SSD.

ssd Marco Chiappetta

The Thermaltake Core V1 chassis has two drive cages that allow users to mounts drives vertically, perpendicular to the bottom of the case.

The only semi-tricky component to install was the Fury X. Popping the card in the sole slot on the motherboard wasn’t an issue, but it took some careful routing to make sure the coolant tubes weren’t kinked after mounting the radiator to the appropriate spot in the chassis.

Mounting the radiator posed another problem. The large, front-facing fan on the Thermaltake Core V1 is configured as intake. But the Fury X’s fan is set up to exhaust hot air. Because the radiator needed to be mounted at the front of the chassis, the two fans would essentially cancel each other out—the Fury X’s fan would be trying to blow hot air against the incoming cool air from the large intake fan.

installed Marco Chiappetta

I had to carefully snake the tubing through the back of the chassis, and re-configure the front-facing fan in the case, but the Radeon R9 Fury X ultimately fit well inside the Thermaltake Core V1.

To work around this issue, we had two options: Reverse the Fury X’s fan or reverse the front-facing fan on the chassis, so the two would complement each other in a push-pull configuration. We opted to reverse the chassis fan, so the heated air from the GPU’s radiator wouldn’t be blown across the motherboard and APU.

This setup worked fine, but introduced a third problem. With the fans configured to exhaust air from the system, the vents on the sides of the case become intakes, and unfortunately, they have no dust filters. Dust will most certainly build up faster than normal in the rig, especially if it’s placed on a carpeted floor. An air-cooled card wouldn’t suffer from the same issue.

By the numbers

Once we had the system assembled, we installed Windows 10 Pro x64 and ran a handful of benchmarks to see how everything performed, with pretty good results.

In the OpenCL-accelerated Home and Work benchmarks, the system put up scores of 3,215 and 3,824, which are very respectable numbers. In the CPU-bound Cinebench R15 test, the rig mustered a score of 325, which placed it somewhere in between a Core i5-4670K and Core i5-3317U, but just ahead of an A10-6800K. In Cinebench’s OpenGL graphics test, we got a score of 71.15fps.

amd radeon fury x split view

The system also performed well with graphics-heavy workloads—not surprisingly. In the 3DMark Firestrike Ultra benchmark running at 4K resolution, our all AMD-rig scored 3,607 overall, with a GPU score of 3,936, and a Physics score of 4,497 (14.28fps). By comparison, slapping the Fury X in our Core i7-5960X “Haswell-E”-based system resulted in an overall score of 3981. In the Unigine Heaven benchmark, also running at 4K with max tessellations and 4XAA, the system mustered a score of 569 with an average framerate of 22.6fps (6.5fps minimum, 48.8fps maximum).

While we ran all of the benchmarks, we also monitored power to see how much juice the rig was pulling from the wall. At idle, the system virtually sipped power and consumed only 55 watts. With a heavy CPU workload, power consumption jumped to 153 watts, and then again to 192 watts with a heavy GPU workload. With both the APU and GPU getting whacked, power consumption hovered between 382 and 414 watts.

Overall, we were pretty happy with how this rig turned out. With Windows 10, a relatively fast APU, a powerful GPU like the Fury X, and some speedy memory and storage, this all-AMD system is very snappy indeed.

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