The new Radeon R9 300-series
The new AMD Radeon R9 and R7 300-series of graphics cards are coming into the world with a rocky start. We have seen rumors and speculation about what GPUs are going to be included, what changes would be made and what prices these would be shipping at for what seems like months, and in truth it has been months. AMD's Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X based on the new Hawaii GPU launched nearly 2 years ago, while the rest of the 200-series lineup was mostly a transition of existing products in the HD 7000-family. The lone exception was the Radeon R9 285, a card based on a mysterious new GPU called Tonga that showed up late to the game to fill a gap in the performance and pricing window for AMD.
AMD's R9 300-series, and the R7 300-series in particular, follows a very similar path. The R9 390 and R9 390X are still based on the Hawaii architecture. Tahiti is finally retired and put to pasture, though Tonga lives on as the Radeon R9 380. Below that you have the Radeon R7 370 and 360, the former based on the aging GCN 1.0 Curacao GPU and the latter based on Bonaire. On the surface its easy to refer to these cards with the dreaded "R-word"...rebrands. And though that seems to be the case there are some interesting performance changes, at least at the high end of this stack, that warrant discussion.
And of course, AMD partners like Sapphire are using this opportunity of familiarity with the GPU and its properties to release newer product stacks. In this case Sapphire is launching the new Nitro brand for a series of cards that it is aimed at what it considers the most common type of gamer: one that is cost conscious and craves performance over everything else.
The result is a stack of GPUs with prices ranging from about $110 up to ~$400 that target the "gamer" group of GPU buyers without the added price tag that some other lines include. Obviously it seems a little crazy to be talking about a line of graphics cards that is built for gamers (aren't they all??) but the emphasis is to build a fast card that is cool and quiet without the additional cost of overly glamorous coolers, LEDs or dip switches.
Today I am taking a look at the new Sapphire Nitro R9 390 8GB card, but before we dive head first into that card and its performance, let's first go over the changes to the R9-level of AMD's product stack.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2015 - 01:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Strix R9 390X, Strix R9 390, Strix R9 380, Strix R7 370, strix, DirectCU II, asus
These particular ASUS STRIX models don't seem to have arrived at Amazon yet but Gigabyte, Sapphire, MSI and XFX are all showing up with prices, though perhaps not reasonable availability. Newegg is also showing similar models and pricing, so keep your eyes out for the ASUS cards to appear.
Fremont, CA (June 17, 2015) — ASUS today announced the Strix R9 390X, R9 390, R9 380 and R7 370 graphics cards. Powered by the latest AMD Radeon graphics-processing units (GPUs), the new Strix R9 390X and R9 390 graphics cards are packed with exclusive ASUS technologies. These include DirectCU III with a patented triple wing-blade fan design and ASUS Auto-Extreme technology with Super Alloy Power II components for aerospace-grade production quality and reliability. All models feature GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster software for intuitive performance tweaking and instant gameplay streaming.
Cool, silent gameplay: DirectCU III with a triple wing-blade fan design
The Strix R9 390X and R9 390 are equipped with ASUS-exclusive DirectCU III cooling technology, which features two 10mm direct-GPU-contact heat pipes — outperforming reference designs for gaming performance by up to 30%. They each have three fans engineered with a patented, new wing-blade design that delivers maximum airflow and static pressure over the heat sink — giving a 105% improvement over fans without wing-blades. This exclusive triple wing-blade design operates at noise levels three times (3X) quieter than reference cards, making DirectCU III the coolest and quietest graphics card-cooling solution available to date.
The Strix R9 380 and R7 370 come with DirectCU II cooling technology, featuring direct-GPU-contact copper heat pipes and a dual wing-blade design to deliver an incredible gaming experience. All cards feature 0dB fan technology, which stops fan rotation completely during lighter gaming sessions — eliminating noise for undisturbed gameplay.
Premium quality and reliability: Auto-Extreme technology with Super Alloy Power II components
The Strix R9 390X, R9 390, R9 380 and R7 370 benefit from ASUS-exclusive Auto-Extreme technology, the industry’s first 100%-automated manufacturing process that removes human fallibility from the production line for consistent perfection — making them ultra-reliable in all scenarios, from general use to hardcore gaming and overclocking. Auto-Extreme technology eliminates flux to minimize dust buildup and oxidization, while the rear of the printed-circuit boards are totally smooth, for easy handling. This new manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly, eliminating the need for harsh chemicals and reducing production power consumption by 50%.
The new cards also feature aerospace-grade Super Alloy Power II1 components for enhanced efficiency, reduced mechanical noise under load, and lower operating temperatures for unsurpassed quality and reliability. Complementing their amazing reliability, the latest Strix graphics cards are built to be incredibly tough. The Strix R9 390X, R9 390 and R9 380 each come with a strengthened backplate that provides protection and also prevents PCB bending over time.
Tweakable and intuitive: GPU Tweak II with XSplit Gamecaster
Redesigned with an intuitive, all-new user interface, GPU Tweak II makes gaming and overclocking the new Strix cards easier and more visual than ever, while retaining advanced options for seasoned overclockers. With one click, the new Gaming Booster function maximizes system performance by removing redundant processes and allocating all available resources automatically. An included 1-year XSplit Gamecaster premium license — a $99 value — lets gamers easily stream or record gameplay via a convenient, in-game overlay.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2015 - 01:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, Hawaii XT, tonga, pitcairn
So far the only published review with benchmarks is this one from Legion Hardware, with many others including Ryan's to follow as the benchmark monkeys are whipped to a furious pace. The initial results show roughly what has been expected, the R9 390X is roughly 10% faster overall than the 290X and about 6% faster than the base 390 model which itself is roughly 8% faster than the previous 290. The 380 shows a similar 6% gain over the 285 and performance wise can tie the GTX 960. Bear in mind this is very preliminary review, as time is needed to properly test and to overclock the cards, keep your eyes peeled for more reviews and cards from other sources.
"Firstly we would like to thank HIS for supplying their HIS Radeon R9 390X IceQ X2 OC 8GB, R9 390 IceQ X2 OC 8GB and R9 380 IceQ X2 OC 2GB graphics cards. The cooling performance of their IceQ X2 cooler was excellent on all three cards and they look very eye catching as well."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
Fiji: A Big and Necessary Jump
Fiji has been one of the worst kept secrets in a while. The chip has been talked about, written about, and rumored about seemingly for ages. The chip has promised to take on NVIDIA at the high end by bringing about multiple design decisions that are aimed to give it a tremendous leap in performance and efficiency as compared to previous GCN architectures. NVIDIA released their Maxwell based products last year and added to that this year with the Titan X and the GTX 980 Ti. These are the parts that Fiji is aimed to compete with.
The first product that Fiji will power is the R9 Fury X with integrated water cooling.
AMD has not been standing still, but their R&D budgets have been taking a hit as of late. The workforce has also been pared down to the bare minimum (or so I hope) while still being able to design, market, and sell products to the industry. This has affected their ability to produce as large a quantity of new chips as NVIDIA has in the past year. Cut-backs are likely not the entirety of the story, but they have certainly affected it.
The plan at AMD seems to be to focus on very important products and technologies, and then migrate those technologies to new products and lines when it makes the most sense. Last year we saw the introduction of “Tonga” which was the first major redesign after the release of the GCN 1.1 based Hawaii which powers the R9 290 and R9 390 series. Tonga delivered double the tessellation performance over Hawaii, it improved overall architecture efficiency, and allowed AMD to replace the older Tahiti and Pitcairn chips with an updated unit that featured xDMA and TrueAudio support. Tonga was a necessary building block that allowed AMD to produce a chip like Fiji.
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 17, 2015 - 06:24 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: NVIDA, maxwell, GTX 980 Ti
Now that they have had time with the new NVIDIA card to test on games both familiar and new, [H]ard|OCP have put together a longer review of the GTX 980 Ti. The Witcher 3 shows that for 4K gamers, the extra power of the TITAN does marginally beat out the newcomer. Indeed that tended to hold true in many games, Dying Light and Far Cry 4 all saw the 980 Ti needing to lower graphical settings to remain at a decent frame rate but still remained a far better value for those gaming at 1440p. They compare VRAM usage at 1440p versus 4K resolutions and it is obvious how much more memory is consumed as resolution increases. Considering how none of the games tested used even half of the 12GB of VRAM on the TITAN it will be very interesting to see how AMD's new smaller sized but higher bandwidth HBM-based card will perform.
"Now that we have had some solid gaming time with the new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti, we will be putting it up against the GTX 980 and TITAN X video cards, in the full HardOCP GPU review format. We are including new games, The Witcher 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. We also look at VRAM utilization and power and temperature levels."
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte GTX980 Ti G1 Gaming @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte GTX 980 Ti G1 Gaming 6 GB @ techPowerUp
- EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Superclocked+ ACX 2.0+ @ Kitguru
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti Overclocking & Best Playable Settings @ Techgage
- XFX R9 290X Black OC Edition 4GB @ [H]ard|OCP
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 10:36 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: hbm, fury x2, fury x, Fury, Fiji, dual gpu, amd
During the PC Gamer PC Gaming Show, much of the industry was on hand to talk about its take on the state of PC gaming. While there, AMD took the opportunity to show off the dual-GPU Fiji-based AMD Radeon R9 Fury X2 card. (Editor's note: we don't have official confirmation on that name for the card, but it would make sense, right? We'll go with that for the time being.) We don't know much about the specifics on clocks, shader counts or performance, but we do know that AMD is able to cram a HUGE amount of GPU compute capability into an incredibly small space thanks to the high bandwidth memory innovation.
Shown at the PC Gaming Show tonight...
Interesting, just a couple of days ago we were sent this image anonymously:
What's interesting here is that I was told "this is how they test" the GPUs before installing the water block on it. Those are high-end CPU coolers that have been modified slightly to be installed on the lay-flat Fury X2 PCB. This gives you an idea of the development process of building a graphics card like this...
A little blurry, but still informative.
This image, posted by Anshel Sag, Staff Technologist and Technical Writer at Moor Insights & Strategy, shows the bare PCB with the two Fiji GPUs and their HBM memory stacks. (Also, note those "Moor" logos are not really printed on the GPU dies...) There are two 8-pin power connectors on the PCB as well, odd considering that the single GPU Fury X uses the same configuration.
This card has been promised to us in the fall, though pricing and power and performance are to be discussed later. 2015 just keeps getting better for PC gamers!!
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: water cooling, SFF, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, dual fiji, amd
AMD revealed a new liquid cooled small form factor PC called Project Quantum during an E3 livestream today.
On the outside, an angled dual compartment aluminum case with rounded edges houses the processing hardware in the bottom and all the cooling components in the top part. AMD is using liquid cooling for the processor and graphics with the tubing running up the center column joining the two pieces together to a radiator or radiators. Red LEDs light up the center column while Radeon R9 branding sits in the bottom left corner.
While at first glance that Radeon R9 branding might be unassuming, it is actually referring to AMD's latest Fiji architecture. That's correct, Project Quantum is part of the Fiji product family and is, in fact, powered by two AMD Fiji-based graphics procesors!
Update: AMD has posted a behind-the-scenes video on the development of Project Quantum which you can watch below.
In the video, AMD reveals that they are using a modified ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac motherboard (thanks to djotter in the comments for pointing that out) which means that Project Quantum is using an Intel Haswell processor in addition to the two Fiji-based GPUs. AMD has removed all of the rear IO connectors save two USB 3.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. They have also moved the 8-pin CPU power connector to the back panel of the board next to the USB ports. My guess is that they did this for cable management and height restriction reasons within the bottom compartment. Specifically, from the CAD render shown in the video, it appears that the AMD graphics card sits horizontally on top of the motherboard which meant that at least some of the rear IO ports had to be removed or relocated.
Another bit of information from that AMD video is that Project Quantum is using what looks like an external power supply. The power brick connects to the system over a single cable to an internal board. This board provides power to a Pico PSU that is plugged into the ATX 24-pin connector on the motherboard and provides power to the AMD branded Solid State Drive (SSD) as well as the motherboard and CPU 8-pin connectors (which have both been modified to right angles for height and cable management reasons). The internal power board that connects to the socket at the back likely also powers the Radeon graphics card via PCI-E connectors, but it is difficult to tell from the photo (it is that red PCB towards the top of the photo).
Interestingly AMD has switched out the power and USB 3.0 headers with right angle models and removed the blue ASRock heatsinks covering the VRMs and PCH. AMD is instead using two large waterblocks to cool the components on the motherboard and graphics card. A large radiator and pump sit in the top compartment cooled by an 180mm Enermax Apollish fan. The 180mm radiator should result in quieter, or at least less annoying, fan noise since the large fan can spin slower while moving similar amounts of air as smaller fans paired with 120 or 140mm radiators. Using a single large radiator for both the CPU and GPU is an interesting choice here, and I think a correct one.
A rendering of the water loop layout on Project Quantum. Image from AMD with annotations by Aibohphobia.
It was actually djotter and Aibohphobia in the comments who spotted the Pico PSU and provided an example. (I did not notice that in the video initially, so thanks for pointing that out!) This power brick and tiny Pico PSU setup would certainly help to explain how AMD was able to make Project Quantum so thin (though an external PSU isn't necessarily a bad thing). The Pico PSU does suggest that the dual Fiji GPUs may be closer to lower end R9 Nanos than two high end Fury Xs (heh) or maybe some other yet unannounced cut-down Fiji chip entirely.
(End of update)
During the PC Gamer E3 Twitch stream, AMD CEO Lisa Su showed off Project Quantum, and Ken was able to snap a photo of the back panel.
Project Quantum has, from left to right, a single power input (see above), two analog audio jacks, two USB 3.0 ports, an Intel-powered Gigabit Ethernet jack, four USB 2.0 ports, and a single horizontal PCI slot. A Radeon R9 graphics card is installed in this slot and features three DisplayPort and one HDMI 1.4 video outputs. We still do not know all the specs of this card, but is is Fiji-based and supports LiquidVR along with AMD's other features including FreeSync and Frame Rate Target Control.
(End Update 9:30PM)
Beyond that, we do not know many details on Project Quantum. From the other announcements around Fiji today, particularly the R9 Nano and R9 Fury X, this little machine is going to be a powerhouse with impressive power efficiency and performance per watt – especially for its size!
Of course, pricing and availability were not discussed at the event. Stay tuned to PC Perspective as we get more details closer to its official release!
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:22 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, hbm, fury x, Fury, Fiji, E3 2015, E3, amd
It's finally official: AMD Radeon R9 Fury X and Fury graphics cards are coming soon. Here's the details you need to know:
|AMD Fury X||AMD Fury||AMD R9 290X|
|Compute Capability||8.6 TFLOPS||??||5.6 TFLOPS|
|Transistor Count||8.9 billion||??||6.3 billion|
|Availability||June 24th||July 14th||Now|
There is still a lot of information that AMD is saving for the official release, but those look to be some impressive graphics cards at first glance! The AMD Fury X is the small form factor water cooled version that we saw leaked this weekend while the AMD Fury (non-X) will be air cooled. It wasn't shown on stage though, so we can only guess what it will look like.
AMD's Joe Macri said on stage that the cooler they designed is built for up to 500 watts but that the board was only going to draw 275 watts, while keeping the board temperature down to 50C!
Other tidbits include 6-phase power with 400A (!!) power delivery for overclocking, an 8-LED user addressable array for performance load monitoring and 1.5x performance per watt improvement when compared to the R9 290X. That can help us estimate card performance but we'll dive more into that later.
Finally, though only a tease, AMD did say they were planning a dual-GPU variant of Fiji coming "in the fall."
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 01:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: radeon, r9 nano, R9, amd
On stage at the AMD E3 2015 press conference, AMD's CEO Lisa Su announced the Radeon R9 Nano, a 6-in PCB small form factor graphics card that will feature "2x the performance per watt of the R9 290X" as well as "significantly" more performance than the R9 290X.
We are looking for more information but because its branded R9 I don't know for sure if it's Fiji or Hawaii. I would assume that the advantages of HBM for form factor and power efficiency would tell us it uses AMD latest GPU in some cut down variation.
Availability later this summer.
UPDATE: Sources on the scene confirm it is Fiji powered!
Subject: Graphics Cards | June 16, 2015 - 12:53 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: the phantom pain, nvidia, metal gear solid, graphics, gpus, geforce, gameworks
A blog post on NVIDIA's site indicates that Konami's upcoming game Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain will make use of NVIDIA technologies, a move that will undoubtedly rankle AMD graphics users who can't always see the full benefit of GameWorks enhancements.
"The world of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is going to be 200 times larger than the one explored in Ground Zeroes. Because so much of this game’s action depends on stealth, graphics are a key part of the gameplay. Shadows, light, and terrain have to be rendered perfectly. That’s a huge challenge in a game where the hero is free to find his own way from one point to another. Our engineers are signed up to work closely with Konami to get the graphics just right and to add special effects."
Now technically this quote doesn't confirm the use of any proprietary NVIDIA technology, though it sounds like that's exactly what will be taking place. In the wake of the Witcher 3 HairWorks controversy any such enhancements will certainly be looked upon with interest (especially as the next piece of big industry news will undoubtedly be coming with AMD's announcement later today at E3).
It's hard to argue with better graphical quality in high profile games such as the latest Metal Gear Solid installment, but there is certainly something to be said for adherence to open standards to ensure a more unified experience across GPUs. The dialog about inclusion though adherence to standards vs. proprietary solutions has been very heated with the FreeSync/G-Sync monitor refresh debate, and GameWorks is a series of tools that serves to further divide gamers, even as it provides an enhanced experience with GeForce GPUs.
Such advantages will likely matter less with DirectX 12 mitigating some differences with more efficiency in the vein of AMD's Mantle API, and if the rumored Fiji cards from AMD offer superior performance and arrive priced competitively this will matter even less. For now even though details are nonexistent expect an NVIDIA GeForce GPU to have the advantage in at least some graphical aspects of the latest Metal Gear title when it arrives on PC.