AMD has rolled out its Crimson Software and corresponding driver product for Graphics Core Next (GCN) GPUs. The initial release (15.11) was plagued with a rather serious issue of incorrectly managing the fan speed of the cooling solution attached to the card. While the issue is claimed to be resolved with the updated beta driver (15.11.1) and subsequent re-brand of the beta (15.12), the reality is that there may be more than just AMD’s driver base contributing to the problem at hand. We recently took delivery of a R9 Fury-based adapter which was relatively unstable during initial use. The unit replaced a R9 290X which executed flawlessly for the required tasks, but was beginning to fall a bit behind from a performance perspective. From the start, the Sapphire Tri-X R9 Fury triggered system reboots and black screens. Other anomalous behaviors witnessed during its operation included repeated corruption and rebuild of an Intel Rapid Storage Technology-based array, coil whine when using stock fan profiles or custom/aggressive fan profiles within the TriXX software or MSI Afterburner software, and an eventual loss of the Start Menu in Windows 10. It was shortly after the loss of the start menu that the card literally stopped working. No overvolting, no overclocking; merely stock speeds with a custom fan speed of ~50%. While it’s possible that a bad unit slips past the quality control departments of a given manufacturer, the quantity of complaints and broken adapters due to a driver-related bug and a “1.0” product design using HBM has shaken any confidence we’ve had with recommending AMD-based graphical solutions.
We were previously intrigued by the potential benefits of high-bandwidth memory, which is what led us to the decision of selecting the R9 Fury to modernize a fairly current system. Excluding the fact that quite a few of the very popular game releases of 2015 utilize nVidia GameWorks technology for advanced rendering features, the R9 Fury still held its own on a price-performance basis. At the time of purchase, the video card was discounted to $499 and included the recently-released Star Wars: Battlefront game as part of the promotion. This almost $200 discount over a GeForce GTX980 Ti, when combined with a game, made the choice very appealing. The few weeks that passed between install and demise of the Fury were disconcerting to say the least. Sapphire has launched a newer iteration with a custom PCB that “may” rectify some of the issues that were part of the reference board design. The hit-or-miss nature of failures and coil whine are most likely based upon flaws with AMD’s stock implementation of the Fury GPU. After what equates to approximately three consistent weeks of instability, we cannot recommend the Fury line (nor the R9 3XX) line based upon the continued issues with quality control for the driver base and hardware. This was the product that was supposed to stem the loss of market share to nVidia. It ultimately strengthened nVidia’s position.