Two weeks ago, AMD released its new AIO liquid cooled flagship Fiji Fury X processor in a vain attempt to take the performance crown from Nvidia’s TITAN X and GTX 980 Ti. During that time, BTR has received an EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ card from EVGA for review, as well as purchased a Sapphire Fury X from retail.  We have put each one through their paces with what is probably the largest PC game benchmark suite in the English language.  Since both cards retail for $679, they make for a natural comparison and we will use 3 resolutions up to 4K to determine the overall winner.

DSCN0564We have already benchmarked the reference GTX 980 Ti and found it to be just 3% slower than the TITAN X, and we have updated our benchmark suite to Nvidia’s latest WHQL 353.30 GeForce drivers.  We will not recap Nvidia’s Maxwell GM220 architecture here as with our TITAN X/GTX 980 Ti launch articles, but will instead focus on the new EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC versus the Sapphire Fury X.  And in preparation for Fury X, we downloaded and used the latest 15.15b Catalyst beta drivers, and we have updated our 290X/290X CrossFire results from Catalyst 15.5 Beta to 15.6 Beta for Batman: Arkham Knight and for the Witcher 3.  We also benchmark the “Kite Demo” which runs on Unreal Engine 4 on the latest drivers for each card.

DSCN0567We have spent approximately 50 hours with the Fury X, and before it, more than 40 hours with the EVGA GTX 980 TI SC+, and we will give the reader our impressions of both benching and playing the latest PC games.  We have managed to not only overclock the Fury X core, but also the HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) and we will give overclocked results for not only the Fury X, but also for the overclocked reference GTX 980 Ti, the factory overclocked and further overclocked EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+, and also the stock and overclocked TITAN X results.  We will then place this into our larger context which we call “The Big Picture”.

Besides comparing with AMD’s last generation flagship, the 290X, we will add 290X CrossFire to our benching results along with the GTX 980 and GTX 980 SLI, and also the GTX 780 Ti results.  And we have quite a lot to say about the Fury X pump noise, and evidently there is even a third variation of this pump which is what we have.

Let’s briefly look at each of our main two competing cards individually.  This evaluation is focused on each card’s performance, not on the architecture.  First up is the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ ACX 2.0, and then we will introduce the Sapphire Fury X.

The EVGA GTX 980 TI SC+ ACX 2.0+

DSCN0547The EVGA GTX 980 TI SC+ ACX 2.0+ is offered with a bundle of Batman: Arkham Knight.  Nvidia aimed for just under GTX TITAN X performance on a single card and with 6GB of vRAM instead of 12GB.  However, the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ is factory overclocked to match or beat the stock TITAN X which we shall test along with the maximum overclock for our own particular card.

EVGA-980Ti-explodeThis card features EVGA’s ACX 2.0+ cooling technology. EVGA’s ACX 2.0+ brings new features to the current excellent EVGA ACX 2.0 cooling technology. According to EVGA, a memory MOSFET Cooling Plate reduces MOSFET temperatures up to 13%, and optimized Straight Heat Pipes additionally reduce GPU temperature by 5C. ACX 2.0+ coolers also feature optimized swept fan blades, double ball bearings and an extremely low-power motor.  What this means is that this card is kept cool while being very quiet.

As a recap, here are the specifications for the reference GTX 980 Ti:

Here are the specifications and key features for the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+.  The EVGA card’s base clock is 1102MHz, up 102MHz over the reference clock, and the EVGA boost clock is 1190MHz, 115MHz higher than Nvidia’s guaranteed minimum reference boost of 1075MHz.

EVGA-SpecsFrom what we can see, the specifications of the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ are impressive and it clocked higher than the reference version, and with a quieter cooler.  You are also covered by EVGA’s 3-year warranty with a further warranty extension available upon registration within 90 days of purchase. The GTX 980 Ti reference versions are generally chosen for multi-GPU configurations, while the SC+ is best chosen as a single card.

Let’s take a brief look at the Sapphire Fury X.

The Sapphire Fury X

DSCN0518When AMD released the Fury X as their premium brand, it is clear that they had originally intended to beat the $1000 TITAN X in at least price to performance with a significantly cheaper card.  However, Nvidia preempted AMD’s launch by introducing the GTX 980 Ti at $649 with only a 3% average performance deficit to the TITAN X.   Just as with the Hawaii launch, AMD has evidently increased the clockspeed of their newest Fury X flagship card, ignored the GTX 980 Ti, and aimed once again for TITAN X performance.

AMD is aiming very high.  They call their Fury X, the “world’s most advanced” graphics card and they point to their accomplishment in using HBM.  Unfortunately, they were only able to equip their flagship Fury X with 4GB of HBM video memory while their repackaged 290/290Xes in the form of 390/390X now feature 8GB although the cards are generally too weak to utilize the extra vRAM except in CrossFire configurations.

All of the Fury X cards are the same except for the box and the accessories each of AMD’s partners may choose to include.  There is no game bundle offered with the Fury X.

On Sapphire’s website, they say this about their Fury X:

The AMD Radeon™ R9 Fury X graphics card is the world’s first total solution GPU with AMD-pioneered High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) on-chip delivering extreme performance for unbelievably “real” 4K and VR experiences.

Much is made of Liquid VR for immersive Virtual Reality headsets, but these will not be available this year.  And FreeSync, DX12, Eyefinity, CrossFire and TrueAudio are featured for the Sapphire Fury X.  TriXX, Sapphire’s overclocking utility is also featured.  Here are the specifications from the Sapphire site:

FuryX spec


What’s New with the Sapphire Fury X?

The specifications of the Fury X are quite impressive, especially compared to the R9 290X/390X. The chip that the Fury X is based on is a new and very large GPU from AMD that features High Bandwidth Memory.  HBM is “stacked” video memory that uses an Interposer to communicate via a very wide 4096 bit bandwidth at an effective 1000MHz memory clock rate.  It means that Fury X will not be starved for bandwidth.  The only issue is that there is only a 4GB framebuffer, compared with the 6GB of the GTX 980 Ti and with the 12GB of the TITAN X.  AMD has promised to “manage” the memory with drivers so that the framebuffer is not overfilled, but their drivers have been sub-par for most of this year.  We will see if 4GB is enough for Fury X and how performance compares with its main competitor, the GTX 980 Ti.

Our Testbed of Competing Cards

Here is our testbed of competing cards and we shall test 32 games and 3 synthetics using Core i7-4790K turbo locked to 4.4GHz, ASUS Z97+ motherboard and 16GB of Kingston “Beast” 2133MHz HyperX DDR3:

  • Sapphire Fury X – $679 (AMD’s new flagship single GPU card, plus our own OC)
  • EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ – $679 (plus our own OC)
  • GTX 980 Ti – $649 -(Nvidia’s mainstream GM220 single-GPU Maxwell flagship, plus our own OC)
  • GTX TITAN X – $1000 (plus our own OC)
  • GTX 980, $499, formerly $549 and Nvidia’s flagship before the TITAN X
  • GTX 980 SLI
  • GTX 780 Ti –  discontinued, formerly $649, dropped to $499 – (the Maxwell single GPU former flagship)
  • R9 290X – reference non-throttling 1000MHz Uber mode, originally $579 – discontinued
  • R9 290X CrossFire – reference 1000MHz, non-throttling Uber mode.

KiteDemo 2015-06-27 12-43-28-68This evaluation will pit the stock and overclocked reference and EVGA GTX 980 Ti against the reference and overclocked Sapphire Fury X, as well versus the stock and overclocked GeForce TITAN X, and the GTX 980, and the GTX 780 Ti, against our PowerColor reference design R9 290X at locked-on boost speeds (1000MHz), as well as with the VisionTek R9 290X in CrossFire.  We are using 32 modern games and 3 synthetic benchmarks at 1920×1080, 2560×1440, and at 3480×2160 resolutions.

We will also look very closely at the just-released Batman: Arkham Knight and the recent the Witcher 3 to compare GameWorks features ‘on’ versus ‘off’, and we will look at performance in the latest version of the “Kite Demo” on Unreal Engine 4.

How does the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ compare with its rival, AMD’s top single GPU, the Sapphire Fury X at $679 each?

This is the big question: How does the EVGA GTX 980 Ti SC+ at $679 compare with the Sapphire Fury X at $679 and with the TITAN X at $1000? Of course, TITAN X is a special-purpose halo card that is equipped with 12GB of very expensive Samsung GDDR5 for multi-display gaming, and its extra-large framebuffer makes it suitable for Single-Precision compute and CUDA programming, and it commands a steep price premium.

First, let’s take a closer look at the new EVGA GTX 780 Ti SC+.


    • Thank-you. Yes, I do play games at 4K without AA. The aliasing is less apparent at 4K than at 1080P, however, it is still visible. I try to play my 4K games with FXAA or SMAA if MSAA (or MFAA) take too much of a performance hit.

  1. Excellent, excellent review. I absolutely love the charts. I do accounting for a living and having a chart like this to compare numbers from one card to the next is a Godsend. Since both cards are priced at over $650, it is wiser for me to purchase the GTX 980Ti. It offers better performance, features, power efficiency, and with better driver support really helped seal the deal. If the Fury X was at least a $100 or $150 cheaper, it will be an absolute steal regardless of how bad AMD is providing support. Having continuously bad drivers and blaming gamers for having sensitive hearing tells me exactly how they feel about their customers.

  2. I keep hearing the problem is the drivers with the fury x. No its not the card is just not as fast as the 980ti. They have had time to tune drivers and if they can’t get it right by now then i don’t see it being any point. What go by a fury x so 5 months later it might be close to as fast as the 980ti that you could have been playing games on the whole time. Shit by the time they extract any notable performance increase pascal will be out and that will just stomp the ass out of the fury x. I also here all this about amd getting big yields on dx 12 and nvidia not doing so well. I kind of feel like this was just like the whole fury x titan killer stuff we seen days before the release of the fury x. When we start seeing try dx 12 results I am almost positive nvidia will be seated much better. Everything amd said about the fury x has been straight up bullshit. It was supposed to overclock like a dream. Right what 25mhz lol. My titan x sits at 1578mhz core 8ghz memory. All while never going above 40.c on a water block<- real water cooling not that bogus ass loud ass shit in the fury x. I am sorry I don't like to come off as such a fanboy but the fury x is a turd. It barely held it's own against the 980ti at stock and when you overclock it it is just no contest. Should of priced that turd at the standard 980 point. I don't want to hear anything about it will get better with drivers. That will be to late. By then I will have the money saved up for a real upgrade. The pascal titan. Real hbm memory that sports a fast efficient chip. Back in the 7xxx series of amd cards they were competitve but with this kind of performance there is no reason short of just supporting amd to get the fury x. I mean the form factor thing is dumb as well on the x. You have to have the room for the radiator. Also can anyone tell me how you are supposed to crossfire the thing. What wait for the dual chip fury x. I bet that thing won't even stand up to pascal. Its not like amd will be releasing any new card until pascal is towards the end of its life,. I am not just trying to flame either. I want amd to get there shit together we can't have a monopoly. With all this lackluster releases i don't think they have much left in them. I mean how much underwhelming stuff can you release before your R&D funds run dry. Also call me a troll or whatever a fanboy i don't care like I said I wanted the fury x to be fast maybe drive prices down. I also want to see an arms race. Its going to be like intel soon were there is little reason for big performance increases with no comp. If you want to say i am full of shit read this. This doesn't lie and supports my theory that amd doesn't have much left. They have the consoles but I think they are weak shit as well. I will admit they pull some good graphics but they are holding pc back again.

  3. I have read multiple reviews comparing the GTX 980Ti, Fury X and Titan including extensive benchmarks. This is by far the most biased towards nvidia. Particularly in the choice of language used. So well done.

    I just bought a Fury X to replace my 7970Ghz crossfire setup. This will hold me over until Vega is released in 2017. I am buying an Acer predator 34″ 3440x1440p monitor with freesync and according to the benchmarks a fury x should drive that with new games maxed out just fine. I was going to switch to nvidia and buy a GTX 1080 but I cannot really see the point.

    It seems to me nvidia just rushed their reference cards to market. Don’t get me wrong it is still a killer card…..but I would rather wait a little while for Vega.

    Oh. I should point out I got a good price on the fury x. 😉