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Testing illustrates noise problem with at least a few Radeon Fury X cards

Joel Hruska

When AMD’s Fury X launched last week we, along with multiple other reviewers, made note of the odd cooler whine coming off the GPU. When we spoke to AMD about the problem initially, we were told that ” Yes, AMD received feedback that during open bench testing some cards emit a mild “whining” noise. This is normal for most high speed liquid cooling pumps; Usually the end user cannot hear the noise as the pumps are installed in the chassis, and the radiator fan is louder than the pump… The issue is limited to a very small batch of initial production samples and we have worked with the manufacturer to improve the acoustic profile of the pump. This problem has been resolved and a fix added to production parts and is not an issue.”

In our initial preview, we said that we’d requested an updated card from AMD and hoped to test the new solution and were under the impression the affected cards went out to press only. AMD has now clarified that at least a few retail cards also ended up with the incorrect type of cooler and higher-than-expected noise levels as a result.

PC Perspective, however, took things a step farther and bought a pair of retail cards. Their verdict? Both retail cards have different audio profiles from the AMD-supplied Radeon Fury X, and neither one of them appear to solve the problem. When we contacted AMD about reports of audible noise persisting in consumer cards, the company clarified that while the problem only affected a small number of GPUs, those cards shipped to both press and retail outlets. In short, some of the Day 1 cards available from major retailers also had issues. That’s supposed to be a small number compared to the total shipped (AMD maintains that a very small number of retail models were affected).

level-comparison

PC Perspective’s full comparison is worth reading and they have additional WAV files so you can compare the data and relative sound profiles. One key characteristic of the Fury X audio profile as opposed to the more standard GTX 980 Ti is that the Fury X has a high-pitched whine to it that more conventional cards (and the Radeon R9 295X2) lack. The problem appears to be caused by a high frequency whine that other GPUs and traditional air-cooled models don’t produce. Presumably this is the sound that AMD says it fixed after

Which cards did PC Perspective test?

The one question still remaining is which cards PC Perspective tested — the new replacement models that are supposed to have this problem fixed, or the older cards that still have an issue? I spoke to Ryan Shrout last night who confirmed that he’s not certain whether the two cards PC Perspective tested were from the troubled initial batch or one of the later cards. As things stand, there’s no way to distinguish them.

What’s frustrating about the current situation is that the Fury X’s thermal solution objectively performs beautifully. The original reference Hawaii coolers that debuted with the R9 290 and R9 290X sounded like dustbusters and still struggled to keep the GPU below 95C. This new solution is quieter than anything on any competing card (the decibel level is much lower than on the GTX 980 Ti). The Nidec fan is whisper-quiet and the GPU’s 50C temperature is best-in-class. The problem isn’t the amount of noise, it’s the frequency.

AMD should’ve gotten this right in the first place, but the company can fix the situation now if it moves to address the concerns of affected users and clarifies which cards went out to which people.