AMD’s new Radeon R9 Fury X graphics card just had a bunch of performance reviews posted today. While it appears to trade blows with the similarly priced (at $649) nVidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti in terms of performance (i.e., FPS), it is also far less power efficient, with most reviews showing the Fury X consuming about 50 watts more than the GTX 980 Ti under load. At 250 watts (actual and offical TDP spec), the GTX 980 Ti is already going to be difficult to silently cool. With around 300 watts of power consumption (and an official TDP of 250 watts according to spec), the Fury X will be even more difficult to make silent.
In addition, the Fury X comes with a closed-loop water-cooling solution already installed; while this provides for lower temperatures and perhaps noise than stock air-cooling cards, it becomes an unnecessary expense when it has to be removed and replaced anyway for truly silent operation. Indeed, AMD will be offering an air-cooled version of the card called the R9 Fury for $100 less ($549). Closed-loop water-cooling is also generally not silent due to the pump noise, even if you could replace the stock fan and lower its speed. In fact, the review samples seem to have a high-pitched whine, although that could be fixed for retail units:
One thing that is not shown in this graph though is the high pitched whine that is present 100% of the time with our review sample powered up. The sound is clearly part of the pump mechanism and I know from discussions with other reviewers that this is a common problem in the launch samples. AMD addressed this to me in an email, stating that the issue was limited to the initial batch of engineering samples and that the issues had “been resolved and a fix added” for all production parts going on sale to the public. Obviously we’ll have to wait for reports from the field to verify that.
Overall, it would appear that nVidia still holds the performance/watt crown with their Maxwell GTX 900 series, so they would be a better choice if you’re looking for truly silent gaming. In particular, the GTX 970 and 980 have TDPs of only 145 and 165 watts, respectively, making them excellent choices for relatively high-end cards that can still be cooled silently. Keep in mind that no cards come with completely inaudible cooling, so you’ll have to install an aftermarket one like I did here.