Last month, we lamented the fact that Intel had waded headlong into the world of vaporware releases with its Broadwell line of non-existent desktop CPUs. The backstory as to why a company as big and profitable as Intel would announce and release for review a product that would never be sold is complicated, so if you’re interested, see our previous article. Unfortunately, AMD, Intel’s only rival in the CPU market, is up to the same tricks, but is using them in its GPU division, and it’s not a good sign for consumers, for AMD, or for the PC market generally.Back in May, AMD made a splashy announcement regarding its pioneering work in high-bandwidth memory, to be used on its video cards codenamed Fiji. These cards have now been “released”, at least in terms of being sampled for reviewers. The $550 Fury and $650 Fury X models are generally quite impressive, although our opinion is that they are both priced about $50 too high, which isn’t helpful when AMD is bleeding market share to Nvidia in the theoretically very profitable video card market. More problematic is that these cards are essentially non-existent. While not quite as bad as Intel’s Broadwell debacle, the Fury release has simply been mis-managed from the start by AMD, which is clearly suffering due to ongoing losses quarter after quarter. It has great engineers, it has the courage to bring to market new technology, but it almost never delivers.
Sure, on its release day, June 24th, the $650 Fury X was available for a few hours, and did get into the hands of a few enthusiasts. Enough, in fact, reached consumers’ hands that an uproar soon erupted about the high-pitched whining noise emitted by the Fury X’s all-in-one liquid cooler. Of course, value-minded high-end buyers were more interested in the air-cooled Fury, which was supposed to launch on July 14th. Well, what AMD did in the time between June 24th and July 14th was telling. It pulled a fast one on reviewers, giving them about 48 hours notice that the NDA on Fury would end on July 10th, and that reviews of the product could be published on that date, even though the product would still be launched on the 14th. And sure enough, several generally positive reviews appeared on the 10th (for example, at Anandtech and TechReport). Of course, today, the 14th, is launch day, but not surprisingly, there is no indication that the only two models sampled for reviewers, the Asus Strix and Sapphire Tri-X, are actually for sale.
For whatever reason, AMD wanted people to know about its very impressive Fury GPU early, even though it obviously would have known at that time that it could not deliver the product as originally scheduled. This is amateur at best, or deceptive at worst. AMD is using reviewers as mouthpieces to deliver half-truths about its products. It’s not good for anyone, least of all AMD. Whether it’s because of limited production, cost overruns, or just plain foolish marketing, AMD’s latest and greatest products cannot be purchased. We hope that changes soon, because AMD is not in the position that Intel is in, where a vaporware release means little to the bottom line. AMD needs Fury to salvage its once-dominant position in the GPU market. And when Fury is finally available for sale, we’d even suggest that AMD sell it at a significant loss for as long as it takes to reestablish itself, because while short-term losses are painful, long-term consumer disinterest and distrust are a whole lot worse.
Update, 7/14/15, 11am: The Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury Tri-X is now available from Newegg for $569.99 plus $9.99 shipping. At $580 shipped, it’s a bit expensive, but at least it exists! Expect it to sell out within hours. Alas, no sign of the Fury X launched last month, though.
Update, 7/14/15, 12:23pm: The Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury Tri-X sold out, less than 90 minutes after hitting the market.