Back on May 19, AMD made a relatively minor announcement that had tech journalists all in a tizzy, namely that it’s next-gen graphics cards would use high-bandwidth memory (HBM). Well, today AMD made the announcement that really counts: it revealed its actual next-gen cards, headlined by the new R9 Fury X. Memory tech is cool for engineers, but informed gamers buy based on performance, not specs. Given that AMD has been at least a few steps behind Nvidia in that regard for the better part of two years, there’s a lot riding on this what kind of performance Fury can deliver.

Of course, AMD didn’t reveal any specific performance metrics, but we get the sense that the R9 Fury X is about 50% faster than the R9 290X, and more importantly, given the announced retail price of $649, it’s clearly aiming for the $650 GTX 980 Ti 6GB, which Nvidia released just a few short weeks ago. That release, of course, was quite intentional – Nvidia wanted to force AMD’s hand on price, and because only AMD would know for sure how its Fury X compared to the 980 Ti, it would be up to AMD to decide how hard it would try to compete with the impressive 980 Ti. In a bold marketing move, AMD coined a new name, Fury, for this line, trying to grab the attention of some of those buyers who might have been impressed with Nvidia’s “Titan” in the past. But AMD has a tough row to hoe here, because it just doesn’t have the brand equity that Nvidia enjoys. AMD is going to need to win on performance or its going to be a short fight.

And that’s why we’re pretty convinced that Fury X will actually beat the 980 Ti in most performance metrics. It would be foolish for AMD to release a product that was only on par with the 980 Ti in terms of price/performance when it’s as far behind as it is right now, with less than a 25% market share of the discrete video card market. Of course, the 980 Ti is nearly impossible to actually buy at its retail price (although we just found one here). Then again, the Fury X isn’t arriving until June 24th, giving Nvidia’s partners a bit more than a week to shore up stock. And while the built-in liquid cooling looks pretty cool, it’s also a sign that this new card needs a lot of cooling to perform at its best. Furthermore, liquid cooling complicates things enough that some buyers might be turned off, as the 980 Ti can slot right into any case with just a minute or two of work, including the majority of ITX and mATX cases.

So, assuming that AMD is actually bringing its “A” game with the Fury X and that it will beat the 980 Ti at the same price, it’s going to be a clear winner, right? Well, not so fast. Confirmed for a second time today is the fact that this is a 4GB card, and while AMD promised back in May that it would find ways around that significant limitation, we’re not going to count anyone’s chickens yet. We already know that 4GB can be a significant limitation at 4K, and perhaps even at 2560×1440 in the newest games. Hopefully, AMD really does have some tricks up its sleeve to get past this hurdle, because true competition would be great for consumers. Prices have been creeping up faster than performance for quite some time, and the 980 Ti was the first real break from this trend. Here’s hoping that Fury X will deliver more welcome relief to gamers.

Update, June 18: AMD has released some 4K performance numbers, and indeed, the Fury X is just able to beat the 980 Ti in every game benched. This is what we predicted based on the price, and it will give ultra-high-end shoppers a great alternative to Nvidia!