AMD’s Radeon R9 295X2 Unveiled: What Kind of Performance Does $1,499 Get You?
Posted on April 8, 2014 8:00 AM by Rob Williams
It’s going to be in the running for the worst-kept secret of 2014, but it doesn’t matter: AMD’s Radeon 295X2 is designed to noticed, and incite an enthusiastic response from those who look its way. The card is big, complex, and expensive, but it’s also ridiculously powerful. We could say that about most top-end dual-GPU cards, but in some ways, AMD’s 295X2 really does take things to the next level.
Let’s get a couple of fun-facts squared away: Codenamed Vesuvius, the R9 295X2 is in effect dual 290X GPUs combined into a single card. As such, we’re dealing with a staggering 12.4 billion transistors, 5,632 stream processors, and 8GB of GDDR5 memory tied into a dual 512-bit bus. Based on simple math, a 295X2 should provide about 11.25 TFLOPs of single-precision performance, but AMD’s managed to eke out a little extra, to put it at 11.5 TFLOPs. It goes without saying – that’s an incredible amount of performance from a single card.
Radeon R9 295X2
Radeon R9 290X
Radeon R9 290
In March, I pit AMD’s 290X and NVIDIA’s GTX 780 Ti against each other; I found that the 290X, while powerful, was prone to getting too hot, even during normal use. That issue of course is going to be specific to the reference cooler, so what has AMD done to pack two 290Xs into the same card and retain that dual-slot design to avoid the risk of overheating?
It’s gone the route of liquid-cooling, mimicking the design that’s possible with NZXT’s Kraken bracket, which JD took a look at a couple of months ago. Similar design or not, though, AMD stresses that the 295X2 is the result of months of design work, with no stone left unturned.
AMD’s tapped the expertise of Asetek for its 295X2, and as the shot above highlights, the solution developed is quite robust. To keep the GPUs as cool as possible, so as to avoid ridiculous noise from cooling, each GPU core gets its own waterblock. The rest of the components on top of the card get cooled thanks to the large heatsink plate, which is channeled for increased efficiency. The back of the card also features a backplate, to achieve much of the same goals there.
Liquid cooling can cut down on noise quite dramatically, but for the sake of offering a complete cooling package and making sure heat never becomes an issue (this is a seriously big-performance card, after all), AMD’s included a fan in the center of the shroud to push air in both directions. Both the fan and Radeon logo at the top of the card are illuminated in Radeon red.
The 295X2 is what I’d consider the sharpest-looking Radeon ever, and it looks quite a bit different from the regular R9 lineup – something we’d expect, given the fact it’s another class of GPU entirely.
It seems clear that the 295X2 will become the fastest GPU on the planet – perhaps until NVIDIA wants to rollout its $3,000 TITAN Z – but it does have a couple of expected caveats. Since the 290X requires 250W of power, it should come as no surprise that the 295X2 requires 500W – 125W more than the Radeon HD 7990, released last spring. To satisfy that high power need, dual 8-pin PCIe connectors are required. I’m not sure at the moment what the recommended power supply size is, but I’d imagine 1KW should be anyone’s minimum.
Another downside is the card’s length, at 12-inches long. That’s about 2 inches longer than other high-end cards out there, so it’s clear that for some future 295X2 owners, a larger chassis might be needed.
It’s hard to overlook the fact also that a lot of people are going to have a hard time trying to push a card like this; consider 2560×1440 to be the minimum resolution. Anything less would be an insult to the card. At 1440p, you could enjoy a game like Crysis 3 at Very High, and it’ll be glorious. Multi-monitor resolutions would stand to gain nicely from a card like this, and even more so, 4K.
Comparisons between the 295X2 and dual 290Xs are going to be made here, given dual 290Xs at SRP would cost $400 less than a 295X2. So how can you justify AMD’s monster? The biggest perk it offers is that it’s able to pack in all of that power into a single card, which for some will be important. Plus, with built-in liquid cooling, noise should hopefully be far less of an issue than it would be with two physical cards. Past that, those select few who are wanting to go even higher-end would be able to pair two 295X2s together…
… sorry, brain-freeze …
… for an effective quad-GPU setup capable of 23 TFLOPS single-precision performance. Hot damn.
As fast as AMD’s R9 295X2 is, our sample has been slower than tar dripping from a roof in the arctic on its trip here. You can expect our in-depth look in the weeks ahead. Likewise, you can expect the card to hit store shelves in two weeks.