Apr 23, 2014 Mohannad Alchalabi
AMD love releasing those dual GPU cards and they’ve often been disappointing performance-wise or too loud to live with but you can always expect AMD to keep trying to get it right. The R9 295X is another dual GPU card from AMD with a twist. Not only is it relatively quiet but it’s also relatively cool as well. The 295X is the first ever liquid cooled graphics card released by AMD or Nvidia, code-named Vesuvias or Project Hydra, it has an external radiator that carries the burden of all the heat generated from those GPUs. Thanks to the good folks at AMD, we’ve got one in the office.
The 295X came directly from AMD in a silver briefcase so you know this beast of a card means business. The card and radiator are contained and covered by black sponge but apart from that there aren’t any accessories included. This is of course AMD’s own version, vendors will package and include what they like with their versions so you could expect power or display adapters as extras.
This has to be AMD’s best looking card yet. Obviously due to the thermal requirements they have had to do away with their usual card design which has received a lot of criticism due to its loud fan and less than stellar cooling abilities. AMD have stuck with a single fan design for the card but they could have done away with the fan altogether because both GPU cores are liquid cooled by Asetek heatsinks. In the middle is a small copper heatsink to cool the RAM but had they used heat pipes as well it could have meant the card itself would have been silent. However as it stands when under load the card’s fan is still relatively quiet. The metallic cover the card is encased in has vents on the sides for heat dissipation; the I/O plate also has a whole slot with vents as well as 4 mini displayports and a DVI connector. The card is powered by two 8 pin connectors and requires about 500W on its own. Since the 295X has two 290X GPUs it also does away with the Crossfire connectors so just like the 290X it uses the PCIe 3.0 bus for communication between the cards. Also just like the 290X there is a BIOS switch however the other BIOS can be used for tinkering instead of one that throttles the GPU less or increases fan speeds. Overall this has to be AMD’s best reference card design ever. With red LEDs that light up the card’s fan and the large “RADEON” logo on the side; it’s also the best looking card they’ve ever designed. With its external radiator and 120mm fan the 295X will not be able to fit in every case but since it’s only 12” long and takes up only 2 slots, it won’t require specially designed cases.
With two Hawaii GPUs that have been clocked at 1018MHz each and 2 x 4GB of DDR5 RAM on a 2 x 512bit bus clocked at 1250MHz the 295X also means business specs wise. Instead of lowering the GPUs clock speeds AMD have increased each one by 18MHz which may not seem like much; but considering how the 290X reference cards struggled to maintain 1000MHz due to thermal issues, any amount of overclocking is a bonus. The RAM however remains stock at 1250MHz.
We used a Core i7 3770k with 2 x 8GB DDR3 RAM on an MSI Z77 motherboard running Windows 8. We also used the Seasonic 1000W PSU instead of our usual Thortech 850W. To test this beast AMD also gave us a Dell 4K LED monitor. For comparison we have the Asus Direct CU II OC 290X and Asus ROG Matrix Platinum 780Ti running 13.12 and 335.23 drivers respectively while the 295X ran AMD’s new 14.4 drivers. The 780Ti was also used for the 4k comparison. At 4k resolution 3DMark refused to recognize the 295X and therefore did not post an overall score so we used the graphics score instead. All other tests ran without any issues.
We managed to overclock the 295X to 1075MHz Core and 1350MHz memory which gave us a score of 8490 on 3DMark Firestrike Extreme which is not a great deal higher than its stock score of 8409. With two of AMD’s latest and best GPU cores running in one card you may not need to overclock this at all especially since its default thermal limit is 75C. The card’s temperature never got above 62C which is a testament to how successful the Asetek custom cooling solution is compared to the 94C we got with a single reference 290X.
It should be noted that AMD’s cards often improve significantly with newer drivers, the minimum FPS issues we were getting are similar to the issues we had with the reference 290X and due to what appears to be a bit of a stuttering glitch. Also in some cases the 295X did not scale as well as one would expect from a dual GPU card. It’s not easy to find displays over the standard 1080p monitors we get here but if someone wants to fork out about $1499US on this card I’m sure they can afford to buy an expensive 4k display along with it. For the average gamer this card is overkill but it’s nice looking overkill. It would be nice if AMD adopted a similar design or at least did away with their outdated reference designs for their other high end cards. For single GPU cards, the Asus Matrix 780Ti wins the speed crown but so far this is the fastest dual GPU card we have tested here and overall it is the fastest card I’ve used. For that AMD gets two thumbs up for the best looking reference card around.
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