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AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review: Hawaii x 2
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Date: Apr 08, 2014
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Marco Chiappetta
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Introduction and Related Information

For the past few weeks, AMD has been strategically dropping hints about the product we’ll be showing you here today—the ultra, powerful Radeon R9 295X2. If you’ve spent any time on our home page recently, or on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the “two is better than one” tag-line bandied about on a couple of occasions. AMD was initially coy about whether or not the company was involved in the campaign, but it eventually became clear that not only was AMD involved, but that it was teasing a new flagship, dual-GPU powered graphics card. How did we (and virtually everyone else) know? It’s not terribly hard to put two-and-two together when a couple of containers of chips and a bottle of Hawaiian volcanic water arrive straight from AMD’s PR agency. And then you’ve got AMD posting pictures like this one on social media…but I digress.

Going back all the way to the Rage Fury MAXX, ATI/AMD has had a long history of releasing dual-GPU powered graphics cards. During the previous generation, AMD so much as said the Radeon HD 7990 was coming well before the single-GPU powered Radeon HD 7970 even launched, but a number of things delayed the arrival of the 7990, and towards the end of its development cycle we got the sense AMD was sick of answering questions about it and regretted unveiling its plan so early. This time around, there wasn’t so much as a peep (at least officially) out of AMD about a dual Hawaii GPU-based graphics card. Some folks--including yours truly--even wondered if AMD would attempt a dual Hawaii GPU-based card after seeing how much power a single Radeon R9 290X consumed, not to mention the difficulty in routing traces for dual 512-bit memory interface.

But, they did, and AMD is ready to take the wraps off of what is undoubtedly the most powerful graphics card the company as ever produced. The Radeon R9 295X2’s full list of features and specification are listed below, along with some reference data from the R9 290X and R9 290. As you’ll see, this thing is an absolute beast.


The Radeon R9 295X2 Dual-GPU Powered Graphics Card

AMD Radeon R9 295X2
Specifications & Features

Radeon R9 295X2 Radeon R9 290X Radeon R9 290
Process 28nm 28nm 28nm
Stream Processors 5632 2816 2560
Engine Clock Up to 1018 MHz Up to 1 GHz Up to 947 MHz
Compute Performance 11.5 TFLOPs 5.6 TFLOPs 4.9 TFLOPs
Texture Units 352 176 160
Texture Fill-Rate Up to 358.3 GT/s Up to 176.0 GT/s Up to 151.5 GT/s
ROPs 128 64 64
Pixel Fill-Rate Up to 130.3 GP/s Up to 64 GP/s Up to 60.6 GP/s
Z/Stencil 512 256 256
Memory Configuration 8GB GDDR5 4GB GDDR5 4GB GDDR5
Memory Interface Dual 512-bit 512-bit 512-bit
Memory Speed 5.0 Gbps 5.0 Gbps 5.0 Gbps
Power Connectors 2 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin
Typical Board Power 500W 250W 250W
PCI-E Standard PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E 3.0
DirectX Support DirectX 11.2 DirectX 11.2 DirectX 11.2
Mantle Support Yes Yes Yes


The Radeon R9 295X2’s specifications tell a large part of the story. As you can see in the chart above, the card is essentially two Radeon R9 290Xes crammed onto a single PCB, though the 295X2’s peak GPU frequency is actually a bit higher (1018MHz vs. 1000MHz). If you want to nit-pick, technically, the Radeon R9 295X2 is MORE powerful than a pair of Radeon R9 290X cards running in CrossFire, thanks to its higher GPU peak clock.


The Radeon R9 295X2 -- Liquid Cooled, Right Out Of The Box

Because the Radeon R9 295X2 features the very same Hawaii GPU that’s at the heart of the Radeon R9 290X and R9 290, we won’t be covering many of the deep technical details again here; in this piece, we’re going to focus on the R9 295X2 itself. We would, however, recommend checking out a couple of previous articles if you’d a refresher on what AMD put into Hawaii:

In our coverage of the Radeon R9 290X, we discuss many of the Hawaii GPUs main features, like its new dongle-less CrossFire DMA engine, TrueAudio Technology, new PowerTune features, Mantle, and its flexible display output options. Of course, we also cover performance—like we did in the Radeon R9 290 piece as well. We also discuss the other members in the Radeon R-series of graphics cards in the “AMD Radeon R7 260X, R9 270X, and R9 280X Tested” piece, and show what kind of performance impact is available with Mantle in our Battlefield 4 and Star Swarm benchmarks.

We’ve got a full set of new numbers here, but if you want to see what kind of technology is incorporated into AMD’s current flagship GPU, those articles should do the trick.
 

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The Radeon R9 295X2 Up Close

The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is a complete departure from previous-gen Radeons. Gone are the plastic fan shrouds, in favor of all metal construction. And cooling each GPU is a closed-loop, liquid cooling system with dual heat plates and a 120mm radiator assembly. There is still a fan on the card itself, but it is used to cool the VRM and other surface mounted components.



The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 -- Front and Back

The Radeon R9 295X2 is a full 12” long, and as we mentioned earlier, packs a pair of full Hawaii GPUs. The two GPUs combined equate to roughly 12.4B transistors and offer compute performance of up to 11.5 TFLOPs. There are a total of 5632 stream processors (2816 per GPU), with 8GB of GDDR5 memory (4GB per GPU) running at 5Gbps, linked to the GPU on dual 512-bit memory interfaces. The GPUs can clock up to 1018MHz and feature Hawaii’s full complement of texture units and ROPs. Peak textured fill-rate is 358.3 GT/s and pixel fill-rate tops out at 130.3 GP/s. For all intents and purposes, the R9 295X2 is a full Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration on a single card.


AMD Radeon R9 295X2 PCB Exposed

With the kind of complexity and horsepower at its core, it should come as no surprise that the Radeon R9 295X2 has some special cooling and power-related considerations. As we’ve mentioned, the card is liquid cooled and has a 120mm radiator assembly. That radiator needs to be mounted properly in a case—preferably using a 120mm fan mount at the rear or top of the case. The card also has a TDP of 500 watts and requires dual 8-pin PCI Express power connectors. Just having the necessary connectors isn’t enough, though, as the power supply feeding the card also needs to be able to handle a minimum of 28A on each of the 12V rails powering the card (or a single, more powerful 12V rail). We had a 1200 watt PSU in the lab with six 12C rails capable of supplying 17A and it could not handle the Radeon R9 295X2.


The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Disassembled

The cooling solution on the Radeon R9 295X2 was developed with Asetek. If you’re unfamiliar with Asetek, they are one of the pioneers in self-contained, high-performance liquid cooling solutions. The cooling hardware on the R9 295X2 consists of a pair of copper cold-plates, with micro-channel fins and integrated pumps, which sit directly atop each GPU. There is a long heat plate/mount that covers the entire front of the PCB, save for a small portion in the center that accommodates a separate cooper heatsink mounted to the card’s VRM. There is another metal plate covering the backside of the card to add rigidity and the front is covered up with an all-metal shroud. The cooling fan in the center of the shroud lights up red, as does the large Radeon logo cut into the top of the card. All told, it’s a pretty cool design.

Outputs on the Radeon R9 295X2 consist of a single, dual-link DVI output and four mini-DisplayPort outputs. All of the outputs on the card can be utilized at once should you want to setup a multi-monitor Eyefinity configuration and the DP outputs are v1.2, and support MST mode on 4K displays.

Of course, the Radeon R9 295X2 supports AMD’s other graphics technologies like TrueAudio, Mantle, CrossFire, and the like. Just in case you’re wondering, it is possible to have a pair of these things in a single system, for a quad-CrossFire configuration.
 

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Test System and Unigine Heaven v4.0

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on an EVGA X79 Dark motherboard powered by an Intel Core i7-4960X six-core processor and 16GB of Corsair DDR3-1866 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system UEFI and set all values to their "high performance" default settings and disable any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The memory's X.M.P. profile was enabled to ensure better-than-stock performance and the solid state drive was then formatted and Windows 8.1 Professional x64 was installed. When the installation was complete, we fully updated the OS and installed the latest DirectX redist along with all of the drivers, games, and benchmark tools necessary to complete our tests.

HotHardware's Test System
Intel Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Intel Core i7-4960X
(3.3GHz, Six-Core)
EVGA X79 Dark
(Intel X79 Express)

Radeon R9 290
Radeon R7 290X x 2
Radeon R7 295X2
Asus ROG MARS 760
EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti ACX
GeForce GTX 780 Ti x 2
GeForce GTX Titan

16GB Corsair DDR3-1866
OCZ Vertex 3
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 8.1 Pro x64
DirectX April 2011 Redist
AMD Catalyst v14.4B
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers v337.50

Benchmarks Used:
Unigine Heaven v4
3DMark "Fire Strike"
Bioshock Infinite
Hitman: Absolution
Company of Heroes 2
Metro Last Light
Sleeping Dogs
Crysis 3
FRAPS + FCAT

Unigine Heaven v4.0 Benchmark
Pseudo-DirectX 11 Gaming

Unigine's Heaven Benchmark v4.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform, real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion). It also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.


Unigine Heaven


The new Radeon R9 295X2 put up some big numbers in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, just edging past the dual-card Radeon R9 290X configuration. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup came out on top, however, thanks in part to NVIDIA's just-released 337.50 drivers, which boost performance in DX11 titles, virtually across the board.
 

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3DMark Fire Strike Test

3DMark Fire Strike has two benchmark modes: Normal mode runs at 1920x1080, while Extreme mode targets 2560x1440. GPU target frame buffer utilization for normal mode is 1GB and the benchmark uses tessellation, ambient occlusion, volume illumination, and a medium-quality depth of field filter. The more taxing Extreme mode targets 1.5GB of frame buffer memory and increases detail levels across the board. Extreme mode is explicitly designed for CrossFire / SLI systems. GT 1 focuses on geometry and illumination, with over 100 shadow casting spot lights, 140 non-shadow casting point lights, and 3.9 million vertices calculated for tessellation per frame. And 80 million pixels are processed per frame. GT2 emphasizes particles and GPU simulations. Tessellation volume is reduced to 2.6 million vertices and the number of pixels processed per frame rises to 170 million.

Futuremark 3DMark Fire Strike
Synthetic DirectX Gaming


3DMark Fire Strike

Once again, the Radeon R9 295X2 was able to outrun the dual-card Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration by a small margin. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup came out on top in the 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme test, though. If you did into the individual results, you'll see that the 780 Ti SLI wins because of a higher FPS in GT1. In GT2, the Radeon R9 295X2 is fastest.
 

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Company of Heroes 2 Performance

Unlike the shooters that make up most of our current tests, Relic’s Company of Heroes 2 (the follow up to the popular Company of Heroes from 2006) is a real-time strategy game published by Sega. The game is set in World War II, but focuses on the Eastern Front, with players primarily leveraging the Soviet Red Army through various stages of the campaign. Company of Heroes 2 uses Relic Entertainment's proprietary Essence 3.0 game engine, and offers some impressive visuals. We tested the game at various resolutions, with its image quality preset set to “higher”, “high” quality textures, snow, and physics, and anti-aliasing set to medium.

Company of Heroes 2
DirectX 11 RTS Gaming Performance





The Company of Heroes 2 benchmark did not scale properly across multiple GPUs, so performance is all over the map. At the lower resolution, the factory overclocked EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti come out on top, but the Radeons overtake it at the higher resolutions.


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Even though the game didn't scale properly, we recorded some FCAT results on the multi-GPU configurations anyway to see if there was any other anomalous behavior.  We did see a couple of huge spikes on the AMD-based setups, which weren't present with the GeForces.
 

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Metro Last Light Performance

Metro Last Light is your typical post-apocalyptic first person shooter game with a few rather unconventional twists. Unlike most FPS titles, there is no health meter to measure your level of ailment; rather, you’re left to deal with life, or lack thereof, more akin to the real world with blood spatter on your visor and your heart rate and respiration level as indicators. Metro Last Light boasts some of the best 3D visuals on the PC platform and includes a DX11 rendering mode that makes use of advanced depth of field effects and character model tessellation for increased realism. This title also supports NVIDIA PhysX technology for impressive in-game physics effects. We tested the game at resolutions of 1920x1200 and 2560x1600 with its in-game image quality options set to their High Quality mode, with DOF effects disabled.

Metro Last Light
DirecX11 Gaming Performance


Metro Last Light





The Radeon R9 295X2 put up some impressive numbers in the Metro Last Light benchmark as well. The performance trend we've seen throughout much of our previous testing played out again here at all three resolutions, with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup taking the lead, followed by the Radeon R9 295X2 and then the Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration.


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We saw some funky frametime variations in Metro Last Light on the Radeon R9 295X2 that wasn't present throughout the Radeon R9 290X CrossFire run according to our FCAT data, but the frame rate was high enough for it not to be perceptible here. Still, it looks like AMD's got some additional drive tuning to do to get frame pacing right in this game.
 

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Bioshock Infinite Performance

BioShock Infinite is clear game-of-the-year material. The floating city of Columbia is one of the most evocative, intense, and gorgeous environments we've ever seen in a PC game -- but how much you like it may depend on what sort of visual wizardry you prefer. BioShock Infinite is built on Unreal Engine 3, and while it pushes that framework's capabilities into the stratosphere, there's a clear difference between BioShock Infinite and, say, Crysis 3. BioShock Infinite emphasizes light, color and motion, and while the characters look more exaggerated and cartoon-like than some other games, they still look great. We tested the game at various resolutions with its DX11 code path with DOF effects enabled.

Bioshock Infinite
DirectX Gaming Performance


Bioshock Infinite



At this point we're probably starting to sound like a broken record, but the numbers are what they are. The GeForce GTX 780 SLI configuration came out on top in the Bioshock Infinite benchmark at all three resolutions. The Radeon R9 295X2 did outpace the 290X CrossFire setup again, though.


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There were a few rather large frame-time hiccups on all of the multi-GPU configurations in this game, but the Radeons had the biggest problem at around the half-way point.
 

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Sleeping Dogs Performance

Sleeping Dogs is an open-world game in which you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside. In the game, you have to fight your way up in the organization and take part in various criminal activities without blowing your cover. We tested Sleeping Dogs at two resolutions, with all in-game graphical options set to their maximum values with FXAA enabled.

Sleeping Dogs
DX11 Gaming Performance


Sleeping Dogs





Things played out a bit differently in the Sleeping Dogs benchmark. In this game, the GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup put up the highest scores at the lower resolutions, but when we tested the game at 4K, the Radeon R9 295X2 came out on top.


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There were a couple of slow-downs in the Sleeping Dogs benchmark with all of the multi-GPU setups, at various points throughout the run. The Radeon R9 295X2's output was the most consistent though.
 

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Hitman: Absolution Performance

Hitman: Absolution follows Agent 47, a cold-blooded assassin, who takes on his most dangerous contract to date. Betrayed by those he once trusted - and now hunted by the police - he suddenly finds himself at the center of a dark conspiracy and must embark on a personal journey through a corrupt and twisted world. We tested the game at multiple resolutions, with all in-game options set to their maximum values and global illumination and 4X anti-aliasing enabled.

Hitman: Absolution
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Hitman: Absolution


 

The performance trend in Hitman Absolution looks much like Sleeping Dogs. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI setup was fastest at the lower resolution, but the Radeon R9 295X2 pulls ahead at 2560x1600 and 4K. The delta at 4K is rather large too.


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All of the multi-GPU setups have somewhat erratic frame pacing in Hitman Absolution, but the framerates are high-enough for it not to matter here.
 

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Crysis 3 Performance

Crysis 3, which is powered by Crytek’s proprietary CryENGINE 3 technology, is the third installment in this popular franchise. Crysis 3 is the sequel to 2011’s Crysis 2 and follows Prophet as he returns to New York a few years after the events of Crysis 2. Like previous games in the franchise, Crysis 3 has impressive visuals that can tax even the most powerful PCs when cranked up to their maximum values. We tested this game at various resolutions with all in-game graphics options set to Very High, with 4X MSAA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled and motion blur set to high.

Crysis 3
DirectX 11 Gaming Performance


Crysis 3

 

The GeForce GTX 780 SLI setup outpaced the Radeon R9 295X2 in Crysis 3 at every resolution, though the delta separating the pair of GeForces and the 295X2 shrinks to almost nothing at 4K.


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Unfortunately, the Radeons consistently suffered from large spikes in frame-time. Though we're only showing a couple of huge hiccups here in the FCAT captures, the Radeons exhibited the problem throughout all of our benchmark runs. This issue wasn't present in previous driver releases, however, so hopefully AMD can get it taken care of quickly.
 

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Power Consumption and Noise

Before bringing this article to a close, we'd like to cover a few final data points--namely, power consumption, temperatures, and noise. Throughout all of our benchmarking and testing, we monitored acoustics and tracked how much power our test system was consuming using a power meter. Our goal was to give you an idea of how much power each configuration used while idling and also while under a heavy workload. Please keep in mind that we were testing total system power consumption at the outlet here, not just the power being drawn by the graphics cards alone.

Total System Power Consumption
Tested at the Outlet

Considering the fact that the Radeon R9 295X2 has a 500 watt TDP, it should come as no surprise that it consumed the most power under load in our tests. Peak power consumptions was slightly higher than the Radeon R9 290X CrossFire configuration and the GeForce GTX 780 SLI setup. Idle power is not much different across the various configurations, though.

In terms of its noise output, however, the Radeon R9 295X2 is significantly quieter than a pair of R9 290X cards running in CrossFire (in Uber mode). Not only that, but the noise produced by the Radeon R9 295X2's larger fans, produces a lower-pitched sound that's less irritating to our ears than the barrel-type fans on other cards. Though the Radeon R9 295X2 is not silent, we wouldn't consider it loud either.  We should point out, we measured sound pressure with the card installed in a case (not in an open-air setup), with the meter placed about a foot away from the rear of the system, directly in-line with the outputs on the graphics cards.

We should also mention that temperatures are a non-issue with the Radeon R9 295X2. Coming into this review, we thought the possibility existed for the liquid-cooling loop to become heat saturated, which would cause thermal throttling. But the temperature target on the R9 295X2 is set to only 75'C, and in our testing the GPU temps never exceeded 70'C, even after hours of banging on the card. The surface temp on the radiator only went as high as 45.9'C.

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Before we nit-pick the numbers, let’s be clear: The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is the fastest single graphics card we have ever tested, by far. With that said, looking back through our benchmark results, the dual-card GeForce GTX 780 Ti SLI configuration put up higher scores, more often than not. However, the Radeon R9 295X2 was able to overtake the GTX 780 Ti SLI setup on a number of occasions, particularly at higher resolutions (like 4K).


The AMD Radeon R9 295X2 - Find It @ Amazon

The Radeon R9 295X2 is easily AMD’s most ambitious dual-GPU powered graphics card to date. Everything about the Radeon R9 295X2 is extreme, from its performance to its aesthetics, and its price. AMD is setting the MSRP on this powerhouse at $1499, with expected availability the week of April 21st. At that price, the Radeon R9 295X2 is more expensive than a pair of GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards. And it’s pricier than a pair of Radeon R9 290X cards too. Strictly looking at performance $1499 is somewhat tough to justify—if you could ever justify the purchase of a top-of-the-line graphics card. If you consider the all-metal construction, lighted logo and fan, and the liquid-cooler, however, it’s easier to understand the Radeon R9 295X2’s price premium. A couple of Radeon R9 290X cards with water blocks, a pump, radiator assembly, etc. would easily surpass $1500. And then there’s the $3000 GeForce GTX Titan Z to consider—that baby commands an even larger premium. We guess what we’re getting at is that we wish AMD was a bit more aggressive with pricing on the Radeon R9 295X2, but in the end it is an ultra-premium product and ultra-premium products targeted at PC enthusiast are always pricey.

Ultimately though, if you’re considering an AMD Radeon R9 CrossFire setup, and are ready to accept the issues associated with running multiple GPUs, the Radeon R9 295X2 is a monster. It’s not quite Radeon R9 290X CrossFire in a single-card form factor, because there’s the liquid cooling setup to consider, but we don’t think that’s going to turn off potential consumers of a card of this type, especially considering how much quieter it can be than a pair of 290Xes. We think AMD’s got some more software tuning to do to get the most out of the Radeon R9 295X2, but that will perpetually be the case with multi-GPU configurations. Here’s hoping AMD remains committed to optimizing the drivers and software for the Radeon R9 295X2 (and CrossFire in general), because this is one of the most drool-worthy graphics cards to ever come out AMD.

 

  • Uber Powerful
  • High Performance
  • Relatively Quiet Under Load
  • All Metal Construction
  • CrossFire on a Card
  • Relatively Quiet, But Not Silent By Any Means
  • Pricey
  • Not Available Yet



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