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AMD Radeon R9 295X2 Review

KitGuru was one of the first tech publications to regularly incorporate Ultra HD 4K testing into high end graphics card reviews last year. When you see titles such as Battlefield 4, Tomb Raider, Thief 2014 and Metro Last Light running at 3840×2160 there really is no going back.

Even though we have been using the (£2,300) flagship Asus PQ321QE monitor, we did say that we should see cost effective panels hit the market in 2014. It actually happened sooner than we predicted; if you check leading etailers such as Overclockers UK, there are pre orders in place for 60hz 4K screens at only £500.

While Ultra HD 4k screens are quickly becoming affordable it does take an extremely powerful graphics solution to maintain smooth frame rates at the native 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. A single GTX 780 Ti and R9 290X have proven powerful enough to drive many titles at 4K, however there are a handful of Direct X 11 games which can bring a single card to its knees.

Nvidia’s recent announce of the $3,000 Titan Z has caused much debate among our readership. This monster card is likely to cost around £2,200 in the UK and clearly targets the professional sector. The combination of two Titan Black solutions on a single PCB will surely appeal to a small audience of wealthy gamers who simply must own the most powerful, cutting edge technology. Nvidia may say that the Titan series of cards has always targeted the professional sector – but it hasn’t stopped gamers buying them en masse.

We don’t have Nvidia’s Titan Z in hand yet, but we did the next best thing – we SLI’d two GTX Titan Black cards. In all of the games we tested at Ultra HD 4k, the AMD R9 295X2 was the performance leader.

AMD have struggled in recent years to develop a powerful, quiet reference cooling system. We have mentioned this in previous reviews, such as the launch article for the R9 290X back in October last year. This hot running card delivered plenty of performance, but it also emitted high noise under load with a nasty tendency to downclock while trying to maintain the default 95c temperature profile.

AMD may have scraped through with a frugal reference air cooler fitted to the R9 290X, but the architecture of the R9 295X2 would insist on a more substantial cooling system. AMD decided to work with Asetek on the ‘reference’ watercooler for the R9 295X2 –  and, for the most part, it should be considered a success.

The R9 295X2 ships with a small 120mm radiator and single fan mounted to drive cool air through the radiator and outside the case. I have to admit I was quite surprised AMD and Asetek didn’t opt for a 240mm radiator with dual fans. After a long gaming session, the hoses get very warm to the touch and the single 120mm fan spins very fast to compensate for slowly increasing water temperatures.

While I am actually quite surprised the cooler works as well as it does, I feel a 240mm radiator with dual fans would have been a more sensible choice for AMD. The larger radiator would have been able to remove the heat quicker, and with another fan in place, they both could have been set to rotate slower. Less noise and better cooling performance, a win for everyone.

Playing Devils Advocate I do somewhat comprehend AMD’s reasoning behind the adoption of a 120mm radiator.

An enthusiast user contemplating a R9 295X2 is likely to already own a high end, hot running Intel i7 processor. Corsair (among others) have a range of highly successful all in one liquid coolers available such as the H100i, H105 and H110 which adopt 240mm and 280mm radiators. The majority of chassis have only space for one of these radiators … so finding a free position to mount the R9 295X2 cooling system may have proven difficult, if not impossible. The very small audience considering two R9 295X2 cards for Quad Crossfire would have had to get very creative.

As already mentioned, Nvidia have said their upcoming Titan Z will cost $3,000. When we factor in 20% Vat, this takes the price to around £2,200 in the UK. AMD will be selling the R9 295X2 for €1099. We would expect to see the R9 295X2 in the UK for between £900 and £1,000. At this extremely competitive price point, I can overlook my minor concerns with the adoption of a small 120mm radiator and slightly higher than desired noise emissions.

AMD crafted the AMD R9 295X2 specifically for Ultra HD 4K gaming, and based on our findings there is no doubt they have released the world’s fastest graphics card.

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Pros:

  • Fastest graphics card that money can buy.
  • looks set to be at least half the price of the Titan Z from Nvidia.
  • Ultra HD 4K leader.
  • we love the flight case.
  • no maintenance watercooling system.

Cons:

  • Can get quite loud under load when the water heats up.
  • smallish cooling system has to work hard.
  • 240mm radiator and dual fans would have performed better.
  • Needs a beefy, high quality power supply.

Kitguru says: Look up the word ‘performance’ in the English Oxford dictionary and you will see the description ‘AMD R9 295X2’. Testing at Ultra HD 4K resolutions, AMD’s R9 295X2 beat a pair of Titan Black Edition cards in every test… It is the 4K champion.
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Rating: 9.0.

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