Power, Sound and Closing Thoughts
We all knew going into this story that the Radeon R9 295X2 was going to use a lot of power although how much was a question mark. Releasing a card as a GPU vendor with a 500 watt TDP is a risk but AMD has done everything they can to lessen the burden of the system vendor and DIY builder by including a unique and effective water cooling option and laying out the power supply constraints. Still, seeing our test bed pull over 660 watts from the wall with just the CPU, and SSD and this graphics card plugged in is a shock! That is 257 watts more than our single GPU, overclocked ASUS Radeon R9 290X DC2 card!
The pair of GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards running SLI draw 80 watts less at load and 10 watts less at idle. Those are noteworthy numbers though I would guess that any gamer willing to invest $1300-1500 in graphics cards isn't going to be as concerned as NVIDIA would like to believe by power draw.
Maybe more important for AMD after the headache (literal, figurative) caused by the reference release of the R9 290X and R9 290, the new Radeon R9 295X2 is able to keep all that power dissipated without raising the sound levels any more than a SINGLE GeForce GTX 780 Ti! At idle the two fans (one on the card, one on the radiator) are louder than than the GTX 780 Ti, single or SLI, but it was quiet enough to not be the burden that the original R9 290/X cooler was.
There are definitely going to be people complaining about the water cooling requirement for the R9 295X2 – that it is some less elegant than well designed heatsinks. And while that might be true to some, I don't think users that are spending $1500 are going to be bothered by it that much.
It seems like we are saying this more often than ever before, but the new AMD Radeon R9 295X2 is clearly the fastest graphics card for gaming on the planet. With a pair of full-speed Hawaii GPUs running at over 1.0 GHz on 5,632 stream processors and 8GB of total graphics memory, the R9 295X2 impresses on the list of specifications and then does so again and again in our gaming testing. In only a couple of cases did the pair of NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards running in SLI outperform the R9 295X2 at 2560×1440 (GRID 2 and Skyrim) and only once did it happen when running at the ultimate flagship resolution, 3840×2160 (Skyrim).
Everywhere else, the Radeon R9 295X2 presented a dominant performance with gaming frame rates that were both fast and surprisingly consistent! Anyone that debates the value of the storm created by PC Perspective and other sites about smooth, low variance frame times needs to be taken off the Internet. We, as a community, forced a company to recognize its faults and fix them and because of that we have a much better product with the R9 295X2 than we would have otherwise. AMD has progressed enough to even offer better frame pacing that NVIDIA's SLI in several instances including Battlefield 4 and Bioshock Infinite.
While performance between the R9 295X2 and the pair of GTX 780 Ti cards in SLI is somewhat close at 2560×1440, when we tested at 4K (3840×2160) the benefits of the dual Hawaii card were much more prevalent. Even in GRID 2, where performance at the lower resolution gave the edge to NVIDIA, that shifted to AMD at the 4K level.
Pricing and Availability
AMD tells us that the Radeon R9 295X2 will be available the week of April 21st and will have a retail suggested price of $1499. Card prices for the ultra enthusiast keep creeping back up into the world we were in 7-8 years ago and I don't think we'll see any falling off soon. At $1500 though, the R9 295X2 offers a compelling option for users that want the best performance possible for multiple panel gaming, 4K gaming or maybe even multiple 4K panel gaming!
- AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8GB – $1499
- 2 x GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB (SLI) – $1400
- AMD Radeon R9 290X 4GB – $599
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3GB – $699
Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell anyone that AMD is offering a bargain with a $1500 graphics card, but considering NVIDIA announced the GeForce Titan Z for $2999 just a couple of weeks ago, AMD could have gone up to the $2000 level and no one would have been able to put up a big fight. But, right as we start to see the stock levels of the R9 series single GPU graphics cards come back to reasonable levels, AMD is offering a flagship solution that combines two $600 GPUs on one highly engineered and custom cooled PCB.
There are a couple of things I don't like about the Radeon R9 295X2 that mainly focus on the power requirements. Forcing users, even those willing to shell out $1500 for a graphics card, to understand power supply rails and combined amperage on power draw is just an unnecessary step. Including a third 8-pin power connector would have simplified things quite a bit and any nonsense talk about "additional cable clutter" is just that – nonsense. Do I wish there were a cooler that could handle both Hawaii GPUs without an external radiator? You bet I do. But I'm also not of the mindset that somehow this solution means you can write off the R9 295X2.
Those issues aside, the Radeon R9 295X2 is the fastest gaming graphics card you can buy and that alone will garner the attention that AMD wants. It offers the power of two full Radeon R9 290X cards in a dual slot design and thanks to frame pacing improvements AMD's driver team has made since the release or the Radeon HD 7990, is able to provide a smooth gaming experience at without compromise (though DX9 users might still debate that). It is still possible, and maybe at this point likely, that NVIDIA could release a version of the Titan Z with double precision compute capability disabled at a lower price but, for today, AMD stands alone at the top of the mountain (volcano???) with the Radeon R9 295X2.