Radeon R9 295X2 8 GB Review: Project Hydra Gets Liquid Cooling

Power And Design Decisions

Power Consumption, By The Numbers

Notice the two eight-pin power plugs? A lot of folks were speculating that AMD would use three of those. AMD is coy about the 295X2’s maximum power, but claims it averages around 500 W under load. We’ll give you a definitive answer on consumption in the following pages. However, let’s use 500 W as a nice, round figure. The PCI-SIG electromechanical specification rates a 16-lane PCI Express slot for up to 75 W. A six-pin auxiliary connector is rated for the same 75 W. And you get 150 W from an eight-pin connector. Two of those eight-pin plugs plus a motherboard slot should add up to 375 W, leaving us about 125 W short of our target.

According to AMD, that’s not a problem. Representatives from the PCI-SIG declined comment, but AMD says:

"The PCI spec was created as a guideline for wide compatibility and thermal density within a two-slot form factor. The 295X2 is about pushing performance, not wide compatibility, and as a result requires carefully-chosen infrastructure by DIYers. This selection criteria for PSUs and cases…will appear on amd.com after launch. When it comes to PSUs, the 295X2 will separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. The best PSUs will use low-gauge wiring and high-output MOSFETs...”

We’ll get into the hardware you need to support a Radeon R9 295X2 shortly. The takeaway for now is that AMD’s new flagship pushes well beyond the specification we’ve long-assumed was a ceiling, but now know doesn’t have to be (so long as you own the right equipment).

Playing Dress-Up

While I readily give AMD credit for building dual-GPU cards that come close to doubling the potential of its single-GPU flagships, I’m far less complimentary of how the company typically achieves those numbers. Check out a couple of these story titles. There’s AMD Radeon HD 6990 4 GB Review: Antilles Makes (Too Much) Noise and the much-debated Radeon HD 7990 In CrossFire: The Red Wedding Of Graphics. Past efforts were some combination of noisy, hot, and simply untenable in dual-card arrays.

My feedback didn’t make me a very popular guy at AMD, judging by some of the phone calls I fielded. But engineers took that input and came up with something better-conceived for the Radeon R9 295X2: a closed-loop cooler able to dissipate thermal energy from two high-end processors and exhaust it right out of your chassis using one big 120 mm fan.

Naturally, I’m amped to see AMD maintain its scaling with two Hawaii GPUs. But I’m even more impressed that the company is treating the reference cooler with respect. A partnership with Asetek results in a semi-custom solution that includes a heat sink covering the whole card, two water blocks in series, approximately 380 mm of tubing, a radiator, and a 120 mm fan.

This gives AMD the flexibility to fit into a dual-slot form factor on a board as long as the Radeon HD 7990. Asetek’s cooler is covered by a boxy metal shroud colored black and silver, giving the card more rigidity than past plastic-laden affairs. A metal backplate sandwiches the PCB, cooling the memory and adding more stiffness. Both hoses exit out the top of the card.

As far as industrial design goes, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 690, 780, 780 Ti, and Titan still sport sexier aesthetics. But AMD makes up much of its deficit with a metal casing, red-illuminated center fan (mostly for cooling the power circuitry), and lit-up Radeon logo on top of the card. Kudos to the company for building a more substantial enthusiast-oriented product.

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  • SVMreborn
    The pricing of this beast really impressed me.
  • Marsian Gustrianda
    Many people doubt about Dual GPU Hawaii will be Blow Up. It seems AMD really do well job. Nice Looking Card
  • ohim
    This card is like the Veyron of WV , show the world what you can do (R295x2) but you`ll still relay on the sales of your WV Golf for revenue (270x, 280x)
  • ferooxidan
    Finally the review of this beast! Now continue reading
  • outlw6669
    Impressive performance, temperatures and fairly low noise!
    I would prefer a bit lower price, but this looks like a great card for the gamer that has everything!
  • getochkn
    Surprised you didn't do a mining hashrate test on it to see what it can push out.
  • gunfighter zeck
    the name Dreadnaught originated from Dread Nothing or, fear nothing.
    Boss ship.
  • Maxamus456
    Hope this price stays low and not get bloated from bit con miners like its predecessors.
  • blubbey
    So let me get this straight. It runs pretty cool, quiet, performs well and (for the moment) is able to play a good selection of games at 4k admirably and is priced competitively. Plus if you are going to drop a bit more on watercooling your GPUs (which is a possibility if you're spending $1200+) that gives this card even greater value. Nice work AMD.
  • marciocattini
    Wheres Tom's Hardware seal of approval? =( clearly this card diserves some love!
  • spp85
    Sheeeer muscle power
  • Plusthinking Iq
    this is what i want for all my high end gaming, but i would rather like to see aio water cooling only and a 140mm version that could go silent if needed, full cover water block like the tundra series is some of the best. but single card is the best like a 780ti cooled with a 140mm aio at 500rpm and quiet pump. MAKE IT HAPPEN!
  • ferooxidan
    After reading the article my conclusion is: we need a beefier GPU next year for a truly comfortable 4K gaming experience. OMG games this day really take tolls on our rig. Some games only hit around 40-ish and some even down to 30-ish fps on 4K. Imagine next year AAA titles, even this beast will be tamed.
  • Wisecracker
    Vesuvius erupts !! ... nice job, Toms.

    Conspicuous by their absence are power, temp and noise numbers from the Green Team -- which likely means they got smoked (in a really good way) across the board by dual Hawaii.
  • AMD Radeon
    good guy AMD
  • tristangl
    ok that just prove that 4k gaming for the average joe is still not around the corner
  • chuckydb
    I hope some OEM make the cooler with a double radiator. That card can be cooler and completely silent.
  • JoeArchitect

    "Wheres Tom's Hardware seal of approval..."

    This is addressed in the conclusion of the article:

    "We have an estimated price and an estimated date for availability. The past several launches were peppered by misses on both fronts, and we’ve learned our lesson about recommending gear before you can buy it."
  • St0rm_KILL3r
    Well, at 1440p r9 295x2 = gtx 780ti sli. But at 3840x2160 it totally dominates every gpu. Wondering if gtx 790 will be able to keep up with it.
  • ekagori
    I like what AMD has done, it's good to know they are making a better effort with high end parts. Hopefully all this goodness trickles down to the next generation 20nm consumer friendly products.
  • Steveymoo
    I'm gonna get flamed for this, but AMD still have crossfire issues. A high framerate is cool and all, but micro stutter is still more annoying than a slightly lower fps. I tried Xfire on two r9 290s in BF4, and frankly, you get a less lumpy experience with just one. Granted, Nvidia has their share of SLI issues (like a lack of support for new releases,) but throughout all the years of owning a gtx 460 SLI rig, I'm still convinced Nvidia provides a smoother, more refined overall experience.
  • patrick47018
    It seems like a really good card, good job AMD
  • de5_Roy
    great read, very informative. the card itself looks good, which is a major departure from amd's previous ultra high end cards. :P

    i didn't quite understand if gpu performance and vram capacity was holding back the nvidia cards or vram size and bus-width both, in 4K gaming benches. imo, this might be worth exlporing in a different article.
  • vertexx
    What GPU are the temperature measurements coming from? Given they are connected in series, I would expect one to be hotter than the other.

    Edit: After some additional research on the web, it looks like there is only a 2 degree difference between the two GPUs under load - somewhat surprising.