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

Test Hardware And Benchmarks

As always, the hardware and benchmarks used in today’s review are important. However, methodology is also more relevant than ever, particularly in light of the dynamic clock rate behavior we described when AMD’s Radeon R9 290X first launched.

To that end, all of our testing happens in the aforementioned Rosewill Throne chassis. And rather than simply firing up benchmarks after an idle period, we heat up every card with several minutes of gameplay prior to recording results. If a configuration is prone to throttling, that gets documented. Really though, AMD effectively addressed variability on its reference Hawaii-based board through a driver, and most third-party solutions are better-cooled.

Test Hardware
Intel Core i7-4960X (Ivy Bridge-E) 3.5 GHz Base Clock Rate, Overclocked to 4.2 GHz, LGA 2011, 15 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
MSI X79A-GD45 Plus (LGA 2011) X79 Express Chipset, BIOS 17.8
G.Skill 32 GB (8 x 4 GB) DDR3-2133, F3-17000CL9Q-16GBXM x2 @ 9-11-10-28 and 1.65 V
Hard Drive
Samsung 840 Pro SSD 256 GB SATA 6Gb/s
AMD Radeon R9 295X2 8 GB

2 x AMD Radeon R9 290X 4 GB (CrossFire)

AMD Radeon HD 7990 6 GB

2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan 6 GB (SLI)

2 x Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti 3 GB (SLI)

Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 4 GB
Power Supply
Rosewill  Lightning 1300 1300 W, Single +12 V rail, 108 A output
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows 8.1 Professional 64-bit
DirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD Catalyst 14.4 Beta

Nvidia GeForce 337.50 Beta

AMD claims that the Radeon R9 295X2 is designed for gaming at 3840x2160. However, we also ran benchmarks at 2560x1440, which is still a popular enthusiast-oriented resolution. All tests at QHD are run through our FCAT system; numbers are generated using video captured from a DVI display output. Testing at Ultra HD was conducted through a mix of technologies; the GeForce GTX 690 and Radeon HD 7990 wouldn’t cooperate with the dual-HDMI method of getting FCAT working at 4K. This shouldn’t be an issue when frame pacing is working properly, since there are no dropped or runt frames to report. Where it results in suspect data, however, we’ll call that out.

Benchmarks And Settings
Battlefield 4
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, v-sync off, 100-second Tashgar playback. FCAT for 2560x1440; Fraps/FCAT for 3840x2160
Arma 3
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x FSAA, Anisotropic Filtering: Ultra, v-sync off, Infantry Showcase, 30-second playback, FCAT and Fraps
Metro: Last Light
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Very High Quality Preset, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, Normal Motion Blur, v-sync off, Built-In Benchmark, FCAT and Fraps
Assassin's Creed IV
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Maximum Quality options, 4x MSAA, 40-second Custom Run-Through, FCAT and Fraps
Grid 2
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Ultra Quality Preset, 120-second recording of built-in benchmark, FCAT and Fraps
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Very High Quality Preset, 70-second recording of built-in benchmark, FCAT and Fraps
Tomb Raider
2560x1440 and 3840x2160: Ultimate Quality Preset, FXAA, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, TressFX Hair, 45-second Custom Run-Through, FCAT and Fraps
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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.