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

Results: Arma 3


AMD claims its Radeon R9 295X2 is designed for 4K gaming. But I also wanted to run 2560x1440. Not only is that resolution far more common in the high-end space, but it also serves as a good baseline before we get to the Ultra HD numbers.

Arma 3 demonstrates a platform bottleneck at 2560x1440, even with the game's lushest detail settings switched on. Average frame rates from most configurations hover just under 80, while minimums are just under 70 FPS.

Only the Radeon HD 7990 and GeForce GTX 690 fall short of the choke point, though both still deliver a readily-playable experience.

Charting frame rate over time shows the ultra-high-end boards in their narrow range up top, as the other two cards trail.

Frame time variance attempts to quantify the smoothness of a given graphics card’s performance. Once upon a time, not long ago, this was a very real issue for AMD in multi-GPU arrays. Its processors would deliver frames as they were made ready, sometimes resulting in runts—frames on-screen for so short of a time that you don’t actually perceive them.

The company first addressed concerns over reported versus experienced frame rates with a special driver that more evenly paced the rate at which output was displayed. And although the Radeon HD 7990 and Radeon R9 290X cards approach CrossFire differently, incredibly low frame time variance in Arma 3 shows that both solutions demonstrate effective pacing to keep variance low.

This sample of frame times reveals a handful of small spikes, but overall consistent performance.


Gone is the bottleneck as we downshift to 3840x2160 and watch these cards further-differentiate themselves. The Radeon R9 295X2 sits up top, followed by two Radeon R9 290X boards in CrossFire. The GeForce GTX 780 Ti and Titans in SLI take third and fourth place.

Although we haven’t seen any dropped or runt frame issues from Nvidia in the past, two GK110s should easily best a pair of GK104s. However, Fraps and FCAT results seem to agree that Titans in SLI and the GeForce GTX 690 report similar average frame rates. What we’re likely missing is the fact that the 690’s 2 GB of memory per GPU causes quite a bit of stuttering. So, while the frame rate appears high through Fraps, the experience of gaming on a 690 at 4K is not nearly as pleasant.

That same phenomenon isn’t captured in the frame rate over time chart, where the GeForce GTX 690 appears quite quick. More notable is that the Radeon R9 295X2 is faster than the R9 290Xes in CrossFire, which in turn outperforms the two high-end combos from Nvidia.

The frame time variance at 3840x2160 is much higher than it was at 2560x1440, which we’d expect given significantly lower frame rates. However, all the way down to the Titans in SLI, even worst-case variance isn’t all that bad.

The GeForce GTX 690 registers significantly higher variance at Ultra HD. AMD’s Radeon HD 7990 runs into bad worst-case variance, while its average and 75th-percentile numbers are much more reasonable.

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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.