A Review of the 4K-capable AMD Radeon 295X2 Graphics Processing Unit
The insanely powerful and by no means highly affordable AMD Radeon 295X2 represents AMDs single best effort so far at creating a graphics processing unit that can truly handle 4K ultra HD graphics in PC games.
Ultimately, their effort fell a bit short, as we’ll soon cover, but it was a seriously valiant investment of care and love in a GPU that, while it isn’t quite perfect for 4K at extreme levels, does do a damn good job of handling even the most robust gaming needs just shy of that final metric.
In essence, the Radeon 295X2 is the culmination of an effort which involved hammering together two of the world’s fastest GPUs, putting them into a single integrated circuit and hammering this to a powerful overall package that even comes with its own liquid cooling system.
This is definitely the single best GPU AMD has yet released and while it could use improvement in a few areas, it offers a package that beats even processor king Nvidia’s most powerful pair of graphics cards in many ways, particularly when it comes to handling hardcore games at an assortment of 4K settings.
The Radeon 295X2 is no light-weight of a 4K capable GPU and as one of the two or three best consumer-level graphics cards in the world, it’s loaded with excellent features.
For starters, the cooling system on this machine is top notch, and necessary given that the 295X2 definitely runs quite hot when rendering visuals at the highest ultra HD settings. With a liquid cooling system, it offers its users a level of temperature control that many other cards lack and overall, this leads to not only better performance but also a much more secure gameplay experience in which you have to worry less about your $1500 GPU reaching its temperature threshold and burning itself right out. In addition to the liquid cooled heatsink, the 295X2 also comes with dual cooling fans for an extra dose of cooling power.
Then there is the multi-core internal design of the 295X2. The card offers a dual chip design that manages to pull off the trick of offering high speed performance and superior clock speeds despite consisting of two cores built into a single processing card.
Typically, slightly faster gaming performance comes from two or more discrete cards set up in a multi-GPU configuration but in the case of the Radeon 295X2, not only does peak performance excel with the single-GPU build, the clock speeds of the 295X2 also manage to stay fairly high at 1.018GHz, instead of the more common flat 1000MHz that even the Nvidia Titan X or the GTX 980 Ti offer.
This boost in clock speed isn’t exactly something that gets noticed easily in benchmark tests for the card but it does work in the 295X2’s favor in another sense: AMD has managed to put together a single dual-core GPU that still maintains high clock speed while dramatically reducing noise and temperature thanks to its single body design.
In contrast, two R9 290X cards from the same company, while giving out individually high clock speeds, burn a lot hotter and with higher decibel levels, particularly when strained by high end graphics like those of 4K resolution for 4k monitors.
Finally, this truly is a graphics card that was built with 4K ultra HD in mind. Its dual-core configuration practically screams this at potential users since just a single one of its processing cores is more than enough for any normal HD uses. However, when it comes to 4K at frame rates of above 30, the 295X2 really shows off its performance capacities and it does so in a way that even Nvidia’s best, the Titan X has a very hard time keeping up with. With even the most intensive gaming environments, this card performs at least decently.
4.0 - 44 Reviews
On the other hand, not all is perfect with the Radeon 295X2 and for all its absolutely top-level 4K gameplay capabilities, it does offer a few negative tradeoffs.
For starters, liquid/fan-based cooling system or not, this GPU does run hot. It’s a tough machine that can handle these operating temperatures but the overall effect on the rest of your PC might be something to worry about. Tests done even at idle running show temperatures of more than 38 degrees C and temperatures during high intensity 4K gameplay can easily exceed 60 degrees Celsius. Again, this is a machine built to deal with heat generation but the Nvidia Titan X, despite lacking a liquid cooling system, consistently beats the Radeon 295X2 in terms of overall peak degrees generated.
Finally, because this card really doesn’t have much in the way of inferior aspects, we should also mention that it really requires some serious wattage to run. So this means a beefy power supply unit that can supply at least 500 watts of energy to keep the gameplay rolling along.
In our final analysis of the AMD Radeon 295X2, we have to say that this is definitely the best performer on the market right now if your big thing is 4K gameplay. However, in terms of overall smoothness of performance when it comes to things like temperature, power consumption, noise generation and a few other details, the Titan X from Nvidia definitely gives the Radeon 295X2 a run for its money.
• Stream Processors 2 x 2816
• Memory Bus Width: 2 x 512-bit
• Texture Units: 2 x 172
• ROPs: 2 x 64
• Boost Clock: 1075MHz
• Memory Clock: 5000 MHz GDDR5
• VRAM: 2 x 4GB GDDR5
• Form Factor: dual slot
• Total Memory Bandwidth: 336.5 GB/s
• GPU: GM200
• Architecture: Hawaii
• Transistors: 2 x 6.2B (billion) 12.4 billion
• Manufacturing Process: 28nm
• Power Supply: 500 watts
The Radeon 295X2 offers a number of unique highlights that make it stand out from the rest of its own cousins in the AMD line of GPUs and also from comparable rival machines by Nvidia.
Most important and obvious of all is the fact that this is the single best reasonably priced performer in the consumer PC gaming market today when it comes to rendering game graphics at all levels of detail in 4K ultra HD resolution. As we’ll cover in greater detail under “Performance Benchmarks”, the 295X2 outdoes anything else from AMD and even beats Nvidia’s impressive Titan X GPU at rendering UHD graphics in High, Medium and even Ultra or Very High detail settings in terms of frames per second. On these metrics, the 295X2 is basically unmatched at its price.
Secondly, this particular model from AMD fixes a lot of the noise and heat generation of previous models from the same company. In comparison to the R9 290X, the 295X2 is a far superior unit when it comes to minimizing heat and noise. Considering that it does all this while delivering performance that leaves the R9 290X in the dust, the improvement is all the more impressive to behold.
Then there is the now well-known cooling system of the 295X2. In this department, AMD didn’t mess around and this particular Radeon has one hell of an excellent setup. First, there’s a central fan that pushes air across both cores. This alone however isn’t enough for a powerhouse GPU like this one and the majority of the serious cooling that goes on happens when the GPU’s cooling liquid is pumped across to the inside of the attached 120mm radiator block that’s built into the X2.
Finally, as we’d already mentioned, this particular GPU is a dual core model and as such you’re really getting the heavy lifting power of two individually excellent processors in one. In this, the 295X2 is rather unique and highly efficient, delivering double the processing kick in a single streamlined package that runs on a single cooling system. For serious games like Metro Last Light or Shogun 2, the dual processor GPU setup of this Radeon model is the best game in town at this price.
First of all, bear in mind that any comparison between the Radeon 295X2 and a card in the same class as this GPU is a comparison between a single-GPU and a dual-GPU configuration. The Titan X generally underperforms AMD’s flagship card but only does so by just a little and it manages to keep things close despite being a GPU with a single but very powerful processing core inside it, the Maxwell 2.
Thus, while the Radeon 295X2 performs better as a single package and is definitely more recommendable for any serious 4K gamer, the skills that Nvidia has in making a single-GPU card really push out the 4K resolution and do so quietly, with little heat and no need for liquid cooling is a definite mark in the latter company’s favor. That said, here is how the Radeon 295X2 stacks up in a few performance benchmarks of heat, noise, power consumption and frame rates at different settings in different games:
General performance during gameplay
In terms of general performance under assorted resolution levels and detail settings, well, as we’ve already said, the Radeon 295X2 is practically unbeatable as a single card with double processors. Thus, when it comes to dealing with an assortment of games like Total War: Shogun 2, Metro Last Light or the very light 4K game BioShock Infinite in Full HD resolution, the 295X2 simply rocks and can easily manage refresh rates of over 155 for Bioshock, 120 for Total War and 82 for Metro Last light (a particularly processor intensive game). These are the frame rates for these games in HD at maximum detail levels.
As for doing the same in 4K ultra HD, performance is still excellent by the standards of what’s currently available. With Total War: Shogun 2, the X2 reached just over 30 fps at 34, with Metro Last Light, it manages 31 fps and with the light-weight BioShock Infinite, pulls off just shy of 60fps rendering.
The first two of these are not ideal for smooth playing at 4K resolutions but bear in mind that they were achieved at the very highest levels of detail. At lower detail settings of “High or “Medium” in 4K, the 295R2 manages to easily pass the 50 fps mark even with intensive 4K-capable PC games like Metro Last Light.
Power consumption is definitely one of the weaker points of the AMD Radeon 295X2 and in this area, this excellent processor definitely eats up the amps and watts in comparison to any of the newer Nvidia cards.
Thus, the 295X2’s average idle rate of watt consumption sits at about 98 to 100 watts, while its power consumption under load conditions when playing games like Metro Last Light or Crysis 3 can easily go above 680 watts and seems to average about 670 watts. In contrast, the Nvidia Titan X manages to gain similar levels of performance during 4K gameplay while consuming no more than 400 watts under most conditions. The GTX 980 Ti can’t exactly be compared to the 295X2 due to its single core but it runs at no more than 375 watts with a game like Crysis 3 while performing only 25 to 30% less efficiently than the Radeon at rendering graphics.
Despite its extremely robust internal cooling system of dual air/liquid temperature reduction mechanisms, the 295X2 is still a hot-running graphics card. If it’s considered cool, this is only because it’s being compared to older and less efficiently designed AMD cards like the R9 290. Put up against a Nvidia like the Titan X, GTX 980 or 980 Ti, and the X2 can underperform. Thus, while it maintains idle temperatures of roughly 34 degrees C and load temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees, the two above-mentioned Nvidia cards beat it at idle settings and even manage to stay below 80 degrees at load temperatures.
However, other tests, run by different reviewers have also shown contrary results in which the 295X2 keeps to a lower load temperature than its Nvidia competitors when handling hard gaming. Thus, this might at least partly be characteristic that varies from unit to unit.
Again, for the Radeon 295X2, noise levels are great, but mainly in relation to older and clumsier Radeon GPU designs. Up against Nvidia’s newer GPUs, the 295X2 is still a bit loud.
Tested for idle running noise, it has clocked out at a pretty loud 42 Db, in comparison to the 35 to 37 dB of the Nvidia Titan X or GTX 980 Ti. And when put to serious use in 4K gaming with a heavier game, the 295X2 raises the noise level to more than 50dB.
We’ve already gone into some considerable detail about the specs behind the Radeon 295X2’s 4K gameplay capabilities, so just to summarize them here:
This card is maybe the single best GPU unit you can get your hands on right now for less than $2000 for some very intensive 4K gameplay that comes close to the real ideal for ultra HD PC games (high fps at even the highest in-game detail settings). Yes, there are multiple-GPU setups that can do better than the 295X2 alone and the Nvidia Titan Z GPU is an even more capable single card performer than this one, but then, the Titan Z costs $3,000 and the 295X2 “only” roughly $1,000 depending on which brand you go with.
However, If you want your 4K games to be at least decent at ultra detail and superb at high and medium detail levels, this card is your best option on the market for a more or less reasonable price.
The retail price of the AMD Radeon 295X2 is currently less than $1,000 ($840 for the Sapphire version). It is generally cheaper than the Titan X (which currently costs $1,150+) and it offers better performer when it comes to 4K.
4.0 - 44 Reviews
• Great for 4K UHD graphics and high frame rates.
• Excellent cooling system
• Very efficient design for minimized noise and heat
• Exquisite performance at Full HD & 4K at lower detail
• Easy installation
• Still a noisy 4K GPU in comparison to Nvidia’s line
• Runs a little hot considering its cooling system
• Expensive relative to performance