The graphics card arms race has always been a tit-for-tat battle since it became a tale of two companies. Not surprisingly then, this week AMD release a brand new, dual-GPU, ultra-enthusiast graphics card: the Radeon R9 295X2.
Two weeks ago , Nvidia's CEO flashed their brand new, dual-GPU, ultra-enthusiast graphics card on stage at its GPU Technology Conference. But which of these pricey new cards will turn out to be the tat, and which the proverbial... well you get where I'm going.
What AMD have done is produce a familiar configuration to Nvidia's Titan Z - they've taken their top GPU, produced it a mate and dropped them both onto a single printed circuit board. In a more original twist, AMD have decided the reference card is going to come with an Asetek closed-loop water cooler attached to both GPUs.
Less originally AMD have gone with a familiar bolted, metallic shroud for said cooler and an LED-lit 'Radeon' cut-out. They're obviously hoping the popularity of Nvidia's sexeh Titan shroud will rub off on the R9 295X2.
Under that brushed aluminium shell are a pair of AMD's Tahiti XT GPUs, with a total of 5,632 cores between them, 128 ROPs and 8GB GDDR5 memory split between two 512-bit memory buses.
That's already quite a specs sheet, but both of those chips have been clocked higher than their R9 290X cousins; my sample is running at 1,018MHz compared with the 1GHz of the standard R9 290X. That 18MHz might seem pretty insignificant, but thanks to that water-cooling loop this is the first time a dual-GPU card has not been running slower than the single-GPU cards it's based on.
I've had a chance to run some preliminary benchmarks on the card before my review proper and the results are impressive. Because of that huge frame buffer, this dual-GPU card is capable of hitting 60FPS in Battlefield 4 at Ultra settings at 4K. That's twice as quick as the GTX 780 Ti can manage and 3840 x 2160 is likely to be the new battleground for the ultra-enthusiast cards.
The card's similarly quick at 4K in the Unreal Engine 3-powered Bioshock Infinite - hitting 58FPS at 3840 x 2160. It also manages to top 100FPS at 2560 x 1600. Still, minimum frame rates are currently nothing to write home about, and that does affect how smooth the overall gaming experience is with the new dual-GPU beauty.
The Radeon R9 295X2 is set to be the fastest graphics card available, though probably only for a short time. A pair of Nvidia GK110 GPUs in SLI produce better frame rates than this single card, which bodes well for the Titan Z.
Still, with the R9 295X2 retailing for $1,500, Nvidia's card is going to need to be faster if it hopes to justify the fact that it's twice the price. You can CrossFire a pair of R9 295X2—if you can fit two of those 120mm radiators in your rig—for the same price as the upcoming Nvidia card, and the quad-GPU configuration should give the Titan Z pause for thought.
I'll have a full review soon, and you can expect some serious benchmark numbers from this beast.