AMD has something up its sleeve and it’s not a successor to socket AM3+ – rather, it’s a dual-GPU monster with two Radeon R9 290X cores sandwiched on a single circuit board. Its called the Radeon R9 295X2 and it’s probably the biggest, beefiest, longest and most extreme graphics card AMD has ever made. In fact, it’s so excessively powerful that very few power supplies will ever be able to power it properly. With the 8 April launch just a few days away, the press kit has been leaked by Videocardz and it has some incredible specs and pics inside. The expected price? A whopping US $1500. Hit the jump for more!
The card’s codename is “Vesuvius” and it’s pretty apt for the kind of eruptions it could cause in the enthusiast computer market. The cooler is a completely new design for AMD, incorporating a single 120mm fan alongside two full copper waterblocks, with the pumps and radiator supplied by Asetek. The whole setup is entirely self-contained and won’t ever need maintenance aside from a little dusting of the radiator, which is a moderately thick 38mm with a 120mm AMD-branded Asetek fan.
The outer shell is mostly made of plastic to save on weight and it has some aluminium inserts to create a contrast with the red LED fan. It extends far beyond the typical PCI-Express slot length and ends up 30.7cm long (just a tiny bit further than the average ruler). Weight is never revealed but it’s a pretty hefty GPU.
Its only a two-slot design which helps it fit into a lot of computer chassis easily. Port-wise it has four mini-Displayport 1.2 connectors and a single dual-link DVI port. AMD obviously sees a card like this being used in multi-monitor and 4K configurations, both scenarios in which it will perform exceedingly well. The hose length to the radiator means that you’ll be installing it to the rear of the chassis where 120mm fans are typically located, right above the I/O ports on the motherboard’s back panel. With such extravagant cooling necessary, it’s clear that AMD thought long and hard about how to keep this GPU from melting everything else with it.
Specs-wise, it’s nothing short of incredible. The two R9 290X cores combine for a total of 5632 stream processors or 88 Compute Units. GPU clocks are rated for a maximum of 1.018GHz with 11.5TFLOPS of performance for the dual-GPU card (by comparison, Sony’s PS4 comes in at 1.84 TFLOPS while the Xbox One is at 1.23TFLOPS while the Kaveri-based A10-7850K is just under 900GFLOPS). Texture fill-rate is through the roof compared to the other Hawaii cards and there is 8GB of GDDR5 memory on what is logically a 1024-bit memory bus. Memory speed stays at 5.0GHz, which indicates that AMD didn’t want to play around with the thermal envelope too much.
As for powering such a beast, that’s the tricky part. Due to the limit of the PCI-SIG standards, graphics cards can only be as long as 312mm before you begin to run into problems with fitment and strain on the main motherboard. Because of this, AMD only had space for two 8-pin PEG power connectors. The solution, then, is to simply overdraw power from the connectors, exceeding the maximum 300W power specification of the PCI-Express standard. Bus this introduces other problems because the 500W power draw will rely on the 75W delivered by the motherboard, which means that this GPU will only be able to run properly in motherboards conforming to the PCI-Express 3.0 standard.
You’ll also need a very, very good 800W power supply for a system with a single one of these installed. Perhaps something from Seasonic with a single +12v design and at least 80Plus Gold efficiency.
As far as actual performance goes, AMD’s 3DMark Firestrike results indicate that the company expects scaling at least of 60% – anything more than that is gravy. Keep in mind that these GPUs no longer communicate with each other using Crossfire, instead it uses a PLX PEX8747 bridging chip which provides four lanes of PCI-E 3.0 connectivity between them. In reality, performance should actually be almost identical to using two R9 290X cards, as the new Hawaii and Bonaire GPU families use XDMA for communication over the PCI-E 3.0 bus, not a physical bridge as was previously required.
What’s the competition for this thing? Almost certainly Nvidia’s GTX690, which will be completely destroyed, as well as the newly-revealed Geforce GTX Titan Z, which is composed of two GTX Titan Black cards sandwiched together. Although the Titan Z will be faster when it comes to double-precision math, it’s anyone’s guess as to where it will beat or match up with the R9 295X2.
Even if you’re not able to afford one of these, there is still some good news for the rest of us – AMD does plan to use produce names ending in the number “5” for newer GPUs while they get ready for the successor to GCN 1.0 and 1.1. This means that the R9 290 and 290x will see a R9 295 and R9 295X successor, as will most of the other GPU lines based on new silicon like Bonaire and Oland. Exciting times ahead for AMD fans! Keep your browser pointed at NAG Online next week to follow the R9 295X2’s launch.