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AMD Radeon R9 290X2: If you have the cash, AMD has the compute power

Michael Brown | April 9, 2014
AMD has launched the latest salvo in the gaming video-card arms race: the Radeon R9 295X2. Featuring two of AMD's best graphics processors, 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and a preinstalled liquid cooling system, AMD claims this is the fastest video card on the market. And with a price tag of $1500, it's also the most expensive.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a sample of the Nvidia card AMD is hoping to supplant — Nvidia's $1000 Titan Black — that we could benchmark. So we'll present the performance numbers AMD claims, but these should be taken with a grain of salt (considering the source). The fastest Nvidia card the Lab did have was a reference-design GeForce GTX 780 (two, in fact, so we did measure SLI performance). The R9 295X2 proved to be much faster than that combination at 1920-by-1080 resolution, but only slightly faster at a resolution of 2560 by 1600.

But the real test comes when you pair AMD's video card with a 4K monitor (we used Sharp's PN-K321). At this resolution, the R9 295X2 delivers about an 80-percent percent bump in performance compared to the single-GPU Radeon R9 290X. But talk about paying to play: That 32-inch monitor will set you back $5200.

On the upside, AMD doesn't seem to be engaging in any price gouging for the R9 295X2. The average price for an air-cooled single-GPU R9 290X is $635, so a pair would cost around $1271. That leaves $229 for the custom liquid-cooling solution — not to mention the opportunity to buy another R9 295X2 to run in four-GPU CrossFire.

Final thoughts

Nvidia, of course, is not standing still. The company recently announced a new dual-GPU card of its own. The Titan Z will be powered by two of Nvidia's GK110 processors (the same parts that populate the Titan Black) and will boast 12GB of memory. Nvidia plans to price the air-cooled card at $3000. Does that render the R9 295X2 a bargain? We won't know until we get one of Nvidia's cards in to benchmark, but it's safe to say that both cards will appeal only to hard-core performance addicts with extremely deep pockets.


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