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Good day OCF readers! Today, you are going to get a nice treat with a follow up article about the AMD R9 295×2 I reviewed. This time, its about getting it properly cooled. Part of that equation is with enough radiator, but an even more important part is the water block that cools it. EKWB was kind enough to send us their EK-FC R9-295X2, as well as their backplate so that is half of it… and I have more radiator than what came with the R9 295×2. I expect some good things out of this cooler (and card) since it actively cools the VRMs and the memory. Let’s take a look at see how it worked out!
Meet the EK-FC R9-295×2
The first gallery below is the retail packaging for the EK-FC R9295x2 Backplate. EK had recently changed the appearance of their blocks and packaging with the “Clean CSQ” or Clean Circle Square, so we see a whole bunch of the circles on the white packaging with the EKWB symbol and model information sticker at the bottom.
The backplate is packaged inside of some bubble wrap, so it does sit well-protected. The backplate comes with all the necessary hardware and thermal pads to apply to specific areas on the card. You do have to cut the major pieces, but thankfully the memory pads do come pre-cut, so all one has to do is pull those apart.
Clad in black with a finely brushed aluminum look is the backplate itself. It looks like a well-finished product to me. Flipping it over exposes all of the contact areas that help keep things cool on the backside of the video card. Of course, this helps with rigidity of the entire structure, and let me tell you, it is going to need it with the monster block that lays just a click past the PCB!
Moving on to the water block packaging, we see the same design as the backplate. Except of course, at the bottom it describes the EK-FC R9-295×2 as being inside. You will need to slide another bright orange box out sporting the EKWB symbol on it. Inside, it comes with instructions and I/O plate (as you know are single depth!), as well as the thermal pads for the VRMs and memory. Last but not least are all the screws and caps you need, followed by some thermal paste for the core. Everything you need to get going.
Taking our first look at the block, to me, she’s a beauty. The EK 295×2 WB that was sent is the Acetal version and comes mostly in matte black with a brushed aluminum portion in the middle. EK also has an Acetal Nickel version as well as as see through Nickel and see through copper base model (See all models HERE). We can see on the base the grooved areas for contact of the cores, ram, and VRMs. Below is a picture of the base version before we get into the one I have. I put this picture up along with the one they sent me so you can see the path the water has to take through the block and how it takes heat away from the cores. And oh, how pretty the see through version is!!!
Here is a slideshow of the retail packaging and some close ups of the block itself.
As far as installation goes, it really was pretty easy to do. EK prints off (they are in 8.5″ x 11″ form) instructions. I did not capture much of the process as it really is that easy. The hardest part is taking off the factory AIO solution truth be told. That took several screws around the frame and another few for the pumps themselves. After that, it comes right off with a little twist of the pumps on the cores then taking off the fan lead.
As far as preparing the card for the block, we have pictures of those below. You need to prepare some of the thermal pad strips by cutting them to size as the instructions state, at least for the VRM pads. The memory pads are thankfully pre-cut, so no worries on having to do that tedious effort. I used the TIM that came with the product and applied it per the instructions (in an “X” pattern) for good coverage. We see the pads covering all the parts it needs to in the first shot.
The next picture shows the back of the card before applying the pads covering the memory ICs. The last picture shows the base of the backplate and its pad application as well as the memory IC pads in place. With these items on the backplate, especially the rear VRM cooling, it does get a bit warm… not that you need a fan on it or anything, but it is warm to the touch. So, in this case it is actually a heatsink instead of simply a product to make the card more rigid (which this card needs and has with this backplate).
Once we put the card together, we then have a monolithic R9 295×2 with a full cover block! And let me tell you folks, this thing is heavy as far as video cards go. The weight isn’t surprising as its made of mostly copper and is a full coverage block that essentially covers two GPUs. I will definitely be supporting this card in my case.
So anyway, on to it. Though my preference is for the see through blocks personally, this one really has a pretty good look to it. It’ll match any theme being black and brushed aluminum, and it cleans up the look of the card in general. Last up, we see the card in the benching rig looking all ready to pound through any game at almost any resolution…
First up, I will describe the test system (below). The key here is the MCR320 and PA 120.2 along with the i7 4790K overclocked to 4.8 GHz also in the loop. I am envisioning around 600W needing to be cooled here, wow! All tests were done in a looping fashion for at least 30 minutes in order to get the loop saturated with heat.
- 4790K @ 4.8GHz 1.35v (actual load voltage)
- MSI Z97 MPower Max AC
- 2x4GB Kingston HyperX Predator 2666 MHz DDR3 CL 11
- AMD R9 295×2 with EK 295×2 @ stock and 1110/1400 +35mv core.
- Seasonic 1KW Power Supply
- Swiftech MCR320 and Thermochill PA 120.2 radiators
- Apogee XT CPU block
- 5 120mm Yate Loon (High) @ 1000RPM
As we can see on the stock results the poor little 120 mm rad is really at the end of its capacity to be honest. The single included fan spins like a banshee (though not too loud) in order to keep temperatures where they are (low to upper 70 °C) while the air coming out of the other side of the radiator is very warm with the radiator being almost hot to the touch.
So, while we know in stock form that a 120 mm rad is really not enough (it does the job, but barely), it also leaves the memory and VRMs cooled by air. The EK-FC R9 295×2 resolves that issue by cooling the entire card, GPU cores/VRMs/Memory ICs, and allows you the flexibility to put how ever many radiators you want to keep the thing cool, AND quiet.
We can see the difference here when adding the block and especially a decent amount of radiator, the temperatures drop quite nicely from the mid 50 °C to peaking at 60 °C in one test. As mentioned above, everything was run looping for at least 30 minutes in order to get the loop saturated. For the most part we are seeing almost 20 °C drops when adding this block and more radiator to it. The best part about this block compared to the stock solution is that it keeps the VRMs cool, which is important when overclocking. I wish I could read those temperatures but no software seems to do it, and I do not have an IR gun handy. If it is anything like the results on the core though, I am sure those will be fine as well.
In a nutshell, EKWB has done what EKWB does… make great water blocks. In this case, they had to make a monster block for AMD’s monster R9 295×2 dual card. As we can see, I have the ‘Acetal’ block, but there is the base copper block, Nickel, and Acetal + Nickel blocks to choose from. To me, they all look great. My preference would be one that I could see inside, but in most cases you can’t see that portion of the card when it’s installed. Again, either way it will perform well which is the most important part to me.
Installation was pretty easy outside of the sheer number of screws you needed to take out, then put back on. We did have to custom cut the thermal pads for the VRMs, which was not a big deal as the more meticulous work for the memory ICs was already taken care of. The entire process was completed in around 20 minutes or so… not bad at all.
Pricing on this unit comes is around 170 Euro (inc. VAT) or ~$227 USD (less w/o the VAT). The other models go up to 185 Euro or around $250 (again inc. VAT for the Euros). The backplate comes in around $45 USD. So, this isn’t exactly a cheap upgrade, but no full cover waterblock is. However, this one is up there. But when you put it into perspective… strapping this on a $1500 videocard, what is another $275 for proper cooling of such an investment? There is actually a competitor here with Aqua Computers having one available, but pricing is in the same ballpark, so it would come down to looks and performance between the two in that respect.
The block does its job, and seemingly well with the proper amount of radiator hooked up to it, and it’s priced right for the market (matching its competitor). With that, this block is Overclockers.com approved!