All right, I got the cards. Here's the initial report:
The box was banged up pretty well, courtesy of the United States Postal Service (as if this should be a surprise to anyone). The cards themselves were packaged pretty well. They were wrapped with static-proof packaging and surrounded in packing peanuts. It looks like they survived the post office pretty much intact. There were no accessories or anything packed with them; just the cards. Again, exactly what I expected.
The installation & initial boot
I had a little bit of difficulty getting the primary card in there. It looks like the bracket at the front of the card was bent ever-so-slightly. Bending it back was no big deal, and it fit pretty well after that. I feel pretty safe blaming USPS for that. But really, it wasn't any problem at all. One thing I did notice is that there's some strange white residue on the bottom of the cards. It looks kinda like the junk left behind when you spray a can of compressed air on something without keeping it level. Pretty sure that's all it is. Either that, or he had some thermal pads stuck to the bottom. Whatever it is, it's non-conductive, and it doesn't seem to be causing any problems. I'll ask him about that a little later.
Upon starting up the PC for the first time with both new cards installed, everything was fine. I noticed several oddities, but it was nothing I haven't seen before. I had uninstalled my previous drivers first, so it booted without any drivers. That is the definite root cause of every strange thing I noticed. After drivers were installed and stuff, everything was good.
Here's where I'm a little concerned. After installing Afterburner for monitoring, I immediately fired up Heaven to test it out. The screen tearing I noticed was just awful. It looked to be flickering the sky areas quite a bit, although most of the landscape elements were fine. I tried giving the cores some more volts, but that didn't seem to help. Minor overclocking didn't result in any real artifacts, but the flickering/tearing was still there. After giving up on that, I tried running BioShock Infinite to see if it had a similar problem. Yes, it did. Vsync helped a little, but not much.
Just to see what happened, I disabled CFx and loaded Infinite BS again. Wow, what a difference. Everything was buttery smooth and overall perfect. No flickering, tearing, or anything like that. Vsync made exactly no difference in that either. It was beautiful with or without it. After enabling CFx again, the flickering was back.
I'd like to investigate this flickering/tearing some more tonight. I smell a software issue here, possibly with some wonked drivers (I'm running 8.1 right now, so my options with that are pretty limited). It could also be that the secondary GPU is bad. I'll swap 'em around later to see what happens. If the second GPU works fine by itself, but still tears when paired with the other, it's a software issue for sure. Maybe that's where the frame pacing driver will help later this month, I dunno.
I also have a new appreciation for Sapphire's Dual-X coolers. These things are easily twice as loud and about 10–15 degrees hotter at idle. I can actually feel how much hotter my system is compared to when I had the Dual-X cards in there. This concerns me a bit because he bragged about how much cooler these cards were than the rest of the ones he had. Are reference coolers really this bad? O.o Maaaaan, I can't wait to get these things under water.
Looks like I got exactly what I paid for. My only concern is this unusually bad tearing & flickering. I still noticed that with the Dual-X cards, but it was nowhere near this bad. This definitely calls for further investigation, but I just don't have time to deal with it right now. I'll report back with the results when I have them.
Edited by riscorpian - 7/17/13 at 5:18pm