AMD Radeon HD 6990 Graphics Card Review

“The fastest graphics card in the world.” That’s what AMD says about their dual-GPU beast of a card, the HD 6990 that releases today. Will it ring true? With two of their top-of-the-line Cayman GPUs on board, it’s hard to think it wouldn’t. They’re not individually the fastest GPUs in the world, but can they reign supreme as a team? Read on to find out!

Top Secret?

Ok, so it may not be as important as something top secret, but the packaging around this card was different than anything else we’ve had sent. The thing came in its own metal case.

AMD HD 6990 Case

AMD HD 6990 Case

AMD HD 6990 Case Opened

AMD HD 6990 Case Opened

It’s a pretty cool way to present a graphics card, that’s for sure. As you can see, AMD is promoting Dragon Age II, which is compatible with Eyefinity. There were a couple Eyefinity screenshots in our preview teaser from last week. I’m not sure if retail cards will come in such a case, but seeing it was pretty neat.

Specifications and Features

Getting right to it, here you can see the 6990 has double the texture units, double the stream processors, double the ROPs and double the RAM of the 6970, so with the exception of memory & CPU clock speeds this is the real deal: two 6970′s on a single PCB.

6990 Specifications

6990 Specifications

But there is a little bit lacking – 50 MHz GPU speed and 125 MHz video RAM speed to be exact. In order to maintain a 375 W TDP, they had to reduce those; but there is hope! AUSUM (yep, awesome) – Antilles Unlocking Switch for Uber Mode.

Dual BIOS Switch

Dual BIOS Switch

So this awesome little switch changes from the stock, benign 375 W TDP to very close to a full fledged double-6970-on-on-PCB card.

"Real" 6990 Specifications

"Real" 6990 Specifications

Absorbing power at an unprecedented 450 W TDP, with the second BIOS position you unlock a full 880 MHz on both GPUs. The memory speed still remains short by a little bit but with 4 GB of GDDR5 memory total on-board, it’s hard to fault them for that.

Accompanying the 6990 release will be a new version of Catalyst, 11.4. There is also a re-branding of CCC as well. If you have a non-AMD processor with an AMD GPU, you’ll still use “Catalyst” but those with either an AMD APU or an AMD CPU + GPU will be using “AMD VISION Engine”.

For overclockers the bright side of this story is that they’re unlocking the maximum available frequencies.

Catalyst 11.4 Preview - No Limits

Catalyst 11.4 Preview - No Limits

In our conference call before receiving the cards, I asked product manager Evan Groenke if there were any plans of introducing voltage control to go along with the increased frequency control. It was a shot in the dark, and it missed. No such thing will come from AMD; any voltage control will be coming from partners.

A logical question would be ‘how do you power such a beast?’ Two words: Volterra and symmetry.

Engineering a 450W Card

Engineering a 450W Card

Here’s hoping that ‘digital programmable’ leads to quick implementation of software voltage control (we’re looking at you MSI Afterburner).

Moving on to actual use, this card is especially suited for Eyefinity. It will probably be an absolute powerhouse for regular gaming and benchmarking, but with (an insane) 4 GB of video RAM, Eyefinity is definitely a huge focus for AMD this time around. To aid in easy implementation, you get no less than five video outputs; one DVI and four mini Display Port. Also shipping with all 6990s are three display adapters.

Video Outputs

Video Outputs

Included Adapters

Included Adapters

Eyefinity Configurations

Eyefinity Configurations

Unfortunately we don’t have the ability to test Eyefinity for you, so we’ll just have to relay AMD’s numbers. With FPS like these, you can see how nicely you can fare with five monitors staring you in the face.

Eyefinity 3x1 Performance

Eyefinity 3x1 Performance

Eyefinity 5x1 Performance

Eyefinity 5x1 Performance

There are two more items we won’t be testing today. Below you’ll find two graphs. The one on the left tests the difference between the two BIOSes. Considering the option is free and there for all (as well as our audience), we didn’t bother testing the slower BIOS.

On the right is the more important graph that we couldn’t test – two 6990′s in CrossfireX.

OC Switch Relative Performance

OC Switch Relative Performance

Crossfire Scaling

Crossfire Scaling

While it’s not independent testing, if those CrossfireX results are anywhere near applicable in the real world, color me impressed. AMD has gotten it right with the current generation’s CrossfireX scaling, that’s for sure.

First Impressions

HUGE! is the first impression anyone will have when they see this thing. In person or on a computer screen, it’s just plain giant. There is precedent though; it’s exactly the size of its dual-GPU predecessor, the 5970.

First Look

First Look

6990 In All Its Glory

6990 In All Its Glory

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

AMD HD 6990

Even better than HUGE, it’s huge and pretty nice looking too. The current generation AMD series’ stock coolers have been pretty easy on the eyes and the 6990 doesn’t disappoint there either.

Video Connectors

Video Connectors

Power Connectors

Power Connectors

You already know about the five video connectors, but here’s a real photo of them. To the right you can see the required dual eight-pin power connectors.

Back of the Card

Back of the Card

BIOS Switch

BIOS Switch

The back of the card is covered with a metal shroud. While I didn’t take the card apart (heh, I was mentioned specifically in the conference call as one who loves to do so – and quickly instructed not to), from their cooler blowup diagram, we can see that there are memory modules on the back of the card that this helps cool. At least it seems like something is back there, because that back plate gets mighty warm under extended benchmarking.

On the right you can see the BIOS selector switch, which is in the same location as those of the 6970 and 6950 that came before.

6970 vs 6990

6970 vs 6990

5870 vs 6970 vs 6990

5870 vs 6970 vs 6990

Last, but not least, a comparison – of size. The 6970 was already a big card; larger than an aftermarket-designed 5870. Yet the 6990 simply eclipses both of them. The first impression is worth repeating: HUGE!

Cooling Solution

As I mentioned before, AMD requested reviewers not remove the cooler before testing. That’s because of their apparently very special “phase change TIM”.

Taming the Beast

Taming the Beast

Cooler Broken Down (Image Courtesy AMD)

Cooler Broken Down (Image Courtesy AMD)

It’s similar to the 5970 that came before, with some improvements. The fan itself is very far from quiet. To its credit, that was quieter than the 6970 at the same speed, and at a lower pitch which helped make it more tolerable. Let’s face it, squirrel cage fans just aren’t quiet by their very nature. But how did it perform?

To measure idle temperatures, the GPU was left sitting for at least five minutes. After taking the idle measurement, Furmark was run for three minutes, which allowed temperatures to rise and level off. Temperatures were measured with the fan operating at 75% and are normalized to 25° C ambient.

GPU: 6970 6990
Temp Idle: 33° C 38° C
Temp Load: 51° C 69° C

Not too bad, considering the amount of heat dissipation area is effectively cut in half for two of the same GPU. There’s some room for clocking here but not a lot once you crank up the volts. To pour on more voltage, you’ll likely need either really low ambient temperatures or aftermarket cooling.

One very important note – due to the way this card has to be cooled, it shoots warmed air forward and backward, meaning half of the heat (plus that from the back plate) is going to be dissipated right into your case. Those of you that purchase one of these will want to make absolutely sure you have great case airflow. As you can see, it’s not exactly a cool running card, so remember to maintain good airflow lest it heat up the rest of your system or circulate heated air in on itself.

6990 Defrocked

We’ll have to depend on AMD for the only photo of a naked 6990. If I get around to an aftermarket cooling solution or decide to volt-mod it, you’ll get plenty of photos. Until then though, these images from AMD will have to do.

6990 Defrocked

6990 Defrocked (Image Courtesy AMD)

They also gave us some nice macro images just this evening.

GPU Closeup (Image Courtesy AMD)

GPU Closeup (Image Courtesy AMD)

Video RAM Closeup (Image Courtesy AMD)

Video RAM Closeup (Image Courtesy AMD)

Volterra Regulators (Image Courtesy AMD)

Volterra Regulators (Image Courtesy AMD)

For those interested, here’s the higher resolution photo of the full PCB and here is the high resolution photo of the voltage regulators. This is definitely one brute of a card.

Power Consumption

We all know this card isn’t going to be hugging any trees. It was made for power and as such, power it will suck out of your PSU. Without belaboring the point, let’s get to the numbers. The GPU and CPU were loaded courtesy Furmark and Prime 95, respectively.

GPU: 6970 X580 6990
Idle: 97W 118W 112W
GPU Load: 315W 460W 496W
GPU & CPU Load 371W X 557W

While it does pull more power than the Sparkle X580, it surprisingly stayed within 50 watts under load. Pretty impressive considering there are two GPUs on-board. You don’t want to get this GPU without a minimum 600-650 W power supply, and I’d go with 750 W to be safe, especially if you have a high end X58-based i7 to go with it.

It’s also important to note these numbers were only put up with Furmark. AMD didn’t design the card for using Furmark all the time; they designed it to be an FPS monster. These numbers were absolute peak wattage pulls. Even in heavy 3D benchmarking, system wattage very rarely went over 440 W. When gaming, the load will likely be even less than that.

Overclocking

Like the 6970 when it first came out, there is no readily available software that can adjust voltage yet. With the voltage regulator, I’m hoping that will be remedied quickly, but as such the headroom without it isn’t massive.

The first thing to remember for anyone that hasn’t used a dual-GPU board before: be sure to change frequencies and power settings on both GPUs. Changing them on just the screen that pops up in Overdrive and not clicking the drop-down menu to toggle GPUs will give you only one overclocked GPU.

After testing for stability through all benches, this card settled in at a decent 940 Mhz GPU 24/7 stable (except for 3DMark03, which hates me and had to be reduced to 935 MHz). With the limited time available to play with the card, not much effort could go into finding the maximum memory frequency. It was bumped to 1265 MHz and left alone.

3DMark06 - 24/7 Overclock

3DMark06 - 24/7 Overclock

Considering there was no voltage increase to speak of, that’s not too bad for an already powerful card, gaining 60 MHz on each GPU. With such a solid base to start from, anything over is just icing on the cake.

Test System and Methodology

There are four cards on the testbed for this review, three from AMD (well, one is ATI) and one from NVIDIA. Thankfully the one NVIDIA competitor is among the best it has to offer, so we’ll see top-of-the-line vs. top-of-the-line here. All cards were tested on Intel’s Sandy Bridge platform.

Processor Intel i7 2600K
Motherboard ASRock P67 Extreme 6
RAM 2x4G G.Skill Ripjaws DDR3-2133
Video AMD 6990 

vs. Sparkle X580

vs. AMD 6970

vs. ASUS Matrix 5870 Platinum

Power Supply Corsair TX650
Operating Systems Windows 7 x64

The results graphed below were obtained by operating the CPU & RAM at their stock speeds (3.4 GHz and DDR3-2133/9-11-9-24). The 6990 was run both stock and overclocked. Stock benchmarks were run three times and the results were averaged. Stock game tests and all overclocked results were run once.

The graphs you will see are all normalized to the stock 6990 results. The 6990 at stock is always 100% and all other results are expressed and graphed as percentages relative to its score/FPS. The actual benchmark results are in parenthesis below the percentage.

Performance Stock and Overclocked

This card was exciting to bench. It’s not every day you get to experiment with a card flaunting itself as “the fastest graphics card in the world”. Let’s jump right in.

Gaming

Many overclockers (yours truly included) end up coming to our hobby by way of gaming. When you’re in a game, you need every bit of FPS you can squeeze out of your machine, lest your head end up as a blood splatter on the wall behind you. We’ll test the 6990′s FPS acumen on three game benchmarks today.

Stalker: Call of Pripyat

Stalker is a nice bench to test various levels of processing power, otherwise known as eye candy. Run at 1920 x 1080 (1080P) at the Ultra Detail, DX11 setting, there were three configurations -

  1. MSAA and Tessellation both turned off
  2. MSAA set to 4x and Tessellation off, and
  3. MSAA at 4x and Tessellation on

- each more difficult than the last.

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, No MSAA, No Tessellation

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, No MSAA, No Tessellation

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, 4x MSAA, No Tessellation

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, 4x MSAA, No Tessellation

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, 4x MSAA, Tessellation On

Stalker: CoP, 1920x1080, 4x MSAA, Tessellation On

The 6990 starts off well and just keeps getting more impressive. The more processing power that was needed, the farther it separated itself from the competition. Eyefinity would shine on this benchmark. It’s very easy to picture playable FPS with three (or five) monitors.

Aliens vs. Predator DirectX 11 Benchmark

Sticking with the DirectX 11 theme -it’s what this card was designed for after all- we now bring you some AvP, first with the benchmark’s default settings and then with everything cranked as high as it would go.

AvP DirectX 11 Bench - Default Quality

AvP DirectX 11 Bench - Default Quality

AvP DirectX 11 Bench - High Quality

AvP DirectX 11 Bench - High Quality

AvP really shows off the 6990′s capabilities, with over a 40% improvement from the closest competition in both configurations benched.

Heaven Benchmark

Heaven is the newest HWBot 3D benchmark, complete with its own custom HWBot wrapper. This is one long benchmark and it is quite strenuous, with massive detail and effects levels.

HWBot Heaven "Basic" DX9

HWBot Heaven "Basic" DX9

HWBot Heaven "Xtreme" DX11

HWBot Heaven "Xtreme" DX11

Again, more than 40% over the closest competition. The amount of power in this GPU is just astounding. Interestingly, the card lost a little bit overclocked in the DX9 bench. Considering it was a single run, that’s not anything to worry about. You can begin to see a nick in the 6990′s armor – older DirectX versions.

Synthetic Benchmarks

Aquamark 3 and 3DMark01

Starting with the oldest first, Aquamark 3 and 3DMark01 are both almost all CPU now-a-days. There is something to be had from overclocking the bejezus out of a GPU for them, but CPU is where it’s at; so if these scores seem a bit low, it’s mostly because the rest of the system is running at stock.

Aquamark 3

Aquamark 3

3DMark01

3DMark01

What’s really funny is that increasing GPU power is inversely proportional to score on these older benchmarks. The graphs go in the opposite direction. Considering the current generation of GPUs is absent form the top 20 Aquamark 3 results and the top 20 3DMark01 results, that actually makes sense. Nothing to stress over here.

3DMark03 and 3DMark06

Ironically, while 3DMark03 is older, it is still very dependent on GPU processing power and scales well with GPU strength. In fact, it’s so tough on GPU overclocks, it alone had to have the overclocked frequency bumped down 5 MHz to complete the bench. 3DMark06 is another story altogether; with each new generation it becomes more and more CPU-dependent.

3DMark03

3DMark03

3DMark06

3DMark06

For the third time (in 06, 01 and Heaven DX9) the score decreased with overclock. I even ran 06 multiple times because it seemed counter-intuitive, yet the discrepancy remained. Graphics tests were almost identical to the stock run but the CPU score’s variation between runs took it just below the stock score.

In 03 we see the potential of this powerhouse, scoring almost 20,000 (just under 20%) better than the X580.

3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11

These two should show a bit more improvement, especially 3DMark 11, which is almost all GPU. Vantage is definitely dependent on CPU scores, but much less so than 06.

3DMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage

3DMark 11

3DMark 11

Vantage shows very similar gains to 03, netting just over 20% when overclocked. Even at stock, a card scoring over 30,000 points straight out of the box is very impressive. In 3DMark 11, the 6990 is clearly king-of-the-hill. A 40% score increase shows just how strong it is when the metric is extremely GPU dependent.

Pushing the Overclock

Now you’ve seen what the GPU can do versus others at stock CPU speeds. Let’s have some fun and see the true potential of this beast when you put a 5.4 GHz 3D benchable Sandy Bridge behind it.

3DMark06 - 38856

3DMark06 - 38856

3DMark Vantage - 39856

3DMark Vantage - 39856

So close to breaking 40,000 points in Vantage. 06 was getting near 40K too. With an i7 980X or 990X, breaking that barrier shouldn’t be much of a problem. These results aren’t bad at all considering the lack of voltage control so far.

3DMark 11 - 10984

3DMark 11 - 10984

HWBot Heaven "Xtreme" DX11 - 2585.443

HWBot Heaven "Xtreme" DX11 - 2585.443

3DMark 11 shows an increase of over 900 points, and most of it was from the GPU overclock. You know it’s a GPU dependent bench when a 2.0 GHz CPU overclock doesn’t even help net you a 10% increase in score. Still though, almost 11,000 points in that bench is impressive indeed.

Heaven is much the same story; so GPU dependent it gained less than 100 points. It’s nice to see 3D benchmarks coming back that are actually 3D benchmarks. The other ones are quite fun and are great to tinker with but if you really want to test out your graphics hardware, these two are great metrics.

One thing is certain, and my fellow benchmarkers will appreciate this – the 6990 needs moar volts! There is lots of potential under this hood; it just needs some juice to get there, and possibly a different cooler. Can’t wait to see who comes out with the first software that can do it.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

“The fastest graphics card in the world.” Yep, it wins the title. Maybe not for housing the fastest individual GPUs (that still goes to the GTX 580), but it is definitely the fastest graphics card as a whole. Tailor made for DirectX 11, any gamer would do well to put one of these in their system, especially if you have or plan to get multiple monitors to run Eyefinity.

Benchmarkers are going to have fun with it too. Crossfire-on-a-stick is always fun to toy with, as evidenced by the popularity of the 5970 and even more so, the 4870×2 before it. Thanks to its symmetrical configuration, you should be able to strap two GPU pots side-by-side on this thing. Now that would be fun to play with!

The one thing that hasn’t leaked about these cards is the price; and if you want the best, you’re going to pay for it. MSRP comes in at a rather staggering $699.00. That’s the price you pay for the absolute top of the line.

More astute readers will notice that you can get 6970s now for as low as $339/each. That begs the question – why pay more for the same amount of card?

Analyzing HWBot results for two 6970s in Crossfire, the scores obtained above (with no voltage control) are actually higher than all but the top two in Vantage and 3DMark06. Three of the four that scored higher were run with i7 980X CPUs. The other (06) run was with a higher clocked i7 2600K (5.7 GHz), so it stands to reason those four results were higher and it hasn’t got a lot to do with the GPU. The heaven result above would make the top ten in Heaven (DX11) for Crossfire 6970s.

Presumably the decreased lag from having the two GPUs on the same board help it score a little better. That said, it’s really close to two 6970′s. With that in mind, perhaps $650 would be a better price point. Time will tell if this gets reduced. As any enthusiast knows, there’s always a premium to be paid for the latest and greatest.

People may ask how SLI GTX 580′s compare, but is it a comparison really? 580′s still retail for $500 and up. To get whatever gain you would get, you’re looking at $300+ more than this card. That’s not chump change, and the 6990 easily wins that price-for-performance battle, at least for ambient cooling. There are some absolutely monster GTX 580′s tearing up HWBot right now, so time will tell how this card will fare under extreme conditions.

Regardless, this is definitely one for the ages. This present-day Hercules, it truly is the fastest graphics card in the world.

Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

Tags: , , , ,

65 Comments:

MattNo5ss's Avatar
Finally

Now nVidia needs to get theirs out

Nice job hokie, as usual. The price is more than expected, and not worth it, in my opinion.
bmwbaxter's Avatar
very nice review i am happy this has finally been released. will be interesting to see what the green team will bring in the future. i am fine with them slugging it out as long as we win in price good job!
Paratrooper1n0's Avatar
Damn, it's going to be beast.
Sir Shfvingle's Avatar
I think It is absolutely worth the price. $700 is the price for 2 6970's--what the 6990 really is-- AND if you end up overclocking it it would probably match 2 GTX 580's in SLI, at a better price. Sure it's huge, hot, and power hungry, but if you're looking to get this kind of performance you have to be willing to pay the price(and the power bill)
Jizzzared's Avatar
Well first it isn't two 6970's because the RAM is 5ghz, not 6ghz GDDR5 like on the 6970. So memory overclocking is likely to be poor. Also, it's clocked 50mhz lower on the cores.

Also, read Anandtech's review, it's the loudest card they've ever tested and couldn't outperform 6950 crossfire.

My take: 2 6970's (or 6950's) is a much better option. Cheaper, not nearly as loud, and more (for the 6970's) performance.
Just a nickname's Avatar

Uber mode please?
You gotta push the switch to unleash the beast.

Were do you see the 6990 can't outperform 6950 CF? Looking at the review you are referring to, it clearly shows the 6990 beating 6950 CF in most game.
I think you meant 6970 CF perhaps?
The tests weren't done on a LGA 1155 platform so chances are that the CF set-up will perform lower (2-9%) vs single card. That's why it is a nice product!
I bet AMD will be able to squeeze more performance with newer driver so I pretty sure the 6990 will be much closer to the 6970CF performance (actually it seems to have 2-3 FPS difference *if I take the game with the lowest average FPS*).
Brolloks's Avatar
Excellenet review Hokie, what a powerfull card !!
DR DEUCE's Avatar
Good review. I cant wait to see this against the 590.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks all! They're listed at Newegg now, and if you thought MSRP was too expensive, wait until you click that link...up to $769.99 for a HIS card. While $700 could arguably be worth it (though it's admittedly a tough decision), $770 is just out of the scope of reasonable.

Quite right. HardwareCanucks had two GTX 580's (unfortunately I only have one) and showed that it does beat the two when overclocked. Granted the 580's were at stock, but you're still looking at a $300 savings.

All you have to do is flip the BIOS switch and, with the exception of memory speed, it is the same as two 6970's. Looking at HWBot results, this card performed better than all but four 6970 CF results in Vantage and 06, as noted in my conclusion. Doubtless it will beat CF 6950's handily.

History shows they do tweak their drivers well after initial releases. Can't wait to see what they can do here. What I"m much more interested in is voltage control, which I hope comes soon!
Jizzzared's Avatar
Yea, Uber mode clocks the cores higher, not the memory to 6970 levels.

Here's a quote from Anandtech's Final Thoughts:
"The 6990 is so close to the 6950CF in performance that on average at 2560 the two are identical. It’s only in Bad Company 2 and Stalker do we see the 6990 take an advantage, which is then negated by anything from Civilization V to DIRT 2. Meanwhile the 6950CF is cooler, significantly quieter, and less power hungry than the 6990. And finally the 6950CF is cheaper: we can snag a pair of cards for $520, versus $700 for the 6990. Meanwhile for $640 you can have a pair of 6970s and enjoy performance at 2560 roughly 8% ahead of the 6990, and that setup is still quieter than the 6990."

My point was that the performance between the 6990 and 6950 crossfire is nearly identical (0-5% difference favoring the 6990, with 6950 cf winning occasionally), despite the superior specs of the 6990, and when added with the other disadvantages (price, noise) then it is only (imo) a viable option for people planning on going quadfire, which is very few people.

If you don't care about any of the negatives of the 6990, by all means go for it. It is fast as hell.

Oh and as far as newer drivers adding significantly more performance, ATI people have been saying that every time a new generation comes out for many, many years. Sometimes it's true, sometimes not so much.
Jizzzared's Avatar
Hokie, How's the noise on the card? I didn't see anything except "it's far from quiet." Could you compare it to some other cards?

Anand and Toms (I haven't read other reviews yet) made it sound like it was a pretty big deal, perhaps a deal breaker. I'm interested in your thoughts.
Brolloks's Avatar
I'd say a pair of bios boosted 6950's is the best value for money for sure, around $550 and you get same or better performance than the 6990
Jizzzared's Avatar
Agreed completely.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Depends on what noise you're referring to. I didn't think the fan was any louder than the 6970 before it. BOTH of them are entirely too loud to reasonably use at 100%. Even at the 75% used for temperature testing it wasn't quiet, though it was on a test bench rather than inside a case. For gaming, in my very subjective opinion, 60% is reasonable, even without headphones.

Everyone knows by now that squirrel cage fans are just plain loud. If you're going for quiet and cool, this card with its stock cooler is not your cup of tea. It was made for performance, puts out plenty of heat to boot and needs plenty of airflow to cool it off.

Now, if you're referring to the GPU and/or memory 'squeal', that's a different thing altogether. There has been some discussion of it over at XS this morning. My sample wasn't too bad. Unless you were benching at high FPS (such as between 1000 and 3000FPS in 3DMark03, when it was rather loud), it wasn't bad. In gaming tests I didn't notice it.

On the other hand, HardwareCanucks' sample was audible even in game tests.
While its level varies from sample to sample, I think it likely that you'll hear it in some form or another if you purchase one of these.

Another comment from my post over there:
Agreed here; there is very little bang for your buck until the price drops on these. What people will pay for here is going to be the best-of-the-best and to have it right when it is released. Or you need it for a small form factor where crossfire isn't an option, at which point airflow becomes a large concern.

I called it Overclockers Approved because it really is the fastest graphics card in the world and it clocks decently, even without voltage increase. If I were trying to be anywhere near frugal, I wouldn't be looking the direction of the 6990.
EarthDog's Avatar
I cant believe I missed this. What a monster!

As always, great review!
Techjesse's Avatar
Very Nice Review Hokie Now all I need is two of them LOL
Paratrooper1n0's Avatar
Okay, when they make a single GPU 6990 then I will be interested, but it just uses to much juice.
Janus67's Avatar
So you mean when they release the 6950?
Paratrooper1n0's Avatar
No... when they make a 6990 card that only uses 1 GPU and is more powerful than a 6970 then I will consider one. Until then I'm sticking with
MattNo5ss's Avatar
It will be a while before a single GPU card can beat the HD6990.
Paratrooper1n0's Avatar
Never said they would. I'm saying is that the 6990 uses to much power. I wouldn't mind running a dual GPU card along with a single GPU 6990 because I can actually handle that power but until then 2 6970's have more performance than a dual GPU 6990.
EarthDog's Avatar
Thats what your post appeared to alluded to and subsequent post seemed to confirm but........MEH.

I dont understand this too much power thing. Do people acutally know how negligable your bill will go up by getting one of these cards? I wouldnt imagine $10 a month for a HEAVY gamer (many hours /day).
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I think you mean 6970. On everything but memory speed (texture units, stream processors, ROPs, clock speed, amount of RAM), this GPU is for all intents and purposes two 6970s strapped to the same PCB.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
Two HD6970 in CFX uses more power than a HD6990.
Paratrooper1n0's Avatar
Yes, they do, but they also punch out more performance. While I would have to get a 1200 watt PSU to handle 2 6990's I do not feel comfortable of having a PSU over 1000 watts.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
I think I was getting confused on what you meant by "power", I thought you were complaining about power consumption, then going with 2 HD6970. Performance wise, yeah, the 2 HD6970 should be better because the HD6990 is 2 lower clocked HD6970 cores with slower RAM.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Only if you don't flip the BIOS switch is it lower clocked on the GPUs. I don't know anyone that comes to this forum that wouldn't flip the switch for the free performance (hence, I didn't test the artificially-hindered-for-TDP setting).

The only difference is memory clocks. Based on comparing my results with CF 6970 results at the bot, I'd be 3rd in Vantage and 06, so it's not much slower than two CF 6970's. Once I find something that has voltage control, I'll be trying to beat them both too.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Yikes! 550 GBP = 888 USD. That hurts worse than over here.

EDIT - That's including VAT. Without VAT is 458 GBP = 740 USD. A hundred bucks in taxes; that's gotta sting a bit.
TheQuadFather's Avatar
Scan are know for their "premium prices", but its also a monopoly really because they get everything in stock quick and before other vendors, much better customer service to if you can take the extra cash.

oh yeah another example, retail chain "pc" world sells their asus hd5770s for 180 quid.
Techjesse's Avatar
Hokie, Just one question, did you see any microstuttering when you were running games and Benchmarks? TJ
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Not that I noticed really, with only the usual exceptions: Stalker did it a little bit, but it has done that consistently on every single card that I've used it on. AVP was silky smooth, Heaven choked up at the beginning like it always does (again, on every card) but after the single stutter it was smooth through the remainder of the 26 tests. Throughout the benchmarks it was totally smooth.
Techjesse's Avatar
WOW, Thats good news, I'll wait a little while to see what non-reference cards will be available. 2 of these bad boys should suffice. Thanks TJ
hokiealumnus's Avatar
I also want to be clear that's in reference to what I saw. I watched every bench at least one full pass, but on the repeat benches I was doing other things (like writing the before-results stuff on another PC in the room), so I didn't watch every single pass of every bench. What I saw though showed no abnormal stuttering.
Techjesse's Avatar
Great, Do you think 2 6990's will hit 60,000 in Vantage with a i7 930 OC'ed to 4.4GHz or 4.5GHz?
MattNo5ss's Avatar
I'd say no on that one. 950/1450 HD6970 4-way CFX reaches 58.3K with an i7 980x at 5.9GHz. Unless two HD6990 CFX scales a lot better than HD6970 4-way CFX.
Techjesse's Avatar
The reason I asked is be for I upgrade, I've seen a i7 970 at 4.4GHz and 3 GTX 580's hit 60,000. So if 2 6990 would do the same I'd buy ATI this time around.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
I bet that 60K score was with PhysX enabled. It takes 3 OC'd GTX580 and an i7 hex OC'd to over 5GHz to get close to 60K w/o PhysX. Since AMD doesn't have PhysX, I highly doubt you'll get 60K.
Techjesse's Avatar
You are right Matt, PhysX was enabled, I should have been more specific. Thanks TJ
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Can't check the bot from my phone, but I think Matt is spot on.
Techjesse's Avatar
Yep, he's right Hokie, 58089 with a 980x at 6.2GHz and 4 5870,s is awesome!
RADIO_ACTIVE's Avatar
Powerful card! The only concern I have is that 2 6970s are cheaper than buying one of these lol

$320 for a 6970

$700 for a 6990 (if you can find one for its retail lol more like $750-800)



Am I crazy...
hUMANbEATbOX's Avatar
just got 2 of them dropped off by the UPS man....will update in a little bit.
hUMANbEATbOX's Avatar
^^dreaming btw...
MattNo5ss's Avatar
Or two HD6950 flashed to HD6970 (or unlock shaders) for ~$275 each...
Techjesse's Avatar
Matt is right again! Dual Radeon HD 6950s is the best bang for the buck.
SpookyLanguage's Avatar
I'm also planning on getting 2 of these or 2 590's, depending on benchmarks and reviews. I'll share my results paired with my new 2600k, but it wont be for a little while. Need to actually build the thing when nvidia releases and ocz puts out their vertex 3's.
RADIO_ACTIVE's Avatar
I know it makes it even worse... To me the correct pricing would be around $599 but who am I
ratbuddy's Avatar
Did ya get in any gameplay time? Any hitching there?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Unfortunately I don't game, I just bench (well, that is a game I suppose, but it's not exactly stable enough to 'game' in the traditional sense ). That said, I did recently acquire Dragon Age II to benchmark with and will try to get at least a few minutes in to see what's up.

Now that I think about it, I did try the Crysis 2 multiplayer demo to see if it was worth benching (graphics options are disabled, so that answer is no) and in the meager minutes I was in there it was smooth as butter. Not one stutter, jump or anything else. Just what looks like a very good looking game.
Gautam's Avatar
At that price point, 2x GTX570's in SLi would be an appropriate (and probably superior) contender.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Can't really argue there. I'm hoping it drops. History shows it should. Just to reiterate from the previous page:

Thanks for your input G!
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Oh, and AMD has shared a youtube video of us. Nothing new, just a couple AMD folks going over some of the card's features. Check it out here: Inside look: AMD Radeon HD 6990!
spiritedandy's Avatar
well just sold my 2 5970s 400 each nice price with wc block on

just ordered 6690 should get it tomorrow

just tried to play wow on a en8400gs not good

still cant read review

can on lap top down stairs tho so off to read ty Hokie
Techjesse's Avatar
WoW Hokie, I would not let that 6990 out of my sight till I played BFBC2, Singularity, Mass Effect 2, Blur, Far Cry 2, Crysis & Crysis 2, UT3 and Batman Arkham Asylum at least 1/2 hour each Benchmarking is a Blast but so is Gaming.
O and when the GTX 590 come available will you be reviewing it, I like your reviews, right to the point. TJ
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thanks for the compliment! Rest assured I'll be reviewing one if I can get my grubby hands on it.
MattNo5ss's Avatar
You better hurry up and find one so you can have the review done before release. Based on this article nVidia confirmed the GTX590 release date as March 22.
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Yikes! I'll see what I can do. No promises though.
spiritedandy's Avatar
Very good review thank you
spiritedandy's Avatar
wow nice find ty works a treat

but wont be touching it till better cooling runs little hot
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Thought I'd add this here to incase our video card section browsers don't venture into benching team territory. I played around with a little tri-fire yesterday afternoon. It took two PSUs; my benching rig PSU is only 650W, so I jumped an 800W to keep the 6990 happy and let the 650W run the rest.

They're not spectacular relative to the rest of the 3x GPU heavy hitters out there, but they're the highest scores I've ever had for sure!

Just to be clear, they're not done yet, those were just safe clocks of 950/1275. I'll be pushing them more when I have more time.

Here's a bonus photo of the (messy) bench as tested.

pwnmachine's Avatar
Nice review!

So how do you think this stacks up to its older brother the 5970? Is the performance increase significant?

I have been trying to find some side by side benchmarks with the 590/5970/6990 but can't seem to see any, the ones I did find were using old 5970 benchmarks where the driver support was terrible. Judging by the specs the 5970 seems like it would perform better with higher AA/AS and it still does have more spu's.

Thoughts?
hokiealumnus's Avatar
Depends on what you do with the card really. The 6990 will almost certainly out gun the 5970, but if you're already satisfied with the performance of the 5970, you already have a very powerful card.

The 6970 beats the 5870 across the board. Logically, since the 5970 isn't quite two 5870's on one PCB and the 6990 actually is two 6970's (minus a little memory speed) on one PCB, it makes sense that the 6990 would beat the 5970.

If you play DX11 games, there's no question the 6990 would be a good upgrade. If you plan on multiple-monitor gaming, native 5-monitor eyefinity support is also a draw for the 6990.

Unfortunately I don't have a 5970 to test, but it's a safe bet the 6990 would be an improvement. If you're dissatisfied with gaming performance, it's a good one to look at (though so are two 6970's in crossfire, or two 6950's flashed to 6970's if you're feeling frugal). If not, what you have is already a very solid performer.
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