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FRONTPAGE AMD Radeon HD6990 Graphics Card Review

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Overclockers.com

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Joined
Nov 1, 1998
AMD Radeon HD6990 Graphics Card Review
by Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

amd-hd6990-08-300x121.jpg

“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!

... Return to article to continue reading.
 

MattNo5ss

5up3r m0d3r4t0r
Joined
Aug 11, 2008
Finally :clap:

Now nVidia needs to get theirs out :D

Nice job hokie, as usual. The price is more than expected, and not worth it, in my opinion.
 

bmwbaxter

Joined
Jun 9, 2010
very nice review :thup: 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 :p good job!
 

Sir Shfvingle

New Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2011
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

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2004
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) :)

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

Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2010
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.


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*).
 

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
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.

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) :)
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.

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.
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.

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*).
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

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2004
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*).

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

Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2004
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

Benching Senior on Siesta, Premium Member #8
Joined
Dec 26, 2006
Location
Land of Long Horns
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
 

hokiealumnus

Water Cooled Moderator
Joined
Oct 14, 2007
Hokie, How's the noise on the card? I didn't see any mention of it in your review.

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.
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:
FWIW, I was a little surprised in hearing how loud it was when benching, but I distinctly remember being surprised by the 6970 too. Considering this is essentially two 6970's (with slower memory speed of course), the difference made sense. It doesn't sound great when it happens, but wasn't entirely unexpected after its single-GPU little brother.

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

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.