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AMD Radeon HD 6990 Dual-GPU Graphics Card Review
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by Rob Williams on March 8, 2011 in AMD-Based GPU

It’s been a long while since we’ve last seen a $700 graphics card, but AMD revives that tradition with its Radeon HD 6990 dual-GPU offering. Fortunately, the card has proven that its high price-tag is well-earned, as it storms past every other single and dual-GPU graphics card on the market, and introduces other useful features to boot.

Final Thoughts

Too often, I hit a writer’s block when trying to conjure some thoughts for a ‘Final Thoughts’ page, but with a product such as AMD’s Radeon HD 6990, a section like this almost writes itself. As discovered throughout all of our testing, the HD 6990 has become the fastest graphics card available, and by quite a wide margin.

That’s not to say that this result wasn’t expected. After all, the HD 6990 is in essence dual HD 6970s, which already beats out any other single-card offering out there. NVIDIA would beat out the HD 6990 if SLI’d GeForce GTX 580s are introduced, but unfortunately, we’ve been behind on testing that configuration for a while, but will be tackling it for an upcoming article. Regardless, NVIDIA’s solution costs $300 more, so while a bit faster, it carries an even higher price premium than the HD 6990.

One thing I do find odd about the HD 6990, though, is that it doesn’t share the same 1350MHz memory clock speed of the HD 6970. Regardless of the reasons behind this, our CrossFireX solution proved faster than the HD 6990 in most cases as a result. While the deltas were minimal overall, I can’t help but wonder about that decision, or if there was some technical limitation. Though the HD 6990 is designed for overclocking, we were unable to devote time to it, but may in the future.

AMD Radeon HD 6990

It’s an unfair competition, but the best comparison card to the HD 6990 is NVIDIA’s GTX 580. Compared to NVIDIA’s card, AMD’s carries a 40% price premium, so I thought it’d be interesting to break our results down and see if we see that premium translated into performance gain at an equal level. The tables below break down our results for both our 1080p and 2560×1600 resolutions.

1920×1080
HD 6990
GTX 580
Improvement
Colin McRae: Dirt 2
168.627
128.745
+30.98%
Just Cause 2
123.648
56.729
+117.96%
Mafia II
104.371
98.581
+5.87%
Metro 2033
153.151
81.297
+88.38%
Unigine Heaven 2.1
102.4
61.7
+65.96%
3DMark 11
3429
1960
+74.95%

There’s no arguing about the performance of the HD 6990 here… the gains are huge when compared to the GTX 580, and far surpass the +40% mark we were looking for in most titles. Just Cause 2 saw over a 100% improvement, and that’s despite it being a “The Way It’s Meant To Be Played” sponsored title. Do things fare the same at 2560?

2560×1600
HD 6990
GTX 580
Improvement
Colin McRae: Dirt 2
117.953
79.349
+48.65%
Just Cause 2
85.813
36.36
+136.00%
Mafia II
75.247
48.375
+55.55%
Metro 2033
80.474
40.94
+96.57%
Unigine Heaven 2.1
71.6
39.1
+83.12%
3DMark 11
1974
1078
+83.12%

Hmm. I think I’m beginning to understand where AMD has come from with its final presentation slide for its HD 6990. Just Cause 2 has seen a staggering +136% increase in performance, and Metro 2033 came awful close to +100%, settling in at +96.57%. Here, the closest figure to +40% was with Dirt 2, which still managed to far surpass it by reaching +48.65%.

Our results prove an obvious point: AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 is the fastest graphics card on the planet. AMD delivers a card that’s about 80% faster than NVIDIA’s GTX 580, but carries a mere 40% price premium. At $700, the Radeon HD 6990 is far from cheap, and in fact it’s the most expensive GPU to be released since NVIDIA’s GeForce 8800 Ultra. But where high-end gaming is concerned, this card offers an impressive bang for the buck.

The HD 6990 for the most part proved to be just as fast as 2 x HD 6970s, but there are other benefits that go beyond simple performance. Rather than take up the equivalent of four slots in your PC, the HD 6990 sticks to the usual two. And despite cramming two GPUs into a single card, the single-core temperatures even managed to see an improvement – in addition to the power.

AMD’s card is no doubt impressive, but what can we expect in way of competition? NVIDIA up to this point hasn’t been too vocal about the HD 6990, but you can bet that the company is hard at work on coming up with its own competing product… one that might just knock the HD 6990 down a peg.

But, it’s all speculation at this point, and technically, it’ll prove more difficult for NVIDIA to produce a similar product due to larger die sizes. So, the result should be interesting. When we’ll see a release of such a product is totally unknown, and could be a month away, or six months. Hopefully if the company does have something up its sleeve, we’ll find out more in the days and weeks to come.


AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 Dual-GPU Graphics Card

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