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AMD Radeon HD 6990 review

Verdict

Unprecedented gaming performance, but it comes with the expected noise, high power consumption and a jaw-dropping price

Review Date: 8 Mar 2011

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £458 (£550 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

Let’s get this out of the way immediately: the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is the fastest graphics card money can buy. It’s also one of the hottest and loudest cards we’ve ever seen, but if you’ve looked at the price and are genuinely considering a purchase such trivialities won’t concern you. For the rest of us this article will be a purely aspirational dreamland.

As with the last generation’s Radeon HD 5970, this monstrous card slaps two top-end graphics cores onto one long slab of PCB. The two chips, codenamed Antilles, are tweaked versions of the HD 6970’s Cayman XT core. The 880MHz clock has been reduced to 830MHz as standard across both cores, and the 2GB of GDDR5 memory per core (for a total of 4GB) has been slowed from 1,375MHz to 1,250MHz to keep things manageable.

AMD Radeon HD 6990

Each core has 1,536 stream processors for a total of 3,072 across the whole card – interestingly enough, that’s 128 less than the HD 5970 – and the HD 6990’s 5.2 billion transistors tops every other graphics card on the market. It’s one serious piece of enthusiast gaming hardware.

We’ll start with the lesser of our gaming benchmarks, if only to prove that they’re rendered largely redundant. In Just Cause 2, an average of 96fps in our 1,920 x 1,080 Very High benchmark, with 8x anti-aliasing, is far beyond the 74fps of Nvidia’s top-end GTX 580. In Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the HD 6990 averaged of 81fps in our maximum quality 1,920 x 1,080 benchmark, comprehensively trouncing the GTX 580’s 49fps.

But it’s Crysis that pushes a card the most, so let’s get to the important figures. First, the HD 6990 achieved an average of 67fps in our Very High quality, 1,920 x 1,080 test, versus 54fps from the GTX 580 and 64fps from the Radeon HD 5970, AMD’s own previous dual-GPU flagship.

That’s not a huge leap over the last generation, so we’ll ramp up the settings: at 2,560 x 1,600 – the resolution of choice for 30in TFTs – with Very High quality settings, the GTX 580 met its match, yet the HD 6990 managed a massive 53fps (see graph).

AMD Radeon HD 6990

Enabling 8x anti-aliasing on top of that makes for a very tough test, but seemingly not tough enough: the HD 6990 breezed through with a staggering 44fps.

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User comments

Price

eBuyer are listiing it at £529.98, still high but there you go.

Did you try any Eyefinity tests? Thinking of swapping out a pair of 4870x2's for one of theses to power 3 screens.

By JStairmand on 8 Mar 2011

I would image once non-stock coolers are used by the likes of XFX and gigabyte we'll see a much quieter, much better cooled version of this card.

Right then, triple rollover Lotto on Wednesday and quadruple rollover for Euro Lott on Friday, looks like my best chance to own one of these. Hmm actually if I do win, can these put put in crossfire mode? ;)

By skarlock on 8 Mar 2011

Now roll on the gtx590

Of course the 590 is now just around the corner.Probably the same problems will arise.

however it's maybe a bit better if you loomat it like this.If your were considering crossfire of 2no 6970's but only had 1 x picex16 slot in your motherboard then it would save on having to upgrade that.:-)

By Jaberwocky on 8 Mar 2011

Nice

4 Gig dedicated in one, just worth for that, DDd
i would buy it if i had the money!!!!

By mobilegnet on 8 Mar 2011

Voided Warranty?

An intresting point raised in the Bit-Tech review of this card was they were told, by AMD, that switching the BIOS to the 'Antilles overdrive' voids the waranty.

Is it possible, in UK law for a standard feature of any consumer product to void the obligatory UK 1 year manufacturer's guarantee when used in accordance with the manufacurer's instructions?

By fingerbob69 on 8 Mar 2011

Bear in mind this is a reference card and not a release version so the overdrive will probably only be made available by some manufacturers who will themselves have to provide warranty for features such as this.

By skarlock on 8 Mar 2011

Tried tests in Crossfire and SLI?

I believe 2 6970's beat this card due to the higher frequency etc (and is cheaper), and 2 580's also beat this single card on almost every setting, although a lot more expensive. Comparing a duel graphics card to single ones and expecting similar performance is a bit much to expect is it not?

By David1981 on 8 Mar 2011

yikyikuykuyk

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By llog1133 on 9 Mar 2011

Top Gear

Good piece, very funny. Did you get some help from 'Clarkson'?

By Nickux on 10 Mar 2011

they forgot to drop the piano on the GTX580 at the end of the test and insult the mexicans.

By mr_chips on 14 Mar 2011

kanobione

well what can i say the hd 6990 is awesome and i ve got 2 on crossfire MOVE OVER WITH YOUR 2 6970 s :)

By kanobione on 16 Nov 2011

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