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AMD Radeon HD6990 Review

To test this high end card today, we have built a system with suitable matching components – based around a liquid cooled 12 core Intel i7 970 processor, overclocked to 4.33GHz, with 6GB of GKILL memory running at 1800MHz with tight timings. We will be mixing the resolutions today from 1920×1080 (1080p) to 7680×1080.

Processor: Core i7 970 @ 4.33GHz
Cooling: Coolit Vantage (extreme setting).
Motherboard: MSI X58A-GD65 (MS-7522)
Chassis: Thermaltake Level 10
Power Supply: Corsair Ax1200
Memory: 6GB GSkill Performance Gaming ram @ 902.9 MHz (2:10) @ 9-9-9-24
Storage: Kingston SSDNow V+ 512GB Gen 2 SSD (Storage) / Crucial RealSSD C300 256GB (OS boot)
Monitors: Hazro Ultra Sharp HZ230Wi, Dell Ultrasharp U2410 Rev A00 x 2, Iiyama Prolite E2472HDD x2

Other graphics cards for comparisons:
Nvidia GTX580
Nvidia GTX570
XFX HD5970 Black Edition 4GB (QuadFireX)
AMD HD6970
AMD HD6950
AMD HD6870
AMD HD6850
AMD HD5870
AMD HD5850
MSI N560GTX Ti Twin Frozr II
nVidia GTX570
nVidia GTX460 OC (715/900)

Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Unigine Heaven Benchmark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
Catalyst 11.4 Preview
Forceware 266.58 WHQL
Fraps Professional
Steam Client
Stone Giant
HQV 2.0 Software

Technical Monitoring and Test Equipment:
Nikon D300S with R1C1 kit
Keithley Integra unit
Thermal Diodes
Raytek Laser Temp Gun 3i LSRC/MT4 Mini Temp
Extech digital sound level meter & SkyTronic DSL 2 Digital Sound Level Meter

Far Cry 2
Resident Evil 5
Mafia 2
Tom Clancy HAWX 2
Alien V Predator
Lost Planet 2
Metro 2033
Dead Space 2
Dragon Age 2
Batman Arkham Asylum
Crysis Warhead
Devil May Cry 4
Colin McRae Dirt 2
Left4Dead 2

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests all games across five closely matched runs and average out the results to get an accurate median figure.

Later in the review we will test the new HD6990 across 4 screens at 7680×1080 resolution, these review pages are marked with the ‘4x’ tagline.

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  • Steve Ruxton

    Awesome, time to get every thing i need ready and read what I’ve been waiting for.

  • Seth

    damn that is a powerful card!

  • Ned

    Very impressive card, but its out of reach for most people. it costs a few quid in the UK

  • Teddy

    GTX590 up for the challenge, thats what I want to see 🙂

  • John

    I wish that AMd would sort out their coolers, those fans have been used now for about 10 years. its really a tough decision buying one of these due to the noise levels, but no more so that all the other dual gpu cards from AMD, at least this one isnt running at 100c+

  • Tim

    The kettle is one, time for a good read, thanks.

  • KoRn

    what a mega product, I wasn’t expecting it to be so quick. Nvidia need to come up with something now 🙂 im sure they will

  • Jimbo

    Actually when you look at the price, which will be say £550, compared to GTX480 at £400. The performance, per pound is excpetionally good for the added price difference

  • Colin

    Well I might be very wrong here, but Nvidia will have a very tough time beating this card. The temperatures are the killer.

  • Ben

    Two GTX570’s in a high bandwidth state could possibly beat this board, but the engineering would be difficult, a single GTX570 runs hot as it is.

    I think their cooler is extremely impressive for a reference solution, sure its loud, but they aren’t letting it get into the 90c’s which is always good to see. thats why their older dual GPU cards failed. this one shouldnt.

    I could live with the noise for that level of power. no more worrying about IQ settings.

  • VeicNt

    What a fantastic product. even if its more expensive that my monthly rent !

  • Serge

    It will be really interesting to see what nvidia come up with. I think they can beat this. but its all about the cooling. AMD struggled with this, its clear to see, and its noisy. I dread to think how loud the nvidia card would be.

  • Raymond

    whats next? 550W graphics cards? its starting to really get out of hand now. two of these would consume 800w when gaming? the bill at the quarter would be insane.

  • Gainward

    Just a heads up for anyone buying the card and wanting to remove the stock cooler…. There is a small screw on the back that is covered by two stickers with (its under the two stickers that look like a barcode). Well removing that you will then notice a void logo underneath it… I just wanted to point it out to you all…

    Didnt bother us too much here seen as ours is sample but I know to some droppin £550ish UK is quite a bit of cash and if all you are doing is having an inquisitive look it seems a shame to void your warranty :-S

  • Roger

    So if you change the bios switch to OC mode you void your warranty. If you take the cooler off for a look you also void it? Anything else? plugging in a DVI cable maybe?

  • Gainward

    “whats next? 550W graphics cards? its starting to really get out of hand now. two of these would consume 800w when gaming? the bill at the quarter would be insane”

    I also just wanted to touch on that comment. Whilst these cards seem excessive to some you have to remember that @ this moment in time they are as I dub it the veyron moment like others in the past the concorde moment. They might not be for most people practical but to its like me saying to my team, look lets see what we can do. Not only that but having the crown of fastest single card (agreed single card but multi gpu) goes a long way to brand loyalty and advertising.

    An example I like to use is the GTX 560. Its a fantastic card and in many ways better… hang with me a second. In terms of actual raw power you get for sub £200 is incredible also factor in its quiet and wont eat through your electricity like a mouth through primark. But…. to not produce these high end cards would be criminal. We need people to keep pushing as hard and fast (that sounds so wrong) at the the boundaries(agreed quite crudely in the 6990 case but hey I dont sit in either camp just wait a few days for the 590 for brute but crude).

    with the reduction in nm to 28 the power consumption and heat will be brought down further (dont need pointing out here that a lot of factors at play here it was just a generalisation) but sure we could see just as big and hot cards within practical reason.

    I would not say out of hand I would say its progress and with progress we can learn

  • Mopar63

    DO NOT take off the cooler, according to AMD this time around they have used a new thermal compound they are transitioning to that is better than anything on the market. The claim is that once this compound is broken, ie the cooler removed it cannot work anymore and you will suffer higher temps when you put on another compound to replace it.

  • Brian

    The logic with the GTX560 is true. I dont think many people can afford a 6990 or 580 gtx even. but they are showcase cards of how ‘advanced’ the companies are. and I agree with the intro in the review that people always opt for a card in the range of a ‘performance leader’ higher up the chain.

    Interesting to read about the phase change paste.

  • Gainward

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation”

    You would not mind spell checking it also would you ;-P

    Damn predictive text

  • Erik

    It is a mighty impressive card, but I see it as totally overkill. Im probably one of the few. I can understand the point of it and its extremely quick, but id be happy with a 460 or 560, or even a 6870.

    Many people buy these cards and have a 1080p screen, which to me is the stupidest decision you could ever make, even a 2560×1600 screen is easily powered by a GTX570 or 6970.

  • Hakuren

    Now give us some after market cooling versions for both 6990 and 590. Drolling already.

  • Keeks

    the VGA cards get me insane…!