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AMD Radeon HD6990 Review

Writing a conclusion for this kind of product is much simpler than for graphics cards in the ‘value’ space. Cards like the GTX580, Radeon HD 5970 and Radeon HD 6990 are all about one thing. Pure pixel pushing performance.

The AMD Radeon HD 6990 is a powerhouse of a graphics card which redefines the high end market. It is noticeably faster than the class leading XFX HD5970 Black Edition Limited 4GB card, which was released last year at a staggering £900.

When we compare performance figures of the gaming tests against the nVidia GTX580 flagship solution, we can easily see the raw performance available from the new AMD HD6990.

Some of the games we tested today show increases from 20% (Lost Planet 2) to 88% (Alien V Predator). Whichever way you look at it, AMD has stormed past the GTX580, easily surpassed its last generation HD5970 and pushed the performance levels into a new zone.

3DMark Vantage shows that the HD6990 has a 38 percent performance advantage when compared against the GTX580, scoring around 35,000 points. Interestingly, 3DMark 11 highlights cutting edge Direct X 11 performance, with the HD6990 delivering almost 60 percent higher frame rates than Nvidia’s current flagship. While we didn’t concentrate on CrossFireX performance today, we have been working on another article in parallel, and later this week we will release the results.

The single most surprising result from KitGuru’s Lab has to be tessellation. Before the launch of the Radeon HD 6990, the top 4 spots on our tessellation chart were all occupied by nVidia’s GeForce technology. The Radeon HD 6990 changes all that. It’s not just in the nVidia-friendly Stone Giant test that we saw an improvement. Tessellation is famously used in Aliens vs Predator and, in this game, the Radeon HD 6990 can get as much as 88% faster than a standard GTX580.

Acoustically, any card that can eat up more the 400 watts in performance mode, is going to struggle to dissipate the heat produced under load. While we understand the difficulties of producing a capable, quiet cooler, AMD will always be hampered by using a small, single fan configuration on its high-end reference cards. As expected, this opens the market up to AMD partners such as Sapphire, PowerColor and XFX who will assuredly release updated versions of the card, with dual fan configurations, improved airflow and reduced noise levels. The reference card has been configured to keep temperatures well under 90c at all times, but it can also get loud – especially in high performance mode.

So, the big question is, how much will this cost? Our latest feedback from AMD before going to press indicates that the HD6990 is going to cost between £530 and £550 ($699 US), which clearly means it will only be an option for the wealthier enthusiast gamer.

In closing, frame rate junkies who love high resolution, multi-screen gaming are going to find AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 the perfect fix.


  • World’s fastest graphics card by some distance
  • DirectX 11 performance is fantastic
  • Staggering improvement in tessellation processing capability
  • Fan profile is more aggressive than previous dual GPU cards, keeping temperatures well in check
  • Dual BIOS profile is a nice touch
  • Idle power drain is very well optimised


  • Can get loud
  • Power drain under load is substantial
  • Expensive

KitGuru says: The AMD Radeon HD 6990 is the ultimate graphics card, but we wonder for how long? The high power demands translate into a need for cooling, which we hope AIBs will fine-tune over the coming months. The stage has been set for a battle royal when the GTX590 comes out to play in a few weeks’ time.

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Rating: 9.0.

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