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HD7990 Quadfire tested: crash happy

The enthusiast audience waited throughout 2012 for AMD to come up with a dual GPU HD7970 solution. In the end they failed to deliver, so it fell onto partners to create a solution. Powercolor, VTX3D and Club3d all released the HD7990 last year – a monster dual GPU designed to battle head to head with the Nvidia GTX690.

We reviewed the VTX3D HD7990 on December 29th and it walked away with one of our highest awards, due to a competitive price to performance ratio.

Parting with £680 for a graphics card would seem a completely insane move for most people, but it is worth remembering that the Nvidia GTX690 still retails around the £800-£850 mark. Trying to work out ‘value for money’ at this price point does seem crazy.

We won’t retread old ground today, if you want to catch up, then follow the link above for the review on the single HD7990. When I initially reviewed the card I smiled when I saw the Crossfire connector bundled in the box. Quadfire was something I wanted to try, but at the time I couldn’t get my hands on two of the cards.

I received a couple of emails since the review launched. ‘Hey man, any chance of testing with two HD7990s?’ came the call from a hard core bencher based in California.

A very friendly chap near London was determined to pick up two of the cards from DABS, but wanted some reassurances it would work well. There certainly is not much point spending £1,400 if you are only left with an expensive bookend.

Sadly, If history has taught us anything then AMD certainly haven’t had a reassuring track record with QUAD Crossfire. Without preempting the results below, I was sadly proven right. Even after multiple operating systems were installed from fresh with a handful of recent AMD drivers.

I managed to get my hands on a 10cm Crossfire connector, the longest you can get. We had to route the connector inside the cooler on the first card (as shown in the image above), otherwise it wouldn’t stretch across the three slots to the next VTX3D HD7990.

We tested with the following system.

Processor: Core i7 3960 X Extreme Edition @ 4.4ghz
Cooler: Antec 920 H20
Memory: 16GB G.Skill 2,400mhz @ 10-11-10-30
Motherboard: Asus Rampage IV Extreme (latest 3301 bios updated for the review)
Power Supply: Enermax Platimax 1200W and Seasonic Platinum 1000W
Optical Drive: Asus BluRay Drive
Chassis: Lian Li PC-A77FR Aluminium Red Full Tower Case
Boot Drive: Patriot WildFire 120GB
Secondary Drive: 1TB Samsung
Monitors: Dell U3011 and Dell U2410 x 3.

To power a system like this, you need a hell of a power supply.

We tested with both the Enermax Platimax 1200W and the Seasonic Platinum 1000W. This was to verify that the many crashes we experienced were not related to a power related issue. The system was taking around 800W at the socket under load, so both supplies were perfectly within specifications.

On the I/O plate of the VTX3D HD7990 is a red button. This is a dual button BIOS switch, with both core speeds configured to a turbo of 925mhz. You can however only overclock this card with the button pressed inwards. If you want to overclock at all, ULPS needs to be disabled. Open REGEDIT, search for ‘enableULPS’ and change the registry value from 1 to 0.

Due to instability we never got around to overclocking the cards, however in the case of the review today, we wanted to ensure ULPS wasn’t causing a problem. So we disabled it.

We tested with the latest beta drivers. In fact we had so many problems we tried multiple versions of AMD’s drivers released since November last year. It didn’t make a difference to resolving the array of hardlocks and system crashes.

The cure? Simply to remove one of the cards.

We did manage to get some benchmarks to complete however, but games such as Max Payne 3 wouldn’t even detect the second card was installed. Sleeping Dogs saw a 15% increase in frame rate at 2560×1600. Dirt Showdown and F1 2012 would both crash on startup, as would the latest Batman game.

3DMark 11 would crash regularly at random times. Once it completed a run with a score of 15,300 points, which compares to 15,113 points from the single card. On screen stutter was horrific too. Something was definitely not right.

Trying to test across 3 screens was an unmitigated disaster too.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.0 completed every time, and we scored an average of 219 frames per second, compared to 168 frames per second with the single HD7990. £680, or £13.30 pence per frame (for the 51 extra frames per second) seems tough to justify.

We really do have to fault the AMD drivers for these negative results, which were very disappointing. AMD can say that the HD7990 isn’t an ‘official’ part, so optimisations won’t be forthcoming, but we have experienced this before with 4 GPU Crossfire in the past.

We can’t imagine many people would want to spend £1,400 on two of these graphics cards, although I know for a fact there are at least a handful of people who would have wanted such a kick ass, crazy system in their house.

Our conclusion? We advise against it and need to lay the blame with AMD’s drivers.

EDIT 28th May 2013: AMD sent us an update on the older HD7990 QuadFire problems. Read it here.

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  • CrazybutTrue

    Rather than CF 7990 X2, why don’t you try CF 7970 X3?

  • Well we can I guess, but we just reviewed the HD7990 a while ago and thought it was interesting, especially as a couple of people asked about it.

  • Lance

    AMD have never really caught up to Nvidia in regards to driver development. GTX690 is a little flaky at times, but it works quite well from what ive read.

  • Xein

    Well, you also have to factor in that Nvidia officially support the GTX690, HD7990 is outside AMD’s release specifications.

    Surprised it got released at all, unless AMD are behind it (silently).

  • Janaa

    Real shame, but its not the HD7990 fault. its AMD’s drivers. I had a crossfire system 2 years ago. never again. I like AMd cards, but the mess their drivers make is incredible. I always had to end up using Driver Sweeper to clear the registry and sometimes CCC wouldn’t even install between their own sets. dogs bollocks IMO.

  • Sandy Bruce

    I dont understand how you can blame AMD for this. They didnt even make a reference card of the 7990. Powercolor made it. Powercolor should support it. Maybe they need to be called and they need to release a patch to fix the crashing. AMD clearly said it was outside of their support. I usually like your reviews articles but thisone I dont understand and dont care for.

  • southwind

    What a shame! I actually like amd hardware but their drivers always disappoint. Sometimes games won’t even start with amd but when I change to nvidia well it just work. Well I’m still hoping with their current release schedule they will be able to fix bugs more thoroughly.

  • Powercolor don’t make this particular card, its VTX3D and was made by a partner group who have supplied the card to VTX3d, Powercolor and Club3D. TUL Corporation may be the company you are talking about.

    The problem is this, and its simple. The card is in the wild, its on sale. There is a Crossfire connector on the PCB to support two, there is even a crossfire cable in the box. People asked us to test it. We did. It didn’t work well. Its not the only Quad crossfire setup that hasn’t worked well however.

    We still believe AMD need to work more on 3-4 GPU configurations. You are more than welcome to disagree with that but it would suck to buy two 7990’s or four 79xx series cards and experience similar issues.

  • Todd

    Hey, great article. I would never be able to afford to try this. It’s nice to see a “what if” scenario.

  • adrian

    The scenario here could be compared to a car. Lets say I partner with VW and buy a Golf. I them remove the engine and install a V8 from a truck, change the wheels, up-rate the suspension system, change the door panels, modify the front end, put a large spoiler on the rear. This basically is still a Golf on the outside generically but you must agree it’s not a factory supplied product anymore. How on earth could I expect VW garages to support this now or indeed VW corportate? It would be considered foolish to try!

  • Adrian, thats a very poor analogy. The HD7990 ships with a Crossfire connector on the PCB and a Crossfire cable in the box – they are built to be paired up. The car scenario is completely different.

    The AMD driver supports Quad crossfire, as shown in the screenshot. 4 GPU’s active and working. Sadly not well due to driver issues.

    There are also driver issues with four HD7970’s – which AMD support ‘officially’, just food for thought.

  • Ofan

    Its easy to hate on them (AMD) just to mitigate this though. I have run crossfire, trifire and quadfire ( 5850’s/5870’s and a 5970) and run crossfire with the 6970’s and honestly never had any driver problems like these. The worst i have ever had problem wise was bad/no scaling which has been resolved by turning off crossfire (thats more game dev problem than amd though) and bottlenecking…..Turns out if I ran quadfire I got lower benchmarks that trifire as my heavily overclocked i7 950 (4.6ghz) just couldnt feed the 4 cards enough. I suspect the truth lies in the fact that the product really isnt supported in the driver as its not an official AMD product. What drivers did you use btw?

  • JamesM

    Any chance of a TriFire review? so a 7990 plus 7970 as that is what I may end up with soon. Would really like to see how that came off esp if they were both VTX or power color cards (granted that’s only for the pics / all same anyway) but it would look cool.


  • Danny

    The 1st card seems a little bit bend in the end. Maybe you can try to lay case down instead of standing.
    The heat of it should be terrible? Is it possible that heat is interactive and overheat when using 2 of them?

  • Gimme me Mhz

    I have 2 x 7990 also, cannot get them to work at all in Quad fire, I ave tried flashing the bios’s on both card for the powercolour, vx3d versions. I have been trying to get hold of the Club bios’s.

    I even flashed the main bios as master and the remain 3 a slave and it wouldn’t even boot. With a Single card i do get decent results.

    When i even try and select quad fire it crashes.

    Quad 7990 is a Huge Fail and think the cards are going to have to go back as they are advertised as being capable of Quadfire and even come with Crossfire Connection in each box.

    Even tried the the latest Drivers dated 18 feb 2012.

    Big fail i’m afraid

  • Sly

    I also have 2x club 3d hd radeon 7990 and i have the strange problem to
    the setup freezes only with 4 gpu’s on if i have 3 gpu’s on he runs like a beast maybe its a mb failure they say that they have quad sli and quad cross support butt still it can be an nb failure maybe it needs more voltage ????