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Sapphire HD7990 QuadFireX Review

Many people have been frustrated with the AMD paper launch last month, only a small batch of cards made it to the United Kingdom and they sold quickly. This week we could only find stock of the ASUS HD7990 on Scan UK … for a whopping £958.80 inc vat. This is £110 more than we were told by AMD at the end of April, and is hugely disappointing.

Granted, we did say in our launch article that the ultra high end gaming audience aren’t too bothered about paying a price premium, but AMD partners need to get the retail price of these cards back below the £900 inc vat mark. If you want to game with the new HD7990 Malta then be prepared to pay through the nose.

In regards to performance, there is no doubt that the HD7990 is a monster card able to power through any game we tested, both at 2560×1600 (30 inch) and 5760×1080 resolutions (3×24 inch).

The Sapphire HD7990 isn’t a new design that we can report on, it is basically the reference AMD solution, with a couple of different stickers on the fans. Not that this is a bad thing, because AMD finally sorted out their shoddy reference cooling solution of previous generations, incorporating three large fans and a substantial dual heatsink cooling solution underneath. This is the best cooler that AMD have released, and outperforms the competing Nvidia parts. As the three fans spin so slowly noise emissions are also very low, which is an added bonus.

We did mention this in our launch article but there really is no need to buy a HD7990 if you are using a single 24 inch screen (unless you want bragging rights) – the GTX680 or HD7970 are really more than enough to power the latest Direct X 11 engines at 1080p. When you move to a 30 inch screen, or three 24/30 inch screens it makes more sense, especially with high levels of anti aliasing.

While we experienced a ton of issues with the non reference AMD HD7990 design earlier this year in QuadFire, AMD have clearly been working hard behind the scenes to ensure their drivers work when two Malta HD7990’s are paired up. If you have read the complete review you will have seen that Quad Crossfire performance varies a lot depending on the benchmark or game being run. While some of the titles don’t offer great scaling yet, they at least run without crashing, or hard locking the system. We never had so many blue screens when we tried this back in January this year, so it is great to see this problem no longer ruins the experience.

When building a rig enthusiast users often make the mistake of buying the highest wattage power supply they can get their hands on. You don’t need a 1000W supply to power a high end 3770k and HD7870 build, even if its a Crossfire configuration. This system we built today however is a very different story.

With two HD7990’s in QuadFire, our overclocked Core i7 3960X system demanded around 830Watts under load, which would be pushing a 1000W above 80% of its rated output. An ideal unit for this build would be the Seasonic Platinum 1000W unit (£195), which we tested to deliver almost 1,200watts under load. Efficiency of this power supply at an 80% power drain would be around 92 percent. Another good choice for this HD7990 QuadFire system would be the Corsair AX1200i Digital ATX power supply (£260), which we tested back in August 2012. We managed to get 1,324Watts out of this before it shut down, so even with a 830Watt load, it would be a 63% total power demand. Efficiency at this demand would also be around 92 percent.

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

Pros:

  • class leading cooling system.
  • very quiet under load.
  • astonishing frame rate performance.
  • good cooling performance.
  • eight high grade games with the Sapphire HD7990 (Crysis 3, BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon.)

Cons:

  • price point seems higher than we expected at launch in April.
  • be prepared to pay £200 for a flagship power supply if you want two of these cards.
  • Needs a powerful system and a 30 inch screen (or multiple screens) to get the most from it.

Kitguru says: When one HD7990 isn’t enough? buy two! Just make sure your system (and bank balance) is up to the task.
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Rating: 9.0.

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