AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB Review

Written by Harry Butler

March 8, 2011 | 07:57

Tags: #12in #6990 #directx-11 #dual-gpu #eyefinity #hd-6990 #overclocking #radeon-hd-6990

Companies: #amd #ati

Conclusion

Just when we thought the graphics market was cooling down, AMD’s Radeon HD 6990 4GB has gone and set things alight once again. Its two Caymen XT GPUs simply deliver phenomenal performance, resoundingly beating the GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB in almost all of our tests. Only in Call of Duty: Black Ops at lower resolutions than 2,560 x 1,600 did the HD 6990 4GB fail to dominate the performance charts.

The extra performance available can make a big difference too. In Just Cause 2 at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA, the HD 6990 4GB’s minimum frame rate of 32fps is 52 per cent higher than that of the GTX 580 1.5GB. That’s the difference between playable and non-playable, and represents a huge difference between Nvidia’s and AMD’s fastest cards.

All this performance comes at a price, though. The HD 6990 4GB uses an obnoxious amount of power, throwing away the PCI-E power draw rulebook in the process. While this means that there’s a lot of waste heat for the cooler to handle, AMD has gone to great lengths to tame its foot-long gargantuan card. The twin vapour-chamber coolers and special TIM help, but mainly it’s the fan that does the donkeywork. When idle (and at its default speeds) the card is reasonably quiet, but try to give it any work and it quickly moves into hairdryer territory.

AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB Review Radeon HD 6990 4GB Conclusion AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB Review Radeon HD 6990 4GB Conclusion
Click to enlarge.

What’s also important to realise is that while it delivers excellent performance across the board, the HD 6990 4GB is designed more with ultra-high resolution Eyefinity setups in mind than single displays. As we’ve seen in our testing, the card barely blinks at running any game at 2,560 x 1,600 with 4x AA.

This therefore makes the HD 6990 4GB something of a luxury. If you run a single display, all that graphics horsepower will arguably go to waste and you’re better off paying less for a fast single-GPU card such as the GeForce GTX 570 1.3GB.

The HD 6990 4GB is launching at £539.99 inc VAT, which isn't far off twice the cost of the single-GPU Radeon HD 6970 2GB, and roughly £150 more than even a GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB. For that sort of price, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and unless you’re running a very high resolution display (or three), the simple answer is you won’t.

Nevertheless, for those chasing pure performance, we can’t dispute that the HD 6990 4GB is the fastest graphics card on the market, and by some way. If you’re willing to live with the noise, the monster price tag and the card’s reliance on driver updates to make it support the latest games, you simply can’t get anywhere near this level of performance from any other single graphics card. Of course, how long the HD 6990 4GB remains the performance king depends on what Nvidia’s rumoured dual-GPU card will be like if and when it launches.

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Score Guide
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