Bennett Ring explains why you really want AMD’s sizzling new graphics monster, the Radeon HD 6990.
AMD's chunky new Radeon HD 6990 has landed in Australia this week and started blazing through benchmarks courtesy of the dual GPUs under its leviathan heat shroud. We've got a review unit warming up our test lab as we type this preview, but let there be no doubt - when it comes to single card performance, there is no substitute.
But what does "World's fastest single card performance" actually mean? We're glad you asked. This is a card created for the Uber HD crowd: anything less than 2,560 x 1,600 resolution is a waste. Crank it to the native resolution of your expensive Dell 30-inch LCD and the 6990 shifts into overdrive, delivering almost double the framerates in the likes of Crysis.
Those running 1,920 x 1,080 displays will still see a nice increase in performance, but only if all the anisotropic bells and antialiased whistles are enabled - this card will happily play the likes of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 with 16X AA, yet retain silky smooth with 60+ framerates. Having said that, if you've already got a top-shelf card such as the GTX 580, it'll only be the most demanding of games that will show much of a performance increase.
This card's performance is no surprise given that each of the GPUs is - for all intents and purposes - the same GPU as that found on the dazzlingly fast Radeon 6970 video cards. The 6990's GPUs are running a tiny bit slower (a mere 5.5% to be precise) to help keep the heat levels down, but otherwise they're delivering equal performance. Feeding these two hungry little critters is a generous 4GB of onboard memory, though we've heard that only 2GB of this is actually utilised due to the card's internal CrossFire architecture.
With great speed comes great TDP, and this card stretches the limits of what your PC can take. Be warned - place this card in a poorly ventilated case and you'll soon find a lovely molten silicon pattern around the base of the case. At idle it's a chilly 37W, but drive it to top power under some of today's most demanding games and it hits a scary 375W, making this the hottest card to hit the PC to date.
It also makes it the most energy-hungry video card to ever hit the PC. Throw anything less than a quality 1KW PSU at it and the Radeon HD 6990 will spit in your face, before calling your mother names that only make sense to Urban Dictionary aficionados. Obviously all this energy and heat has to go somewhere, which is why AMD has strapped a miniature helicopter to the top of it. Like a Huey at rest, it's barely audible, but take off and everybody in your suburb will know about it. We haven't run any audio tests yet, but given the insane TDP levels, it's safe to assume this will also be the noisiest card to yet shake our ear canals.
Surprisingly, the card is already available in Aussie stores, just days after the paper launch. Even more surprising is the fact we're not getting gouged too badly on pricing, with an average AU price of $850, just $150 more than the US$699 pricing. We're currently putting this card through its paces in our test lab with the help of an industrial cooler and free earplugs for all lab inhabitants - stay tuned for APC's final verdict on whether two GPUs really are better than one.