UPDATED: Red camp strikes back
AMD has every reason to be happy today - the company launched its Radeon HD 6990 and it earned the title of the world’s fastest card. The card uses two Cayman XT GPUs and will churn out some seriously impressive performance.
Naturally, two chips on one card mean more heat and power as well, but this card is not for the faint of heart to begin with. Sapphire kindly provided us with its HD 6990 and we’ll briefly take a look just what the card offers.
UPDATED: We’ve managed to spend some quality time with Sapphire HD 6990 and today we’ll show the results. No, not that kind of quality time, thank you very much.
The card was launched at around €600 but you can get it today for €560 here.
As you already know, Radeon HD 6990 a.k.a. Antilles is currently the fastes graphics card around. However, Nvidia today launches its dual-GPU GTX 590 and it’s quite likely that AMD will hand over its crown. However, moving the little switch on HD 6990 results in a boost from 830MHz to 880MHz. Whether this is enough to beat the GTX 590, we’ll see soon enough.
The following GPUZ shots show performance difference with regular and OC BIOS:
In the meantime, AMD launched the new HD 6990 driver, Catalyst 11.4 preview, which brought about improvement in certain games. You may recall that dual-GPU cards were almost exclusively hindered by drivers upon launch, and the latest example of that is delayed launch of the GTX 590 due to incomplete drivers.
HD 6990’s dual BIOS was a subject of many debates, asAMD won’t officially cover the OC BIOS, i.e. the boost to 880MHz, with its warranty. However, many partners decided to side with their customers and decided to cover it with full warranty regardless of clocks.
It turned out that the card runs stable at 880MHz, so we’ve included the OC BIOS results in our tables.
Sapphire HD 6990 4GB GDDR5 PCI-E DVI-I/QUAD Mini DP is a 30 cm long graphics card. Thanks to the 2GB memory buffer per GPU, gaming on 6 monitors should be a breeze.
As you already probably know, Radeon HD 6990 is the largest of the HD 6000 series, comparable perhaps only to the HD 5970. Our today’s sample is based on reference design but it comes with Sapphire’s sticker symbolizing twin GPU engine underneath.
Sapphire HD 6990 comes with a dual-link DVI out and four mini-DisplayPort (version 1.2) outs.
Sapphire threw in a few dongles in case you require an HDMI or DVI connectors. Among them is the active single-link mini-DP-to-DVI adapter which can come in handy for connecting the third DVI display.
All the cards that launched today run at 830MHz for the GPU and come with 4GB of GDDR5 memory (2GB for each GPU) clocked at 5000MHz and paired up with a 2x256-bit memory interface.
Just like on the rest of the HD 6900 series cards, there is a BIOS switch that takes the card up to 880MHz for the GPU.
The central fan takes case of cooling where temperatures don’t exceed 87°C. Although the card is audible, it’s nowhere near unbearably loud. However, you’ll hear the airflow well.
The card consumes around 37W in idle mode, which isn't half bad considering that a single HD 6870 consumes 22W.
On the other hand, HD 6990 consumes around 335W and if you intend to overclock it, you should know that it can draw up to 370W. This means that it will draw about 125W more than HD 6970, via two 8-pin connectors.
However, all those watts aren't in vain and the card already boasts the title of the fastest graphics cards around.
Aliens vs Predator
Sapphire HD 6990 is currently the fastest graphics card around, although Nvidia will attempt to snatch the throne with its GTX 590. HD 6990 beats GTX 580 by about 30%.
Radeon HD 6990 launched on March 7 and AMD improved its performance witt the new driver – Catalyst 11.4 early preview. On launch day, Sapphire's HD 6990 cost about €600 but you can find it today priced at around €550. As one would expect, performance is great, but what else to expect from two Caymans.
However, consumption and loundness aren't quite the HD 6990's thing. On the other hand, not every card will allow for using 5 or 6 displays and still chewing up pretty much anything you throw at it.
There's no doubt about it - Sapphire's HD 6990 is a killer card. However, if you've developed a taste for Sapphire's HD 6990 it might we wiser to wait a bit more as Nvidia announced the GTX 590 at lower price than initial, which may prompt AMD to do some price adjustments of its own. In any case, HD 6990 is a card that will provide some serious performance, be it a 30'' inch display or full blown Eyefinity setup.