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AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB Review - Malta Gets Frame Rated

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Manufacturer: AMD

The card we have been expecting

Despite all the issues that were brought up with our new graphics performance testing methodology we are calling Frame Rating, there is little debate in the industry that AMD is making noise once again in the graphics field.  From the elaborate marketing and game bundles with all Radeon HD 7000 series cards over the last year to the hiring of Roy Taylor, VP of sales but also the company's most vocal supporter. 

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Along with the marketing though goes plenty of technology and important design wins.  With the dominance of the APU on the console side (Wii U, Playstation 4 and the next Xbox), AMD is making sure that the familiarity with its GPU architecture there pays dividends on the PC side as well.  Developers will be focusing on AMD's graphics hardware for 5-10 years with the console generation and that could result in improved performance and feature support for Radeon graphics for PC gamers. 

Today's release of the Radeon HD 7990 6GB Malta dual-GPU graphics card shows a renewed focus on high-end graphics markets since the release of the Radeon HD 7970 in January of 2012.  And while you may have seen something for sale previously with the HD 7990 name attached, those were custom designs built by partners, not by AMD. 

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Both ASUS and PowerColor currently have high-end dual-Tahiti cards for sale.  The PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13 used the brand directly but ASUS' ARES II kept away from the name and focused on its own high-end card brands instead. 

The "real" Radeon HD 7990 card was first teased at GDC in March and takes a much less dramatic approach to its design without being less impressive technically.  The card includes a pair of Tahiti, HD 7970-class GPUs on a single PCB with 6GB of total memory.  The raw specifications are listed here:

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Considering there are two HD 7970 GPUs on the HD 7990, the doubling of the major specs shouldn't be surprising though it is a little deceiving.  There are 8.6 billion transistors yes, but there are still 4.3 billion on each GPU.  Yes there are 4096 stream processors but only 2048 on each GPU requiring software GPU scaling to increase performance.  The same goes with texture fill rate, compute performance, memory bandwidth, etc.  The same could be said for all dual-GPU graphics cards though.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Radeon HD 7990 6GB Graphics Card!!

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Maybe more interesting is that AMD is claiming the HD 7990 improves on the noise levels of the Radeon line, coming in below the GeForce GTX TITAN, a card released earlier in the year that we were incredibly impressed with.  The problem is these results do not match our own testing - the Radeon HD 7990 proved to be louder than the TITAN and GTX 690 in our own results.  More on that later though.

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This should get PC gamers excited, especially considering I just recently was able to purchase a 50-in 4K television for $1299!

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The Radeon HD 7990 will also be a part of the currently running Never Settle Reloaded bundle, but with the biggest collection of games we have ever seen!  You get eight full PC titles when you buy one of these cards - Bioshock Infinite, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon, Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.  That is a hell of a great collection of titles and even if you own a couple of them already, this bundle is worth a few hundred dollars at least.  It puts the copy of Metro: Last Light that you get with the GeForce GTX 690 / TITAN to shame...

The Radeon HD 7990 6GB Graphics Card

Here it is, the AMD Radeon HD 7990 in all of its glory. 

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Continuing with the black and red color scheme, the HD 7990 is a good looking card though I do think it lacks the polish and class that both the GeForce GTX 690 and GTX TITAN exude.  The HD 7990 uses a very large heatsink that runs basically the entire length of the board with three fans that apply direct air over the fins, rather that using a system that attempts to move the air from one side of the card to the rear exhaust.  This is one of the reasons AMD was able to lower the noise levels of the card, well below what the HD 7970 reference design offered.

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The display connections on the HD 7990 permit for five simultaneous displays, four mini DisplayPort and one dual-link DVI.  If you want to connect six monitors to it though you are going to have to hunt down one of those mythical MST DisplayPort hubs...good luck with that.   Five outputs though allows for an Eyefinity display and two more auxiliaries that should be enough for just about everyone.

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Looking at the back of the card we see a plate that protects the rear PCB (a good thing) and the two GPUS spaced out on the PCB. 

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The HD 7990 does support CrossFire configurations so you can added another HD 7990 and in theory a single GPU HD 7970 card for triple CrossFire X scaling.

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Two 8-pin ATX power connectors fuel the HD 7990 but are also set out just a bit from being flush with the card design.  While that definitely keeps the card from looking as sleek as it could, it does make for a much easier installation and removal of the PCIe connectors.  Function over form in this case.

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If you are interested in board length, the HD 7990 is definitely the longest of the competitors here today.  In the photo above you can compare it to the GTX 690 (middle) and the GTX TITAN (top). 

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Finally, for those Peeping-Toms out there, here is the HD 7990 stripped of all its covering, revealing the pair of Tahiti GPUs and the PCI Express 3.0 PLX bridge chip.  That chip allows for as much as 96 GB/s of inter-GPU bandwidth so there won't be any issues with communication speeds and in fact it COULD improve things compared to pair of HD 7970s in some cases.

April 23, 2013 | 10:05 PM - Posted by Yang Ji (not verified)

Very nice review Ryan. FPS does mean everything. Great methodology.

April 24, 2013 | 06:05 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

FPS won't mean everything anymore as soon as amd has a single feature like PhysX or TXAA that nVidia does not - then we will hear how IT MATTERS and is of utmost import, and definitely makes the purchasing decision for everyone...

I can hardly wait... since AMD is about 5 or 6 massive features behind nVidia, and all those of course do not matter at all, only fps, which as we all now must admit instead of just me saying it for years, amd FAILS AT cf FPS.

Man I tell you, I am so, so sick of it, I have been so sick of it for so long, for so many years, and now finally, I bask IN THE HOLY GLORY OF THE TRUTH ! AMD SUCKS VERY BADLY !

I told you all so for years, while I got kicked and stomped with lies and fanboy emotes gone wild, man is it ever good to be totally freaking vindicated.

I will add, no thanks and a pox on all you amd wackadoos that screamed for years about your amd loser cards. I have recieved zero apologies from all of you, and in fact, have seen EXACTLY ZERO APOLOGIES ON THE WEB FROM ANY OF THEM ! SITE OWNERS, AND ALL THE POSTERS !

Thus we can be certain it will all happen again.
Sigh.

April 25, 2013 | 06:03 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

no.

April 28, 2013 | 05:10 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You deserve nVdia.If it makes it easier to have special names for things that all modern graphics cards are capable of.

When nVidia gets Full directX11.1 support we'll talk.

April 23, 2013 | 10:07 PM - Posted by Boxes (not verified)

Well I was waiting on getting my GPU(s) until this the 7990 was reviewed to make sure I wasn't missing out on a new CFX patch. Now the 780 is coming out in May....

I CANT TAKE INTEL HD4000 ANY LONGER MAN.

What do with $1200? Dual 680 4GB or Single Titan OR Wait for 780 and pick up a couple of those.

April 24, 2013 | 12:25 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You could buy a single GTX 680 and then contribute to our Indiegogo project?  :)

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pc-perspective-video-set-and-productio...

April 24, 2013 | 12:44 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

Ohh Ryan....

Spamming your own site :(

Still If something, instead of a 680 it should be a Titan and then contribute a bit to PcPer :P

April 24, 2013 | 12:37 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

If you can't wait any longer to spend the money I would say Titan, as both dual GPU solutions still are not as smooth as a single card. And far more power hungry.

April 23, 2013 | 10:27 PM - Posted by derz

You can probably kill a man if you fling some of those cards at some unfortunate sap.

April 24, 2013 | 12:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This testing methodology is deliberately created to make Nvidia look good.
I watch other reviews and the frame times don't look that bad.
Here Nvidia looks great and AMD look very bad. Plus a saw reviews where average and minimal fps are quite tight.
Others also used the
AMD Catalyst Frame_Pacing_Prototype v2 For Radeon HD 7990

and it showed nice reduction of frame latency. In time it can only get better

April 24, 2013 | 12:49 AM - Posted by Prodeous (not verified)

Testing methodology isn't deliberately created to make Nvidia look good, it was to show the issues associated with dual GPU.

The only reason NVidia cooperated was that they knew they had the issue fixed where as AMD ignored it for some time.

If Nvidia still had the issue, they would never participate in developing this testing methodology.

Luckily this method of not looking at FPS (started up by TechReport site) opened our eyes to something we have seen for some time but simply accepted it. And it Forced AMD to actually do something about it. And I have to say, they did an amazing job on it.

April 24, 2013 | 02:46 AM - Posted by rrr (not verified)

Read the last page, PCPer mentioned that driver too, just as a reminder it exists and shows promising results. But it isn't user ready yet, so doing entire review on it would be stupid.

April 24, 2013 | 07:31 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Read Ryan's other article here:  http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/Frame-Rating-AMD-Improves-CrossFire-Prototype-Driver

April 24, 2013 | 09:13 AM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

If you want another view, look at THG's version: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7990-review-benchmark,3486...

The result is the same, though their definition of a runt frame is far more forgiving (less than 2% of the screen, or 20 lines worth). However, they added objective testing at the end, with several different people taking blind tests. All of them found the 690 was smoother.

April 27, 2013 | 04:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Also note Ryan is using REALLY old 314.07 drivers.

NV has 314.14, 314.22 and even 320's out now (heck they had a few others in there also). Not sure why he keeps using an ancient driver other than saving a lot of retesting.

NV has much higher scores in almost every game now.

Start testing with a new driver please. Every other review I've seen uses 320. You are at least a few months behind.

So AMD would look even worse vs the latest drivers.

April 24, 2013 | 01:30 AM - Posted by arbiter

7970 in CF is better deal if you are going to overclock the card. Seeing how power envelope and constraints is limited on this card, there is very little overclocking headroom.

April 24, 2013 | 01:55 AM - Posted by Mountainlifter

Great Review Ryan and team.

Now what about those 780 rumors that just hit?

April 24, 2013 | 02:46 AM - Posted by Howie Doohan (not verified)

Message to AMD, fix your damn drivers! I agree they are headed in the right direction but they're still miles behind Nvidia on this issue.

April 24, 2013 | 06:49 AM - Posted by FenceMan (not verified)

Ryan,

I love your site, podcasts, and reviews. I cannot for the life of me figure out why you have once again railroaded AMD without trying any of the publicly available solutions to fix your issues? Can you at least acknowledge that Radeon Pro exists? I understand it is a third party program, but we are PC gamers, we tweak things, is it really that far of a stretch to imagine that in the real world we take advantage of Radeon Pro? I sometimes spend hours tweaking game settings before I actually start playing the game, I am sure most of your readers do the same, why do you continue to ignore the obvious?

April 24, 2013 | 07:30 AM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Those things really didn't fix much and introduced other issues (Ryan covered that in an article that had the videos you could download).

 

Also, this!  http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Graphics-Cards/Frame-Rating-AMD-Improves-CrossFire-Prototype-Driver

April 24, 2013 | 08:26 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

For this review I didn't put a high focus on the RadeonPro solution because I knew and was playing with the prototype drivers from AMD - that is the REAL solution.  I will still tryout RadeonPro eventually but that is just a hack or patch job in reality.

April 24, 2013 | 08:44 AM - Posted by Fenceman (not verified)

All due respect call it what you like it works??

Really love to see in depth report based on your experiences which I recognize are greater than most of us.

April 24, 2013 | 09:16 AM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

RadeonPro fixes the problem by limiting FPS. However, it has at least a couple draw backs you will see noted by different people.

1) It does lower your average FPS to work.
2) If a game has different average fps in different areas, you have to lower it to the worst case, lower FPS even more (skyrim users have to limit FPS for outdoors, even though indoors has much higher FPS)

April 24, 2013 | 09:00 AM - Posted by Fenceman (not verified)

http://www.overclock.net/t/1363712/pcper-frame-rating-part-3-first-resul...

Its fair to say that AMD currently requires more tweaking, its not fair to say issues cant be corrected, just my opinion. Look forward to the podcast later.

April 24, 2013 | 08:14 AM - Posted by FenceMan (not verified)

Maybe I just dont get or see it.... I had 7950 crossfire and picked up a GTX 690 somewhat cheap on Ebay and got frustrated very quickly when I couldn't get it to work as well as what I had. Tomb Raider was brutal if I turned on the hair and Bioshock took a lot of tweaking to get me where I was with the 7950's. Just sold the 690 (little profit bonus) and ordered a couple of Vapor X 7970's....

April 24, 2013 | 09:20 AM - Posted by bystander (not verified)

Tomb Raider had problems with the 314 drivers on Nvidia, the drivers that were current on release. Going back to 310 make it run great. I believe the most recent 314.22 drivers fixed the issue as well. Bioshock infinite is having troubles with both cards.

Anyways, the point isn't about FPS, but performance. Tomb Raider is particularly bad on crossfire by all accounts: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/radeon-hd-7990-review-benchmark,3486...

April 24, 2013 | 10:02 AM - Posted by Victah Von Doom

Hey Ryan i just wanted to say congratulation on the 10k mark you and your team truly deserve it. And don't let these trolls influence you man you're doing an amazing job. You write it we read it. Im going to contribute $10 this weekend.

No homo
i love you man

April 24, 2013 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Fenceman (not verified)

It is possible to disagree without being a "troll".....

April 24, 2013 | 02:31 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Thank you for your support!

April 24, 2013 | 11:10 AM - Posted by Victah Von Doom

Yes It is possible to disagree without being a "troll" but the real question is are you in a position to disagree.

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