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

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Frame Pacing Prototype and Final Thoughts

A new challenger appears...

There is a catch to all of the data presented here today - AMD at the last minute provided me with a prototype driver with a completely from the ground up frame pacing algorithm in an attempt to fix the runt frame issues we have been seeing with CrossFire for nearly a year. However, this driver is not nearly close to end-user availability so we were not comfortable reviewing a product with it.  I don't expect this driver until the late-June or July time frame, but the early results look promising:

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It would appear that by implementing a software version of the frame metering technology that NVIDIA has had with SLI for some time now, AMD is able to improve frame pacing to improve our result with the Frame Rating performance measuring technology. 

Though I did not include these results with the Radeon HD 7990 review because I didn't want readers to think those were the actually performance results available when this card actually ships, I did put together another article that outlines the new driver changes and our first results from it.

Be sure you check out that article after finishing up our conclusion here for the early testing results with AMD's frame pacing prototype driver!

 

Performance

In a best case scenario, the new AMD Radeon HD 7990 would perform just slightly lower than a pair of Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards running in a CrossFire configuration, but doing so while taking up less space in your case, using less power and in general being a "cleaner" solution.  That is still the summation of performance that I came away with, it just unfortunate that the HD 7990 depends so heavily on CrossFire, a technology that still has problems with frame pacing and our Frame Rating performance testing. 

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ASUS' ARES II Beat AMD to the Punch

In a couple of games, like Skyrim and DiRT 3, the HD 7990 outputs some impressive numbers and when it all works well, the new dual-GPU option from AMD is actually faster than the GTX 690 and the GTX Titan, the competing $999 cards from NVIDIA's GeForce line.  Even Far Cry 3 at 1920x1080 is a better experience on the HD 7990 than the GTX 690, but at 2560x1440 that just isn't the case. For products in this market segment, we will always assume users are running 25x16/25x14 monitors or plan to very shortly.

Perhaps they are using multiple displays for Eyefinity/Surround setups - in that case, the HD 7990 has different but equally traumatic problems.  In our testing, nearly every other frame generated by all of our games tested are dropped and never shown to the gamer, resulting in frame rates at about half of what they should be and half of what is being reported by some other testing methods.  That's just not acceptable.  We are working on another story that directly compares the issues of Eyefinity and Surround that we hope to have up by next week along with some videos to demonstrate those complicated issues. 

 

Pricing and Availability

AMD tells us that the Radeon HD 7990 will be available within two weeks in the retail channel as well as through system builders. 

For a second, let's assume that AMD fixes all of these Frame Rating problems in a driver and we can just judge the cards in that way.  The HD 7990 is more expensive than a pair of HD 7970s in CrossFire but it does so while using less power and taking up only a single PCIe slot in your system.  It requires a lower wattage power supply and only uses two PCIe power connectors as well.  If you were looking to go dual-GPUs with a Radeon solution, I would pick that over the HD 7970s for sure. 

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There are more $1000 graphics cards than ever it seems...

But we can't really assume that today...  So how does it compare to the GTX 690 or the GTX Titan?  Honestly if you are going to spend $999 on a graphics cards you should really be deciding between the GTX 690 and the GTX Titan.  I would go the route of the Titan and its single GPU + 6GB frame buffer for multi-monitor setups and the GTX  690 for single, high resolution monitor users. 

 

Final Thoughts

I knew this review was going to turn out like this after publishing our faux-HD 7990 performance results last month.  With its performance completely dependent on CrossFire technology, the HD 7990 as a $1000 graphics card has a very hard time justifying its price.  With our early testing of the Catalyst prototype driver showing positive results though, there is yet hope for CrossFire to be fixed in this generation, at least for single monitor users!  But until that driver is perfected, is bug free and is presented to buyers as a made-for-primetime solution, I just cannot recommend an investment this large on the Radeon HD 7990.

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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