4GB of RAM, 2 GPUs and 1 performance crown; welcome HD6990

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 8, 2011 - 11:50 AM |
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Perhaps the most surprising thing is that the HD6990 is no longer than the already huge HD6970, not surprising is that the GPUs are the newer Cayman architecture and not the Evergreen that we saw on the 5xxx series.  The power draw is impressive, even more so if you plan on overclocking the card or go completely insane and try to set up a Crossfire system.  The performance is even more impressive, taking on SLI and Crossfire systems with ease in most scenarios though Ryan is quick to point out that some of those dual card setups will run you less cash that the current king of the single slot graphics card.

 

"As an enthusiast myself, it is hard to argue with the raw performance that you see when playing with the Radeon HD 6990 4GB graphics card. In a single PCI Express slot you can get the fastest GPU computing solution in the world and support for as many as five monitors and you can't say that from any other AMD or NVIDIA options on the market today. NVIDIA has not tried very hard to hide the fact that they are coming out with a dual-GPU option to compete very soon and if they can get two GTX 570 class GPUs on a single PCB, they might have a strong competitor."

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Manufacturer: AMD
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Antilles Architecture and Design

The AMD Radeon HD 6990 4GB card has been known by the media and even gamers since the first announcements from the Cayman launch last year but finally today we are able to discuss the technology behind it and the gaming performance it will provide users willing to shell out the $700 it will take to acquire. Stop in and see if your mortgage is worth this graphics card!

"Look at the size of that thing!"
-Wedge Antilles, in reference to the first Death Star

Graphics card that are this well endowed don't come along very often; the last was the Radeon HD 5970 from AMD back in November of 2009.  In a world where power efficiency is touted as a key feature it has become almost a stigma to have an add-in card in your system that might pull 350-400 watts of power.  Considering we were just writing about a complete AMD Fusion platform that used 34 watts IN TOTAL under load, it is an easy task to put killer gaming products like the HD 6990 in an unfair and unreasonable light. 

But we aren't those people.  Do most people need a $700, 400 watt graphics card?  Nope.  Do they want it though?  Yup.  And we are here to show it to you.

A new take on the dual-GPU design

Both AMD and NVIDIA have written this story before: take one of your top level GPUs and double them up on a single PCB or card design to plug into a single PCI Express slot and get maximum performance.  CrossFire (or SLI) in a single slot - lots to like about that. 

The current GPU lineup paints an interesting picture with the Fermi-based GTX 500 series from NVIDIA and the oddly segregated AMD HD 6800 and HD 6900 series of cards.  Cayman, the redesigned architecture AMD released as the HD 6970 and HD 6950, brings a lot of changes to the Evergreen design used in previous cards.  It has done fairly well in the market though it didn't improve the landscape for AMD discrete graphics as much as many had thought it would and NVIDIA's graphics chips have remained very relevant. 

With the rumors swirling about a new dual-GPU option from AMD there was some discussion on whether it would be an HD 6800 / Evergreen based design or an HD 6900 / Cayman contraption.  Let's just get that mystery out of the way:

With the VLIW4 microarchitecture we absolutely are seeing a dual Cayman card and with a surprisingly high clock speed of 830 MHz out of the gate with lots of headroom for the overclocker in all of us.  There are 1536 stream processors per GPU for a total of 3072 and a raw computing power of more than 5 TeraFLOPs.   This is analogous to the HD 6970 GPU that shares the 1536 shader count but runs at a clock rate of 880 MHz.

The memory architecture runs a bit slower as well at 5.0 Gbps (versus the 5.5 Gbps on the HD 6970) but we are still getting a full 2GB per GPU for a grand-spanking-total of 4GB on this single card.  Load power on the board is rated at "<375 watts" and just barely makes the budget for PCI Express based solutions with the provided dual 8-pin power connectors. 

You might remember that AMD introduced a dual-BIOS switch with the HD 6900 cards as well that would allow users to easily revert back to the original BIOS and settings should their overclocking attempts take a turn for the worse.  For this card though, they are taking a slightly different approach by having the switch pull duties as an overclocking option directly, pushing up the clock frequency from 830 MHz to 880 MHz.  That might not seem like that dramatic of a change (and it isn't) but more noticeable is the change in voltage on the GPUs (going from 1.12v to 1.175v) and what that does to the power consumption and PowerTune options on the card for further tweaking.  More on that below.
 

A liquid cooled HD6970 from Powercolor

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 7, 2011 - 06:49 PM |
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The LCS in PowerColor Radeon HD 6970 LCS indicates that this card is liquid cooled, thanks to EK Waterblocks.  The base speeds are above reference of course, 925MHz GPU and 1425MHz GDDR5 out of the box and once Overclockers Club got a hold of it those clocks went to 1021MHz and 1520MHz.   Even with that overclock the temperatures stayed reasonable and ran silently.

"This block when used in a liquid cooled system will deliver exceptional cooling performance with the card never breaking the 50 Celsius mark at 45C. What has to be the biggest advantage of the card is not what it has but what it does not have. That ungodly loud fan noise when the fan is pushed to the 100% level. No howling beast to make you wonder why you bought the card. The overclocks achieved on this card were 1021MHz on the GPU core and 1520MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Easily better than any HD 6970 I have tested, something I have to attribute to the exceptional cooling delivered by the Ek block."

Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:

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The difference a gigabyte makes, HD6950 2GB versus the 1GB version

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 25, 2011 - 03:42 PM |
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The new Radeon HD 6950 1GB was released by vendors looking to bring the price down on AMD's card, it is exactly the same design barring the missing gigabyte of GDDR5.  The price difference is minimal, seeing HD6950 1GB models at $255 with the full 2GB model costing a mere $22 more.  More imp

Source: [H]ard|OCP

New Afterburner V2.1.0 available today

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 25, 2011 - 01:06 PM |
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New Predator Feature Enables In-Game Video Capture at Any Time

Source: MSI
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Manufacturer: General
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The eternal debate

Without a doubt, one of the most frequent questions we get here at PC Perspective, on the PC Perspective Podcast or even This Week in Computer Hardware, is "do I need to upgrade my graphics card yet?" The problem is this question has very different answers based on your use cases, what games you like to play or are planning on playing in the future, what other hardware is in your system, etc and thus can be a very complicated situation.

New flavours of 570, an overclocked, overvolted card from ASUS

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 14, 2011 - 02:18 PM |
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The ASUS ENGTX570 is a card that supports a piece of software called VoltageTweak which will help you push your overclock further.  [H]ard|OCP tested it out against other 570s as well as the AMD HD6970 and found that they were pretty much running neck and neck.  If you are looking for a card that is overclocke
Source: [H]ard|OCP

Thermalright's Shaman is really big but knows what to do with your GPU

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 8, 2011 - 02:30 PM |
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Thermalright's Shaman GPU Cooler should fit any modern graphics card on the market, but it is really intended to tame the heat of a Fermi based card.  That cooling power comes at the cost of space, once [H]ard|OCP had fully assembled the cooler, it was large enough to block 3 slots in addition to the one used by the card.  That will make setting up CrossFire/SLI a rather daunting task, try finding a bridge long enough to connect the two cards.  On the plus side, it com

Source: [H]ard|OCP

The mysterious non-OEM GeForce GT 440

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 3, 2011 - 01:35 PM |
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You might have caught some mumbling about the lack of fanfare or reviews of the GT 440 on last nights PC Perspective Podcast, a card that has been available to OEMs for a while but is now being released for general consumption ... with a few changes.  We know have found one.

Source: techPowerUp!

Crysis 2 looks like it isn't that hard your PC specs after all

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 2, 2011 - 04:55 PM |
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"Yeah, but does it play Crysis?"