|Sapphire 100310SR Radeon HD 6990|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Wednesday, 16 March 2011|
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Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 Appearance
The Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 video card (model 100310SR) is an exclusive product for elite gamers and hardware enthusiasts. The $709.99 (Newegg) price tag that accompanies the Radeon HD 6990 video card pushes the envelope of must budgets, but it's a penny-wise alternative to buying two separate Radeon HD 6970's, which would consume more power and emit more heat. Inside the package, you can expect: the Sapphire 100310SR Radeon HD 6990 graphics card, extended-length CrossFireX bridge, one mini-DisplayPort to passive single-link DVI adapter, mini-DisplayPort to active single-link DVI adapter, and mini-DisplayPort to passive HDMI adapter.
High-performance video cards often emphasize function over fashion, and usually offer more attractive looks on the display screen than on the hardware itself. Still, that doesn't mean the AMD Radeon HD 6990 isn't an interesting specimen. Completely redesigned to cool a pair of Cayman GPUs, the 6990 takes on a look that is unique to the Radeon family. The first obvious difference is the relocated blower fan, which is now positioned directly at the center of the board so that it can best cool the opposing Cayman GPUs. Later into this article, we'll see how well this design works.
Current AMD Radeon HD 6900-series video cards already look similar to their previous generation of 6800- and 5800-series products, and the Antilles design adheres to the newly minted tradition of boxy black fan shroud-ed video cards. A few add-in card partners will dress-up their Antilles parts with the simple application of an adhesive graphic applied over the top of the fan shroud, with potential color changes to certain plastic components. Otherwise, expect all Radeon HD 6990 to look the same.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 may occupy the same profile as its predecessor, the Radeon HD 5970, but that simply confirms how big this card is. Measuring a full 12" long by 1.25" tall and 3.75" wide, the Radeon HD 6990 stretches past the 11" long Radeon HD 5870, 10.5" long GeForce GTX 580 or Radeon HD 6970, and 9.75" long Radeon HD 6870.
At its core, Antilles is a multi-monitor video card. One single dual-link DVI (DL-DVI) port joins four mini-DisplayPort 1.2 outputs on the 6990. The included adapters will enable 3x1 gaming right out of the box with DVI monitors, but with additional display adapters or DisplayPort monitors, you will be able to drive up to five displays in portrait Eyefinity (5x1 Portrait mode). AMD's HD3D technology currently supports only one 3D display, with plans for multi-monitor 3D available in the future, so the Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 could be the perfect fit for gamers looking to plan ahead for multi-display 3D setups.
Because there is a 40nm Cayman GPU embedded at each end, the blower fan orientation is positioned dead-center between them both. This also means that heated exhaust air comes out of both ends, with half of it recirculating back into the computer case. CrossFire configurations are possible, but AMD recommends at least one card slot of space between Radeon HD 6990's. Gamers with CrossFireX sets must ensure proper cooling inside their computer case for these video cards to receive fresh air.
The Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 requires two 8-pin PCI-Express power connections for normal operation. AMD suggests that maximum TDP power demands are 375 watts using PowerTune with the BIOS set to 830MHz, or 450 watts when set to 880MHz. We confirm this with our own power testing results, discussed later near the end of this article.
AMD announced other new developments on the same day they launched the Radeon HD 6990 video card. The first is their Catalyst Control Center 11.4 'Preview' driver, but AMD also unveiled new branding names based on the hardware system configuration. On an AMD based platform the driver will be called AMD VISION Engine Control Center, and when a discrete AMD GPU is used with any Intel CPU it will be called AMD Catalyst Control Center.