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Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
Sapphire 100310SR Radeon HD 6990
Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 Appearance
Antilles Detailed Features
Antilles Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX11: 3DMark11
DX11: Aliens vs Predator
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
DX11: BattleForge
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
Overclocking and Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
Sapphire Radeon 6990 Conclusion

Antilles Dual-BIOS Overclocking

The Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 video card offers a special dual-BIOS feature that enables users to boot-up their computer with either a standard or factory-overclocked configuration. As the most powerful graphics card on the market there's more then enough performance available without the added GPU overclock, but some gamers and hardware enthusiasts may want to take a chance at setting a benchmark record or give their frame rate an extra boost. BIOS position '2' is the default shipping position, and yields 830 MHz GPU clocks at 1.12 volts each. BIOS position '1' is a hardware overdrive option, and increases the clocks to 880 MHz while adjusting voltage to 1.175 volts.

WARNING: AMD's product warranty does not cover damages caused by overclocking, even when overclocking is enabled via AMD software and/or the Dual-BIOS Function on the AMD Radeon HD 6990.


AMD and NVIDIA already stretch their GPUs pretty thin in terms of overclocking head room, but there's a difference between thin and non-existent. In this section, Benchmark Reviews compares stock versus overclocked video card performance on the Radeon HD 6990. Here are the test results:

GPU Overclocking Results

Test Item Standard GPU Overclocked GPU Improvement
Radeon HD 6990 830 MHz 880 MHz 50 MHz GPU
DX9+SSAO: Mafia II 73.0 74.8 1.8 FPS (2.5%)
DX10: 3dMark Jane Nash 56.2 58.2 2.0 FPS (3.6%)
DX10: 3dMark Calico 45.4 47.3 1.9 FPS (4.2%)
DX11: 3dMark11 GT1 40.6 42.5 1.9 FPS (4.7%)
DX11: 3dMark11 GT2 50.0 52.1 2.1 FPS (4.2%)
DX11: 3dMark11 GT3 59.3 61.6 1.9 FPS (3.9%)
DX11: 3dMark11 GT4 28.9 30.3 1.4 FPS (4.8%)
DX11: Aliens vs Predator 76.0 78.7

2.7 FPS (3.6%)

DX11: Battlefield BC2 123.5 127.4 3.9 FPS (3.2%)
DX11: Metro 2033 54.1 55.2 1.1 FPS (2.0%)
DX11: Heaven 2.1 75.5 78.0 2.5 FPS (3.3%)

Overclocking Summary: Our baseline results show a 2.0~4.8% average increase in performance (at 1920x1200 resolution), which usually amounts to an added 2+ FPS in most games. That's not a whole lot of performance boost in relation to the increased power consumption, but every extra frame translates into an advantage over your enemy. In our overclocked testing with the Catalyst 11.4 'Preview' drivers, there were occasions when the driver would crash during a benchmark test, so it's unclear just how far enthusiasts can stretch the Radeon HD 6990. There were other issues to contend with, such as...

Radeon HD 6990 Temperatures

Benchmark tests are always nice, so long as you care about comparing one product to another. But when you're an overclocker, gamer, or merely a PC hardware enthusiast who likes to tweak things on occasion, there's no substitute for good information. Benchmark Reviews has a very popular guide written on Overclocking Video Cards, which gives detailed instruction on how to tweak a graphics cards for better performance. Of course, not every video card has overclocking head room. Some products run so hot that they can't suffer any higher temperatures than they already do. This is why we measure the operating temperature of the video card products we test.

To begin my testing, I use GPU-Z to measure the temperature at idle as reported by the GPU. Next, I use a modified version of FurMark's "Torture Test" to defeat NVIDIA's power monitoring and generate the maximum thermal load. This allows us to record absolute maximum GPU temperatures at high-power 3D mode. The ambient room temperature remained at a stable 20°C throughout testing. FurMark does two things extremely well: drives the thermal output of any graphics processor much higher than any video games realistically could, and it does so with consistency every time. Furmark works great for testing the stability of a GPU as the temperature rises to the highest possible output. The temperatures discussed below are absolute maximum values, and not representative of real-world temperatures while gaming:

Video Card Idle Temp Loaded Temp Loaded Noise Ambient
ATI Radeon HD 5850 39°C 73°C 7/10 20°C
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 26°C 65°C 4/10 20°C
AMD Radeon HD 6850 42°C 77°C 7/10 20°C
AMD Radeon HD 6870 39°C 74°C 6/10 20°C
ATI Radeon HD 5870 33°C 78°C 7/10 20°C
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti 27°C 78°C 5/10 20°C
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 32°C 82°C 7/10 20°C
ATI Radeon HD 6970 35°C 81°C 6/10 20°C
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 32°C 70°C 6/10 20°C
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 33°C 77°C 6/10 20°C
AMD Radeon HD 6990 40°C 84°C 8/10 20°C

Although the Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 uses an enhanced cooling solution with AMD's latest power efficiency technology, the temperatures did force the fan to run at audible levels most of the time. Resting at idle the Radeon HD 6990 measured 40°C in a 20°C room, which is actually on-par with some of the mid-range graphics cards. Once the GPU's were stressed to 100% using multi-GPU Furmark, the differences began to surface. The Radeon HD 6990 produced 84°C under full load (measured at 20°C ambient after ten minutes), which is similar to other video cards, but enough to force the cooling fan into a noisy high-power mode.



# RE: Sapphire 100310SR Radeon HD 6990Robert17 2011-03-16 19:30
Long ago I came to the realization that as I continued to build, re-build, and enjoy computers as a hobby, as well as for work, that one constant would be in play: continuous performance improvements. This is just another of those "wow" products. There've been many, but this kinda stands out in it's own way. 6990. Can't wait for the 18125's. Hope I'm around that long.
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# RE: RE: Sapphire 100310SR Radeon HD 6990Olin Coles 2011-03-16 20:28
At the rate we're seeing overlapping improvements we'll see something twice as fast in less than two years.
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# Here we go againCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-17 07:51
I just ordered mine on the Egg about 3 minutes ago. I'll make my own personal comments after giving it a whirl in my personal world. I might be eating my words from previous posted comments, lol, oh well, as life goes.

to be continued..............
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# 256bit?zac 2011-03-17 21:25
Is this 256bit? Or 256x2bit?
And if it is only 256-bit video frame buffer, why? Or how? previously all dual gpu setups had 2x the memory controller.
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# RE: 256bit?Olin Coles 2011-03-18 08:14
Like the I explain in the article, this product has two GPUs on one PCB. Each GPU offers a 256-bit memory bus to the video frame buffer. Having two GPUs won't make single 512-bit lane, but will double bandwidth to 2x 256-bit.
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# AMD 6990 reviewsJ.King 2011-06-27 22:03
Correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I can tell ALL the 6990's are made in exactly the same place. IE the card's are all identical except for the stickers on the front. So why the price difference? This was true for the 6950's and 6970's until recently when a bait and switch was pulled by various manufacturers XFX comes to mind. The card's were changed (BIOS switch was removed and other less obvious changes) but the model number's remained the same and they were still being sold as reference.
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# RE: AMD 6990 reviewsOlin Coles 2011-06-27 22:09
You are mostly correct. There are some differences depending on what the partner pays for (cooling/BIOS/overclock), but the engineering is generally all done by the manufacturer. There are a few who receive the engineering and make their own PCB, but it's rare. As for pricing, you'll have to take that up with the brands and retailers.
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