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Written by Bruce Normann   
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
PowerColor AX6990 4GBD5-M4D Video Card
Closer Look: PowerColor Radeon HD 6990
PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Just Cause 2
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo
DX11: H.A.W.X. 2
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: METRO 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
PowerColor HD 6990 Temperatures
Overclocking
AMD Radeon HD 6990 Final Thoughts
PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 Conclusion

Just Cause 2 Performance Tests

"Just Cause 2 sets a new benchmark in free-roaming games with one of the most fun and entertaining sandboxes ever created," said Lee Singleton, General Manager of Square Enix London Studios. "It's the largest free-roaming action game yet with over 400 square miles of Panaun paradise to explore, and its 'go anywhere, do anything' attitude is unparalleled in the genre." In his interview with IGN, Peter Johansson, the lead designer on Just Cause 2 said, "The Avalanche Engine 2.0 is no longer held back by having to be compatible with last generation hardware. There are improvements all over - higher resolution textures, more detailed characters and vehicles, a new animation system and so on. Moving seamlessly between these different environments, without any delay for loading, is quite a unique feeling."

Gigabyte_GTX_480_SOC_Video_Card_JustCause2_Game.jpg

Just Cause 2 is one of those rare instances where the real game play looks even better than the benchmark scenes. It's amazing to me how well the graphics engine copes with the demands of an open world style of play. One minute you are driving through the jungles, the next you're diving off a cliff, hooking yourself to a passing airplane, and parasailing onto the roof of a hi-rise building. The ability of the Avalanche Engine 2.0 to respond seamlessly to these kinds of dramatic switches is quite impressive. It's not DX11 and there's no tessellation, but the scenery goes by so fast there's no chance to study it in much detail anyway.

Although we didn't use the feature in our testing, in order to equalize the graphics environment between NVIDIA and ATI, the GPU water simulation is a standout visual feature that rivals DirectX 11 techniques for realism. There's a lot of water in the environment, which is based around an imaginary Southeast Asian island nation, and it always looks right. The simulation routines use the CUDA functions in the Fermi architecture to calculate all the water displacements, and those functions are obviously not available when using an ATI-based video card. The same goes for the Bokeh setting, which is an obscure Japanese term for out-of-focus rendering. Neither of these techniques uses PhysX, but they do use specific computing functions that are only supported by NVIDIA's proprietary CUDA architecture.

There are three scenes available for the in-game benchmark, and I used the last one, "Concrete Jungle" because it was the toughest and it also produced the most consistent results. That combination made it an easy choice for the test environment. All Advanced Display Settings were set to their highest level, and Motion Blur was turned on, as well.

Just_Cause_2_1920.jpg

The results for the Just Cause 2 benchmark show an interesting comparison between the various contenders. They look similar to the ones we saw for the New Calico test on 3DMark vantage, just compressed a bit. Obviously, they use completely different rendering engines, but both tests have massive amounts of environment to render. The similar performance of the Radeon HD 6870 and HD 5870 is telling, as an example of how AMD was able to match performance levels with 1/3 less silicon this time around, with the 6870. The HD 6990 continues to perform well above both of them in CrossFireX configuration, showing no signs of any performance slippage due to immature drivers or other potential hiccups.

Let's take a look at one more popular gaming benchmark, which was released recently with PhysX support, yet it relies on DirectX 9 features. It's a wonderful blend of modern graphics technology and classic crime scenes, called Mafia II.

Graphics Card

Cores

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock

Memory

Interface

MSI GeForce GTX 460 (N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC)

336

725

1450

900

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

MSI Radeon HD 6870 (R6870-2PM2D1GD5)

1120

900

N/A

1050

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 (PCS+ AX5870 1GBD5-PPDHG2)

1600

875

N/A

1250

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

PowerColor PCS++ Radeon HD6950 (AX6950 2GBD5-P22DHG)

1408

800

N/A

1250

2.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 480 (GV-N480SO-15I Super Over Clock)

480

820

1640

950

1536 MB GDDR5

384-bit

PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 (AX6990 4GBD5-M4D)

3072

830

N/A

1250

4.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit



 

Comments 

 
# RE: PowerColor AX6990 4GBD5-M4D Video CardRobert17 2011-03-20 15:16
Well done Bruce. After all the effort, sacrifice, and no telling how many years of enthusiasm/experience you bring to the fray, I feel compelled to offer a sacrifice of my own. Since the card is out of warranty, I volunteer to take it off your hands for long term testing, say a couple of years, and deal with any and all warranty issues in your stead. I know, I know, my altruism knows no bounds.

(wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Good job.
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# Counter OfferBruceBruce 2011-03-20 16:19
Thanks for the props, Robert. As for your boundless altruism, I'll go you one better. You put gas in my wife's car for the time that you have the card, and it's a deal. [%^)
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# RE: Counter OfferRobert17 2011-03-20 16:22
Does she actually drive it?
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# Just got mineCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 06:43
I know this was written for the PowerColor card but I just received my HIS yesterday and installed it last night. I guess my bottle neck is my resolution and my monitor. I have a 28" 60Hz, 1920x1200 Hanns-G monitor with 3ms response. I just don't see the gain from this series and going back to my 2x 465 GTX Nvidias or my 2x 580 GTX's in SLI. For the ATI fans I also have 2x 5850's in X-Fire and they also run like beasts. Its kinda like having a Race Car that does 205+ MPH but because you live in a heavy school zone there are always police which limits your choice to either follow the law or get arrested (Kind of a bad analogy but I'm sure you get my drift).

So now I have spent $720 on this card, damn I need a new hobby, I've now spent over $2,500 on video cards in the last 6 months.
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# RE: Just got mineOlin Coles 2011-03-22 07:17
I'm curious what kind of games you're playing, because that could be an indication of your bottleneck. Anything will play Battlefield or Starcraft at high frame rates, but the same cannot be said for titles such as Metro 2033.
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# RE RE: Just got mineCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 07:33
I'm playing Battlefield Bad Company 2 and a few other FPS games. I figured that was my problem. And BFBC2 is more CPU intensive, I playing Battlefield on my AM3 1090T 6 Core which is more than enough for that game. I need to start HA (Hardware Anonymous) for geeks, but I'm afraid it would be a blood bath of which brand name was better, lol.
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# A thoughtCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 06:59
How come we are pitting this against the Nvidia 400 series and not a set of 560ti's in SLI or a a single 580 GTX? I notice that the scores are up against a set of 460 GTX's in SLI and a couple of 6xxx series in cross-fire mode but none of the big cards from Nvidia in SLI. Was this because of a price to power thresh hold? Or because of availability in cards? I know my 2 580 GTX's his the $1,100 mark when I purchased both so maybe it is unfair to compare it to a single card that is $400 less, but still it would be nice to have the scores posted for comparison for both sides of the fan base. Hands down though, I love this 6990, its fast, sweet, and feels like there is a lot of technology in it. Even Nvidia Fan Boys would be impressed with the sheer speed of this card.
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# RE: A thoughtOlin Coles 2011-03-22 07:18
If we had two of everything, we'd put them in SLI or CrossFire. Since one card arrives as another is ready to launch, we're restricted by deadlines and must move to the next project.
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# RE RE: A thoughtCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 07:34
Do you have to send back the cards your given? If not what do you do with them? Or do I dare ask, lol.
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# RE: RE RE: A thoughtOlin Coles 2011-03-22 07:37
Only a few products get returned, but it's a matter of finding time to review more than one product of the same series before the next arrives. These reviews take more time than you could imagine (I invite you to try sometime), and after one article in published a manufacturer usually has something new in our hands.
All of my video cards sit in a giant cardboard box, and get sold about 16 months after they've launched and gone EOL.
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# RE: RE RE: RE: A thoughtCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 08:43
I have done Bench Marking in the past with all new hardware, always trying to squeeze that extra 100 points out, lol, I don't do much anymore just because of the time it takes. I am a business owner and there are days where I start at 6am and get home at 10pm only to find that I have a 1/2 dozen build outs that are to be done by the next am, so I pull a 24hr shift that turns into a good 36hr shift, lol, did I mention I have a wife and 5 kids?...................so the drama continues in the life of "Im a computer engineer/network security consultant/Father/Guy who likes to game/Guy who races cars in the SCCA in the season which is here now/Guy who builds computers and provides support for local residents and business's and also donates computers to new local schools that burnt down 2 years, lol, yes I love life and all it offers..........did I mention I love Chinese food and hot pockets?
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# RE: RE: RE RE: RE: A thoughtOlin Coles 2011-03-22 08:48
Replace kids with friends, keep computer engineer/network security consultant/SCCA racer, and add target shooting enthusiast. Also replace Chinese food with Thai, and hot pockets for Wheat Thins, and we're on the same page.
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# Thanks BruceCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 07:15
Thanks Bruce for the in-depth article, it was very informative and I'm sure will encourage decisions on owning this card. Keep up the good work.
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# You're WelcomeBruceBruce 2011-03-22 20:34
Olin's spot on about product availability v. time to do the review. As Einstein said, "The reason time exists is so that everything doesn't all happen at once." My corollary to that is, "Space exists so that everything doesn't all happen at the same place."

So, check out Olin's HD 6990 reviews for comparisons to the GTX 570 and 580 cards. I was surprised that the 580 SLI didn't wipe the mat with the competitors. It was faster, but not in another league, you know....

I'm very curious to see how well NVIDIA manages the balance between electrical power, heat and processing power with their rumored dual-GPU card. At this stage of the game (40nm GPUs), there's only so much juice that you can pump through a single card and the winner is the one that's more efficient per watt. We'll have to wait another week or so, to see.

FWIW, I prefer Triscuits....LOL
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# RE: You're WelcomeOlin Coles 2011-03-22 20:37
Ah, Triscuits and wine cheese. One of my nostalgic favorites!

PS: Check back here at 6AM PST on 03/24 for "The Next Big Thing".
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# RE: RE: RE RE RE: RE: A thoughtCom-Tek Chris 2011-03-22 09:07
My wife pushes the wheat thins/Crackling Oat Bran Cereal.....a lot! And I just tried Thai recently, the curry wasn't to bad. My goal is to lose 30 pounds this year. I just got over the Flu and I have kept 12 pounds of that off, lol, its going to be a good year. Now if I can just get my hands a new AM3+ 8 Core, another 6990 for X-Crossfire Mode, now that would finish the year off with a POW!
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# PC Case SizeVaughn Janes 2011-03-22 16:49
What PC Case do you have in that picture, I hope its not really expensive. If it is do you think you could link a cheaper Pc case?
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# CM Storm SniperBruceBruce 2011-03-22 17:30
It's a CM Storm Sniper, which I reviewed here: benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=398&Itemid=61

It's not cheap, unfortunately, unless you find a deal. The good news is that there have been a ton of inexpensive gaming chassis reviewd on this this site recently, and I'd bet at least half of them would be able to handle this card, at 305 mm long.
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# Forgot to make it a replyVaughn Janes 2011-03-22 17:39
Ok Coolio, its way cheaper than the one I found (##shopbot.ca/pp-corsair-obsidian-800d-corsair-price-208226.html) Thanks.
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