PowerColor AX6990 4GBD5-M4D Video Card E-mail
Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards
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

Overclocking and Power Consumption

I promised a look at overclocking performance, with the BIOS setting in position 1, and here it is. Even with the overclocking BIOS engaged, it ran perfectly without a hiccup. I didn't have a lot of luck pushing it very far past the 880 MHz level, but I didn't have a lot of time either, and overclocking is a sport that rewards patience over haste.

GPU Overclocking Results (1929 x 1200)

Test Item Standard GPU Overclocked GPU Improvement
Radeon HD 6990 830 MHz 880 MHz 50 MHz GPU
DX9+SSAO: Mafia II 95.0 96.1 1.1 FPS (1.1%)
DX10: 3dMark Jane Nash 60.1 62.0 1.9 FPS (3.2%)
DX10: 3dMark Calico 46.2 48.2 2.0 FPS (4.3%)
DX10: Just Cause 2 71.8 74.2 2.4 FPS (3.3%)
DX11: Aliens vs Predator 77.4 80.7 3.3 FPS (4.4%)
DX11: Battlefield BC2 126 131 5.0 FPS (4.0%)
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo 118 121 3.0 FPS (2.5%)
DX11: H.A.W.X 2 160 164

4.0 FPS (2.5%)

DX11: Lost Planet (Test B) 50.7 52.7 2.0 FPS (3.9%)
DX11: Metro 2033 39.0 39.8 0.8 FPS (2.0%)
DX11: Heaven 2.1 75.3 78.3 3.0 FPS (4.0%)

None of the resulting increases crosses 5%, and only one of them is in the 1% range. The next lowest is at 2%, and the HD6990 frame rates in Metro 2033 blow away the competition anyways, so it's a moot point. Overall the average improvement is 3%, which is not as good as you might expect for a 6% increase in core clocks. Someone will have to get these GPUs under water before we get a real sense of the scaling that can be achieved. It's a pity that AMD chose the lower-clocked memory modules to put on this card, the "-ROC" spec memory chips run a full 10% faster, at 1375 MHz, and could have kept up a little better once the Cayman bits get cooled down to sub-ambient temperatures.

When you look at the idle clock rates that AMD programmed into the BIOS for this GPU; they're a little higher than I'm used to seeing with the latest cards. This is definitely not the bleeding edge of what the industry is doing today, in terms of speed throttling to save energy. I was running Catalyst Control Center 2 at the time, but Overdrive was not enabled which is the usual culprit for messing with the factory power reduction schemes. I'm pretty sure the BIOS are designed this way to ensure absolute stability with this fairly complex system of systems. It's a fair trade, since the last thing you want is the BSOD when your computer is just idling. Trust me, there's been way too many instances of that exact behavior in the last few years; you just need to be aware that you are sacrificing the last few measures of power saving to get the increased performance of a single-slot CrossFireX solution.

HD_6990_Default_Tab2.png

I used a slightly different approach to power measurement this time, as I wanted to provide the best power solution I could for testing, so I used a slightly more complex PSU arrangement. I have a dedicated GPU power supply from Thermaltake that is 100% dedicated to supplying the PCI Express connectors on a modern graphics card. It's rated for 650 watts, and JonnyGuru tested it to slightly higher limits with good noise performance to boot, so I felt comfortable that it could easily supply the significant power requirements of the Radeon HD 6990. The performance of this card is just as much about power management as it is about the graphics performance. That is, the real design challenge was to get twice the performance of an HD 6970 in the space of a dual slot card and stay within the power and thermal constraints that a single card is limited to.

The PCI Express connector on the motherboard is officially limited to 75W of 12V DC power. Each of the two 8-position PCI Express power connectors on a modern graphics card is limited to 150W. So, the theoretical maximum that the Radeon HD 6990 is "allowed" to consume is 375W. I measured just the power being consumed by the PCI Express power connectors this time. This provides a more accurate reflection of the power that is going directly to the video card, as any CPU load is completely isolated from the dedicated GPU power supply. OTOH, the power that comes into the video card from the PCI Express 2.1 motherboard connector is not accounted for in the measurement. It's at times like this that I really miss the power measurement capability that ASUS built into their iTracker monitoring & control software.

To measure isolated video card power consumption, I used the Kill-A-Watt EZ (model P4460) power meter made by P3 International. A baseline test is taken without a video card installed inside our computer system, which is allowed to boot into Windows and rest idle at the login screen before power consumption is recorded. Once the baseline reading has been taken, the graphics card is installed and the system is again booted into Windows and left idle at the login screen. Our final loaded power consumption reading is taken with the video card running a stress test using FurMark. Below is a chart with the isolated video card power consumption (not system total) displayed in Watts for each specified test product:

Video Card Power Consumption by Benchmark Reviews

VGA Product Description

(sorted by combined total power)

Idle Power

Loaded Power

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 SLI Set
82 W
655 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 590 Reference Design
53 W
396 W
ATI Radeon HD 4870 X2 Reference Design
100 W
320 W
AMD Radeon HD 6990 Reference Design
46 W
350 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 295 Reference Design
74 W
302 W
ASUS GeForce GTX 480 Reference Design
39 W
315 W
ATI Radeon HD 5970 Reference Design
48 W
299 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 690 Reference Design
25 W
321 W
ATI Radeon HD 4850 CrossFireX Set
123 W
210 W
ATI Radeon HD 4890 Reference Design
65 W
268 W
AMD Radeon HD 7970 Reference Design
21 W
311 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470 Reference Design
42 W
278 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 Reference Design
31 W
246 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 Reference Design
31 W
241 W
ATI Radeon HD 5870 Reference Design
25 W
240 W
ATI Radeon HD 6970 Reference Design
24 W
233 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 465 Reference Design
36 W
219 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Reference Design
14 W
243 W
Sapphire Radeon HD 4850 X2 11139-00-40R
73 W
180 W
NVIDIA GeForce 9800 GX2 Reference Design
85 W
186 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 Reference Design
10 W
275 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 770 Reference Design
9 W
256 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 280 Reference Design
35 W
225 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 (216) Reference Design
42 W
203 W
ATI Radeon HD 4870 Reference Design
58 W
166 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti Reference Design
17 W
199 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 Reference Design
18 W
167 W
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Reference Design
20 W
162 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 Reference Design
14 W
167 W
ATI Radeon HD 5850 Reference Design
24 W
157 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti BOOST Reference Design
8 W
164 W
AMD Radeon HD 6850 Reference Design
20 W
139 W
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT Reference Design
31 W
133 W
ATI Radeon HD 4770 RV740 GDDR5 Reference Design
37 W
120 W
ATI Radeon HD 5770 Reference Design
16 W
122 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450 Reference Design
22 W
115 W
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 Ti Reference Design
12 W
112 W
ATI Radeon HD 4670 Reference Design
9 W
70 W
* Results are accurate to within +/- 5W.

The PowerColor HD 6990 4GB GDDR5 Video Card pulled 35 (41-6) watts at idle and 248 (254-6) watts from the two 8-pin PCI-E power connectors when running full out with standard HD 6990 BIOS settings, using the test method outlined above. The results when running the enhanced BIOS settings were 35 (41-6) watts at idle and 285 (291-6) watts when running at full GPU load. Note: Don't compare these results with the chart, as a different test method was used.

I ran all these tests at stock voltages in the PowerColor HD 6990 BIOS, which GPU-Z reported as 0.900V at idle, 1.000V in 2D graphics mode, 1.120V in full 3D mode, and 1.175V in overclocked 3D mode. The core GPU voltage was increased by the overclocked BIOS configuration, but only the full power voltages were affected.

Next, I'll offer you some final thoughts, and my conclusions. On to the next page...



 

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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