|PowerColor AX6990 4GBD5-M4D Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Sunday, 20 March 2011|
Page 19 of 19
PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 Conclusion
IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.
From a performance standpoint, it's hard to argue with the fact that this is the fastest PC Graphics card on the planet. At some level, it doesn't matter that they used two GPUs, or three or seven, or however many it takes. From a user's perspective, I take a card out of the box, plug it in, and sit back and enjoy the smooth display. From a technical perspective I get to worry about CrossFireX driver support, voltage droop from pulling the maximum rated power from two 8-pin PCI-E connectors, where the "extra" heat from the second GPU is going (inside the case), and whether or not I should bite the bullet and flip the BIOS into overclocking mode. That's when the real worrying kicks in, because I just invalidated the warranty.
The real performance story for this card is how well the engineers and designers were able to push this card to the very edge of the single-card power envelope and keep it stable. It's easy enough to buy two HD 6970 cards and drop them in an X58 motherboard with two x16 PCI-E slots. I've got twice the physical volume available for heatsinks and fans and I've got four PCI Express power connectors I can draw power from. Now I've got 750 watts to play with, and better cooling to boot... But what if I don't have a motherboard that supports two 16 x PCI-E slots? This card is the answer, and I'm specifically thinking of all the LGA 1156 systems out there that have plenty of CPU power for gaming but only one 16x slot for a video card.
The appearance of the PowerColor HD 6990 4GB GDDR5 video card is attractive in a stark, utilitarian sort of way. Let's face it; it's a big black brick with a red turbine poking out of the middle. The thing is, when you're looking for performance, that's just the sort of thing that looks attractive, or at least very capable. PowerColor have accented the face with some warrior androids and their logo on a couple of stickers, but they don't dominate the visual package. When installed in a typical ATX-style PC case, the fans point down towards the ground and all you really see are the red stripes inset into the top surface, followed by a couple of 8-pin power connectors sticking out the top. It's the classic AMD reference look, and it's just as subtle and refined as the day they first introduced it with the HD 6870.
The build quality of the PowerColor Radeon HD 6990 card was well above average, which is critical for this segment of the video card gaming market. The overall impression of the card is very solid; it feels like a dense block. The lack of any openings on most of the shroud imparts a definite rigidity to the assembly. The packaging was good quality and reasonably informative, and the box itself is smaller than some in this price segment, which is fine by me. I really like the latest PowerColor packaging, because there's less waste and it takes up less space. (Spoken like the true hardware hoarder that I am...) All of the subsystems used high quality parts, and the power supply is a respectable 4+2 design for each twosome of GPU/DRAM. The cooling system is compact and straightforward, thanks to the use of the large vapor chambers. They make a welcome change to the tangle of heatpipes that I'm used to seeing.
Measuring the functionality of this card is about two things: how well do the two GPUs function together on one PCB with a dedicated PCI-E bridge between them, and how well does the card functions as a whole, given the constraints of electrical power that could potentially hold it back. The PowerColor HD 6990 does well on both counts. I never had any problems with the two GPUs working in tandem, maybe the new catalyst 10.4 preview driver helped there, but you can't always count on new drivers to make things run smartly; sometimes the exact opposite happens. As for the function of the whole, I think AMD has done a brilliant job sailing right up to the edge of thermal and electrical disaster and holding it together. 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.
I would be remiss if I didn't highlight the multi-monitor Eyefinity capabilities that this design brings to the gaming table. With four mini DisplayPort 1.2 connectors on the card, and three miniDP adapters included free in the box, the HD 6990 supports four monitors easily without having to utilize display chaining. The latest version of Catalyst also supports a new display configuration of five displays, side-by-side in portrait mode. That's quite a large viewport on the world: 6000 x 1920.
As of mid March 2011, the price for the PowerColor HD 6950 4GBD5 Video Card is slightly higher than MSRP, if you can find one in stock. Newegg currently has the PowerColor AX6950 4GBD5-M4D for $749.99. Considering the benefits of a single card arrangement with the power of Crossfire Caymans, the card is easily worth the cost of two single Radeon HD 6970 cards. It's been true for some time that the best place to spend your money if you want the best gaming performance is on the video card. Here's a perfect opportunity; forget the 'enthusiast' motherboards with expensive chipsets, and LGA1366 processors. Buy a P67 or even a P57 and one of these multi-GPU Radeon cards with the money you save.
+ If you want the fastest, this is it
- Use of BIOS switch voids warranty
Final Score: 9.25 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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