AMD announces the ridiculously powerful $700 Radeon HD 6990

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Old 17-Mar-2011
AMD announces the ridiculously powerful $700 Radeon HD 6990

Today AMD officially announced the “world’s fastest graphics card”, the AMD Radeon HD 6990. The card, codenamed Antilles, is designed for hardcore gamers who want all the performance possible, even if that means a $699 price tag. It has 4GB of GDDR5 and will feature four DisplayPort outputs plus DVI, so it’s designed to power multiple monitors, all at high frame rates. It’s a 375W graphics card so while the power consumption will border on the ridiculous, the performance will blow your socks off.
The most interesting feature is a dual BIOS with a built-in hardware switch. In one position it’s read-only and set from the factory (factory-supported mode), in the other it’s customizable and overclockable. If you break one BIOS then you can just flip back to the first and your card isn’t fried. The alternative position has a hardware overdrive which allows higher clocks (880MHz) and higher voltage (1.175V) where enthusiasts can tinker to their hearts’ content. So in many ways this is two graphics cards in one.

This card is capable of 450W (max. TDP with PowerTune, otherwise its 375W) which, according to AMD, required some special engineering. Some of these special requirements include high-end digital Volterra regulators, a symmetrical layout for more efficient power distrobution, and premium ASICs for the highest speeds and lowest possible leakage.
Cooling a card like this one is no small feat, so improvements were made here as well. There is a phase-change TIM (thermal interface material) that act as mini heatpipes, the shroud on the graphics card is enclosed, there are dual vapor chambers, and a central blower with 20% improved airflow. The problem here is that you can’t take this board apart without ruining the phase-change TIM and negatively affect cooling. Also, as you can imagine, the card is huge, so you’ll need an oversized case.
The 6990 can drive up to 6 displays–4x DisplayPort (DP 1.2) and two through the dual-link DVI. It works with Eyefinity for up to five displays in a portrait configuration. All retail packages sold with Antilles will be able to work with up to three displays (adapters included with the card).
Another new technology is AMD PowerTune. This allows the card to maximize gaming performance while maintaining a reasonable TDP. This is important for high TDP cards as it is said to allow the card to bump up the framerate while gaming (as in: when it matters) without using the same power levels while benchmarking. So PowerTune increases clocks and performance while keeping the 375W power budget. It basically differentiates between gaming and benchmark, and limits you on the latter so you don’t go over the power limit.

According to AMD the 6990 will offer a 67% advantage over the Nvida GTX 580. But they made sure to point out that gaming on a single 30-inch display isn’t what this card is all about–it’s best with Eyefinity, so you can game at, say, 7680×1600 (3×1 landscape 30-inch panels). At this configuration you can play all today’s popular games at over 30fps. It works with 5×1 portrait as well (this is new), as well as 3×2.
But where can you even use these setups? Dragon Age 2 will support 5×1 gaming, HD3D, and CrossFireX scaling, Deus Ex: Human Revolution will support Eyefinity and HD3D, and Total War: Shogun 2 will support Eyefinity, CrossFireX, and AMD-based CPU scaling (with AMD Fusion APUs).
As you probably guessed, the card supports CrossFireX scaling so you can use two cards at once. Expect to see 1.7-1.8x performance improvements.

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