In creating the 6990 AMD set themselves the goal of exceeding every single PCB graphics card on the market, including their own 5970 which was the fastest product available on a single PCIe 16x slot. The product that is being released as a result of this work is one which feels like it is built to last with a solid heatsink shroud and metal backplate which keep the card from warping or being damaged. At approximately 12" long AMD have also been able to maximise compatibility with cases, any model that holds the last generation card will hold the 6990 also.
Underneath the shroud we find two vapor chamber coolers with thermal material which AMD state performs better than the last generation by 8% and high quality components such as Hynix memory are used throughout the product. Then in terms of overall design the choice of outputs on the reference card is very much forward thinking and while it may initially seem limiting the flexibility of DisplayPort and its ability to convert easily into DVI and HDMI means that the card caters for the majority of consumers.
It is these two areas which will cause a significant debate amongst enthusiasts though. On the cooler front AMD have made improvements but we feel they need to go much further. The noise levels are lower than we had expected with temperatures finely balanced however a completely redesigned cooler, such as those we are likely to see from the likes of PowerColor, Sapphire, ASUS and XFX would very much be appreciated on AMD’s high end reference designs. This is after all an enthusiast product and that consumer type expects more. For display outputs, the option to use 5×1 portrait mode is great however the demanding user base for this product will need to buy a second card to use that layout without compromises and that is a significant outlay in terms of cost. Essentially at a level which is prohibitive for all but a tiny number of consumers.
That said the performance of the card from 1920×1080 to 5760×1080 should not be in any way discounted. At those resolutions with maximum detail enabled the 6990 is a phenomenal card. There is nothing available on the market now, or available soon, which cannot be played with maximum detail on the 6990, even Crysis 2 as our video shows.
We also need to take into account that the card is very flexible when not being used as a gaming powerhouse. In desktop use the 6990 runs near silent and is capable of accelerating Blu-Ray content, enhancing our productivity in tasks such as video encoding and can even form the basis of a stereoscopic 3D system for viewing movies and pictures. We do need to note however that AMD, as with their cooling solutions, still need to work on their stereoscopic 3D gaming as the current solution is nowhere near the level of NVIDIA.
In terms of value, AMD and their partners have the price of the 6990 pretty much spot on. It sits at the same level as two GTX 570s and often performs above them. In fact the 6990 regularly competes with two GTX 580’s which are significantly more expensive than the single AMD card.