AMD has finally launched the long-anticipated followup to its Radeon HD 5970, its dual-GPU monster graphics card. Like its predecessor, the new Radeon HD 6990, code-named Antilles, combines two GPUs in a single package, and the result is the fastest graphics card you can buy.
The Radeon HD 6990 manages to cram two Radeon HD 6970s on a single PCB, bringing a total of 4GB of GDDR5 RAM to your desktop. It features two different modes that let you choose how you use its power; you simply flip a switch to change the BIOS configuration to overclock mode, which ups the engine clock speed as well as the power demands. Not surprisingly, the card requires a pair of extra PCI Express connectors in addition to a minimum 750W power supply unit (1000W recommended if you're crazy enough to buy a pair of these and put them in a CrossFireX configuration).
So how fast is the Radeon HD 6990? According to HotHardware.com's benchmarking, it absolutely destroys the Radeon HD 6970 and Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 single-GPU cards in 3DMark11, scoring over 3,000 in the Extreme preset. With most games, it delivered an average 50-percent boost over the GTX 580 and often more over the 6970. And, according to Anandtech, it does indeed run Crysis -- the site concludes about the card's Crysis: Warhead performance that "full Enthusiast settings at a playable framerate is finally in the grasp of a single card."
In its factory setting, the Radeon HD 6990 appears to keep heat basically under control, but noise was another matter: It's loud and it's the price you pay for all that power on one board. Speaking of cost, this bad boy will set you back $699, or the price of a budget desktop system. Nvidia is rumored to present an updated dual-GPU solution soon, the GeForce GTX 590, so if you have the cash to blow on this card, you may want to wait a few weeks to see what the competition has to offer.