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My experience with dual GPU cards from AMD (5970 and 6990)

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  • GPUs
  • AMD
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Last response: in Graphics & Displays
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November 14, 2011 5:27:50 PM

I just wanted to share my quick thoughts on the dual GPU solutions from AMD. I was a proud owner of a 5970 and more recently a 6990.

The good
- unlike the GTX 590, the 5970/6990 can be overclocked beyond their single GPU equivalent specifications (with sufficient cooling)
- they use the full proper chips (with higher binning) and are therefore not "neutered" dual gpu's like the competition
- due to using proper chips, one could even run 4-way crossfire and still have pci-express slots for something like a sound card, gaming nic, pci-e based SSD, etc. Personally, I will run on integrated graphics before I go without my sound card.

The bad
-the cards are not only uglier than the competition, but running another card next to it chockes the air intake. The bottom of the card near the intake fan is not angled to allow air in, necessitating free space between cards we can't always provide.
-this is my subjective opinion, but they way things stand right now I'm not buying 3D displays for AMD cards. If you were sad at Nvidia's proprietary, only-works-with-like-5-devices 3D solution, you'll slit your wrists when you see the compatibility list for AMD :pfff: 

The ugly
-stock cooler was decent on the 5970, but loud
-stock cooler blows air out both ends of the card on the 6990, and is even louder
-they suddenly stopped producing 6990s
-poor driver support (don't poo-poo me, if you run crossfire you know how many more issues we have getting TIMELY updates from AMD for new releases)
-no HDMI/second DVI port
-despite being dual GPU, still requires an active adaptor for the third monitor (and no, I'm not buying a weird niche expensive DP monitor)

The REALLY ugly
-still no option to disable crossfire (down to one GPU) if the 5970 or 6990 is the lead card in a multi-gpu configuration (THIS IS IMPORTANT DAMN IT) <- for older games, or games that are just released. also whenever the drivers are acting up, which is often.


TL;DR 5970/6990s are great cards, will require custom cooling to keep your sanity, but I highly recommend not getting a 6990 if it's going to be the lead (or only) card as you're at the mercy of AMD driver support.

More about : experience dual gpu cards amd 5970 6990

a c 124 U Graphics card
November 14, 2011 5:36:35 PM

It's bizarre you can't disable crossfire! Also they used to allow you to turn Catalyst AI off which happened to disable CFX as well, but now you only have "performance/medium/quality" settings so I don't know if it works anymore...

I just build a PC for a guy with an eVGA GTX 590 Classified and damn... that thing is so hot it crackles!! Literally! Sounds like an engine cooling down with a "tink, tink" sound. Also, same issue of venting both directions - but at least it is pretty quiet.

I also noticed a lot of micro stutter running 3DMark 11 and Unigene. Is that common on the 5970/6990 as well? I never get it on my own 5850s.

I saw a 5970 for $300 on Kijiji and was pretty tempted to buy it and go tri-CFX with my 5850 (and sell the other 5850 I guess) lol. Never did it though.
November 14, 2011 5:49:39 PM

wolfram23 said:
It's bizarre you can't disable crossfire! Also they used to allow you to turn Catalyst AI off which happened to disable CFX as well, but now you only have "performance/medium/quality" settings so I don't know if it works anymore...


Under the Performance Tab, there is a "AMD CrossFireX" page. If you were running say 2, 3 or 4 6970s, you can pick how many gpu's you want to run in crossfire, or just use one GPU. This was neat for a game like Black Ops which ran ok with 2 GPUs but *** the bed with 3. With a 6990 there is no options whatsoever. None.


wolfram23 said:

I just build a PC for a guy with an eVGA GTX 590 Classified and damn... that thing is so hot it crackles!! Literally! Sounds like an engine cooling down with a "tink, tink" sound. Also, same issue of venting both directions - but at least it is pretty quiet.

Well, for those running a case with a different orientation of the motherboard (vents at the top) this is a huge pain in the derriere. I don't need one GPU running at least 5 degrees hotter because half the air exhaust is fighting with the air intake on the bottom.

wolfram23 said:

I also noticed a lot of micro stutter running 3DMark 11 and Unigene. Is that common on the 5970/6990 as well? I never get it on my own 5850s.

I saw a 5970 for $300 on Kijiji and was pretty tempted to buy it and go tri-CFX with my 5850 (and sell the other 5850 I guess) lol. Never did it though.


Microstutter is still a horrific experience in Crossfire. And I'm convinced it's AMDs fault, because one driver update will fix stuttering in one game while also reintroducing it in a different game.

Be glad you didn't go tri-CFX with the setup you mentioned. You would have CRIED YOURSELF TO SLEEP. I dumped the 6990 in my downstairs rig where it heats my house via bitcoin mining (until I get rid of it). I'm running dual 6970s now. Come Q1 2012 I'm going dual GTX 680s or whatever, and that will be that.
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a c 124 U Graphics card
November 14, 2011 6:00:29 PM

Yeah I'm waiting to upgrade on next gen, probably go with Nvidia as well. Unless AMD really gets their *** together - still undecided on Eyefinity or 3D lol.
a b U Graphics card
November 14, 2011 6:35:21 PM

Very nice article; the dual gpu cards that have came out so far have been pretty sad.
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