AMD Radeon HD 7990: Eight Games And A Beastly Card For $1,000

Radeon HD 7990 Vs. GeForce GTX 690: The Pepsi Challenge

Speaking of the subjective testing that helps us draw more confident conclusions throughout our benchmark analysis…

By rolling FCAT into our regular test suite and phasing Fraps out of multi-card coverage, we have a ton of new quantitative information that presents us with more insight into performance than we’ve ever offered before. In theory, we should be armed with the data to get even more authoritative.

But we’re still missing a vital piece of information: how do real gamers perceive various levels of latency between frames? Are we making a bigger deal about smoothness only because we have the tools to measure it? Is the issue getting overblown in the process?

We’re working on leveraging the audience size of Tom’s Hardware to generate experiential data that’ll go into a story of its own, exploring what gamers think about certain variables based on first-hand play. For this piece, though, I felt it important to bring a select few gamers into my home, where they could try out the Radeon HD 7990 and GeForce GTX 690, one card right after the other, in the same games.

I set two open test beds behind a pair of Auria EQ276W 27” displays. The systems were both running Z77-based motherboards with Ivy Bridge-based Core i7 processors and 16 GB of DDR3-1600 memory. Both featured 256 GB SSDs with identical drive images, too. The test subjects weren’t told which system had which card, or to which test bed their monitor was attached. Though, over the course of seven hours, I did let them know where their opinions were leading us. Each gamer spent between 10 and 15 minutes in front of each screen (I was only able to involve five folks for this; I’d like to at least double that in the future), before switching and repeating.

The Verdict

Unanimously, the entire group identified game play on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 690 as the smoothest. Although I was worried about group pressures affecting the responses, or any of the other pitfalls associated with subjective analysis, each gamer was asked to identify the factors that affected his judgment, and we received specific answers.

This could have been done more scientifically, given more time, a larger sample size, and enough matching hardware. But I was satisfied enough with the discussion to include its outcome here. 

The bulk of our gaming involved AMD’s Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2 driver. However, I surprised the group by dropping AMD’s special prototype driver onto the Radeon HD 7990-equipped machine. Without telling anyone what the software was supposed to do, I asked them to retry titles they had already played. Again, the response was universal: action on the dual-Tahiti board was noticeably smoother in most games, but seemed intermittently choppy in a couple of others (Crysis 3 and Tomb Raider). This is actually in contention with the benchmarks, which show the frame pacing-optimized software delivering higher practical frame rates in those two titles.

My working hypothesis, after also seeing a couple of titles that looked choppier under the prototype driver (Battlefield 3 is the one I singled out), is this: although deliberately inserting latency helps avoid runts and drops, benefiting the frame rate FCAT measures, it’s not always done precisely enough to prevent perceptible blips in the action. AMD is still working on the driver, though, and it certainly seems to achieve the company’s goal. Skyrim, in particular, elicited a few “whoa, nice” reactions from gamers who previously singled-out the Radeon HD 7990 under Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2.

The Pepsi Challenge: Radeon HD 7990 Vs. GeForce GTX 690

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  • donquad2001this test was 99% useless to the average gamer,Test the card at 1900x1080 like most of us use to get a real ideal of what its like,only your unigine benchmarks helped the average gamer,who cares what any card can do at a resolution we cant use anyway?

    If you're looking to game at 1920x1080, I can save you a ton of money by recommending something less than half as expensive. This card is for folks playing at 2560 *at least.* Next time, I'm looking to get FCAT running on a 7680x1440 array ;)
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  • Here's an idea. Take away the 8 games at 40 bucks a piece and deduct that from the insane 1000 price tag.
    23
  • Power usage?

    Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.
    12
  • Other Comments
  • If I had 1,000 dollars... I would buy a Titan. Its power efficiency, drivers and uber-chip goodness is unmatched.
    -23
  • Power usage?

    Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.
    12
  • Nice article!! Unbeatable performance out of the box.
    -11
  • Sort of seems like a mess to me. The game bundle is nice.
    12
  • Here's an idea. Take away the 8 games at 40 bucks a piece and deduct that from the insane 1000 price tag.
    23
  • this test was 99% useless to the average gamer,Test the card at 1900x1080 like most of us use to get a real ideal of what its like,only your unigine benchmarks helped the average gamer,who cares what any card can do at a resolution we cant use anyway?
    -25
  • whysoPower usage?Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.

    Power is the one thing I didn't have time for. We already know the 7990 is a 375 W card, while GTX 690 is a 300 W card, though. We also know AMD has Zero Core, which is going to shave off power at idle with one GPU shut off. I'm not expecting any surprises on power that those specs and technologies don't already insinuate.
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  • nice article! here comes the Competitor of gtx 690!
    -4
  • donquad2001this test was 99% useless to the average gamer,Test the card at 1900x1080 like most of us use to get a real ideal of what its like,only your unigine benchmarks helped the average gamer,who cares what any card can do at a resolution we cant use anyway?

    If you're looking to game at 1920x1080, I can save you a ton of money by recommending something less than half as expensive. This card is for folks playing at 2560 *at least.* Next time, I'm looking to get FCAT running on a 7680x1440 array ;)
    26
  • Nice article. I was hopping that they would have addressed the whining but they haven't and that's a shame. Performance wise it can be matched by GTX 680 SLI and GTX 690 without the huge time variance and runt frames. Let's hope they fix their whining issue and FPS without forcing users to turn on V-sync. For now I know where my money is going consider that I have dealt with AMD before:XFX and Sapphire and didn't like the results (whining, artifacts, XF stops working etc). Sorry but I gave the red team a try and I will stick with Nvidia until AMD can prove that they have fixed their issues.
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  • Why are all you people, that this card is not made for, complain about the price tag? AMD / Nvidia for sure don`t really make a profit if any out of these monsters. They are just for show like in the CPU business.
    People mostly buy Intel (I3/i5 a lot more than i7) just because Intel can provide top of the line CPUs in the i7 Extreme range. Same goes here, if some hears that AMD has a better 1000$ card than Nvidia, they will probably spend 100-200$ for an AMD card and not Nvidia.
    Power ... unless you`re not a guy who saves 2 years in a row for this card to have a 6 months nerd gaming glory you won`t care that much how power hungry this card is.

    Is just like asking Ferrari or Lamborghini how many mpg their cars do.
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  • 1.I wonder if inserting all those pauses in the rendering pipeline for smoothness harms the compute performance.

    2. Regarding the fan noise and the hum : It would be interesting to know how much noticable is the fan noise and the hum with increaseing listner distance. IOW, which noise is more noticable at near/medium/far distances ?


    Drivers still are AMD's biggest weakness. I would have expected AMD to havetop-notch , A-one drivers to go with the HD7990. After all, this is AMD's halo product. The first impression is what matters. The conclusion is basically "Card is good. Drivers are poor, with better coming in future". So ultimately its selling a promise, which may/may not succeed. It appears to me that AMD doesnt value its own products.
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  • Ohh, and a video conversion test would have been nice too. (Is there any software available that supports CFX ?)
    Also, has the Video Conversion Engine in AMD taken off ?
    -1
  • It's very interesting that AMD couldn't find a capacitor that wouldn't cause this noise. I feel once third party vendors get the reference they'll find ways of removing that. Hope they fix it soon or else nVidia will have a new line of cards while AMD is having problems with neatly two year old chips!!!
    0
  • hero1Nice article. I was hopping that they would have addressed the whining but they haven't and that's a shame. Performance wise it can be matched by GTX 680 SLI and GTX 690 without the huge time variance and runt frames. Let's hope they fix their whining issue and FPS without forcing users to turn on V-sync. For now I know where my money is going consider that I have dealt with AMD before:XFX and Sapphire and didn't like the results (whining, artifacts, XF stops working etc). Sorry but I gave the red team a try and I will stick with Nvidia until AMD can prove that they have fixed their issues.

    Unfortunately I'm really not sure the whining issue is something that can be fixed with a driver update. I think it has more to do with the hardware on the board than anything else. But it's good to see that AMD has finally recognized the frame time variance and micro-stutter problem, and are actively pursuing a solution. Although the test in the review was limited, I think it's telling that every gamer tested was able to recognize the difference between AMD and Nvidia cards, and even the difference brought by AMD's own prototype drivers.
    1
  • dragonsqrrlUnfortunately I'm really not sure the whining issue is something that can be fixed with a driver update. I think it has more to do with the hardware on the board than anything else. But it's good to see that AMD has finally recognized the frame time variance and micro-stutter problem, and are actively pursing a solution. Although the test in the review was limited, I think it's telling that every gamer tested was able to recognize the difference between AMD and Nvidia cards, and even the difference brought by AMD's own prototype drivers.


    I know and that's what I meant by hopping that they would have addressed the whining with this card. It happens to all their cards, well the ones that I have owned especially the XFX and if they knew what causes then they should have fixed it.

    Let's hope that the prototype driver will also translate to better drivers for all their GPUs and address the frame rate issues. Other than that, it is a good card but I think, for my personal use since I was waiting to see what this can offer, I will just get the GTX 680 or the GTX 780 next month and will definitely go back to AMD if they address those issues.
    2
  • whysoPower usage?Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.


    For everyone seeking power and heat results:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/6915/amd-radeon-hd-7990-review-7990-gets-official/16

    It consumes a lot of power under load, substantially more than the GTX690, but like Chris said that's to be expected. The big difference with the 7990 seems to be acoustics in relation to temps at load. It's a massive improvement over the 6990, and pretty much on par with the GTX690. Unfortunately the coil whine seems to undo a lot of the improvements made to the stock cooler, but all things considered it's pretty impressive what AMD was able to do in this area, especially in comparison to unofficial solutions from other vendors (dual slot, only requires 2 8-pin).
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  • hero1I know and that's what I meant by hopping that they would have addressed the whining with this card.

    Sorry, that's a reading fail on my part. Thought you said, 'hope they'll address the whining' or something to that effect.
    2
  • dragonsqrrlSorry, that's a reading fail on my part. Thought you said, 'hope they'll address the whining' or something to that effect.


    No problem.
    2
  • A Price tag of $849.99 would had been quite aggressive & increased its value significantly.
    5