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Can The World’s Best Bundle Save Radeon HD 7990?

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

More than a year ago, we heard murmurs about a dual-Tahiti board code-name New Zealand that was right around the corner. As it turns out, New Zealand describes all of AMD’s multi-GPU projects, from the board partner designs we already reviewed to the FirePro S10000 and Radeon Sky 900. Also included under that umbrella is Malta, the high-end gaming card now known as Radeon HD 7990.

AMD wants $1,000 for this new flagship—the same price as GeForce GTX 690, which yields a higher practical average frame rate in six of our eight benchmarks as it delivers frames more smoothly across the board. The GTX 690 is shorter, set up to exhaust at least some of its waste heat out of your chassis, and significantly more power-friendly. It eschews plastic in favor of metal. And it doesn’t whine under variable loads. Nvidia simply sells a better-built dual-GPU graphics card.

With that said, the Radeon HD 7990 is a pleasant surprise. Three different partner boards had me convinced that a dual-Tahiti board running at full speed just wouldn’t be possible without some sort of exotic design. Not only does AMD enable Radeon HD 7990 in a dual-slot form factor with two eight-pin power connectors, but it also addresses my biggest beef with the company’s most recent high-end reference designs: too much noise. Even under load, the 7990’s three fans slice through air quieter than a GeForce GTX 690. It’s only unfortunate that power-related vibrations generate more volume than the coolers themselves. Massive compute performance, low idle power consumption enabled by ZeroCore technology, and some of the fastest 3D performance available make this a very desirable product for certain environments.

But when we combine the quantitative data enabled by video capture-based performance analysis and the subjective judgments of a panel of gaming enthusiasts who simply want to play their favorite titles on the best hardware possible, Nvidia’s thousand-dollar GeForce GTX 690 outshines the similarly-priced Radeon HD 7990. Our early look at AMD’s prototype driver suggests that more evenly pacing the rate at which frames are shown on-screen helps minimize frame time variance, which our gamers definitely noticed. But that release isn’t expected for months—the second half of 2013 is as specific as AMD gets.

And so we’re faced with a card that represents a huge improvement over its predecessor, but still comes up shy of its competition, and is priced like an equal.

If the story ended there, the winner would be clear. However, AMD is working magic with developers, and the Radeon HD 7990’s game bundle looks like the culmination of a serious ISV push. Every 7990 will include a copy of BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Hitman: Absolution, Sleeping Dogs, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution. That’s $335 worth of software, if you don’t own any of it already. I personally find five of the eight titles interesting, which is some sort of record for a game bundle.

No matter what, $1,000 is a lot of money to spend on a graphics card accompanied by a handful of caveats. But if you’re able to extract a couple hundred bucks of value from the bundle, AMD’s suggested retail price gets a little softer. Interested parties should expect to wait a couple of weeks for availability, the company says.

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