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

Results: Battlefield 3

I warned you that there’d be a ton of data to process, and I wasn’t lying. Right out of the gate, allow me to distinguish between the Hardware FPS and Practical FPS numbers in the chart below. Hardware FPS is what we call the result that you would have seen previously, had we stuck to Fraps-based testing. Hardware FPS includes dropped frames and runt frames, neither of which contribute positively to your gaming experience. They do, however, get counted by Fraps.

When we use Nvidia’s overlay tool and process the expected color sequence using FCAT, we’re quickly and accurately able to identify when a frame gets rendered, but never shows up on-screen (a color gets skipped) or when a runt appears (the expected color appears, but occupies 20 vertical scan lines or less, making imperceptible).

The impact of this distinction massively affects AMD’s standing. Allow me to call out specific results. The Radeon HD 7990 appears to serve up more than 100 FPS in Battlefield 3 using Ultra settings at a 2560x1440 resolution. It looks like it’s bumping into a platform limitation on our Core i7-3770K overclocked to 4 GHz, in fact. But when you play back the 90-second video of our benchmark, you clearly see that each visible frame is succeeded by a small runt that only shows up for a millisecond or two. When all of those are factored out, the average frame rate you actually experience is closer to 56.2—lower even than a GeForce GTX Titan. Two Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire are subject to the exact same issue, yielding confirmation that this isn’t a product-specific phenomenon, but rather a problem that affects AMD’s technology.

Now, you’ll notice that I have data in there corresponding to a prototype driver. Anticipating our findings, the company shipped us an early build of software it plans to make public in the second half of 2013 with provisions for frame pacing. In essence, the driver is adding latency between frames to deliver a more consistent experience, per our hypothetical scenario on the third page of this review. Because the numbers already appeared platform-bound, this doesn’t appear to negatively affect performance, though it almost completely ameliorates the frequency of runts encountered in Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2. 

As a point of comparison, the GeForce GTX 680s in SLI, the GTX 690, and GTX Titan all serve up identical hardware and practical frame rate numbers; frame pacing is already something Nvidia enables, so the incidence of dropped and runt frames is very small.

We’re working on the presentation of this data, I promise. For the time being, though, think of the thin, dotted lines as points of reference. They’re the Hardware FPS numbers—the one Fraps would have conveyed. The thicker lines are the practical frame rates over time (in this case, a 90-second run).

For the most part, Radeon HD 7990 tracks with two Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards in CrossFire, except for a number of spikes up closer to the Hardware FPS number. One GeForce GTX Titan appears both faster and smoother in comparison.

There’s hope for AMD, though. See the prototype driver’s practical frame rate hovering up alongside two GeForce GTX 680s in SLI? 

By pacing out its frames at a largely platform-bound resolution, the three GeForce-based configurations present minimal frame time variation. In comparison, the Radeon cards driven by Catalyst 13.5 Beta 2 demonstrate more variation between frames.

In the past, we would have looked at 95th percentile numbers in the 11 ms range and suggested that the real-world impact of that variation would be minimal. However, after polling gamers who swapped between HD 7990- and GTX 690-powered PCs, all of which could tell the difference, we’re forced to question what is and is not perceptible latency.

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    Top Comments
  • cangelini
    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
  • timw03878
    Here's an idea. Take away the 8 games at 40 bucks a piece and deduct that from the insane 1000 price tag.
    23
  • whyso
    Power usage?

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

    Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.
    12
  • ilysaml
    Nice article!! Unbeatable performance out of the box.
    -11
  • 17seconds
    Sort of seems like a mess to me. The game bundle is nice.
    12
  • timw03878
    Here's an idea. Take away the 8 games at 40 bucks a piece and deduct that from the insane 1000 price tag.
    23
  • donquad2001
    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
  • cangelini
    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.
    10
  • ASHISH65
    nice article! here comes the Competitor of gtx 690!
    -4
  • cangelini
    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
  • hero1
    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.
    2
  • ohim
    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.
    1
  • mayankleoboy1
    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.
    6
  • mayankleoboy1
    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
  • jezus53
    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
  • dragonsqrrl
    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
  • hero1
    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
  • dragonsqrrl
    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).
    2
  • dragonsqrrl
    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
  • hero1
    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
  • bartholomew
    A Price tag of $849.99 would had been quite aggressive & increased its value significantly.
    5