Radeon HD 6990M And GeForce GTX 580M: A Beautiful Lie

Cutting Through Mobile Graphics Naming

With Nvidia’s mobile solution no longer available to us when we started adding newer games to our notebook suite, we were forced to break today’s benchmarks into two groups. Performance differences in the older collection of tests were tightened by CPU bottlenecks in Crysis, while StarCraft II caused the same phenomenon in the newer group.

With a mix of resolutions starting at a unrealistically-low 1280x720, the desktop Radeon HD 6990 outpaces a pair of Radeon HD 6990Ms by around 10%. However, most readers will really want to see is how these solutions perform at a high-end notebook’s 1920x1080 native resolution.

A few folks tried telling us that CPU bottlenecks would make 1920x1080 results meaningless for pair of Radeon HD 6990M graphics modules. And still, the dual-GPU desktop card still outpaces the notebook solution by around 13% on average. And that’s with a known CPU-bottlenecked game thrown into the mix for both gaming suites.

Nvidia is only slightly less-guilty than AMD since it doesn’t give any of its mobile modules a model number equal to one of its dual-GPU desktop cards. In other words, its fastest mobile product wasn’t forced to face-off against a GeForce GTX 590. Though we don't witness the same bloodbath suffered by the AMD mobile-to-desktop comparison, it still takes two GeForce GTX 580Ms to approach the performance of a single GeForce GTX 580.

AMD rates its Radeon HD 6990 at nearly four times the power consumption of its mobile counterpart, while Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 580 desktop card draws 2.5 times the wattage of its mobile sibling. We've already heard the arguments from both AMD and Nvidia in justifying the deception: "these are our fastest mobile products, and we can't deflate the names so long as the other side is doing it too." Our assertion (and cautionary benchmark results) stand, though. Today's naming is marketing-driven, spurred by AMD and Nvidia trying to one-up each other in promoting mobile architectures, and it only continues to worsen over time. 

While the performance of these mobile solutions with dual GPUs often appears wonderful at 1920x1080, anyone who expected one Radeon HD 6990M or GeForce GTX 580M to facilitate adequate performance is going to be sorely disappointed. One desktop card can certainly shoulder those loads, though, so we remain dissatisfied with the way mobile naming continues to be handled.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • "Recent invention"

    Did...did this article travel forwards in time half a year? O_o
  • Yargnit
    The HD 6990M is certainly the worst in a long line of ever-increasing false advertising by GPU manufacturers when it comes to their mobile cards.

    Every generation is more guilty than the one before, but AMD indeed hit a new low when they used the name of their dual-GPU flagship to go along with a single-GPU mobile card. (Not even based off the same GPU at that)

    I wonder what the chances of someone successfully filing a false advertising suit for this would be? Especially in the EU where they seem much stricter about that stuff than the US is, I'd have to think they'd have a decent shot. (This is at least as bad as the whole LED/LCD TV thing that the courts ruled against the manufacturers on)

    I can let some reasonable under-clocking (say 25% at most) get by for mobile GPU's under the same name, but they should have to be based off the same GPU as the desktop card that they are named after at least, and in the case of using the name of a dual-GPU card they should actually have to be dual GPU cards.

    Either put an actual 6990 in the laptop, or call it a HD 6870m.
  • el33t
    What on earth took you guys so long to realize this??
  • Dacatak
    and heat public enemy number one

    Heat like fire BAD! Computer fire NO-NO!
  • Inferno1217
    This is nothing new to the laptop world and is common knowledge. You can't expect 580 or 6990 desktop performance out of a mobile 580 or 6990 solutions (note the M at the end). This article may help newcomers understand the differences between mobile and desktop gpu's.
  • Crashman
    el33tWhat on earth took you guys so long to realize this??This is something like the third article to point these problems out, but it's the first to use the desktop 6990. Tom's Hardware simply doesn't have enough 6990's for every tester to have his own :)
  • alanim
    Normally I wouldn't really see a problem with this, because as far as I understand the numbers are just there to show a tier on how powerful the graphics cards are, and since this is the 6990M, one would assume that it's the highest tier for the current generation mobile graphics card.

    Now on the otherhand they're using the numbers as their desktop counterparts just with a tacked on M for mobile, I assume the only reason they don't use a different number is because it could confuse the buyers into thinking it was either a newer or older generation part, although that's assuming most people who buy these know what the current generation parts are(which I assume is not the case).

    What you're seeing isn't actually them trying to deceive people it's actually them using a streamlined approach. All this 6990M means is that it's top tier for mobile GPU's of the current generation, this is the consequence of trying to make the numbers more buyer friendly. Good Idea, Good Usage, but relies heavily on customer knowledge and understanding on what they're buying, but that could be said for almost anything.
  • SteelCity1981
    in Nvidia and AMD's defense there is an 'M' at the end so it's not false advertising. lol
  • aznshinobi
    Agreed, there is an M for a reason. It's the buyers fault for not researching. Most buyers just buy the most expensive product and assume it's good. This will teach them otherwise.
  • Crashman
    aznshinobiAgreed, there is an M for a reason. It's the buyers fault for not researching. Most buyers just buy the most expensive product and assume it's good. This will teach them otherwise.That's why the article was published :)