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

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

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.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • blackmagnum
    If I had 1,000 dollars... I would buy a Titan. Its power efficiency, drivers and uber-chip goodness is unmatched.
  • whyso
    Power usage?

    Thats some nice gains from the prototype driver.
  • ilysaml
    Nice article!! Unbeatable performance out of the box.
  • 17seconds
    Sort of seems like a mess to me. The game bundle is nice.
  • timw03878
    Here's an idea. Take away the 8 games at 40 bucks a piece and deduct that from the insane 1000 price tag.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • ASHISH65
    nice article! here comes the Competitor of gtx 690!
  • 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 ;)
  • 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.