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The $1,000 Graphics Wars
The Radeon HD 7990 is finally official and should become available in a couple of weeks for the bargain basement price of $1000. All irony aside, even at that price the Radeon HD 7990 is an interesting option for those that would otherwise be going down the 7970 Crossfire route.
Although the performance and power consumption is virtually identical to that of two 7970 GHz Edition cards, the design of the Radeon HD 7990 makes the combination much cooler and quieter. Also on the upside, a single card means you only need to occupy a single PCI Express x16 slot, making the Micro ATX form factor a possible option on the handful of cases that will accommodate such a truly massive graphics card.
There's another reason to absolutely love this card if you are a PC gamer. The Radeon HD 7990 will get the most exclusive gaming bundle we've ever seen, including the eight following A-listers: BioShock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Far Cry 3, Hitman Absolution, Sleeping Dogs and Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon.
Looking at performance, the Radeon HD 7990 certainly held its own, at least when testing using the standard frames per second tools. At 2560x1600, averaging scores from the 10 games that we tested with, the 7990 was 7% faster than the GeForce GTX 690 and 34% faster than the GTX Titan. The dual-GPU card was also ~1% slower than the Crossfire'd Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition cards, and 82% faster than a single 7970 GHz Edition board.
Up until that point, it smelled like roses for the Radeon HD 7990. However move to the frame time data and things get a little more complicated and a lot less promising for AMD's new dual-GPU flagship.
Against the GeForce GTX 690, the Radeon HD 7990 was 15% slower (where it was 7% faster before). The HD 7990 was also 9% slower than the GTX Titan, and a mere 25% faster than the GTX 680. There were just two games where the Radeon HD 7990 offered better frame time performance than the GeForce GTX 690: Hitman Absolution and Sleeping Dogs, while coming close in Medal of Honor, Max Payne 3 and DiRT 3.
After much talk over frames per second vs. other metrics that more closely represent what users see on-screen, particularly when using multi-GPU setups, we have become wary of recommending them.
Looking at the figures in this review, it's hard to recommend Crossfire technology over SLI, and then SLI over a single high-end GPU. Though we acknowledge that AMD has been making great strides in improving frame latency, they are not there yet. We suspect this is part of the explanation why the Radeon HD 7990 was held off for a few months in the first place.
Overall the AMD Radeon HD 7990 is an impressive graphics card, it's very well designed and engineered. The frames per second performance puts it right where it needs to be to reign the super exclusive $1,000 market and the bragging rights that come with it. If AMD can improve frame time performance as they claim to be in the process of doing, then the 7990 could certainly become a real problem for the GTX 690 and GTX Titan. In the meantime, the Titan presents the safest bet for extreme performance at this privileged price point.
Pros: Well designed, cool and quiet high-end graphics card. Amazing, unbeatable game bundle. Excellent performance, but, see below...
Cons: AMD needs to address frame latency before it captures the absolute performance crown. The GTX Titan is faster on more scenarios for the same price.