AMD Radeon HD 6990 "Antilles" Video Card Review

The Radeon HD 6990 is being launched today, and we have full coverage of specifications and our gameplay experiences compared to several high-end dual-GPU solutions out there. If you are looking for a single video card package that packs a punch and provides headroom for hardware enthusiasts, this is a solid solution.

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F1 2010

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F1 2010 Formula 1 racing game by Codemasters, released on September 22nd for Windows, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony Playstation 3. This game was patched. The patch adds DirectX 11 support, new graphical effects and higher graphics settings. Similar to DiRT 2 there are now some new "Ultra" settings which enable the highest DX11 features in the game. The game can be patched after logging into LIVE within the game, even using the STEAM version. Once you are logged in, it will detect the new patch, download and install it.

All of the improvements the patch brings can be read about here. For our F1 2010 testing procedure, we raced a 3-lap race against a full grid. We chose the Mercedes-McLaren racing team and we raced in Melbourne under heavy rain conditions.


Highest Playable Settings

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Before we begin explaining our gameplay experiences in this game, we must tell you that we had some performance problems at the beginning of our AMD Radeon HD 6990 testing in this game. Apparently the Catalyst Application Profile (CAP) initially provided to us had a performance bug. We were getting about 15 FPS in this game at 5040x1050 with 4X MSAA enabled. AMD did find a fix for this issue and provided a new CAP to install that fixed it. This goes to show how new CAP versions can provide better performance and fix CrossFireX issues. It is very important to use the latest CAP with the Radeon HD 6990. We also still feel that there is more performance to be had out of the Radeon HD 6990 in this game.

In contrast to Civilization V AMD GPUs typically accelerate this game faster than NVIDIA equivalent GPUs. This was the case here today as well, but it isn't as drastic as the differences were in Civilization V. In this game, the best experience is held by the Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX setup. We were able to run at 5760x1600 with no less than 8X MSAA plus Adaptive Multisampling AA enabled!

The experience and visual image quality was breathtaking. Imagine a 3x1 display configuration running at its native resolution with 8X MSAA, its brilliant driving down the tracks in this game. Add to that the high framerates you see there, averaging 55 FPS with a minimum of 48 FPS and you can see how smooth it was for us. We could not push the image quality higher however as it started getting choppy. Honestly, there is no reason to go higher though, at these settings its fantastic.

The new AMD Radeon HD 6990 trailed behind Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX in this game. We were not able to have 8X MSAA enabled at 5760x1200 with the AMD Radeon HD 6990. When we tried this, the game felt choppy and not smooth, even though the framerates indicated it should be playable. When we lowered the AA setting down to 4X AA this helped the smoothness and brought the game into playable levels. Even at the lower AA setting you can see the framerates are still a bit lower than HD 6970 CFX.

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 SLI setup did very well in this game. We were not able to use 8X MSAA, it seemed that caused the game to get choppy and unplayable. But by lowering it to 8X CSAA (which is less memory intensive than 8X MSAA) the game became playable. Looking at image quality versus the HD 6970 CFX setup you'd be hard pressed to notice any differences in image quality when focused on playing the game.

The GeForce GTX 570 SLI setup gave us the worse experience in the game. We had to lower down to 2X AA at 5760x1200 in order to achieve playable performance. Even at this lower AA setting performance was well behind everything else. So in this game, the Radeon HD 6990 does offer a better experience compared to the GeForce GTX 570 SLI.


Apples-to-Apples

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This comparison is done at 5040x1050 with 4X AA enabled. The tables reverse in this game compared to Civ5 and the AMD Radeon HD 6990 comes out on top. In fact, the AMD Radeon HD 6990 is near 14% faster than the GTX 580 SLI and near 30% faster than GTX 570 SLI!

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There is a clear performance difference between Radeon HD 6990 and Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX. The AMD Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX setup is 7% faster than Radeon HD 6990.