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HD 7990 Review; PowerColor’s Devil 13

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Unlike some reviews, this one is about a card that almost never was and the efforts of a board partner to forge ahead anyways with a product that flies in the face of adversity. It’s called the HD 7990 Devil 13 and it begs to be noticed.

Ever since AMD introduced gamers to their new Graphics Core Next architecture, rumors of a dual GPU product code named New Zealand and branded HD 7990 ran rife throughout the industry. Naturally, AMD helped things along by teasers within marketing slides and a few other hints along the way but after waiting months for a release, the mythical HD 7990 was nowhere to be found.

In order to properly set the stage here, it is important to discuss why AMD seems to have failed in their efforts to create a bona fide “official” dual GPU product in spite of an initial lead over NVIDIA. The issue here isn’t a lack of intent, strategy or focus but rather technological limitations that caused some insurmountable roadblocks during development. Despite being fabricated on a relatively efficient manufacturing process, AMD’s Tahiti cores tend to run quite hot and require a significant amount of power. Careful binning, judicious application of voltage constraints and lower clock speeds could have allowed a dual HD 7970 card to come to fruition but the competition’s Kepler architecture prevented that. The quick release of NVIDIA’s GTX 690 delivered a crushing blow to AMD’s exclusive claim over the performance crown and shattered the performance per watt ratio for dual GPU products. Competing against it wasn’t impossible but even after numerous delays the effort would have required a massive investment for a limited return. We’re guessing the ROI ratio didn’t sit quite well since those resources could have been –and will likely be- put towards upcoming architectural developments instead.

Naturally, some still held hope for the mythical HD 7990 and everyone wanted to avoid a GPU generation without a halo Radeon product. From what we have heard, AMD finally dropped the project a few months ago and handed off the hot potato to board partners, basically giving out the baseline specs and naming rights while deferring the financial burden. Given the market conditions, there weren’t many takers but PowerColor did step up to the plate and the end result is their HD 7990 Devil 13.

HD7990-89.jpg

Despite its odd “Devil 13” moniker, this card is exactly what many initially wanted the HD 7990 to be: a single PCB solution that combines a pair of fully endowed Tahiti XT cores However, PowerColor has gone above and beyond the call of duty by also including a secondary BIOS which turns the dial up to eleven. Pressing a single button grants this card core speed that matches that of AMD’s HD 7970 GHz Edition (without the Boost feature) and could allow it to capture the overall performance crown. Memory speeds do remain at 5.5Gbps but that shouldn’t hinder performance all that much.

The development of PowerColor’s HD 7990 has been plagued by issues; many of which haven’t been publicized. Initially, it was supposed to be shown at GamesCon but was pulled at the last minute due to a technical glitch. Then, the first batch of cards ended up arriving at PowerColor’s warehouse with improperly mounted heatsinks. Some of these glitch-prone units did end up in reviewers’ hands but PowerColor fixed the thermal problem and then re-validated every card before sending them out to retail channels. Hardware Canucks received a unit from the first retail shipment so we’re confident our results will be in line with reality.

Make no mistake about it; the HD 7990 Devil 13 will be a rare card. Just 200 of them will be making their way into the hands of gamers and with an astronomical, GTX 690-matching price of $1000 only a small segment of the population will be able to afford one. Nonetheless, PowerColor does seem to have something interesting here which could (finally!) prove to be a direct competitor against NVIDIA’s flagship product.

HD7990-21.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
A Closer Look at the PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13

A Closer Look at the PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13



Graphics card packaging is typically boring and anything but noteworthy but this time around, PowerColor has decked the Devil 13 in a box and internal compartmentalized design that befits its massive price tag. There are fold outs, a feature card, warranty information and even enough padding to protect a bottle of Cristal. While the card itself may cost a ton of money, be prepared to pay a king’s ransom in shipping costs for this beast.

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The accessories that come alongside the impressive packaging are an eclectic mix of oddball additions and useful tools. First up, there’s a screwdriver kit with a distinctly Asian mechanical influence since it includes adaptors for the rarely used 7-node security head and Torx socket but ignores the Robertson square beloved by so many Canadians. PowerColor has also included their aptly named Power Jack which is supposed to help support heavy graphics cards and avoid unwanted motherboard PCI-E slot strain.

HD7990-7.jpg

PowerColor has outdone themselves with the HD 7990 Devil 13’s design but we expected no less from such a pricy GPU. Spanning nearly 12 ½” in length, sporting a triple slot maximizing 3” in height and weighing in at nearly four pounds, this is one of the heaviest, largest graphics cards we have come across. But it does look pretty damn good in a black / red outfit that doesn’t have a single bit of plastic in sight.

It is also important to note that the HD 7990 Devil 13 registers as a pair of HD 7970 cards in AMD’s Crossfire X control panel so dual card operation can be disabled.

HD7990-8.jpg
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The most visible item on the Devil 13 is of course the huge heatsink shroud which is made of anodized aluminum that’s been tinted either red or black to give an effect that’s distinctly “devilish” but still true to its AMD roots. Front and center are three fans which consist of a single 80mm until flanked by two 92mm siblings. These push air down onto the internal heatsink but also assure that a large amount of heat is conducted towards your case’s internal components. While the design here may not be optimal for cooling purists, PowerColor does claim their layout is capable of dispersing an impressive 550W of thermal output.


Under the heatsink shroud is a pair of pure copper bases, TEN individual 6mm heatpipes and a huge fin array which all work in tandem to ensure the two cores are adequately cooled. PowerColor has also gone with an ultra high end 12+2+2 all-digital PWM that is up to 90% efficient and utilizes 560uF Super Caps, a unique “PowerIRstage” for quick 1.0MHz switching frequencies and additional MOSFET heatsinks to keep everything operating at optimal levels. This card had to be built to withstand the rigors of long gaming sessions on a pair of overclocked Tahiti XT cores and it looks like PowerColor has done exactly that.

HD7990-9.jpg

No, you aren’t seeing double. The Devil 13 is indeed equipped with a trio of 8-pin power connectors which –when combined- can deliver up to 450W which should give some indication of the overhead which PowerColor built into their halo product. We’re also told that the power interconnects on this card are designed in such a way that it won’t draw any power from the motherboard’s PCI-E slot unless absolutely necessary.

HD7990-11.jpg
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Rounding out the connector selection is a single Crossfire interconnect should someone have the resources to unload $2000 on two Devil 13s. Meanwhile, the gargantuan rear I/O panel features two DVI-D outputs and plugs for two mini DisplayPorts and a single HDMI 1.4.

There’s also a look-at-me red button which is used to switch between the stock and GHz Edition (or OC) BIOS. Just be aware that in order for the system to register the clock speed increase, you’ll have to reinstall the drivers when switching between BIOS files.

HD7990-17.jpg
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According to PowerColor, the small dots you see above are voltage read points but they aren’t clearly labeled. In addition, while they worked for GPU voltage, we couldn’t find the placement for the GDDR5 voltage measurements. They are also infinitesimally small so actually hitting the correct one is quite hard.

HD7990-13.jpg

The full-sized backplate on this card is very, very thick which could cause an issue with motherboards that have the top PCI-E slot close to the memory slots. However, its uses are numerous since PowerColor uses it to disperse heat from the rear-mounted GDDR5 memory modules and additional power components which are mounted against it.

HD7990-19.jpg
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What ultra high end card would be complete without a lighting show, right? PowerColor delivers in this respect with a total of six blazingly bright white LEDs which illuminate in parallel with power phase utilization. The effect is slightly distracting by strangely hypnotic.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

Processor: Intel i7 3930K @ 4.5GHz
Memory: Corsair Vengeance 32GB @ 1866MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P9X79 WS
Cooling: Corsair H80
SSD: 2x Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T / 3x Acer 235Hz
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2600K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: ASUS P8Z68-V Pro
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W


Drivers:
NVIDIA 306.23
AMD 12.8


Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Batman: Arkham City

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Battlefield 3

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Crysis 2

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Metro 2033

<object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Shogun 2: Total War

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Skyrim

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/HQGfH5sjDEk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Wargame: European Escalation

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/ztXmjZnWdmk?version=3&hl=en_US&rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​

*Notes:

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset

HD7990-30.jpg


Extreme Preset

HD7990-31.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Batman: Arkham City (DX11)

Batman: Arkham City (DX11)


Batman: Arkham City is a great looking game when all of its detail levels are maxed out but it also takes a fearsome toll on your system. In this benchmark we use a simple walkthrough that displays several in game elements. The built-in benchmark was avoided like the plague simply because the results it generates do not accurately reflect in-game performance.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-32.jpg


HD7990-33.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-34.jpg


HD7990-35.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Battlefield 3 (DX11)

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-38.jpg


HD7990-39.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-40.jpg


HD7990-41.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Crysis 2 (DX11)

Crysis 2 (DX11)


Crysis 2 with the DX11 and Texture Package installed not only looks great but it is a strain on any GPU. For this benchmark, we used a classic runthrough which includes far views, explosions, combat and close-in knifing; basically every hallmark of gameplay.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-43.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-44.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be the hardest game for today’s high end gaming rigs to render. While the game mostly takes place indoors, it is the few outdoor areas that put additional strain on graphics cards. So for this test, we use one of the more involved outdoor sections: the Sharif Manufacturing Loading Docks.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-48.jpg


HD7990-49.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-50.jpg


HD7990-51.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Dirt 3 (DX11)

Dirt 3 (DX11)


Dirt 3 isn’t all that much different from its predecessor but the developers have added a few more visual touches but boost image quality. In this case, we used the Michigan Rally track since it features some of the hardest to render features of the game: expansive vistas, water, dirt effects, trees and many other items.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-53.jpg


HD7990-54.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-55.jpg


HD7990-56.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.

1920 x 1200

HD7990-59.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD7990-60.jpg
 

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