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Sapphire Radeon HD 6990 4GB Video Card in AUSUM Mode

We flick Sapphire's HD 6990 4GB over to AUSUM mode, close our eyes and power on the system. We've survived to tell you about the extra grunt on offer!
@ShawnBakerTW
Published Thu, Mar 17 2011 1:18 AM CDT   |   Updated Fri, Sep 18 2020 10:50 PM CDT
Manufacturer: SapphireTech

Introduction and Package Pictures


Introduction

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You might've heard us mention this new "AUSUM" mode a bit in our recent Sapphire HD 6990 4GB. If you missed out reading our Sapphire HD 6990 Technical Preview, I'd highly recommend you check it out to see exactly what it does, even if you just jump to page 3 which covers "AUSUM" mode and the Dual BIOS switch.

Due to the fact we've already covered the Sapphire HD 6990 in quite a lot of detail, we'll just be getting straight into the specifications of the card when we flick that Dual BIOS switch to AUSUM mode.

If you can't be bothered reading the Technical Preview and you don't know exactly what AUSUM mode does, we'll quickly just cover how you switch it on and the clocks it carries when on along with any other features it brings. So with that all said and done, let's check out the GPU-Z information and exactly what we're dealing with.


AUSUM Mode

Enabling "AUSUM" mode is done by nothing more than a flick of the switch. Like the HD 6950 and HD 6970, we have that little switch behind the CrossFire connector(s) that switches between two different BIOS'.

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The card ships with the switch in position 2 which carries the default 830MHz / 5000MHz QDR setup at 1.12v. Position 1 increases the core too 880MHz while also bumping the core voltage up to 1.175v.

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To achieve this you simply just flick the switch over to position 1 when your machine is off. It's a little harder to do than the HD 6970 and HD 6950 as the shroud comes up and over the switch, making it near impossible to do with your finger. We just used a pen, though, and we were up and running at 880MHz / 5000MHz QDR in no time.

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That's all there is to it. With a flick of a switch our core has been bumped up to 880MHz and what AMD is calling "AUSUM" mode is now enabled. What's AUSUM stand for? Antilles Unlocking Switch for Uber Mode.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11


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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

With the card now running at 880MHz on the core it's time to see what kind of performance boost we're able to achieve from the card. We've got a very similar line up to what you've seen in our other Sapphire HD 6990 4GB review, with the only difference being we've removed the HD 6970 by itself.

Let's get started!


3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/
Buy It Here




3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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You can see straight away with that core bump the performance increase is clear. Overall you see that the performance now is a lot closer to the HD 6970 CF setup. Performance is actually near identical.

3DMark Vantage




Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here




3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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We again see a nice boost in performance and again we see that performance of the HD 6990 4GB in AUSUM mode is near identical to the HD 6970 CF setup.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark




Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com
Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//



New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Heaven sees a performance boost as you would expect, but its performance isn't as close to the HD 6970 CF setup as the 3DMark tests which tells us that Heaven probably likes the higher memory speed on offer from the HD 6970 CF setup.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5


Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage: www.residentevil.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.residentevil.com/




Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Under RE5 we've already got strong performance. AUSUM mode helps boost it a little more which shows the HD 6990 again perform very similar to the HD 6970 CF setup. The HD 6990 in here is actually a little faster, though.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2


Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx
Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/




Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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H.A.W.X. 2 doesn't really see any increase when we increase the clocks of the card here. Compared to the HD 6970 CF setup, though, the performance continues to be stronger.

Benchmarks - Mafia II


Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/
Buy It Here




Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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You can see under Mafia II we hit a bit of a wall at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200 to the point where the OC really does nothing. 2560 x 1600 hasn't hit the same limitations, though, and we can see a nice boost in performance over the HD 6990 and HD 6970 CF setup.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2


Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/




Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 doesn't see much movement at the highest resolution, but we do see a nice boost at the lower ones. Fortunately we're above that 60 FPS average at every resolution and the Sapphire HD 6990 4GB is actually the only single card to do that yet.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator


Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/
Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/




Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Aliens vs. Predator performance is very strong already, but the HD 6990 4GB has no problems dealing with this game at all resolutions which is very impressive.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV


Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage: http://www.capcom.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.streetfighter.com/




While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Street Fighter IV shows no change with the overclock on hand which doesn't come as a surprise considering the FPS we're already dealing with.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/
Buy It Here




The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Across the board the averages are slightly up, but for the most part we're hitting a bit of a wall under Far Cry 2 these days with these hugely powerful video cards.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum


Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.batmanarkhamasylum.com/





Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Like Far Cry 2 we're again dealing with some massive FPS here and seem to be hitting a wall across the board. There's really not much to see here.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF


High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Turning the detail dial up to 11, we see a nice boost in performance across the board in most situations. The most important fact here, though, is that we've got playable FPS across the board.

Temperature Test


Temperature Tests



The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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Running with more voltage and a higher core clock the card does indeed run a little warmer, but it's not too bad with the hottest core still able to sneak under that 90c mark.

Sound Test


Sound Tests



Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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At least we're not dealing with both extra heat and extra noise. You can see above that noise levels between the two setups are almost identical.

Power Consumption Tests






Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw does indeed jump up a little which is no surprise since we're dealing with more voltage on the core, but the number isn't too worrying at a bit over 500 Watt. It's nothing a good 750 Watt power supply won't handle.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)


Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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Overall we see a clear boost in performance which puts the card now almost on top of the HD 6970 CF setup. It really shows us that a lot of the time the extra core speed is more beneficial than the memory speed.

Total Value Rating (TVR)


Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on Newegg.com. In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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With the card carrying the same price and slightly more performance we can see that the value jumps up ever so slightly. At $700, though, the HD 6990 4GB is still quite the investment.

Final Thoughts




AUSUM mode helps take the card to another level which is exactly what AMD wanted to do with the Dual BIOS switch. For the first time we're really seeing the switch used in a way we wanted it to be used.

Outside of the extra performance, though, the heat does indeed go up another level, as does the power draw. The heat might be a bit of a turn off for some users with it tipping almost 90c, but others won't mind so much. The good news is that the main reason we're seeing the extra heat is because the fan is spinning no faster.

What that means is if you want to jump into something like Afterburner you could add an extra couple of % to the fan speed to help bring the heat down while bumping noise levels up only slightly. It's not a bad tradeoff for the extra performance.

So should AMD have just released the card at 880MHz on the core and again made the switch do very little like the HD 6950 and HD 6970? I personally feel the answer to that is no. The slightly lower clock has helped keep the temperature at a really good level with one core coming in just over 80c and the other in the 70c mark.

In the end, though, I think the most important question is, do you make the switch to AUSUM mode when you buy the card? Like above, I would probably say no. Yeah, the extra performance is nice, but most are going to find it's unnecessary. You can see that even on our 4.2GHz 980x we hit a limitation in some areas.

The AUSUM switch comes in handier for overclockers. But why overclock when we say that you don't even need the extra performance that the AUSUM switch offers? Well, some people just have the need for speed and others are going to want to overclock even higher for some benchmarking fun.

If you're happy with the out of the box performance and you prefer not to deal with the extra heat, leave the card alone. If you want more performance, though, and you don't mind the heat, make the switch. Either way, I don't think you'll be disappointed with what the Sapphire HD 6990 4GB is able to offer you.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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