HIS Radeon HD 6990 4GB Overclocked Video Card Review

HIS send us a HD 6990 and we see what kind of overclock we can achieve with the fan set to Auto.

Manufacturer: HIS
16 minutes & 36 seconds read time

Introduction and Package


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With another HD 6990 4GB arriving, we take the time to have a proper look at the overclocking potential of the model. It was great that we achieved 1GHz on both cores on our Sapphire sample, but considering we had to run the fan at 100% which generated in excess of 90 dB of noise, we understand that it's hardly a feasible option for most people.

So instead of testing the HIS HD 6990 4GB at its reference speeds or in CrossFireX (two things we've already done), we'll instead be testing its overclocking potential with the fan set to a much more bearable AUTO.

Of course, we'll again be using MSI Afterburner software to overclock and that means we'll be able to increase the core voltage on both our cores which should help us achieve a strong overclock. Before we get into that, though, let's first check out the package of the HIS card before taking a closer look at the card itself.

Once we've done that we'll of course check out the specifications on the model, but more importantly the overclock we managed to achieve. Then the fun stuff begins and we find out just what kind of performance we're able to get from the card when it's overclocked above the 880MHz that AUSUM mode offers us.

The Package

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The overall box design doesn't hold any surprises except for the fact it's a bit longer than we're used to due to the longer card. Inside we've got a strong showing of cables; before we get into that, though, we've got the normal line-up of stuff like manual, driver CD, CrossFire Bridge, two Dual-Molex to 8-Pin PCIE connectors and a DVI to VGA connector.

The other four connectors are all Mini DP convertors. There's an active and passive Single-Link DVI convertor; one that converts to HDMI and the final one converts to normal DisplayPort. It's fantastic that AMD and its partners have given us a load of adapters for the card as it means at launch you'll be able to really make use of it, depending on the monitor you've got.

The Card & Specification

Card Pictures

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Looking at the card, you're seeing the same design as the other HD 6990s we've looked at. Of course, the main difference is that the card carries different labeling and in this case it's HIS and that really nice blue that we see on most of their cards.

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Taking a spin around the card finds our two 8-Pin PCIE power connectors at the back of the card, while closer to the front we've got our CrossFire connector and little switch to change the BIOS we're using. Connectivity comes in the form of four mini DP connectors along with a single Dual-Link DVI connector.


The HIS HD 6990 as you would expect just carries the reference clocks, which means 830MHz core out of the box and 5000MHz QDR on the memory front. In AUSUM mode the 4GB carries the same clock speed, while the core is bumped up to 880MHz.

Of course, our intention today is to overclock, so let's fire up MSI Afterburner, set the core voltage to 1.25v and see what kind of clocks we're able to achieve.

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What we ended up with was a core clock of 960MHz and the 4GB of Memory came in at 5700MHz QDR. This is a nice overclock and should yield some strong performance gains over the out of the box performance.

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.

The line up here today is very similar to what you've seen in most of our HD 6990 coverage. We've got the HIS HD 6990 at the overclocked speed we achieved along with the Sapphire HD 6990 4GB in AUSUM mode and at the reference out of the box speeds.

We've also got a couple of CrossFire setups in the form of HD 6950 and HD 6970. For NVIDIA we've got their top single GPU card, the GTX 580, and two SLI setups; the GTX 560 Ti and the GTX 580.

Something that is really worth remembering today is that the GTX 580 SLI setup costs around the $1000 mark, while the single HD 6990 comes in at $699. That's quite a significant difference and while we're overclocking the HIS HD 6990 today, it's something you need to keep in mind.

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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In our first test we see that in the performance preset the score is near identical to the GTX 580 SLI setup. In the higher resolution X preset, though, it's not near as close and you can see the HIS HD 6990 4GB has a nice jump on the GTX 580 SLI setup.

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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Across the board we can see a gradual increase in overall performance as we move from out of the box to AUSUM, to our overclocked speeds. Of course, the NVIDIA offerings do perform stronger in this instance due to the PhysX support.

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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Getting into some intensive benchmarks, we can see the strong gains that are brought to the table with the HD 6990 overclocked. You can see that the HIS HD 6990 4GB overclocked performs better at 1920 x 1200 than the same card out of the box performs at 1680 x 1050.

The ability to move up a resolution and not have any impact on performance is great; that's what overclocking has bought to the table here.

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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Not until we get to 2560 x 1600 do we really see the benefit of the overclock under Resident Evil 5. Compared to the other offerings, the setup here falls only second to the more expensive GTX 580 SLI setup.

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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Sure, we've already got some massive numbers under H.A.W.X. 2, but it's nice to see more performance again, especially at 2560 x 1600. Sure it's not needed, but nor was the performance increase in AUSUM mode; it doesn't mean we don't want it, though.

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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At the lower resolutions there's not a lot going on; moving to 2560 x 1600 we see a little bump in performance, but we of course already have very strong performance from the card under Mafia II.

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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Across the board we've already got some great performance from the HD 6990 4GB under Lost Planet 2. At 2560 x 1600, though, we're not all that far away from the average that we pretty much consider is a minimum of what is playable. Having more breathing room on top of that is appreciated and is going to guarantee our FPS doesn't drop below 30 FPS.

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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Here we've got another really intensive setup and you can just see the HIS card is able to eat up the resolutions. You can see the kind of performance increase from stock as well; to move from a 71 FPS average to 83 FPS is very impressive. There's just some serious power on tap here.

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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No real surprise with these massive numbers, it continues to be funny seeing an average of over 400 FPS at 2560 x 1600, though.

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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Under Far Cry 2 we've already got very playable numbers. Overclocked, though, we see the card is just able to improve on them.

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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Overall we see a boost in our average scores, but we do seem to hit a bit of a wall under Batman AA. Still, this isn't much of a surprise considering the amount of power we've got on offer from these higher end setups.

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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When we crank up the detail via AA and AF you continue to see some astronomical performance and you clearly notice the card has no issue dealing with games under these intensive settings. This is where the appeal for such a card is and how you make use of all this power on a single monitor.

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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It comes as no surprise that the core temps rise up a little; combining the extra voltage on the cores with the overclock and you're just going to generate more heat. Still, we're not too bad and we've seen single GPU cards perform hotter in previous generations, so it's not something we're all that worried about.

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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The thing about noise levels on the HD 6990 is that they're all over the place. The fluctuation is quite high. Normally when we get a reading of noise levels it's consistent. It tends to hit that level and stay around there in 3D gaming. In the HD 6990 4GB case, though, we will see it hit around the 79dB mark for 15 seconds and come back down to 65dB.

To be honest, I think you'd be better off setting the fan manually to a noise level you can handle; probably somewhere between these two. That would prevent the fluctuation and still keep your core temps at a good level. Of course, this can all be done under Afterburner, so it's worth looking at.

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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With PowerTune set to +20 and our core voltage increased, the jump in overall system draw isn't a surprise. Still, it's at a level that most people should feel comfortable with since you should have yourself a decent power supply if you're paying $700 for a video card.

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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This image really paints a great picture. There's not much faster than the HIS HD 6990 4GB in this instance and everything that is faster costs significantly more. These are pretty impressive results, though, and you can see the step up in performance as we move from out of the box, to AUSUM, to overclocked.

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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Overclocking does indeed help the value of the card increase into more confortable levels, but as with most high end cards Value isn't really the name of the game for them. In the end, though, if you want a super-fast single card solution, then the value of this one is much greater to you than someone else.

Final Thoughts

Really, when you look at the performance the HD 6990 4GB offers out of the box there's not really any reason to flick that BIOS switch over to position 1 and unleash the beast that is AUSUM mode. So you find yourself wondering, why flick the switch, throw more voltage through the card and push the clocks even further?

Well, I answer that question with another question! Why not? Sure, you probably don't find yourself overclocking for everyday use, because it's not really necessary, especially at the moment as the card eats up every game benchmark at any single screen resolution. If you're going to benchmark, though, the chances are you're going to want to overclock and if you're happy to get right into benchmarking, you can push that core to 1GHz while pushing the fan to 100%.

More often we overclock because we want to, not because we need to. If you want to make use of even more power and don't mind the extra dBs that the setup will carry, go for it, but if you buy yourself a HIS HD 6990 4GB and don't touch overclocking or the AUSUM switch and you're going to be just as happy.

The HIS HD 6990 4GB is a great card and it feels like it's been forever since we saw a dual GPU model not just from AMD, but from anyone. It's here now and while stock is a little in and out, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting a card. The biggest problem at the moment might be getting one for $699, as there seems to be a little bit of an early adopter's tax thrown on top. Still, at an extra $20 or $30 the card continues to be amazing and at $699 the extra few dollars don't seem as significant.

HIS has done a fantastic job with the package by including a load of convertors that are going to make getting the card up and running straight away with any monitor an absolute breeze.

As you would expect, the HIS HD 6990 4GB is a fast card and overall just a great card for people who demand power. Overclocking potential clearly exists, but it's fairly safe to assume a lot of people probably won't bother due to the simple fact it's not really necessary.

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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.

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