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Radeon 6990 vs Radeon 6970 CrossFire vs GTX 570 SLI

By Norman Chan

The test of dual-GPU gaming.

Earlier this week, I published my test of AMD's Radeon 6990 video card--a single board sporting two Cayman GPUs. While the performance of the 6990 was nothing short of impressive, I really couldn't compare its numbers with those of just single-GPU video cards like the GTX 580. Additionally, I had upgraded our test bench for this high-end part, so I didn't have benchmark numbers for other parts tested with this new system configuration. Today's update includes two sets of benchmarks for comparison with the 6990, both dual-GPU solutions. The first is two Radeon 6970 video cards in CrossFire, and the second is two GeForce GTX 570 cards in SLI (Asus's models which are clocked a little higher than reference boards). I used the same Sandy Bridge Core i7 2600K setup for all the tests, and ran our benchmark suite at 2560x1600 on a 30-inch monitor.


 

BenchmarkRadeon HD 6990
Radeon HD 6970 
CrossFireX
GeForce GTX 570 SLI
 Crysis (no AA)
44
52.94
45.46
 Crysis (8x AA)
38.7
46.39
38.29
 Far Cry 2 Action (no AA)
78.93
77.4
81.16
 Far Cry 2 Action (8x AA)
76.79
78.24
72.01
 Far Cry 2 Ranch (no AA)
133.2
134.26
138.59
 Far Cry 2 Ranch (8x AA)
100.4
109.29
98.45
 STALKER CoP (no AA)
84.25
92.1
149.35
 STALKER CoP (4x AA)
67.7
74.8
123.27
 Metro 2033 DX11
2425.67 26.67
 Metro 2033 DX11 (4x MSAA)
22.33 24
8.12
 Metro 2033 DX10 (4x MSAA)
32
34.33
23.33
 
While the results are fairly close, the dual-video card configurations beat out the 6990 in all tests. The deltas between the 6990 and the two 6970s in CrossFire should be the most interesting, since they're both using almost the exact same GPUs, just at different core clocks (830MHz vs 880MHz). Two 6970s destroy the 6990 in Crysis and STALKER, but performance is about the same in Far Cry 2 and Metro 2033.  Considering that the 6970 is just a little over half the price of the 6990, it seems like there's little incentive to pick up the 6990 if you have a power supply that can handle two 6970s in CrossFire. Two 6970s do consume more power at full load than a single 6990, but they're still quieter and the two-card configuration will fit in more cases than the single 12" video card. 
 
Two GTX 570s in SLI also prove to be performance winner, claiming the lead in around half the tests. They also have the advantage of only requiring two six-pin PCI-E power connectors for each card as opposed to the six and eight-pin connectors needed for the 6970. The 570s are also selling right at $350, so once again you're getting a better value buying two of these than a single 6990.  
 
One final note--I ran the Crysis 2 multiplayer demo with all three of these configurations, and while the demo doesn't have a built-in benchmark, framerates during gameplay were silky smooth at the Hardcore graphics settings. So yes, with a 6990 or two high-end graphics cards, you can play Crysis 2 at 2560x1600.