Radeon HD 6990M Now the World’s Fastest Mobile GPU
The words “world’s fastest mobile GPU” are being thrown around a lot these days. It’s only been a couple of weeks since Nvidia released its GTX 580M and claimed the title of “fastest”. Now AMD has picked up the glove and responded in kind with its latest Mobility Radeon HD 6990M for laptops. This graphics chip will of course go head-to-head with the Nvidia GTX 580 M, and according to AMD, the 6990M is about 20% faster than its competitor. These numbers should be taken with a pinch of salt considering the source, but even on paper it does indeed look like AMD has a stronger top-tier GPU than Nvidia in the 6990M. As usual, you can not compare it to the desktop Radeon HD 6990. Just like the GTX 580M is a rough equivalent of the desktop GTX 560, the mobile 6990M is comparable to a desktop Radeon 6870. You can however rest assured that the pricing will remain on par with the same desktop model numbers, but one can always hope that this new and healthy competition towards OEMs might result in lower prices for consumers.
Tests performed by AMD show that the 6990M is up to 20 percent faster than the 580M in some games and in the popular benchmarks 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark11, the difference is between 5 and 20 percent to AMD’s advantage. The only thing that might stand in the way for AMD is that they are somewhat behind their competitor in efficient battery-saving features. Nvidia’s Optimus does a pretty good job at combining Intel’s integrated Sandy Bridge IGP with a dedicated card, so Nvidia may have an advantage with consumers looking for smooth switching between battery life and performance.
The fact sheet for the Radeon 6990M is very impressive; it has an entire 1120 shaders enabled, compared to 960 in AMD’s previously fastest 6970M. Although the core and memory clocks remain the same, the shader clocks have been boosted to 715MHz clock speed vs 680MHz in its predecessor. The amount of GDDR5 memory has been doubled to 2 GB over the 6970M, which only came with 1 GB. Whether it can take advantage of the extra video RAM is another question entirely, but it might be useful in demanding games at high resolutions and with high resolution textures.
It also supports DirectX11 of course, and introduces OpenCL 1.1 and DirectCompute as well as HD3D (stereoscopic 3D) support, although the latter requires specific panels and active shutter 3D glasses to work. The AMD Radeon HD 6990M is available right away in the Alienware M18x, or more specifically two of them in CrossFireX. A dual HD6990M upgrade for the M18x is currently $500, which without a doubt makes it the most cost-effective GPU option yet in terms of price/performance (the GTX 580M SLI upgrade will set you back $1,200). It seems that Nvidia will have to lower the price on their no-longer-fastest GPU to remain competitive.