AMD Releases Its Fastest Graphics Card Yet: Radeon HD 6990

AMD on Wednesday launched its highly-anticipated dual-core Radeon HD 6990 GPU, its fastest graphics card to date, aimed at the enthusiast market. The latest member of AMD's highest-end GPU family, code-named Antilles, AMD's Radeon 6990 starts at $699 per unit and will compete with Nvidia's upcoming GeForce GTX 590 graphics card.

Measuring 12.5 inches in length, AMD's Radeon 6990 graphics card is also the longest GPU on the market, cramming in a variety of performance-enhancing capabilities. It consists of two Radeon HD 6970 cores on a single PCB, following the lead of AMD's mid-range Radeon HD 5970 offering, which consists of two Radeon 5870 cards connected by a PLX bridge. It features 3,072 stream processors, 192 texture units, and 64 ROPs, and a core base clock speed of 830 MHz.

The Radeon HD 6990 includes a frame buffer of 4 GB of GDDR5 memory, operating on a 5-Gbps, 256-bit memory path. It comes with a dual-BIOS switch enabling a built-in overclocking option and an increase in standard clock speed to 880 MHz, 1.175 volts, and 5.4 teraflops of compute power.

Meanwhile, according to a report from Expreview, Nvidia's own dual-core GeForce GTX 500 offering is due for release on March 22. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 590 will reportedly feature two GF 110 cores, as well as 1024 CUDA, or Fermi, cores, 3GB GDDR5 memory, dual-8pin external power connectors and a 375 Watt TDP.

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Nvidia could not be reached for comment.

However, Nvidia last year postponed the release of its GTX 590 card to March, despite the fact that sources at the company say Nvidia and its partners are ready to launch the product. Nvidia chose to delay its offering in response to AMD's decision to postpone the new version of its own high-end dual-core Radeon HD 6950 card Antilles GPU.

The launch in November of Nvidia's GeForce GTX 580 GPU -- the company's highest-end card to this point, running 512 CUDA cores on Nvidia's Fermi parallel processing architecture -- may have placed some price pressure on AMD's Antilles family. While the Radeon 6990 is available for $699, Nvidia's GTX 580 starts at $499. However, the GTX 580 runs at a more modest graphics clock speed of 772-MHz, processor clock speed of 1544-MHz, and 1.5 GB of 384-bit GDDR5 memory running at a speed of 4.0 Gbps.

Next: AMD's 6900 Series Radeon Chips

AMD's 6900 series debuted late last year, with the launch of processors now featured inside the dual-core Radeon 6990 card. AMD in December launched its Radeon 6970 GPU its Radeon 6970 GPU, which runs at a core clock speed of 880 MHz, and includes 24 SIMD stream processors, 96 texture units, and 256 bit wide memory running at 5.5 Gbps. The single-core Radeon 6970 starts at $350.

AMD earlier this month at the opening of CeBit 2011 in Hanover, Germany released official images of its upcoming Radeon HD 6990 GPU detailing some specifications -- among them, the inclusion of two AMD Radeon 6970 GPUs, which launched in December.