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Review: PowerColor HD 7990 Devil 13

by Parm Mann on 12 September 2012, 17:00 3.5

Tags: PowerColor (6150.TWO), AMD (NYSE:AMD), NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qabmar

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The Devil's in the details

You know the feeling, a €1,000 graphics card lands on your doorstep and you just can't wait to load it up and play some Battlefield. But that excitement soon faded with the Devil 13, which, after an easy install, proved to be unstable - applying even the briefest of loads would result in the fans spinning up to extreme speeds and temperatures jumping up to 99ºC.

PowerColor's Taipei office insisted that our sample was "given the OK" before leaving the office, but there was clearly a problem with the card so a second, replacement Devil 13 landed on our doorstep a few days later. It exhibited the same flaw.

Turns out the cooler isn't applying the right amount of pressure on the GPUs, but we were able to patch-up our second sample by dismantling the card, re-applying the thermal paste and re-fastening the screws extremely tight. Doing so managed to get the card up and running at much better temperatures, but PowerColor acknowledges the flaw and states that it has "made some adjustments to the final product before shipping to the etailers," which in turn explains why the Devil 13 hasn't yet appeared on UK store shelves.

 

PowerColor is adamant that the cooler will function correctly on all retail products, but our two defective samples do provide cause for concern, and, inadvertently, increase appreciation of the standard three-year warranty.

A shame, really, as the Devil 13 proves to be a true powerhouse when it's running as the manufacturer intended. The red-on-black colour scheme looks menacing and the sheer scale of the thing provides a flashback to monster cards of yesteryear.

Measuring 12.5in long and tipping the scales at a hefty 1.77kg, it really is a beast, and one that eats up three whole expansion slots. That makes it a slot wider than the GTX 690, as well as an inch-and-a-half longer, and at least 700g heavier. If it's elegance you're after, you won't find it here; the Devil 13 is a good ol' fashioned brute.

 

The gargantuan cooler consists of three fans - an 80mm unit in the middle flanked by two 92mm fans either side - and a large array of copper and aluminium lies underneath. Each GPU has its own copper contact plate, along with five chunky copper heatpipes spread throughout two heatsinks.

Speaking of GPUs, PowerColor has employed a pair of Tahiti XT chips hooked up together via an onboard bridge that's positioned beneath the small heatsink between the GPUs. The card also offers up a single CrossFire connector, so two Devil 13s can be partnered up for some crazy quad-GPU action.

The choice of chip is important as PowerColor's solution is effectively two Radeon HD 7970s on a single PCB. Each chip is clocked in at a reference-matching 925MHz and each is married up to a 3GB GDDR5 frame buffer clocked at an effective 5,500MHz. Remember, the Devil 13 carries a total of 6GB of onboard memory, but each GPU has access to exactly half of that via a 384-bit bus.

What's interesting is that PowerColor hasn't used the new-and-improved HD 7970 GHz Edition GPUs, which incorporate PowerTune with Boost Technology to allow the core frequency to ramp up if temperatures and board power permit.

 

Instead, the manufacturer is tackling easy-access overclocking the old fashioned way; there's a red 'turbo' button that's just asking to be pressed. Hit it and a secondary BIOS kicks in to take core frequency up to 1,000MHz (an eight per cent increase), though memory speed remains unchanged.

The card's outputs are fairly standard - dual-link DVI, single-link DVI, HDMI and two mini-DisplayPorts are all present - and the bundled active DisplayPort adapter ensures a trio of DVI screens can be attached without having to purchase additional hardware.

Rounding off the monstrosity are three eight-pin power connectors. All signs suggest that this bad boy's thirsty, so let's fire it up and see how it fares.