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Power consumption

AMD initially suggested to us that the 6990's idle power draw should be somewhat lower than the 5970's, and so it is. That's not a huge difference, but it is something. Heck, the entire system based on the 6990 only draws 8W more at idle than the same system equipped with a single GeForce GTX 580.

Under load, the 6990 remains reasonable, drawing less power than a pair of GTX 560s in SLI, though it generally outperforms them. There is a price for being AUSUM, though, and apparently it's about 50 watts. Who knew? Still, the AUSUM 6990 config draws substantially less power than our GeForce GTX 570 SLI system.

Noise levels and GPU temperatures

The 6990 is the loudest solution we tested, both at idle and, more dramatically, when running a game. That difference is especially perceptible when the card is hitting over 58 on the decibel meter. You will notice the difference between the 6990 and the other solutions; it's quite audible. The 6990 emits a fairly loud hiss, although its pitch and tenor aren't especially offensive compared to some of the worst solutions we've seen over the years.

Dual-card setups have an acoustic advantage, as our results illustrate. With four slots occupied and two full-length coolers, there's simply more surface area available for heat dissipation. With that said, AMD has apparently tuned the 6990's cooler fairly aggressively; it has some of the lowest GPU temperatures of the bunch, and you'll pay for maintaining those by adding a little extra noise.