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AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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AMD’s Current Lineup

AMD’s Current Lineup


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As a follow up to the Barts architecture, Cayman series cards will represent the upper end of AMD’s current refreshed lineup with only the Antilles dual GPU card left to complete the enthusiast product space. There will be additional entry level cards based off of the Turks and Caicos cores in the coming months as well but for the time being what you see is a top to bottom assault upon the $200 to $400 markets.

The HD 6970 is the current kingpin of AMD’s product stack with a massive amount of rendering potential even though it does feature less shaders and the same number of ROPs as the outgoing HD 5870. On the flip side, the Cayman products have the capacity for additional texture horsepower through the use of extra SIMD engines. One of the largest departures is the use a 2GB of ultra fast 5Ghz+ GDDR5 on these cards which allows them to push some incredible bandwidth numbers.

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While the HD 6970 is officially geared as a competitor against the GTX 570 and EOL’d GTX 480 with a price of only $369, the HD 6950 2GB is currently slotted into a market that currently doesn’t really hold all that much competition. The GTX 470 does currently occupy the $250 to $275 price points but the Cayman Pro should outperform it and as such it naturally costs a bit more as well. In the coming weeks we should also see a 1GB version of this card that will be aimed at a slightly lower scale market.

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From a cost standpoint, AMD’s new cards seem to hit the nail on the head when it comes to price versus performance. However, they are also up against some extremely tough competition with NVIDIA’s GTX 580 and GTX 570 drawing rave reviews for their new take on an existing architecture. One thing that should be apparent is that AMD’s original goal with Cayman seemed to be direct competition for the GTX 480 and GTX 470 but with delays came a brand new playing field.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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A Closer Look at the HD 6970 & HD 6950

A Closer Look at the HD 6970 & HD 6950


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In their reference guises, both the HD 6970 and HD 6950 are literally carbon copies of one another. There really isn’t much to distinguish one from another but expect non-reference designs of the HD 6950 to be available from a few weeks after launch as board partners try to maximize their profits on this SKU.

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Much like NVIDIA, AMD has decided to go with a vapor chamber heatsink and full length shroud and typical blower-style fan for the HD 6900-series. All of the 6000-series will eventually have very similar designs and we can see these Cayman cards carry the same stunning triple stripe pattern which we first saw on the HD 6870 and HD 6850. The fan has also been upgraded to a large 80mm unit to increase airflow and reduce noise.

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The rear quarters are where the differences between the XT and Pro come to the forefront. While the HD 6950 maintains AMD’s status quo dual six-pin power connectors, the HD 6970 becomes AMD’s first single GPU product since the HD 2900 XT to carry a 6-pin / 8-pin combination.

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One of the more interesting features of the HD 6900 series lies in the inclusion of a small switch next to the Crossfire connector. This controls the Dual BIOS function which will allow a user to switch between a pre-defined reference BIOS in Bank 1 and a custom BIOS in Bank 2. By default, both BIOSes on the reference cards will be set to default values but it shouldn’t be long until overclockers are releasing hacked BIOS files for increased voltage, fan speeds and other items. This switch can also act as a fail-safe in case a BIOS flash goes wrong since it can be used to load the default bank without having to resort to any extreme measures.

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With 2GB of GDDR5 memory positioned on the front and back of these cards, it was only natural that AMD would choose to go with a backplate. In this case it is a full length aluminum cover that works quite well a dissipating excess heat from the memory modules.

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In terms of PCB length, the HD 6900 series is exactly 10.5” long but since the fan shroud exceeds the PCB’s edge you’ll need a good 10 ¾” clearing within your enclosure.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Test System & Setup

Test System & Setup

Processor: Intel Core i7 920(ES) @ 4.0Ghz (Turbo Mode Enabled)
Memory: Corsair 3x2GB Dominator DDR3 1600Mhz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: CoolIT Boreas mTEC + Scythe Fan Controller (Off for Power Consumption tests)
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 640GB
Power Supply: Corsair HX1000W
Monitor: Samsung 305T 30” widescreen LCD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Graphics Cards:

NVIDIA GTX 570
NVIDIA GTX 580
NVIDIA GTX 480 (Ref)
NVIDIA GTX 470 (Ref)

ATI HD 5970 2GB (Ref)
ATI HD 5870 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 5850 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6870 1GB (Ref)
ATI HD 6850 1GB (Ref)



Drivers:

NVIDIA 263.09 WHQL
NVIDIA 260.99 WHQL (400-series)
ATI 10.12 Beta RC2


Applications Used:

3DMark 11
Aliens Versus Predator
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DiRT 2
F1 2010
Just Cause 2
Lost Planet
Metro 2033
Unigine: Heaven


*Notes:

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR BENCHMARKING PROCESS PLEASE SEE THIS ARTICLE

- All games tested have been patched to their latest version

- The OS has had all the latest hotfixes and updates installed

- All scores you see are the averages after 3 benchmark runs

All game-specific methodologies are explained above the graphs for each game

All IQ settings were adjusted in-game
 
Last edited:

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
3DMark 11 (DX11)

3DMark 11 (DX11)


3DMark 11 is the latest in a long line of synthetic benchmarking programs from the Futuremark Corporation. This is their first foray into the DX11 rendering field and the result is a program that incorporates all of the latest techniques into a stunning display of imagery. Tessellation, depth of field, HDR, OpenCL physics and many others are on display here. In the benchmarks below we have included the results (at default settings) for both the Performance and Extreme presets.


Performance Preset

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Extreme Preset

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)

Aliens Versus Predator (DX11)


When benchmarking Aliens Versus Predator, we played through the whole game in order to find a section which represents a “worst case” scenario. We finally decided to include “The Refinery” level which includes a large open space and several visual features that really tax a GPU. For this run-through, we start from within the first tunnel, make our way over the bridge on the right (blowing up several propane tanks in the process), head back over the bridge and finally climb the tower until the first run-in with an Alien. In total, the time spent is about four minutes per run. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)

BattleField: Bad Company 2 (DX11)


To benchmark BF: BC2 we used a five minute stretch of gameplay starting from the second checkpoint (after the helicopter takes off) of the second single player mission up until your battle with the tank commences. Framerates are recorded with FRAPS.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
DiRT 2 (DX11)

DiRT 2 (DX11)


Being one of the newest games on the market, DiRT 2 cuts an imposing figure in terms of image quality and effects fidelity. We find that to benchmark this game the in-game tool is by far the best option. However, due to small variances from one race to another, three benchmark runs are done instead of the normal two. It should also be mentioned that the demo version of the game was NOT used since after careful testing, the performance of the demo is not representative of the final product. DX11 was forced through the game’s config file. In addition, you will see that these scores do not line up with our older benchmarks at all. This is due to the fact that a patch was recently rolled out for the game which included performance optimizations in addition to new graphics options.

1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
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Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
F1 2010 (DX11)

F1 2010 (DX11)



1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Just Cause 2 (DX10)

Just Cause 2 (DX10)


Just Cause 2 has quickly become known as one of the best-looking games on the market and while it doesn’t include DX11 support, it uses the full stable of DX10 features to deliver a truly awe-inspiring visual experience. For this benchmark we used the car chase scene directly following the Casino Assault level. This scene includes perfectly scripted events, some of the most GPU-strenuous effects and lasts a little less than four minutes. We chose to not use the in-game benchmarking tool due to its inaccuracy when it comes to depicting actual gameplay performance.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Lost Planet 2 (DX11)

Lost Planet 2 (DX11)


Lost Planet is a game that was originally released on consoles but in its port over to the PC, it gained some highly impressive DX11 features. For this benchmark, we forgo the two built-in tools and instead use a 2 minute gameplay sequence from the second level in the first chapter. The reason we use this level is because it makes use of three elements that are seen throughout the game world: jungles, water and open terrain.


1680 x 1050

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1920 x 1200

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2560 x 1600

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