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Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan Review

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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The HD 7970 may be the graphics card everyone is talking about but it only just became available in somewhat limited quantities and pricing is far beyond the reach of most consumers. But while the Southern Islands-based cards will take over AMD’s flagship range, lower end cards still provide great performance at a fraction of the cost. The HD 6970 is a prime example of this since it is based off of a mature architecture, can achieve playable in nearly every game and retails for less than $360 in most cases.

In order to add some interest to the HD 6970 market, Sapphire recently introduced their new Dual Fan version which is supposed to replace the reference SKU in their lineup. This card doesn’t retail for a penny over $350 but incorporates one of the best heatsink we’ve seen (wait ‘till you see the numbers this thing posts), an expanded VRM section and dual BIOSes. Unfortunately, clock speeds remain at stock speeds but with those kinds of capabilities, overclocking is certainly an option.


In terms of looks, Sapphire’s Dual Fan card is a far cry away from a reference HD 6970 2GB but it retains the usual 10.5” length. Nonetheless, there are plenty of additional features installed on this card that make it one heck of a good value for potential buyers.

HD6970-DUAL-2.jpg
HD6970-DUAL-3.jpg

The heatsink on this card is impressive to say the least with a pair of 90mm fans and a quartet of large copper heatpipes, it seems to have enough thermal mass to cool just about anything. What Sapphire hasn’t included is their typical Vapor-X technology which is meant for higher end SKUs due to the technology’s high implementation cost. For those of you wondering, the entire fan shroud is made of plastic but it is more than rigid enough to withstand a good amount of abuse.


Even though Sapphire is letting this card go for about as much as a reference design product, they have upgraded the power phases with slightly higher end components. The VRMs also get their own heatsink in order to effectively cool them off when clock speeds are pushed.

HD6970-DUAL-5.jpg

As with all HD 6970s, there is also a small switch on the PCB located right next to the Crossfire connectors. This allows overclockers to upload an additional BIOS and in Sapphire’s case they have included a profile that ups this card’s voltages for increased overclocking headroom, lets the fans run at a higher speed and tells AMD's PowerTune to raise its limit by about 50%. The standard setting for this switch allows default values to be loaded.

HD6970-DUAL-7.jpg

The Dual Fan’s backplate may look odd at first glance due to the cut outs for additional airflow but all of the standard connectors are present and accounted for. There’s a pair of mini DisplayPorts, two DVIs and a single HDMI 1.4 output, granting Eyefinity support straight out of the box.


How We Tested

Now that we’re done with the quick overview of the Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan, it’s time to discuss this review. Since this card runs at stock speeds, we won’t be testing in the usual way. Rather, our highest attained 24/7 overclock frequencies (using the included custom BIOS profile) were used and we should also note that Sapphire’s custom BIOS increases core voltage to 1.215V. The final clock speeds were 1097MHz on the core and 6188MHZ for the GDDR5 modules, by far the best clock speeds we’ve attained with a HD 6970.
 
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SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Test System & Setup / Benchmark Sequences

Main Test System

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
Disk Drive: Pioneer DVD Writer
Hard Drive: Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Monitor: Samsung 305T
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate N x64 SP1


Acoustical Test System

Processor: Intel 2500K @ stock
Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 8GB 1600MHz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD5
Cooling: Thermalright TRUE Passive
SSD: Corsair Performance Pro 256GB
Power Supply: Seasonic X-Series Gold 800W



Drivers:
AMD 11.12 WHQL + 11.12 CAP1
AMD Beta for HD 7970 (December 20th)
NVIDIA 285.62 WHQL

Application Benchmark Information:
Note: In all instances, in-game sequences were used. The videos of the benchmark sequences have been uploaded below.


Battlefield 3

<object width="640" height="480"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/i6ncTGlBoAw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="640" height="480" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Crysis 2

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/Bc7_IAKmAsQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Deus Ex Human Revolution

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/GixMX3nK9l8?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Dirt 3

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/g5FaVwmLzUw?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Metro 2033

<object width="480" height="360"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/8aZA5f8l-9E?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="480" height="360" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Shogun 2: Total War

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/oDp29bJPCBQ?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


Witcher 2 v2.0

<object width="560" height="315"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/tyCIuFtlSJU?version=3&hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="560" height="315" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object>​


*Notes:

- 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 IQ settings were adjusted in-game and all GPU control panels were set to use application settings
 

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

HD6970-DUAL-30.jpg


Extreme Preset

HD6970-DUAL-31.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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

Battlefield 3 (DX11)


For this benchmark, we used a sequence from the Rock and Hard Place mission. The results may seem lower than normal and this is due to the fact that after playing through the game multiple times, this one are was found to be the most demanding on the GPU. As with all of the tests, we try to find a worst case scenario in order to ensure a given card can properly play through the whole game instead of just a “typical” section.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-32.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-33.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-34.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-35.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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

Crysis 2 (DX11)


Crysis 2 with the DX11 and Texture Package installed not only looks great but it is a strain on any GPU. For this benchmark, we used a classic runthrough which includes far views, explosions, combat and close-in knifing; basically every hallmark of gameplay.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-36.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-37.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX11)


Deus Ex: Human Revolution may not be the hardest game for today’s high end gaming rigs to render. While the game mostly takes place indoors, it is the few outdoor areas that put additional strain on graphics cards. So for this test, we use one of the more involved outdoor sections: the Sharif Manufacturing Loading Docks.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-40.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-41.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-42.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-43.jpg
 

SKYMTL

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

Dirt 3 (DX11)


Dirt 3 isn’t all that much different from its predecessor but the developers have added a few more visual touches but boost image quality. In this case, we used the Michigan Rally track since it features some of the hardest to render features of the game: expansive vistas, water, dirt effects, trees and many other items.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-44.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-45.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-46.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-47.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Metro 2033 (DX11)

Metro 2033 (DX11)


For this test we use a walkthrough and combat scene from The Bridge level which starts at the beginning of the level and lasts for about 3 minutes of walking, running and combat. Famerates are measured with FRAPS and Advanced PhysX is turned off.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-49.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-50.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)

Shogun 2: Total War (DX11)


Due to its very nature, Shogun 2 is a tough game to benchamark since the in-game tool doesn’t accurately convey an in-game experience. So we took a pre-recorded battle which pits three large armies against one another and includes camera zooms, fog, gun smoke and other items. Using a pre-recorded sequence also effectively removes the CPU from the equation since it doesn’t have to process AI.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-52.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-53.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-54.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-55.jpg
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
Staff member
Joined
Feb 26, 2007
Messages
12,841
Location
Montreal
The Witcher 2 (DX9)

The Witcher 2 (DX9)


The Witcher 2 may be a DX9 based game but its graphics quality is beyond reproach. In this benchmark we take an area out of The Kayran mission and include one of the toughest effects the graphics engine has in store for the GPU: rain. Throughout this sequence, rain plays a large part but explosions, combat and even some sun shafts are included as well.

1920 x 1200

HD6970-DUAL-57.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-58.jpg


2560 x 1600

HD6970-DUAL-59.jpg


HD6970-DUAL-60.jpg
 
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