Amd radeon hd 6970

Radeon HD 6970

older Released December, 2010

6 Out of 10 GPUBoss Score

AMD Radeon HD 6970 880 MHz 2 GBSapphire Radeon HD 6970 Dual Fan 880 MHz 2 GBXFX Radeon HD 6970 880 MHz 2 GBMSI Radeon HD 6970 Lightning 940 MHz 2 GBASUS Radeon HD 6970 DirectCU II 890 MHz 2 GBSapphire Radeon HD 6970 FleX BF3 Edition 930 MHz 2 GBPowerColor Radeon HD 6970 Devil 13 960 MHz 2 GBGIGABYTE Radeon HD 6970 OC 900 MHz 2 GBHIS Radeon HD 6970 IceQ Turbo 900 MHz 2 GBSapphire Radeon HD 6970 Dual-X 880 MHz 2 GBASUS Radeon HD 6970 OC 890 MHz 2 GBVTX3D Radeon HD 6970 X-Edition 940 MHz 2 GBHIS Radeon HD 6970 Fan Turbo 900 MHz 2 GBSapphire Radeon HD 6970 Battlefield Vietnam 880 MHz 2 GBGIGABYTE Radeon HD 6970 OC2 920 MHz 2 GBHIS Radeon HD 6970 IceQ Mix 880 MHz 2 GBPowerColor Radeon HD 6970 PCS+ 940 MHz 2 GBSapphire Radeon HD 6970 FleX 880 MHz 2 GBPowerColor Radeon HD 6970 LCS 925 MHz 2 GB

GPU brand GPU name Market Clock speed Is dual GPU Reference card
Cayman XT
880 MHz
Shading units Texture mapping units Render output processors Compute units Pixel rate Texture rate Floating-point performance
28.16 GPixel/s
84.48 GTexel/s
2,703 GFLOPS
Memory clock speed Effective memory clock speed Memory bus Memory Memory type Memory bandwidth
1,375 MHz
5,500 MHz
256 bit
2,048 MB
176 GB/s
TDP Idle noise level Load noise level Idle power consumption Load power consumption
42.7 dB
53.2 dB

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AMD Radeon HD 6970 Review

Roughly this time last month we were testing a variety of graphics cards in the new Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. I remember picking up a Radeon HD 4870 and thinking to myself “wow I've had this thing forever”, and in a sense I have. Code-named R700, the Radeon HD 4000 series was released two and a half years ago and I'm sure many of you are still using one of these cards in your desktop PC today.

The follow up to the R700 architecture was the highly anticipated R800, which paved the way for the Radeon HD 5000 series. The king of that series was the Radeon HD 5870, released on September 2009, the card packed some 2150 million transistors produced using a 40nm manufacturing process.

The Radeon HD 5870 was a solid success for AMD, as it remained their flagship single-GPU product for roughly 15 months, and it is only being replaced today. When we first test drove the Radeon HD 5870 we concluded that it was one the best graphics cards we had ever reviewed at that price point, which says it all really.

It took Nvidia around 6 months to return fire with the GeForce GTX 480 and GTX 470 graphics cards, and even then a lot of people, including us, felt they had fallen short. Nvidia persevered and after a few quick price drops along with enhanced driver support, they eventually made for a more compelling argument.

Further down the track, the release of the GeForce GTX 460 and the refined GF110 architecture helped the company establish a viable mainstream product and gave light of things to come, namely the recent release of the GeForce GTX 580 and GeForce GTX 570 GPUs.

Meanwhile, AMD has been offering a lone Radeon HD 6000 series GPU since October, pitching the new Radeon HD 6870 head on at the GeForce GTX 460 with an MSRP of $240. As impressive as the Radeon HD 6870 is at this price point, not to mention the confusing naming scheme, AMD stressed this wasn't a 5870 replacement.

After a short delay, AMD brings us the new Radeon HD 6970. Code-named Cayman XT this new graphics processor features 2640 million transistors, 23% more than that of the 5870. Like the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570 graphics cards which are more refined versions of the GTX 480 and GTX 470 graphics cards, the Radeon HD 6970 is essentially a more refined version of the 5870. To find out exactly what this means, read on...

AMD's Radeon HD 6970 & Radeon HD 6950: Paving The Future For AMD

There are only a handful of metrics by which 2009 didn’t end as a successful year for AMD. With the launch of the Radeon HD 5800 series in September of that year AMD got a significant and unusually long-standing jump on the competition. By being the first company to transition a high-end GPU to TSMC’s 40nm process they were able to bring about the next generation of faster and cheaper video cards, quickly delivering better performance at better prices than their 55nm predecessors and competitors alike. At the same time they were the first company to produce a GPU for the new DirectX 11 standard, giving them access to a number of new features, a degree of future proofness, and good will with developers eager to get their hands on DX11 hardware.

Ultimately AMD held the high-end market for over 6 months until NVIDIA was able to counter back with the Fermi based GTX 400 series. Though it’s not unprecedented for a company to rule the high-end market for many months at a time, it’s normally in the face of slower but similar cards from the competition – to stand alone is far more rare. This is not to say that it was easy for AMD, as TSMC’s 40nm production woes kept AMD from fully capitalizing on their advantages until 2010. But even with 40nm GPUs in short supply, it was clearly a good year for AMD.

Now in the twilight of the year 2010, the landscape has once again shifted. NVIDIA did deliver the GTX 400 series, and then they delivered the GTX 500 series, once more displacing AMD from the high-end market as NVIDIA’s build’em big strategy is apt to do. In October we saw AMD reassert themselves in the mid-range market with the Radeon HD 6800 series, delivering performance close to the 5800 series for lower prices and at a greater power efficiency, and provoking a price war that quickly lead to NVIDIA dropping GTX 460 prices. With the delivery of the 6800 series, the stage has been set for AMD’s return to the high-end market with the launch of the Radeon HD 6900 series.

Launching today are the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950, utilizing AMD’s new Cayman GPU. Born from the ashes of TSMC’s canceled 32nm node, Cayman is the biggest change to AMD’s GPU microarchitecture since the original Radeon HD 2900. Just because AMD doesn’t have a new node to work with this year doesn’t mean they haven’t been hard at work, and as we’ll see Cayman and the 6900 series will brings that hard work to the table. So without further ado, let’s dive in to the Radeon HD 6900 series.

  AMD Radeon HD 6970 AMD Radeon HD 6950 AMD Radeon HD 6870 AMD Radeon HD 6850 AMD Radeon HD 5870
Stream Processors 1536 1408 1120 960 1600
Texture Units 96 88 56 48 80
ROPs 32 32 32 32 32
Core Clock 880MHz 800MHz 900MHz 775MHz 850MHz
Memory Clock 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5 1.25GHz (5.0GHz effective) GDDR5 1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5 1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 2GB 2GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 1/4 1/4 N/A N/A 1/5
Transistor Count 2.64B 2.64B 1.7B 1.7B 2.15B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point $369 $299 $239 $179 ~$249

Following AMD’s unfortunate renaming of its product stack with the Radeon HD 6800 series, the Radeon HD 6900 series is thus far a 3 part, 2 chip lineup. Today we are looking at the Cayman based 6970 and 6950, composing the top of AMD’s single-GPU product line. Above that is Antilles, the codename for AMD’s dual-Cayman Radeon HD 6990. Originally scheduled to launch late this year, the roughly month-long delay of Cayman has pushed that back; we’ll now be seeing the 3rd member of the 6900 series next year. So today the story is all about Cayman and the single-GPU cards it powers.

At the top we have the Radeon HD 6970, AMD’s top single-GPU part. Featuring a complete Cayman GPU, it has 1536 stream processors, 96 texture units, and 32 ROPs. It is clocked at 880MHz for the core clock and 1375MHz (5.5GHz data rate) for its 2GB of GDDR5 RAM. TDP (or the closest thing to it) is 250W, while reflecting the maturity and AMD’s familiarity with the 40nm process typical idle power draw is down from the 5800 series to 20W.

Below that we have the Radeon HD 6950, the traditional lower power card using a slightly cut-down GPU. The 6950 has 1408 stream processors, 88 texture units, and still all 32 ROPs attached to the same 2GB of GDDR5. The core clock is similarly reduced to 800MHz, while the memory clock is 1250MHz (5GHz data rate). TDP is 200W, while idle power is the same as with the 6970 at 20W.

From the specifications alone it’s quickly apparent that something new is happening with Cayman, as at 1536 SPs it has fewer SPs than the 1600 SP Cypress/5870 it replaces. We have a great deal to talk about here, but we’ll stick to a high-level overview for our introduction. In the biggest change to AMD’s core GPU architecture since the launch of their first DX10/unified shader Radeon HD 2900 in 2007, AMD is moving away from the Very Long Instruction Word-5 (VLIW5) architecture we have come to know them for, in favor of a slightly less wide VLIW4 architecture. In a nutshell AMD’s SIMDs are narrower but there are more of them, as AMD looks to find a new balance in their core architecture. Although it’s not a new core architecture outright, the change from VLIW5 to VLIW4 brings a number of ramifications that we will be looking at. And this is just one of the many facets of AMD’s new architecture.

Getting right to the matter of performance, the 6970 performs very close to the GTX 570/480 on average, while the 6950 is in a class of its own, occupying the small hole between the 5870/470 and the 6970/570. With that level of performance the pricing for today’s launch is rather straightforward: the 6970 will be launching slightly above the 570 at $379, while the 6950 will be launching at the $299 sweet spot. Further down the line AMD’s partners will be launching 1GB versions of these cards, which will be bringing prices down as a tradeoff for potential memory bottlenecks.

Today’s launch is going to be hard launch, with both the 6970 and the 6950 available. AMD is being slightly more cryptic than usual about just what the launch quantities are; our official guidance is “available in quantity” and “tens of thousands” of cards. On the one hand we aren’t expecting anything nearly as constrained as the 5800 series launch, and at the same time AMD is not filling us with confidence that it will be widely available like the 6800 either. If at the end of this article you decide you want a 6900 card, your best bet is to grab one sooner than later.

AMD's Current Product Stack

With the launch of the 6900 series, the 5800 series is facing its imminent retirement. There are still a number of cards on the market and they’re priced to move, but AMD is looking at cleaning out its Cypress inventory over the next couple of months, so officially the 5800 series is no longer part of AMD’s current product stack. Meanwhile AMD’s dual-GPU 5970 remains an outlier, as its job is not quite done until the 6990 arrives – until then it’s still officially AMD’s highest-end card and their closest competitor to the GTX 580.

Meanwhile NVIDIA’s product stack and pricing stands as-is.

AMD’s Radeon HD 6970M - AMD's Mobility Radeon HD 6970 In CrossFire On Eurocom's Panther

We’re glad to see that even AMD is referring to its new mobile modules by the shorter “Radeon HD 6970M” moniker, as the original “Mobility Radeon HD 6970” naming scheme was terribly wordy. We’re even willing to overlook any similarities to the naming practices of its competitor, for the sake of brevity.

Speaking of similarities, Eurocom thought that Nvidia’s GTX 470M SLI would so closely-match the performance levels of AMD’s Radeon HD 6970M in CrossFire that it included a pair of each for today’s tests. If the performance is indeed similar, AMD will take the performance-value win with a colossal $219 price advantage.

A surprisingly-small die comes not from a shrink in die process, but the use of a less complex GPU. A closer look at the Radeon HD 6970M’s specs indicates that its “Blackcomb XT” is nothing more than an underclocked Radeon HD 6850 desktop part, indicating that it's based on the older VLIW5 architecture, and not the company's newer VLIW4 arrangement.

Desktop vs Mobility Radeon Graphics  TransistorsEngine ClockShader (ALUs)Texture UnitsROP UnitsCompute PerformanceDRAM TypeDRAM InterfaceMemory BandwidthTDP
Desktop Radeon HD 6970Desktop Radeon HD 6850Radeon HD 6970M
2.64 billion1.7 billion1.7 billion
880 MHz775 MHz680 MHz
176 GB/s128 GB/s115.2 GB/s
250 W127 W100 W

AMD isn’t the only one still playing the horrid name game with its notebook parts, as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 470M appears to be nothing more than an underclocked GeForce GTX 460 SE, priced around 3x higher, without the fancy heat sinks and brackets that a desktop card must include.

Desktop vs Mobile GeForce Graphics  TransistorsEngine ClockCUDA CoresTexture UnitsROP UnitsCompute PerformanceDRAM TypeDRAM InterfaceMemory BandwidthTDP
Desktop GeForce GTX 470Desktop GeForce GTX 460 SEGeForce GTX 470M
3 billion1.95 billion1.95 billion
607 MHz650 MHz535 MHz
133.9 GB/s108.8 GB/s72 GB/s
215 W150 W50 W (GPU Only)

Note that AMD lists TDP for a complete card, while Nvidia lists it for the GPU alone. We expect actual power consumption to be somewhat similar from the complete modules.

AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950: Cayman GPUs are There!

Radeon HD 6970

AMD has released today the new Radeon HD 6900 Series with the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950. Cayman GPU is the first GPU designed by AMD that is able to rasterize 2 triangles per clock (all previous GPUs, Barts included, can only rasterize one triangle par clock). With AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950, there is a new term: PowerTune and a new name for FurMark and other GPU intensive apps: outlier application 😉

Let’s see what the web says about AMD’s new babies.

Radeon HD 6970

From left to right: Radeon HD 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850 – source

1 – AMD Radeon HD 6970

  • GPU: Cayman XT @ 880MHz, TSMC 40nm
  • Stream processors: 1536 (or 24 SIMD, one SIMD == 64SP)
  • Memory: 2048MB GDDR5 @ 1375MHz real speed, 256-bit
  • Texture units: 96 (read: 96 filtered texels per clock)
  • ROPs: 32 (read: 32 pixels par clock)
  • Z-stencil: 128
  • 3D APIs: OpenGL 4.1 and Direct3D 11
  • GPU computing: OpenCL 1.1, DirectCompute
  • TDP: 250W
  • Power connectors: one 8-pin and one 6-pin
  • Price: around USD 370$

2 – AMD Radeon HD 6950

  • GPU: Cayman XT @ 800MHz, TSMC 40nm
  • Stream processors: 1408 (or 22 SIMD, one SIMD == 64SP)
  • Memory: 2048MB GDDR5 @ 1250MHz real speed, 256-bit
  • Texture units: 88
  • ROPs / Z-stencil: 32 / 128
  • 3D APIs: OpenGL 4.1 and Direct3D 11
  • GPU computing: OpenCL 1.1, DirectCompute
  • TDP: 200W
  • Power connectors: one 8-pin and one 6-pin
  • Price: around USD 300$

3 – AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 OpenGL performances

ShaderToyMark OpenGL 2 GPU test – source

TessMark OpenGL 4 tessellation test – source

TessMark OpenGL 4 tessellation test – source

TessMark tests resulted in rather horrid results for Cayman cards, but this is clearly a software issue related to older Catalyst releases and it should not be taken seriously. AMD claims TessMark performance will be vastly improved in new driver updates, scheduled for early 2011. Despite this, we chose to include the results in our review, just to annoy fanatic fanboys who have already issued several fatwas calling four our untimely deaths.

TessMark OpenGL 4 tessellation test – source

Hmm. TessMark uses OpenGL rather than Direct3D to access the GPU, and apparently AMD’s OpenGL drivers aren’t yet fully aware of Cayman’s expanded geometry processing capabilities. Frustrating.

4 – AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 Direct3D performances

3DMark11 Direct3D 11 gaming test – source

DiRT2 Direct3D 11 gaming test – source

5 – AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 power consumption and temperatures

More details about AMD PowerTune:

  • Redefining TDP With PowerTune @

PowerTune throttling table – source

In the case of Metro the average clockspeed was 850MHz; Metro spent 95% of the time running at 880MHz, and only at a couple of points did the core clock drop to around 700MHz. Conversely FurMark, a known outlier, drove the average core clock down to 600MHz for a 30% reduction in the core clock. So while PowerTune definitely had an impact on FurMark performance it did almost nothing to Metro, never mind any other game/application.

PowerTune throttling table – source

As expected, power and temperature both increase with FurMark with PowerTune at 300W. At this point FurMark is no longer constrained by PowerTune and our 6970 runs at 880MHz throughout the test. Overall our power consumption measured at the wall increased by 60W, while the core clock for FurMark is 46.6% faster. It was under this scenario that we also “uncapped” PowerTune for Metro, when we found that even though Metro was being throttled at times, the performance impact was impossibly small.

PowerTune throttling table – source

Right off the bat everything is lower. FurMark is now at 292W, and quite surprisingly Crysis is also at 292W. This plays off of the fact that most games don’t cause a card to approach its limit in the first place, so bringing the ceiling down will bring the power consumption of more power hungry games and applications down to the same power consumption levels as lesser games/applications.

The above charts show the AMD Radeon HD 6970 graphics dynamically changes engine clock speed to effectively manage TDP, without drastically affecting performance. Conversely, the GTX 580 is shown to simply maintain a static engine clock – source

FurMark OpenGL 2 stress test – source

FurMark OpenGL 2 stress test – source

6 – AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 Reviews Round-up

TechPowerUP – Radeon HD 6970: AMD’s new Radeon HD 6900 series is a disappointment to users who expected HD 5970 or GTX 580 performance levels from the new series. The new VLIW4 shader design can not make a huge performance impact as some have guessed, but it opens up a lot of room for die size and transistor optimization which effectively makes the GPU cheaper to produce, the cards cheaper to buy – more performance for your hard earned Dollar. Unfortunately AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 can not meet that price target. With performance comparable to GeForce GTX 570, but a price that is $50 higher it is difficult to justify the investment.

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