Radeon hd 6870


HD 6870

Average fps @ 1080p with maximum detail settings for 1 popular games:

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: 88 fps

The number of benchmark samples for this model as a percentage of all 20,618,809 GPUs tested.

GPU
HD 6870AMDBench 15%, 18,033 samples1x
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AMD Radeon HD 6870 & HD 6850

If one thing can be said about 2010 and the hardware industry, it’s that the GPU side of things was kept interesting straight through. As odd as it might sound, it was Intel that helped kick things off at the beginning of the year, with its Clarkdale processors. Those became the first offered with a GPU inside of a typical processor, leading the way to fusion design in 2011.

Then in March came NVIDIA with the long-awaited launch of its GF100 Fermi architecture, with the GeForce GTX 480 first kicking things off. That launch was interesting for a bunch of reasons, but the main one is that it took the company much longer than usual to follow-up to AMD’s previous launch of the HD 5000 series. NVIDIA here had a relative winner, although as we touched on in our launch article, things were far from perfect (heat, noise, power, et cetera).

Since that launch in March, NVIDIA has filled out the rest of its Fermi-based line-up, and overall, a lot of the offerings found there are attractive both from a pricing and performance standpoint. With the final “mainstream” card having been released a couple of weeks ago, the GeForce GTS 450, AMD wasted no time in bringing a brand-new launch to town… the HD 6800 series.

To call the launch “brand-new” might be a bit of a stretch, though, because while the HD 6800 cards do bring a lot to the table, they’re more of an evolutionary design rather than a revolutionary one. For this launch, AMD focused a lot more on refinements and improvements, rather than a completely new architecture.

Closer Look

Like no other, this Radeon HD series launch wasn’t much of a secret, with countless credible rumors being leaked over the past couple of months. As it is, many of you reading this article are already going to be aware of the new features, specs and other selling-points. Since much of this has been covered before, including on our site, we’re not going to delve too deep into the technical aspects of the new series, but focus more on what you all care about most… performance.

As mentioned before, the Radeon HD 6800 series of cards are best considered as being follow-ups to the HD 5000 series. There’s a multitude of refinements and tweaks, but at its heart, these cards aren’t a far stretch from what we’re already used to. In particular, AMD has stated that these launch parts, named Barts (part of the Northern Islands family) are mainstream offerings. Just how mainstream? The HD 6850 is set to retail for $179, while the HD 6870 will be priced at $239.

Thanks to NVIDIA’s just-announced price drop of its GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470 cards, AMD has some solid competition right out of the gate. The GTX 460 1GB is set to sell for $199, while the GTX 470 will sell for $260. In deciding on this pricing, NVIDIA was aware of AMD’s HD 6800 SRPs, so it can be assumed that the performance between all of them might scale appropriately.

Like the HD 5000 series, the launch HD 6800 cards are built using a 40nm process, which means that despite being a major launch, there has been no die shrink. In fact, the opposite has happened. While the Juniper-based HD 5770 has a die size of 170mm², the HD 6870 has seen that bumped up to 255mm². From a performance perspective, the better comparison would be the HD 5850, which has a 334mm² die size. So depending on how you look at things, the die has either gotten larger or smaller.

I personally believe the latter, because to me, the HD 6870 is not an HD 5770 replacement, and even AMD has contradicted itself a bit in this regard. At a press event held last week, the company stated that there are no immediate plans to drop the HD 5770 from its line-up, and judging by one of the shown slides, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see an “HD 6770”. That stands to change depending how things play out, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

It’s for this reason that I don’t like the comparison of the HD 6870 to the HD 5770, because as it is, the HD 5770 is going nowhere. As of today, the current line-up goes like this: HD 5750 > HD 5770 > HD 6850 > HD 6870. Down the road, we’ll see both single and dual-GPU configurations of the HD 6900 series, but we can’t talk too much about that right now.

With all of that said, let’s quickly review the specs for AMD’s latest offerings:

Radeon HD 6870

900

1050

1024MB

256-bit

1120

Radeon HD 6850

775

1000

1024MB

256-bit

960

Radeon HD 5970

725

1000

2048MB

256-bit

1600 x 2

Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6

850

1200

1024MB

256-bit

1600

Radeon HD 5870

850

1200

1024MB

256-bit

1600

Radeon HD 5850

725

1000

1024MB

256-bit

1440

Radeon HD 5830

800

1000

1024MB

256-bit

1120

Radeon HD 5770

850

1200

1024MB

128-bit

800

Radeon HD 5750

700

1150

512MB – 1GB

128-bit

720

Because of the price points (at least, as of last week), AMD compares the HD 6870 mostly to the HD 5850, which as mentioned before, is fair given the performance. Comparing those two directly, AMD’s latest launch looks quite good. The die is smaller, and so is the number of transistors, but at the same time, there’s been some improvements, such as higher memory bandwidth, geometry throughput and of course, overall performance.

There are some cases where the new specs look a bit lackluster, especially given the lesser amount of SIMD engines and texture units, but thanks to all of the improvements AMD made to the revised architecture, that’s not really an issue at all. As hinted by the 3DMark Vantage scores shown here, the HD 6870 is the better performer.

The reference designs for the new cards is quite a bit different from the previous. There’s no more Batmobile styling, but rather a much flatter kind of chassis with a matte finish. The model names appear to be etched in, which to me, looks a bit strange.

As the HD 6850 card is best comparable to NVIDIA’s GTX 460, the most notable difference between the two is that AMD’s offering requires just one PCI-E connector, not two. For those who own beefy power supplies, this might not seem like a big deal, but if you have a 600W or similar PSU with only two PCI-E power connectors, this improvement will be hugely appreciated. It doesn’t just mean that the card is more power efficient, but it means that going the CrossFireX route is much easier.

The HD 6870 and HD 6850 cards as a whole aren’t all too aesthetically different, but one major exception is that at the end of the HD 6870 card, there are no vents for air to flow through. Any way you look at it, that’s an odd design choice, because common logic would tell you that having air sucked in through the back is not a bad thing.

As we’ll find out later, this design choice doesn’t create any major issues with the temperatures, but it still raises some questions as to why AMD to do it. Could it be solely for aesthetic purposes? It’s hard to say, but the cooler still does it’s job, and the card as a whole looks good, so overall, no complaints.

Here’s a better shot of both cards standing up. The HD 6850 has far more ventilation available, while the HD 6870 is mostly closed off.

We’ll continue our look on the next page, including some shots of the HD 6870 broken down.

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 2
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

With its HD 5800 series launch last fall, AMD also brought to the table its Eyefinity multi-monitor technology. Right out of the box, gamers were able to hook up three monitors to a single card and enjoy multi-monitor gaming the way it was meant to be. With its HD 6800 series launch, the company takes things just a bit further, by allowing up to six monitors to be connected to a single card.

Below, you can see all of the available ports, with the selection mimicking the HD 5000 series of cards quite a bit.

“But there are only five connectors!” You are correct, and here’s where the caveat comes in. You’ll note that rather than a single DisplayPort connector, there’s two Mini DisplayPort connectors instead. Each of these will support up to three monitors by themselves, but you’ll need a standalone hub for each. The unfortunate thing is that these suckers are not cheap, at around $150. For those who need six displays, though, this price might be a non-issue. Fortunately, for those who want to use only a 3×1 monitor setup (*raises hand*), no hub is required… only a mini-DP to DP cable.

Here’s a better look at the HD 6870 cooler. The rear of the cooler is to the left, and as mentioned before, there’s no immediate ventilation. On the opposite end, there are plastic curves to allow room for the display connector housing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to get the cooler broken down more than this (it’s a tricky one), but the overall cooler design isn’t too unusual. It features a wide copper base, three heatpipes and lots of fins.

Let’s finish things off with a look at the naked card, which for the most part, doesn’t look too far different than the HD 5800 offerings.

Before we dive into some performance testing, let’s take a quick look at the architecture diagram for the HD 6800, which for the most part doesn’t look to differ too much, but there are some things to point out.

Though we’re not going to touch up on it in this article, AMD’s UVD engine has been upgraded to UVD 3, and likewise, the tessellator engine has also been upgraded to what AMD calls “Gen 7”. Rather than have a single Ultra-Threaded Dispatch Processor (accelerates threading for different data types), AMD has dedicated one to each of its SIMD units, improving efficiency overall. At the same time, there’s been further refinement for the cache as well, with some dedicated to each one of these units.

Aside from core counts, there hasn’t been much changed architecture-wise from this diagram alone. This and other more minor things aside, AMD looks to have done quite well in increasing the efficiency from both a power and performance standpoint on its HD 6800 cards.

We’re just about at our test results! Please take a moment to review our test suite and methodology on the following page, and then we’ll dive right into Dirt 2 performance on page 5.

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 3
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

Test Machine

The below table lists our testing machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all GPU testing, minus the graphics card. Each card used for comparison is also listed here, along with the driver version used. Each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective category on our site for that product.

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

    General Guidelines
  • No power-saving options are enabled in the motherboard’s BIOS.
  • Internet is disabled.
  • No virus scanner or firewall is installed.
  • The OS is kept clean; no scrap files are left in between runs.
  • Hard drives affected are defragged with Diskeeper 2010 prior to a fresh benchmarking run.
  • Machine has proper airflow and the room temperature is 80°F (27°C) or less.

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows 7 from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing inaccurate test results. For example, disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

The most important services we disable are:

  • Diskeeper 2010
  • Windows Defender
  • Windows Error Reporting Service
  • Windows Event Log
  • Windows Firewall
  • Windows Search
  • Windows Update

The full list of Windows services we assure are disabled is large, but for those interested in perusing it, please look here. Most of the services we disable are mild, but we go to such an extent to have the PC as highly optimized as possible.

Game Titles

At this time, we benchmark with three resolutions that represent three popular monitor sizes available today, 20″ (1680×1050), 24″ (1920×1080) and 30″ (2560×1600). Each of these resolutions offers enough of a variance in raw pixel output to warrant testing with it, and each properly represent a different market segment: mainstream, mid-range and high-end.

Because we value results generated by real-world testing, we don’t utilize timedemos. The possible exceptions might be Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage and Unigine’s Heaven 2.1. Though neither of these are games, both act as robust timedemos. We choose to use them as they’re a standard where GPU reviews are concerned.

All of our results are captured with the help of Beepa’s FRAPS 3.2.3, while stress-testing and temperature-monitoring is handled by OCCT 3.1.0 and GPU-Z, respectively.

For those interested in the exact settings we use for each game, direct screenshots can be seen below:

Colin McRae: Dirt 2

Just Cause 2

Mafia II

Metro 2033

StarCraft II

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 4
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

It’s not that often that faithful PC gamers get a proper racing game for their platform of choice, but Dirt 2 is one of those. While it is a “console port”, there’s virtually nothing in the game that will make that point stand out. The game as a whole takes good advantage of our PC’s hardware, and it’s as challenging as it is good-looking.

Manual Run-through: The race we chose to use in Dirt 2 is the first one available in the game, as it’s easily accessible and features a lot of GPU-pounding effects that the game has become known for, such as realistic dust and water effects, a large on-looking crowd of people and fine details on and off the track. Each run-through lasts the entire two laps, which comes out to about 2.5 minutes.

As was to be expected, the HD 6870 doesn’t quite compare to the HD 5870, but it doesn’t fall too far behind. Compared to NVIDIA’s GTX 470 and GTX 460, AMD’s latest cards perform exceptionally well in this title, but it should be stressed that Dirt 2 has always favored Radeons a bit more than GeForces, so in the end, the results aren’t all too surprising.

NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

53

61.850

AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

52

60.85

AMD HD 6870 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

42

53.592

AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

42

50.325

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

44

53.584

NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

42

49.032

AMD HD 6850 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

39

45.135

AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

24

40.385

NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 0xAA

38

44.090

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA

44

58.439

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire FleX)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA

42

57.654

AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA

39

50.327

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, 4xAA

35

45.422

Dirt 2 might have come out last fall, but the game is still mighty good-looking, and thankfully for gamers, pretty well any recent PC configuration you have will allow you to play the game at high detail levels, even with anti-aliasing. In the case of AMD’s latest cards, 2560×1600, “Ultra” and 4xAA is no problem at all.

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 5
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Just Cause 2 might not belong to a well-established series of games, but with its launch, it looks like that might not be the case for long. The game offers not only superb graphics, but an enormous world to explore, and for people like me, a countless number of hidden items to find around it. During the game, you’ll be scaling skyscrapers, racing through jungles and fighting atop snow-drenched mountains. What’s not to like?

Manual Run-through: The level chosen here is part of the second mission in the game, “Casino Bust”. Our runthrough begins at the second-half of the level, which requires us to situate ourselves on top of a car and have our driver, Karl Blaine, speed us through part of the island to safety. This is a great mission for benchmarking as we get to see a lot of the landmass, even if some of it is at a distance.

Continuing our theme from the last game, Just Cause 2 also seems to favor AMD’s Radeons, and as such, the performance crown goes to them.

AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, 4xAA

27

38.29

NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, SSAO Low, 0xAA

29

39.137

AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, 0xAA

27

38.468

AMD HD 6870 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, 0xAA

26

40.787

NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, SSAO Low, 0xAA

33

37.932

AMD HD 6850 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA

31

48.391

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)

2560×1600 – Max Details, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA

39

46.988

AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA

31

38.230

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire FleX)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, SSAO Medium, 0xAA

32

42.781

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, High Water, High Objects, SSAO Medium, 0xAA

31

42.332

NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Low, 0xAA

43

48.724

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA

39

45.059

AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, Medium Shadows, Medium Water, Medium Objects, High-Res Shadows Off, SSAO Off, 0xAA

35

43.306

Unlike Dirt 2, where maxed-out graphic detail will work on a lot of recent configurations, that’s not the case here. The only exception is on the HD 5870, and even that’s cutting it close. On our HD 6870, we had to cut down on the water and objects detail just a tad, while also disabling AA, and for the HD 6850, we decreased the detail even further, completely disabling high-res shadows and ambient occlusion.

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 6
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

For fans of the original Mafia game, having to wait an incredible eight years for a sequel must’ve been tough. But as we found out in our review, the wait might be forgotten as the game is quite good. It doesn’t feature near as much depth as say, Grand Theft Auto IV, but it does a masterful job of bringing you back to the 1940’s and letting you experience the Mafia lifestyle.

Manual Run-through: Because this game doesn’t allow us to save a game in the middle of a level, we chose to use chapter 7, “In Loving Memory…”, to do our runthrough. That chapter begins us on a street corner with many people around, and from there, we run to our garage, get in our car, and speed out to the street. Our path ultimately leads us to the park, and takes close to two minutes to accomplish.

The results from AMD’s cards impressed me quite a bit here, because while Dirt 2 and Just Cause 2 seem to be more AMD-bound as mentioned, Mafia II has been the opposite. But here, both of AMD’s latest perform quite well, surpassing NVIDIA’s “equivalents” by just a tad.

NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX High, 0xAA

23

61.922

AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA

39

60.947

AMD HD 6870 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA

33

54.626

NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA

30

50.955

AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Medium, 0xAA

27

38.468

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

35

49.230

AMD HD 6850 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

34

44.377

AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

33

39.252

NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

27

38.625

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire FleX)

2560×1600 – Medium Shadows, Medium Geometry, SSAO Off, 0xAA

33

44.160

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Medium Shadows, Medium Geometry, SSAO Off, 0xAA

30

44.030

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

1920×1080 – Max Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

38

46.118

AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)

1920×1080 – Medium Detail, PhysX Off, 0xAA

32

47.660

The beefier card of the two, the HD 6870, could handle Mafia II at 2560×1600 with PhysX enabled to Medium, but for that, AA had to be disabled (it makes almost no difference in this game regardless). For the HD 6850, we used the same settings, except we also disabled PhysX entirely.

Support our efforts! With ad revenue at an all-time low for written websites, we're relying more than ever on reader support to help us continue putting so much effort into this type of content. You can support us by becoming a Patron, or by using our Amazon shopping affiliate links listed through our articles. Thanks for your support!

Page 7
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

One of the more popular Internet memes for the past couple of years has been, “Can it run Crysis?”, but as soon as Metro 2033 launched, that’s a meme that should have died. Metro 2033 is without question one of the beefiest games on the market, and though it supports DirectX 11, it’s almost a feature worth ignoring, because the extent you’ll need to go to in order to see playable framerates isn’t likely going to be worth it.

Manual Run-through: The level we use for testing is part of chapter 4, called “Child”, where we must follow a linear path through multiple corridors until we reach our end point, which takes a total of about 90 seconds. Please note that due to the reason mentioned above, we test this game in DX10 mode, as DX11 simply isn’t that realistic from a performance standpoint.

AMD’s success train hasn’t halted yet, as both of the company’s latest cards perform well again in Metro 2033. At 2560×1600, the performance between the two actually came scary close to one another.

NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

46

62.563

AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

39

60.947

AMD HD 6870 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

38

54.442

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

32

50.060

NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

35

49.220

AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

30

47.746

AMD HD 6850 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

34

44.377

NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)

1920×1080 – High Detail, DX10, 0xAA

45

66.894

AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)

1920×1080 – High Detail, DX10, 0xAA

30

44.030

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire FleX)

1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

30

53.006

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)

1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

32

52.555

AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)

1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

32

47.660

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

1920×1080 – Medium Detail, DX10, 0xAA

30

47.608

Metro 2033 is without question one of the most hardcore PC games on the market right now, in terms of graphics, so both of our cards has to see the detail levels decreased to Medium, from High. It’s unfortunate that this game doesn’t allow fine-tuning of the graphics settings more than it does, as I feel we could do quite a bit of it and see better overall quality.

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Page 8
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Of all the games we test, it might be this one that needs no introduction. Back in 1998, Blizzard unleashed what was soon to be one of the most successful RTS titles on the planet, and even as of today, the original is still heavily played all around the world – even in actual competitions. StarCraft II of course had a lot of hype to live up to, and it did, thanks to its intense gameplay and superb graphics.

Manual Run-through: The portion of the game we use for testing is part of the Zero Hour mission, which has us holding fort until we’re able to evacuate. Our saved game starts us in the middle of the mission, and from the get-go, we build a couple of buildings and concurrently move our main units up and around the map. Total playtime lasts about two minutes.

StarCraft II might have a massive fanbase, but unfortunately, graphical detail doesn’t quite scale with that. At completely maxed-out settings, both of AMD’s cards could handle any resolution, straight up to 2560×1600. It’s important to note that anti-aliasing would increase the load on these cards quite dramatically, but as a general rule we don’t benchmark with AA if we have to force it through the driver panel, to avoid any inconsistent results in case any GPU vendor wants to get a little crafty.

NVIDIA GTX 480 1536MB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

25

72.674

AMD HD 5870 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

31

57.28

NVIDIA GTX 470 1280MB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

20

55.961

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (Reference SLI)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

32

52.565

AMD HD 6870 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

34

52.115

AMD HD 5850 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

32

48.787

AMD HD 6850 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

26

44.456

NVIDIA GTX 460 1GB (EVGA)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

25

41.306

AMD HD 5830 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

20

32.986

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

19

32.561

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Reference)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

17

30.515

AMD HD 5770 1GB (Sapphire FleX)

2560×1600 – Ultra Detail, 0xAA

18

30.216

AMD HD 5750 1GB (Sapphire)

2560×1600 – High Detail, 0xAA

23

37.297

NVIDIA GTS 450 1GB (ASUS)

2560×1600 – High Detail, 0xAA

22

33.331

As you probably expected, our results from the 2560×1600 graph carried over into our best playable table.

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Page 9
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V

While some strategy games are easy to benchmark, others are not, and Civilization V falls into that latter category. Unlike most others, Civ is a game that has a lot of pop-up dialogs that must be dealt with to continue gameplay, and it’s difficult to minimize them just as quick each time. For this test in particular, I wouldn’t hold extreme credence in the AMD vs. NVIDIA aspect of things, but I’d rather you take the performance results as they are, and to get a general idea of what to expect. I hate timedemos, but it’s games like these that are perfect for them.

Whether you are running 1680×1050 or 2560×1600, Civ V will run just fine on any of these cards. Though some perform much better than others, you’d be hard-pressed to actually notice it during gameplay.

Darksiders

If you enjoy a good ole hack and slash, then Darksiders is well worth a look. For our test here, we simply began the game out and progressed far enough to a point where we could get repeatable results. That we did, and our run consists of killing a slew of archangels, and then half-killing a massive rock creature (and by massive, I mean like the size of a building).

Similar to Civ V, any performance gains over what we see here are likely to be for naught, as all cards performed extremely well. Oddly, NVIDIA’s GTX 470 performed much better at 1680×1050 than the others, but came back down to earth at 2560×1600.

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Page 10
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Dead Rising 2

For those looking for the ultimate fill of zombie killing, look no further than Dead Rising 2! The game looks great, has a lot of “realistic” zombie’s, and is a lot of fun to play. To test, we take a quick run through the mall accessible not long after beginning the game which lasts about 2 minutes and follows the same path each time.

Because of the sporadic nature of the number of zombies in this game, the results are hard to get exact each time, and I was only able to dedicate so much time to it. So, take these results as they are. The GTX 460 performed better than the HD 6850 in both cases, while the GTX 470 and HD 6870 could almost be considered equals.

F1 2010

From the creators of Dirt 2 comes one of the classiest racers around, F1 2010. This game features unbelievable graphics, super-fast speed and intense realism. It’s hard to go wrong. For our test, we chose to race one lap around the Monte Carlo track, lasting about two minutes.

It’s odd to see a game perform not much worse at 2560×1600 than it does at 1680×1050, but that’s the case here. All cards performed well at all resolutions, and despite how it would seem, ~40 FPS is just fine for reliable racing. For what it’s worth, AMD’s cards come out just ahead.

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Page 11
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Fallout: New Vegas

Released just earlier this week, Fallout: New Vegas takes you to a 2025 post-apocalyptic (how original!) Las Vegas, and let me tell you… as much as I couldn’t care less about today’s Vegas, I think I’d much prefer it over this one. Our runthrough here brings us along a Majove wasteland road and up through some buildings. The run lasts just over two minutes.

What can be said here? Not a single single. It doesn’t matter which of these cards you pick up, or the resolution, maxed out details await you.

ArcaniA: Gothic 4

One of the most popular PC-exclusive RPGs received an update recently, in the form of ArcaniA: Gothic 4. The game is gorgeous, immersive, and is one I really, really want to play. Our runthrough here takes us on a quick stroll through the starting village, which is bursting at the seams with eyecandy.

Of all the games we’ve tested so far, few run quite as sluggish as this one, but it might be for good reason given the game is great-looking. AMD’s cards have the overall advantage here.

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Page 12
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2, the latest arcade-like shooter from Capcom, brings “big” gameplay, DirectX 11 support, and a pretty world. Due to time, and the fact that I never plan to introduce this game into our regular testing, I opted to use the timedemo mode here, which stresses the DirectX 11 features. In particular, I chose the “B” mode.

Being that this is an NVIDIA-influenced title, I had expected to see that company’s cards excel, and for the most part, they did. The differences aren’t major, but enough to give NVIDIA the obvious nod.

Medal of Honor

The latest entry to the Medal of Honor series came out last week, and if you’re interested in a purchase, I’d encourage you to read our review of it. For our testing, we used one of the best helicopter levels in the game, “Gunfighters”. Our benchmark begins immediately after the first cutscene.

If you’re wondering why 1680×1050 seems to have a capped FPS, it’s because the game has a broken v-sync mode. Turned on, the FPS gets locked at 30. Turned off, they get locked at 62. Seems kind of bizarre, but that’s how it is. At 2560×1600, AMD performed better overall, but the differences can barely even be measured on paper.

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Page 13
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

Although we generally shun automated gaming benchmarks, we do like to run at least one to see how our GPUs scale when used in a ‘timedemo’-type scenario. Futuremark’s 3DMark Vantage is without question the best such test on the market, and it’s a joy to use, and watch. The folks at Futuremark are experts in what they do, and they really know how to push that hardware of yours to its limit.

Similar to a real game, 3DMark Vantage offers many configuration options, although many (including us) prefer to stick to the profiles which include Performance, High and Extreme. Depending on which one you choose, the graphic options are tweaked accordingly, as well as the resolution. As you’d expect, the better the profile, the more intensive the test. The benchmark doesn’t natively support 2560×1600, so to benchmark with that, we choose the Extreme profile and simply change the resolution.

Compared to AMD’s own offerings, its new cards perform quite well compared to the old, but they still are unable to surpass NVIDIA’s closest competition. Once again though, the differences are almost incomprehensible in the real-world.

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Page 14
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

While Futuremark is a well-established name where PC benchmarking is concerned, Unigine is just beginning to become exposed to people. The company’s main focus isn’t benchmarks, but rather its cross-platform game engine which it licenses out to other developers, and also its own games, such as a gorgeous post-apocalytic oil strategy game. The company’s benchmarks are simply a by-product of its game engine.

The biggest reason that the company’s “Heaven” benchmark grew in popularity rather quickly is that both AMD and NVIDIA promoted it for its heavy use of tessellation, a key DirectX 11 feature. Like 3DMark Vantage, the benchmark here is overkill by design, so results here aren’t going to directly correlate with real gameplay. Rather, they showcase which card models can better handle both DX11 and its GPU-bogging features.

One of the major highlights of the HD 6800 series launch is that tessellation performance has been improved, but according to Unigine’s Heaven, the differences are about as small as you could get. We did see much better improvement in our regular games, though, so Unigine might not be the best measure of things.

An important thing to note is that AMD stated that its tessellation performance is best seen at lighter levels, not super-heavy like this test exhibits. It could be that at more modest levels, the cards would see a greater differential, but due to time, this is not something I could sink into.

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Page 15
by Rob Williams on October 22, 2010 in Graphics & Displays

It’s been a long time coming, but gamers can finally relax… AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 graphics cards are finally here. They may still be built upon a 40nm process, but AMD has brought a lot to the table here. We set out to see how the HD 6850 and HD 6870 compare to their closest competition, NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470.

To test our graphics cards for both temperatures and power consumption, we utilize OCCT for the stress-testing, GPU-Z for the temperature monitoring, and a Kill-a-Watt for power monitoring. The Kill-a-Watt is plugged into its own socket, with only the PC connect to it.

As per our guidelines when benchmarking with Windows, when the room temperature is stable (and reasonable), the test machine is boot up and left to sit at the desktop until things are completely idle. Because we are running such a highly optimized PC, this normally takes one or two minutes. Once things are good to go, the idle wattage is noted, GPU-Z is started up to begin monitoring card temperatures, and OCCT is set up to begin stress-testing.

To push the cards we test to their absolute limit, we use OCCT in full-screen 2560×1600 mode, and allow it to run for 15 minutes, which includes a one minute lull at the start, and a four minute lull at the end. After about 5 minutes, we begin to monitor our Kill-a-Watt to record the max wattage.

Temperature-wise, AMD’s latest cards don’t do too much to impress. I’m sure that with after-market coolers, we’d see some nice gains, but as it is, we’re nearing the 90°C mark, similar to NVIDIA’s current highest-end offerings. This isn’t a dangerous level per se, but I’d love to see the temperatures at least 10°C lower than this.

What they may lack in temperatures, they make up for in power consumption. We couldn’t really see any differences at idle, but at load, AMD’s latest offerings perform quite well – especially compared to NVIDIA.

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Page 16

When NVIDIA launched its GeForce GTX 480 this past spring, it put an end to what seemed like months and months worth of speculation. At the time, I felt like the launch had an insane rumor cycle leading up to its launch, but after the past couple of months, I’m confident AMD’s beaten it with this one.

Over the course of the past couple of months, there were rumors that the HD 6870 would be twice as fast as the HD 5870, and that of course didn’t happen. Then there were rumors that the HD 6870 would effectively be the HD 5770 replacement. In the truest case, that’s not true. There were also rumors that tessellation performance would be at least doubled, and while we did see nice improvements in certain titles, I am not quite sure that value was reached.

With all these rumors behind us, and just facts on the table, has AMD delivered a knock-out launch here? It all depends on your perspective on things. For me personally, I’m stoked about this launch for a couple of reasons, the main one being the $/FPS ratio. The Radeon HD 6870 is about ~15% slower than the HD 5870, but costs much less ($240 from $400).

At the same time, things like power efficiency have been improved, DirectX 11 performance amped up, a great selection of display ports included, improved pricing and a bevy of other things that we were not able to tackle in time for the embargo. In particular, AMD boasts “EyeSpeed”, a conglomeration of its improved GPGPU technology and also video support, for things like Blu-ray 3D.

For those who care for nothing but performance, NVIDIA helped make AMD’s launch quite a bit more interesting with a couple of price-drops on its GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470. As we saw all throughout our test results, the HD 6870 performed quite well compared to the GTX 470, with the latter coming out just a tad ahead overall, and the HD 6850 had a similar story when compared to the GTX 460. The overall relative differences between the two sets of cards is for the most part minimal, most times being just a couple of FPS.

Here’s the current suggested pricing on all four cards:

  • HD 6850 1GB – $180
  • GTX 460 1GB – $200
  • HD 6870 1GB – $240
  • GTX 470 1280MB – $260

Based on this pricing alone, it’s hard to give the nod to any of the cards based on the performance we saw. NVIDIA’s cards are now $20 more expensive than AMD’s, and the performance gains there didn’t quite scale to the same degree. In the end, it comes down to which side you favor, and what features you’re looking for.

On the NVIDIA side, there’s things like 3D Vision, PhysX, great tessellation performance (the importance of this is still yet to be seen) and current market availability, which means that a lot of models might be priced even less than what’s mentioned above. The main downsides of NVIDIA’s cards are heat, power and the lack of being able to do a 3×1 monitor setup off of a single card.

For AMD, the company has delivered some new products that literally forced NVIDIA to drop the prices of its own, and for consumers, that’s a great thing. One thing I’ve seen talked about is that AMD has made a foolish move with its HD 6800 series in that it decided to refine things rather than release a brand-new architecture, but I find that a bit strange. Pricing aside, AMD has the better product as far as I’m concerned (I’ll get into the reasons in a minute), and the fact that NVIDIA dropped prices right before this launch proves it.

The reason I think AMD has a winner here is that instead of letting things linger on as they were, the company decided to let the next major architecture continue brewing, and in the meantime delivered some new parts to gamers. And these are great parts, make no mistake. They may not be faster than the previous-gen, but the differences there are minor. The upsides of the cards make up for that minor lack.

One of the largest bonuses of AMD’s recent cards to me has been power consumption. There’s just no comparison. The HD 6870’s TDP is 151W, and based on our testing, that seems about right. The full PC load, and we’re talking a 4.0GHz overclocked Core i7 as well, came to 323W. By comparison, NVIDIA’s GTX 470 resulted in 393W, and GTX 480 a staggering 476W.

Not everyone cares about power though, and that’s fair. Another area that AMD has done well is with temperatures, and funny enough, this is one area that the latest cards didn’t improve. The die size as a whole is a tad larger, if you compare to Juniper, and though it’s more efficient, it also runs a bit hotter. The HD 6870 stressed to about 87°C, while the HD 5850 was closer to 75°C. In the end, the fact that the new cards don’t surpass 90°C is nice, but I still would have liked to have seen them even lower.

Though it might just be a niche at this point in time, I feel that 3×1 monitor gaming is going to take off at some point in the future, because after having experienced it myself over the past year, it’s one of the few GPU-related technologies that has gotten me truly excited. Games become more immersive, more fun, and sometimes, the setup can even give you a strategic advantage.

This is another major area where AMD’s cards shine, because it has stuck with allowing people to run three monitors off of one card, right out of the box. The HD 6800 series of course bumps that up to 6, but let’s be realistic here… that’s about as extreme as a niche could get. The fact that the feature is there is nice, but I don’t see it being one many people are going to talk about.

NVIDIA requires gamers to use two of its cards for multi-monitor gaming, so the fact that AMD continues to let gamers purchase an affordable card and power three monitors off of it is fantastic. This is one thing I really, really wish NVIDIA would change. There’s no single reason the company chooses to do things the way it does except to charge people more. And nowadays, our GPUs are so powerful, that 3×1 off of a single card is hardly something to balk at.

The best part of this launch as a whole might be the fact that the rumormill can settle down for a little while, because coupled with that and both AMD and NVIDIA going back and forth with press manipulations all week (more so from the green side… you can figure out which green), I’m glad to see this launch done with. In the end, AMD’s launch hasn’t proved to be a mind-blowing one, but it’s exciting nonetheless, and for many different reasons.

In the end, this is a very good time to be a gamer.

As a side note, we didn’t have time to do additional testing for this article, such as overclocking and CrossFireX testing, but we will be delivering the latter in a separate article next week. Initially, I can say that CrossFireX scales well, with the HD 6870 scoring a 14,014 GPU score in 3DMark Vantage’s Extreme test. Compare that to the GTX 480’s 9,952. One definitely seems more tempting than the other, given the near-identical price-points.

AMD Radeon HD 6800 Series

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Page 17

If one thing can be said about 2010 and the hardware industry, it’s that the GPU side of things was kept interesting straight through. As odd as it might sound, it was Intel that helped kick things off at the beginning of the year, with its Clarkdale processors. Those became the first offered with a GPU inside of a typical processor, leading the way to fusion design in 2011.

Then in March came NVIDIA with the long-awaited launch of its GF100 Fermi architecture, with the GeForce GTX 480 first kicking things off. That launch was interesting for a bunch of reasons, but the main one is that it took the company much longer than usual to follow-up to AMD’s previous launch of the HD 5000 series. NVIDIA here had a relative winner, although as we touched on in our launch article, things were far from perfect (heat, noise, power, et cetera).

Since that launch in March, NVIDIA has filled out the rest of its Fermi-based line-up, and overall, a lot of the offerings found there are attractive both from a pricing and performance standpoint. With the final “mainstream” card having been released a couple of weeks ago, the GeForce GTS 450, AMD wasted no time in bringing a brand-new launch to town… the HD 6800 series.

To call the launch “brand-new” might be a bit of a stretch, though, because while the HD 6800 cards do bring a lot to the table, they’re more of an evolutionary design rather than a revolutionary one. For this launch, AMD focused a lot more on refinements and improvements, rather than a completely new architecture.

Closer Look

Like no other, this Radeon HD series launch wasn’t much of a secret, with countless credible rumors being leaked over the past couple of months. As it is, many of you reading this article are already going to be aware of the new features, specs and other selling-points. Since much of this has been covered before, including on our site, we’re not going to delve too deep into the technical aspects of the new series, but focus more on what you all care about most… performance.

As mentioned before, the Radeon HD 6800 series of cards are best considered as being follow-ups to the HD 5000 series. There’s a multitude of refinements and tweaks, but at its heart, these cards aren’t a far stretch from what we’re already used to. In particular, AMD has stated that these launch parts, named Barts (part of the Northern Islands family) are mainstream offerings. Just how mainstream? The HD 6850 is set to retail for $179, while the HD 6870 will be priced at $239.

Thanks to NVIDIA’s just-announced price drop of its GeForce GTX 460 and GTX 470 cards, AMD has some solid competition right out of the gate. The GTX 460 1GB is set to sell for $199, while the GTX 470 will sell for $260. In deciding on this pricing, NVIDIA was aware of AMD’s HD 6800 SRPs, so it can be assumed that the performance between all of them might scale appropriately.

Like the HD 5000 series, the launch HD 6800 cards are built using a 40nm process, which means that despite being a major launch, there has been no die shrink. In fact, the opposite has happened. While the Juniper-based HD 5770 has a die size of 170mm², the HD 6870 has seen that bumped up to 255mm². From a performance perspective, the better comparison would be the HD 5850, which has a 334mm² die size. So depending on how you look at things, the die has either gotten larger or smaller.

I personally believe the latter, because to me, the HD 6870 is not an HD 5770 replacement, and even AMD has contradicted itself a bit in this regard. At a press event held last week, the company stated that there are no immediate plans to drop the HD 5770 from its line-up, and judging by one of the shown slides, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see an “HD 6770”. That stands to change depending how things play out, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

It’s for this reason that I don’t like the comparison of the HD 6870 to the HD 5770, because as it is, the HD 5770 is going nowhere. As of today, the current line-up goes like this: HD 5750 > HD 5770 > HD 6850 > HD 6870. Down the road, we’ll see both single and dual-GPU configurations of the HD 6900 series, but we can’t talk too much about that right now.

With all of that said, let’s quickly review the specs for AMD’s latest offerings:

Radeon HD 6870

900

1050

1024MB

256-bit

1120

Radeon HD 6850

775

1000

1024MB

256-bit

960

Radeon HD 5970

725

1000

2048MB

256-bit

1600 x 2

Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6

850

1200

1024MB

256-bit

1600

Radeon HD 5870

850

1200

1024MB

256-bit

1600

Radeon HD 5850

725

1000

1024MB

256-bit

1440

Radeon HD 5830

800

1000

1024MB

256-bit

1120

Radeon HD 5770

850

1200

1024MB

128-bit

800

Radeon HD 5750

700

1150

512MB – 1GB

128-bit

720

Because of the price points (at least, as of last week), AMD compares the HD 6870 mostly to the HD 5850, which as mentioned before, is fair given the performance. Comparing those two directly, AMD’s latest launch looks quite good. The die is smaller, and so is the number of transistors, but at the same time, there’s been some improvements, such as higher memory bandwidth, geometry throughput and of course, overall performance.

There are some cases where the new specs look a bit lackluster, especially given the lesser amount of SIMD engines and texture units, but thanks to all of the improvements AMD made to the revised architecture, that’s not really an issue at all. As hinted by the 3DMark Vantage scores shown here, the HD 6870 is the better performer.

The reference designs for the new cards is quite a bit different from the previous. There’s no more Batmobile styling, but rather a much flatter kind of chassis with a matte finish. The model names appear to be etched in, which to me, looks a bit strange.

As the HD 6850 card is best comparable to NVIDIA’s GTX 460, the most notable difference between the two is that AMD’s offering requires just one PCI-E connector, not two. For those who own beefy power supplies, this might not seem like a big deal, but if you have a 600W or similar PSU with only two PCI-E power connectors, this improvement will be hugely appreciated. It doesn’t just mean that the card is more power efficient, but it means that going the CrossFireX route is much easier.

The HD 6870 and HD 6850 cards as a whole aren’t all too aesthetically different, but one major exception is that at the end of the HD 6870 card, there are no vents for air to flow through. Any way you look at it, that’s an odd design choice, because common logic would tell you that having air sucked in through the back is not a bad thing.

As we’ll find out later, this design choice doesn’t create any major issues with the temperatures, but it still raises some questions as to why AMD to do it. Could it be solely for aesthetic purposes? It’s hard to say, but the cooler still does it’s job, and the card as a whole looks good, so overall, no complaints.

Here’s a better shot of both cards standing up. The HD 6850 has far more ventilation available, while the HD 6870 is mostly closed off.

We’ll continue our look on the next page, including some shots of the HD 6870 broken down.

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AMD Radeon HD 6870 Review

Unlike the Radeon HD 5870, the new Radeon HD 6870 is not a huge graphics card. It's not exactly compact either, but for a mid-range card we would say it's about average. The AMD reference card measures 25cm long and weighs roughly 1kg making it 3cm shorter than the Radeon HD 5870.

The GPU has been fabricated using the 40nm process, except it features 454 million less transistors than the Radeon HD 5870's Cypress XT core. This allowed AMD to shrink the die from 334mm2 to 255mm2, making the Radeon HD 6870 more fuel-efficient.

The core is clocked at an impressive 900MHz, 50MHz higher than the Radeon HD 5870, while the GDDR5 memory operates slightly slower at 1050MHz. Pairing that frequency with a 256-bit wide memory bus gives the Radeon HD 6870 134.4GB/s of bandwidth, slightly less than the HD 5870.

The Radeon HD 6870 differs from the older HD 5870 is in its core configuration. The HD 6870 has been downgraded from 1600 SPUs (Stream Processing Units) and 80 TAUs (Texture Address Units) to 1120 SPUs and 56 TAUs, while there are still 32 ROPs. It'll be interesting to see how this impacts the HD 6870, as it has 30% less SPUs and TAUs than the Radeon HD 5870, though again it's made evident this is more of a cut-down mid-range offering based on a refined version of the same technology.

Cooling the HD 6870's Barts XT GPU is a fairly large aluminum heatsink, comprised of 30 fins measuring 11cm long, 6.5cm wide, and 2.5cm tall. Connected to the base of the heatsink are three copper heat pipes that help improve efficiency, and a 75x20mm fan draws air in from the case and pushes it out through the rear expansion slot.

The fan operates very quietly for the most part, partly thanks to the card's impressively low 19W idle consumption. That said, it of course spins up when gaming, as the card consumes up to 151W under load -- 20% less than AMD's numbers for the 5870.

The heatsink and fan are inside a housing that conceals the entire graphics card. AMD adopted this design with the Radeon HD 5870 and it helps protect the product very well; Nvidia does the same with its most prized cards.

To ensure the graphics card gets enough power, AMD has mounted a pair of 6-pin PCI Express power connectors -- identical to what you'd find on the Radeon HD 5870 as well as older Radeon graphics cards such as the 4870 and 4890.

The Radeon HD 6870 supports CrossFire technology with a connector to bridge another 6870. The only other connectors are on the I/O panel and our AMD sample featured two dual DL-DVI connectors along with a single HDMI 1.4a port and two mini-DisplayPort 1.2 sockets.

It is worth noting that all Radeon HD 6870 graphics cards can support a maximum resolution of 2560x1600 on up to three monitors. Additionally, if a multi-stream hub is used with the mini-DisplayPort 1.2 sockets, the card can power up to six monitors.

www.techspot.com

AMD Radeon HD 6870 review

AMD's latest card, the Radeon HD 6870, is here and, well, you can colour us fairly unimpressed.

AMD has had a good year. An incredible year. Twelve month's ago it was the first to market with a DirectX 11 graphics card and has reaped the rewards for managing it.

The tech inside that first 5870 core has filtered down to more affordable cards, with the 5770 currently selling by the bucket load. The 5850 has defined exactly what we should expect from next generation cards. It's helped AMD sell 25 million DirectX 11 cards in total.

That's 90% of the DirectX 11 market, which isn't too bad really.

  • Read ourAMD Radeon HD 6850 review

Looking to continue the good times, AMD has just launched its second generation of DirectX 11 graphics cards, in the form of the 6870, along with it's slightly more affordable sibling, the 6850.

In order to make room for these new cards AMD, which has dropped the ATI name entirely now, will cease manufacturer of the 5870 and 5850.

Don't be fooled into thinking that the 6870 and 6850 are direct replacements for the outgoing cards though, as the benchmark results will testify: things aren't that straightforward. This is confused slightly by the fact that the 5770 and 5750 will continue as is.

The Radeon HD 6870 uses the 'Barts XT' core for its shenanigans, which is a slightly refined take on the 5800 series core.

You'll have to wait until the 6900 cards packing the 'Cayman' core for a truly radical makeover, which will hit the shelves in a month's time.

In the meantime, this more-mainstream card is a cross between the 5830 and 5850. You get the full-fat 32 ROPs as found on the 5850, but with a core configuration of 1,120 stream processor, as found inside the 5830.

This tweaked core operates at a far higher clock rate to either of these predecessors though, cranking along at 900MHz, as opposed to the 750MHz of the 5850 and the 5830's 800MHz.

In real terms this means that the 6870 is faster than the 5850, but it's notably slower than the 5870. As we said, don't be fooled by the name.

There's more to AMD's new chips than simply upping the frequency of its core though, and the previous years dominance of the DirectX 11 market has ushered in a new era for developers working with AMD.

Eyefinity, for instance, has been welcomed with open arms, with games developers embracing the extra screen space offered by the technology to build more immersive games. Something ably demonstrated at the 6870 launch event, where everything from Civ V through to Medal of Honor to Deus Ex: Human Revolution was demonstrated using Eyefinity.

It's not just a case of developers stretching the viewport either, as the UI has been controlled to stay on the main screen where applicable. Eyefinity isn't for everyone, but for those with the desktop space, it's an obvious way of upgrading your visuals.

Current page: AMD Radeon HD 6870 - Benchmarks

Next Page AMD Radeon HD 6870 - Benchmarks

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AMD’s Radeon HD 6870 & 6850: Renewing Competition in the Mid-Range Market

All things considered, the Radeon HD 5000 series has gone very well for AMD. When they launched it just over a year ago, they beat NVIDIA to the punch by nearly 6 months and enjoyed a solid term as the kings of the GPU world, with halo parts like the 5870 and 5970 giving them renewed exposure at the high-end of the market while mainstream products like the 5670 redefining the HTPC.  Ultimately all good things come to an end though, and as NVIDIA has launched the GeForce 400 series AMD has needed to give up the single-GPU halo and lower prices in order to remain competitive.

But if spring is a period of renewal for NVIDIA, then it’s fall that’s AMD’s chance for renewal. Long before Cypress and the 5000 series even launched, AMD’s engineers had been hard at work at what would follow Cypress. Now a year after Cypress we get to meet the first GPU of the next Radeon family: Barts. With it comes the Radeon HD 6800 series, the culmination of what AMD has learned since designing and launching the 5800 series. AMD may not have a new process to produce chips on this year, but as we’ll see they definitely haven’t run out of ideas or ways to improve their efficiency on the 40nm process.

  AMD Radeon HD 6870 AMD Radeon HD 6850 AMD Radeon HD 5870 AMD Radeon HD 5850 AMD Radeon HD 4870
Stream Processors 1120 960 1600 1440 800
Texture Units 56 48 80 72 40
ROPs 32 32 32 32 16
Core Clock 900MHz 775MHz 850MHz 725MHz 750MHz
Memory Clock 1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5 1.2GHz (4.8GHz effective) GDDR5 1GHz (4GHz effective) GDDR5 900MHz (3600MHz effective) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 N/A N/A 1/5 1/5 N/A
Transistor Count 1.7B 1.7B 2.15B 2.15B 956M
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 55nm
Price Point $239 $179 ~$349 ~$229 N/A

Launching today are the first two members of AMD’s HD 6000 series. At the top end we have the Radeon HD 6870, a card utilizing a full-fledged version of AMD’s new Barts GPU. The core clock runs at 900MHz, which is driving 32 ROPs and 1120 SPs. Attached to that is 1GB of GDDR5 running at 4.2GHz effective. AMD puts the load TDP at 151W (the same as the Radeon HD 5850) and the idle TDP at 19W, lower than the last generation parts.

Gallery: AMD Radeon HD 6870

Below that is the Radeon HD 6850, which in the long history of 50-parts is utilizing a harvested version of the Barts GPU, which along with a lower load voltage make the card the low-power member of the 6800 family. The 6850 runs at 775MHz and is attached to 960SPs. Like 6870 it has 1GB of GDDR5, this time running at 4GHz effective. With its lower power consumption its load TDP is 127W, and its idle TDP is unchanged from 6870 at 19W.

The Barts GPU at the heart of these cards is the first GPU of AMD’s Northern Islands family. We’ll dive more in to its architecture later, but for now it’s easiest to call it a Cypress derivative. Contrary to the (many) early rumors, it’s still using the same VLIW5 design, cache hierarchy, and ROPs as Cypress. There are some very notable changes compared to Cypress, but except for tessellation these are more about quality and features than it is about performance.

Compared to Cypress, Barts is a notably smaller GPU. It’s still made on TSMC’s finally-mature 40nm process, but compared to Cypress AMD has shaved off 450 million transistors, bringing the die size down from 334mm2 to 255mm2. Much of this is achieved through a reduction in the SIMD count, but as we’ll see when we talk about architecture, it’s one of many tricks. As a result of AMD’s efforts, Barts at 255mm2 is right in the middle of what AMD considers their sweet spot. As you may recall from the 5870/Cypress launch, Cypress missed the sweet spot in the name of features and performance, which made it a powerful chip but also made it more expensive to produce (and harder to fabricate) than AMD would have liked. Barts is a return to the sweet spot, and more generally a return to the structure AMD operated on with the 4800 series.

Gallery: AMD Radeon HD 6850

With a focus on the sweet spot, it should come as no surprise that AMD is also focusing on costs and pricing. Realistically the 6800 series composes a lower tier of cards than the 5800 series – the performance is a bit lower, and so is the pricing. With a smaller GPU, cheaper GDDR5, and cheaper/fewer components, AMD is able to practically drive some members of the 6800 series down below $200, something that wasn’t possible with Cypress.

For today’s launch AMD is pricing the Radeon HD 6870 at $239, and the Radeon HD 6850 at $179. This is a hard launch, and boards should be available by the time you’re reading this article (or shortly thereafter). The launch quantities are, as AMD puts it, in the “tens of thousands” for the entire 6800 series. Unfortunately they are not providing a breakdown based on card, so we don’t have a solid idea of how much of each card will be available. We do know that all the initial 6870 cards are going to be relabeled reference cards, while the 6850 is launching with a number of custom designs – and in fact a reference 6850 may be hard to come by. We believe this is a sign that most of the card supply will be 6850s with far fewer 6870s being on the market, but this isn’t something we can back up with numbers. Tens of thousands of units may also mean that all the cards are in short supply, as cheaper cards have a tendency to fly off the shelves even faster than expensive cards – and the 5800 series certainly set a record there.

The rest of AMD’s products remain unchanged. The 5700 continues as-is, while the 5800 will be entering its twilight weeks. We’re seeing prices on the cards come down a bit, particularly on the 5850 which is caught between the 6800 cards in performance, but officially AMD isn’t changing the 5800 series pricing. Even with that, AMD expects the remaining card supply to only last through the end of the year.

Countering AMD’s launch, NVIDIA has repriced their own cards. The GTX 460 768MB stays at $169, while the GTX 460 1GB will be coming down to $199, and the GTX 470 is coming down to a mind-boggling $259 (GF100 is not a cheap chip to make, folks!). NVIDIA is also banking on factory overclocked GTX 460 1GB cards, which we’ll get to in a bit. Seeing as how AMD delivered a rude surprise for NVIDIA when they dropped the price of the 5770 series ahead of the GTS 450 launch last month, NVIDIA is a least trying to return the favor.

Ultimately this means we’re looking at staggered pricing. NVIDIA and AMD do not have any products that are directly competing at the same price points: at every $20 you’re looking at switching between AMD and NVIDIA.

www.anandtech.com


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