Size, Noise and HeatAt 25 cm long, the Radeon HD 6870 is closer in length to the HD 5850 than the HD 5870. The cooler is a double-decker and expels hot air out of the casing.
The card proves very quiet at idle with just a faint fan whirr. In 3D gaming, this does increase and becomes quite noisy to the point of disturbing those around you while you're gaming.
Heat is as well managed as on the Radeon HD 5000s, with pretty much the same scores: around 40°C at idle and 88°C in 3D gaming.
Power ConsumptionPower consumption is also one of this card's strong points. With just a 89 watt reading for the entire computer with the card at idle, it's a good deal better than the 114 watt reading taken for the GeForce GTX 470, but 10 watts more than the Radeon HD 5870.
In load, it's also very good for a model in this category, with consumption of just 311 watts. We scored the GTX 470 at 325 watts under the same conditions. Note that two 6-pin PCI-Express connectors are used for the power supply.
Gaming PerformanceLet's put you out of your misery right away: the Radeon HD 6870 is down on the Radeon HD 5870 and up on the GeForce GTX 470. This does, of course, call into question AMD's naming of the card. At such performance levels and given its pricing (launched at around £185), it would have been more logical to name this model the Radeon HD 6850.
There is some logic in what AMD is doing, however, as the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850 are soon likely to come off the market. The range will then be constituted as follows: HD 5770 < HD 6850 < HD 6870 < HD 6950 < HD 6970 < HD 6990. The Radeon HD 5700s will therefore remain on the market and aren't likely to be replaced in the near future.
Talking numbers, all current 3D games will run very well on this model, even at high resolutions. In Battleforge (DX11) at 1920 x 1200 resolution with filters activated, the GeForce GTX 470 gives an average of 27 fps. The Radeon HD 6870 gets up to an average of 42 fps and the HD 5870 62 fps.
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It's a similar story in Crysis Warhead under the same conditions, as the GTX 470 is at an average of 25 fps, the 6870 at 30 fps and the 5870 at 32 fps.
This is a very good AMD graphics card. It offers high gaming performance, it's quiet at idle and it's economical in terms of power consumption. Those who already own a Radeon HD 5800 won't find much in the Radeon HD 6800 that will make them want buy one—such users would be better off going for an HD 6900, one of the true high-end replacement cards.
Graphics Cards: Performance Index Tables