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Régis Jehl Published on May 26, 2011
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  • Chip Barts
  • GPU frequency 900 MHz
  • Memory quantity 1 GB
  • Memory type GDDR5
  • Memory frequency 1050 MHz
  • Cooler Double-decker
First in the HD 6000 range, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 covers all the bases of the previous generation: DirectX 11, Eyefinity and advanced energy management. So what's new, and how does it perform in the latest games? Answers below.

Size, Noise and Heat

At 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 Consumption

Power 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 Performance

Let'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.

Tt hd 6870
General performance average
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with others

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

The card at a glance
We tested the HIS 6870 IceQ X. It has the same clock speed as the reference model but its cooling system is different that used in AMD generic cards.

Although effective, the heastink doesn't bring any real change compared with the original AMD model. The card doesn't come with much in the box, just two Molex/PCI-E adapters, a VGA/DVI adapter, and a CD containing drivers and a quick-start guide.

We like the fact that you can get DTS HD MA and Dolby Digital True HD in bitstream through the HDMI out. Also note that it's possible to extend the display onto two, three, or up to six monitors as well as upping the overall resolution (the Eyefinity function).

3D Blu-rays are on the agenda with PowerDVD and CinePlayer. You will, however, have to wait for the updates to this software to access stereoscopic 3D and, of course, you'll need a compatible TV.

As for 3D games, AMD HD3D means AMD is finally on board. Set-up is however a little complicated. You first need to acquire a sort of special driver from a partner (IZ3D or DDD, for example). This will cost from $19.99 to $24.99 and will make a certain number of video games compatible with the system..

If you play on a monitor (3D compatible of course), you'll have to invest again for your 3D glasses. You can get them from Xpand, RealD and BitCauldron. The glasses aren't yet available but are likely to cost somewhere in the region of £80.

Lastly, if you do your gaming on a 3D TV, you will of course use the glasses that come with it or are sold separately, depending on your model.


  • DirectX 11 compatibility
  • Good gaming performance
  • Silent in 2D load
  • Low power consumption
  • Eyefinity, HDMI 1.4, HD audio bitstreaming


  • Noisy in 3D
  • 3D gaming is difficult to set up
  • Inappropriate naming


This is a very good mid-range card that's at ease with all video games. Note, however, that it has a misleading name: it is not a substitute for the brand's old high-end.
3 AMD Radeon HD 6870 1 GB DigitalVersus 2011-05-26 00:00:00
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