Archive: Graphics Card Reviews 2007 - 2011

REVIEW / AMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB

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Régis Jehl Published on May 25, 2011
Updated on February 13, 2012
Translated by
 
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SPECIFICATIONS

  • Chip Cayman
  • GPU frequency 880 MHz
  • Memory quantity 2 GB
  • Memory type GDDR5
  • Memory frequency 1375 MHz
  • Cooler Double decker
After the mid-range Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870, AMD is now renewing its high-end product segment. It has a lot to do to compete with the GeForce GTX 570 and GTX 580, which give impressive levels of performance, are quiet and come stuffed with additional features. On paper, the AMD Radeon HD 6970 should fall somewhere between the two GeForce card. In practice? Let's see.

Size, Noise and Heat

The Radeon HD 6950 and 6970 are slightly shorter than the Radeon HD 5870. They measure 27.5 cm instead of 28 cm. The cooler is lined and there's a metal heatsink plate on the top of the card.

There has been negative progress on noise levels in comparison with the previous generation. At idle, the fan runs at 30% of its maximum speed, compared with 25% for the 5800 series. The noise generated is therefore quite noticeable (43.3 dB(A)) and may be suite annoying for some. The GeForce GTX 570 and GTX 580 do better here, at a little over 40 dB(A). Don't forget that 3 dB(A) is equivalent to doubling the intensity of the sound.

During 3D gaming, the results are mitigated. It generates less noise (55.5 dB(A)) than the Radeon HD 5870, however, it's still a good deal louder than the GeForce GTX 570 (49.7 dB(A)). Heat levels are absolutely fine at 44°C in 2D and 91° during gaming.

Power Consumption

Formerly a strong point in the Radeon HD 5000 series, power consumption levels have actually gone up slightly with the Radeon HD 6900s, with an average increase of 10 watts both in idle and 3D activity. Our test computer used 100 watts in 2D and 396 watts in 3D. These readings are almost comparable to those obtained with the GeForce GTX 570, though the GTX 570 uses slightly more power.

Gaming Performance

NVIDIA has done a really thorough job with the GeForce 500 series and has increased gaming speeds by around 20% on the previous generation. We were waiting to see how AMD could respond and we have to say we are quite disappointed.

In order to deliver improved performance levels, AMD has increased the clocks on its graphics chip (880 MHz against 850 MHz) and doubled the amount of memory, now up to 2 GB (clocked at 1375 MHz against 1200 MHz).

AMD has also implemented a new feature known as 'PowerTune'. Somewhat comparable to the 'turbo' feature on previous generations of card, this technique allows you to push the clocks of the graphics chip beyond its original clock speed (+20% max), so long as the 3D load doesn't already take it over the maximum threshold for the thermal design power (TDP).

Tt hd 6970
Average general performance
Click on the image to see all our readings
and compare this model with other graphics cards

In practice, we didn't get a particularly satisfying result. In some cases, we noted a gain of around 1% and in others no gain at all, implying that our test games all took the card to its maximum TDP. So, while we like the idea, in practice it doesn't appear to have been implemented particularly effectively.

Performance levels themselves are pretty good, as you can run all current games at high resolution with texture filters activated.

This places the HD 6970 well below the NVIDIA GTX 570 (around 7% faster) and on a par with the GeForce GTX 480. AMD will have to price it quite aggressively to keep users interested in this card which is as noisy as the GTX 570 (see above).

The new high-end AMD graphics card is something of a disappointment. Although not at all bad in absolute terms, the small gain in power doesn't make up for the fact that its cooling system is louder than the competitor's model. The release of the GeForce GTX 570 was apparently not anticipated by AMD and the company will now have to price its high-end card quite aggressively if it wants to bank a decent number of sales.

Graphics Cards: Performance Index Tables

The card at a glance
For our tests, we used a stock Radeon HD 6970 2 GB straight from AMD. The card has ample connectivity, with two DVI connectors (a dual link and a single link), an HDMI 1.4a connector and two mini Display Port 1.2s.

We also 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 increasing 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 stereoscopic 3D games, AMD HD3D means AMD is finally on board. Set-up is however a little complicated. You'll first need to acquire a special driver from a partner (IZ3D or DDD for example). This driver will cost between $19.99 and $24.99 and brings compatibility across a large number of games.

Those who want to do their gaming on a 3D monitor will also have to shell out for some 3D glasses. Here 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.

Finally, those who want to do their gaming on a 3D TV won't need any additional glasses and can use those that come with the TV.

PROS

  • Good 3D gaming performance
  • DirectX 11 compatibility
  • Eyefinity, HDMI 1.4, HD audio bitstreaming

CONS

  • We were expecting higher performance
  • You can hear the fan in 2D as well as 3D
  • Power consumption has increased
  • Stereoscopic 3D gaming is complex to set up

CONCLUSION 3/5

We are disappointed with this model, which really brings very little in comparison to the previous generation. Our final score is based heavily on gaming performance tests, but the additional 10% you get in gaming power is no recompense for the higher noise output and power consumption.
3 AMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB DigitalVersus 2011-05-25 00:00:00
Compare: AMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB to its competitors
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