|MSI R6870 Radeon HD 6870 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 05 November 2010|
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MSI R6870 Video Card Review
AMD's first video card in the new HD 6xxx series occupies a brand new position in the product hierarchy. The HD 5830 GPU only made economic sense if you had awful yields at the wafer fab, and the Cypress chip, with 334 square millimeters of silicon, is way too big for just 1120 shaders and 16 ROPS. The new Barts GPU uses just 255 mm2 to do the same job only better, with twice the number of ROPs. Although AMD was denied the opportunity to roll out 32nm-based chips for this product cycle, they were able to go back to the drawing board with relaxed design rules for the 40nm process at TSMC. With one full year of volume production under their belts, they optimized this latest generation of GPUs for the current, actual manufacturing constraints. In the first iteration, they had to use estimates for defect density, maximum L/D ratios, and a whole host of other design guidelines that are supposed to ensure you get usable chips at the end of the production line. AMD did a better job of interpreting the rule book last product cycle, and as a result their full line of 40nm chips was first out of the gate, and stayed out in front for a full 6 months.
NVIDIA launched the GTX460 about four months ago, and it has been the darling of the gaming community since then. With performance per mm2 and performance per watt numbers that put the first Fermi chips to shame, it deserves all the success it has enjoyed. It's also an amazing overclocker, so its performance profile is a bit hard to pin down; it's a moving target from a marketing perspective. Into this victory celebration, the AMD HD 6870 steps forward like the "Boy Named Sue" in the infamous Johnny Cash song. Everyone seems to have massive heartburn over the product numbering scheme that AMD introduced with the new 68xx cards. The fact that AMD has successfully introduced an addition class of GPU (as defined by die size), to fill the product gap everyone complained about with the 5xxx series, seems to have been overlooked by all. Something had to give, and it was the auspicious title of HD x8x0 that got handed down from the previous King to the new Crown Prince.
You may have seen some benchmarks for the Radeon HD 6870 already, but let's take a complete look, inside and out, at the MSI R6870-2PM2D1GD5. Then we'll run it through Benchmark Review's full test suite. We're going to look at how this reference card performs with a standard 900 MHz factory clock on the graphics core; I want to wait until voltage adjustment becomes available before I report on its overclocking ability. I think you have to allow increased core voltage to find out how this GPU really compares to the GF104. That GPU won at least half of its acclaim from folks using MSI Afterburner to turn up the wick on all those reference cards, so it seems fair to wait until that capability is available for the HD 6870.
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by MSI.