|MSI R6870 Radeon HD 6870 Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Bruce Normann|
|Friday, 05 November 2010|
Page 14 of 18
Unigine Heaven 2.1 Benchmark
The Unigine "Heaven 2.1" benchmark is a free, publicly available, tool that grants the power to unleash the graphics capabilities in DirectX 11 for Windows 7 or updated Vista Operating Systems. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode, emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.
The distinguishing feature in the Unigine Heaven benchmark is a hardware tessellation that is a scalable technology aimed for automatic subdivision of polygons into smaller and finer pieces, so that developers can gain a more detailed look of their games almost free of charge in terms of performance. Thanks to this procedure, the elaboration of the rendered image finally approaches the boundary of veridical visual perception. The "Heaven" benchmark excels at the following key features:
Starting off with a lighter load of 4x MSAA, we see a virtual tie between the GTX460 and the R6870 and a very slight lead by the Radeon HD 5870. Even in the "normal" tessellation mode, this is a graphics test that really shows off the full impact of this DirectX 11 technology. The Fermi architecture has so much more computing power designated and available for tessellation, that it's no small surprise to see the card doing so well here. The same goes for the HD 6870, its revamped tessellation engine puts it within striking distance of the HD 5870, even though it only has the same number of shaders as the 5830, which is well off the pace. There is still a small amount of jerkiness to the display with all of the cards at this resolution; now that I've seen the landscape go by for a couple hundred times, I can spot the small stutters more easily. This test was run with 4x anti-aliasing; let's see how the cards stack up when we increase MSAA to the maximum level of 8x.
Increasing the anti-aliasing just improved the already convincing performance of the MSI N460GTX Cyclone, relative to the Radeon HD series of cards. There's no denying that the Fermi chip, in its best interpretation yet: the GF104, is a killer when called upon for tessellation duty. The MSI R6870 hangs in there, relative to the HD 5870; it's just the GTX460 that gets the extra boost at these settings.
One more test...one that's a little unusual, just to satisfy my curiosity. Heaven v2.0 was released at the same time as the first Fermi GPUs. Unigine added the "Extreme" selection for the tessellation setting, some say to show off the unique architecture of Fermi. Test results clearly showed a huge advantage for the NVIDIA GPUs when this setting was used. The general consensus was that the code was written specifically for the GF100 chip, and that it would be next to impossible for any ATI GPU to perform at comparable levels, unless they abandoned their current architecture and followed the NVIDIA design. It's time to test that theory; AMD has reworked the tessellation engine in the HD 6xxx GPUs, and is claiming a 2X improvement in performance. Let's see how that works out in what I will assume is a hostile benchmark environment.
The results show some improvement in tessellation from the HD5xxx cards to the HD6XXX series, but not close to 2X in this test. The Fermi GPU walks away with top place again, and I think it's still fair to say that this setting remains best suited for only testing one Fermi card against another. Other DX11 benchmarks which have heavy doses of tessellation, HAWX2 or Lost Planet 2, also give some measure of preference to the NVIDIA architecture, but not to this extent. Some DirectX 11 titles, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. CoP and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 never behaved this way, since the application of tessellation in those titles was very minimal or absent.
In our next section, we investigate the thermal performance of the MSI R6870-2PM2D1GD5, and see how well the reference cooler works on the latest Radeon offering.