|AMD Radeon HD 6870 Barts Video Card|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Video Cards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 21 October 2010|
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Radeon HD 6870 Conclusion
IMPORTANT: Although the rating and final score mentioned in this conclusion are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating specifically for the product tested which may differ from future versions. Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate.
Beginning with frame rate performance, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 competes at a level slightly better than the older and more expensive Radeon HD 5850 video card, but it doesn't find a true NVIDIA GeForce target. This concurs with AMD's own results, placing the Radeon HD 6870 between the 5850 and 5870 in their product lineup. There were a few tests that matched the Radeon HD 6870 with the GeForce GTX 470, and then there were tests that pegged it against the 1GB GeForce GTX 460. Most times it required a heavily overclocked GTX 460 to find similar competition, especially because NVIDIA's GTX 465 was retired only a month after it launched.
We didn't test AMD HD3D technology, or the impact it has on video game frame rates, primarily because the middleware was not made available and there are only two monitors that currently exist to support it: the Zalman Trimon 3D and iZ3D H220z1. At the time of launch Viewsonic had announced their 120Hz Fuhzion 3D monitor, but the product had not yet shipped. AMD HD3D technology presently supports one display, using either DL-DVI and DP monitors or HDMI 1.4 3D HDTV, so 3D movie playback on one of the few compatible 3D TVs is a more likely application of this feature.
Appearance is a more subjective matter since the rating doesn't have benchmark scores to fall back on. Partners traditionally offer their own unique twist on the design, with improved cooling solutions and colorful fan shroud designs. AMD's design ultimately delivers function ahead of fashion, allowing heated air to externally exhaust outside of the computer case. This remains critically important to overclockers, but because the transition to 32nm wasn't achieved with Northern Islands the heat output with standard clock speeds is still considered moderately high.
I consider the constant move towards a smaller die process rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, as NVIDIA once proved when their GeForce GTX 280 successfully launched at 65nm instead of 55nm. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is already building 32nm processors for other clientele, and AMD has noted that Moore's Law still applies - just not in regard to the Barts GPU. They claim that as a die processes become smaller, it also becomes much more costly to develop and produce.
There are six PLX display channel bridges on the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 video cards, which open up the functionality. Two are dedicated to the only dual-link DVI port available on this video card, while the other DVI port remains single-link and consumes another. HDMI 1.4a uses one channel, and two mini-DisplayPort outputs each use a channel. The real innovation comes with DP 1.2, which can use a Multi-Stream Transport Hub to drive multiple displays at different resolutions, refresh rates, and color depth in Eyefinity. Please note that the dual mini-DisplayPort connections incorporated on this reference design may not be adopted by AMD board partners, who are free to implement a single full-size DisplayPort connection.
Value is a fast moving target, and please believe me when I say that it changes by the minute in this industry. Delivering better performance and additional features at a lower cost to consumers has been the cornerstone of AMD's business philosophy for more than a decade, and they've repeatedly demonstrated this resolve in each of their many battles with Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs. AMD's latest Radeon continues the tradition of more for less, and PC hardware enthusiasts can expect the Radeon HD 6870 to sell for $239.99 at launch. This was originally explained to media as closer to $249.99, but subsequent price battles between manufacturers took their toll. As soon as online merchants offer 6000-series products, this section will be updated with links.
Using the manufacturer suggested pricing in conjunction with NewEgg's average product pricing (on 20 October 2010), the price segments reveal a gap. The 1GB GeForce GTX 460 sells for $220, followed by the GTX 470 at $395. This leaves a significant hole in their product lineup, but we've managed to fill it with a $260 factory-overclocked EVGA GeForce GTX 460 FTW for this review. On AMD's side, the Radeon HD 5850 is about $2 more than the Radeon HD 6870, and then there 's a hole between $180 and $240.
We've illustrated the cost per frame performance in the charts below:
In conclusion, the AMD Radeon HD 6870 introduces more flexibility for display devices, especially where Eyefinity is used, plus it enables stereoscopic 3D gaming and Blu-ray or 3D DVD playback for the first time. The reconfigured Cypress-turned-Barts GPU offers gaming performance that rivals the older Radeon HD 5850, occasionally competes with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470, and easily outperforms the 1GB GTX 460. At the $240 price point there aren't many options, unless you want a less-impressive GPU that's been factory overclocked, or an older GPU that lacks HD3D and UVD3 support. AMD touted Barts' improved filtering performance, but test using 3DCenter Filter Tester showed that anisotropic texture filtering was still remains an issue. Overall I consider the AMD Radeon HD 6870 to be a good PC gaming product, stereoscopic 3D or otherwise, but overclockers could be disappointed with the lack of headroom. This is AMD's first self-branded video card, retiring nearly twenty years of ATI brand name recognition, so while it's done well to demonstrate modest mainstream performance capabilities there are still a few green areas. I'm not convinced the Radeon HD 6870 is going to impress consumers with improved Eyefinity support or added stereoscopic 3D functionality until these technologies become more mature, but thankfully the Radeon HD 6870 shines as a solid gaming product.
What do you think of the AMD Radeon HD 6870 video card? Leave comments below, or ask questions in our Forum.
+ Excellent mainstream DX11 graphics performance
- Limited initial AMD HD3D product support
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.