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Written by Olin Coles   
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
VisionTek 900338 Radeon HD 6870 Video Card
VisionTek 6870 Closer Look
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis Warhead
DX11: Aliens vs Predator
DX11: Battlefield Bad Company 2
DX11: BattleForge
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
Overclocking and Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
VisionTek 900338 Conclusion

AMD Barts GPU Overclocking

AMD's Cypress GPU was well-known for accepting massively overclocked speeds. The new Barts GPU is based on Cypress, and should in theory yield a similar overclock. This presumes that AMD hasn't already stretched the Radeon HD 6850 and 6870 as far as they could go. For this project, we used MSI's free Afterburner program to overclock the video cards.

The MSI Afterburner "Graphics Card Performance Booster" application offers several adjustable variables to reach the desired overclock. Afterburner allows for voltage changes (increase/decrease), but this project aimed to stretch the AMD Barts GPU as far as it could go without any extra power applied. Beginning with the maximum stable GPU clock speed, I slowly increased the settings until I began to see tearing or the driver crashed. Once I reached the most stable speeds for both GPU and GDDR5, I put the video card back into action with high-demand video games for additional benchmark tests. Here are the results:

AMD Radeon HD 6850 Overclocking Results

Test Item Standard Overclocked Improvement
Radeon HD 6850 775/1000 MHz 850/1075 MHz 75/75 MHz
DX10: Crysis Warhead 22 24 9.0%
DX11: Aliens vs Predator 23.1 25.0 8.2%
DX11: BattleForge 30.1 32.4 7.6%
DX11: Heaven 2.1 22.5 23.6 4.9%
DX11: Lost Planet 2 25.5 28.1 10.2%
DX9+SSAO: Mafia II 39.9 43.2 8.3%

AMD Radeon HD 6870 Overclocking Results

Test Item Standard Overclocked Improvement
Radeon HD 6870 900/1050 MHz 950/1200 MHz 50/150 MHz
DX10: Crysis Warhead 25 27 8.0%
DX11: Aliens vs Predator 27.0 29.5 9.3%
DX11: BattleForge 34.3 37.4 9.0%
DX11: Heaven 2.1 26.5 28.6 7.9%
DX11: Lost Planet 2 31.0 33.0 6.5%
DX9+SSAO: Mafia II 47.5 50.7 6.7%

Radeon HD 6870 Temperatures

Benchmark tests are always nice, so long as you care about comparing one product to another. But when you're an overclocker, gamer, or merely a PC hardware enthusiast who likes to tweak things on occasion, there's no substitute for good information. Benchmark Reviews has a very popular guide written on Overclocking Video Cards, which gives detailed instruction on how to tweak a graphics cards for better performance. Of course, not every video card has overclocking head room. Some products run so hot that they can't suffer any higher temperatures than they already do. This is why we measure the operating temperature of the video card products we test.

To begin my testing, I use GPU-Z to measure the temperature at idle as reported by the GPU. Next I use FurMark's "Torture Test" to generate maximum thermal load and record GPU temperatures at high-power 3D mode. The ambient room temperature remained at a stable 20°C throughout testing, while the inner-case temperature hovered around 37°C.

FurMark does two things extremely well: drive the thermal output of any graphics processor higher than applications of video games realistically could, and it does so with consistency every time. Furmark works great for testing the stability of a GPU as the temperature rises to the highest possible output. The temperatures discussed below are absolute maximum values, and not representative of real-world performance.

Video Card Idle Temp Loaded Temp Ambient
ATI Radeon HD 5850 39°C 73°C 20°C
AMD Radeon HD 6850 42°C 77°C 20°C
AMD Radeon HD 6870 39°C 74°C 20°C
ATI Radeon HD 5870 33°C 78°C 20°C



 

Comments 

 
# Overclocking SWServando Silva 2010-10-30 17:54
Hi Olin, I know MSI's doesn't support GPU over-voltage, but have you tried the newest version of Sapphire Trixx? Maybe you could get a pre-release version from them, as I've seen those cards overclock a lot with some extra-voltage.
Thanks for the Review.
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# Waiting a whileRealNeil 2010-10-31 20:13
Had planned to but two GTX-460's in December, but now I'm not sure. These don't do CUDA & Phys-X do they? I wonder how they scale with two on-board?
Is the CUDA and Phys-X features enough to shoot these down?
Gonna have to wait to see what develops. Can only afford an VERY occasional buy, so I want to get the best bang for the buck when I do.
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# RE: Waiting a whileOlin Coles 2010-10-31 20:19
Some people really enjoy PhysX effects in their games, and use CUDA for encoding media files. Others don't, and so it becomes a point of preference.

Keep in mind that you can buy two 1GB GTX 460's for around $340, while two Radeon HD 6870's will costs $480. This doesn't exactly put them in the same price segment, so cost becomes a major factor.
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# RE: RE: Waiting a whilechris 2010-11-01 17:35
460 1G seriously is not in the same league in terms of performance with 6870.

and where do you get 1G 460 for $170?
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# RE: RE: RE: Waiting a whileOlin Coles 2010-11-01 17:59
Thank you for reiterating the point I made over and over in this article: it takes a lightly overclocked GTX 460 to compete with the Radeon HD 6870. A heavily overclocked EVGA GTX 460 FTW puts the 6870 to shame, however.

You can buy 1GB GeForce GTX 460's at NewEgg for $170, although some now also offer rebates.
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# RE: Waiting a whileFranck 2010-11-01 08:18
I really don t see why someone should buy this card over a gtx 460 1gb hawk for example. In a price performance POV. It cost most and the diference ain t worth it.
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# Great cardRudaxx 2010-11-01 12:24
Yes i bought two of these Amd 6870 and put them in crossfire. These are great cards, With Amd you can have and use a card effectively for more than two years, but with nVidia up to one year and you become obsolete, they are hot and very loud and who cares about cuda and physix i prefer Havok. Besides 90% of games are Havoc and they work great, not like physix in mafia 2 where you need an extra card to make it slightly more stable, with one it lags. I've never had problems with ati cards or their driver but with nvidia its a whole other story. By the way if you type "nvidia driver problems" on google you get 8 million results.
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# RE: Great cardJack 2010-11-01 12:43
You're right that the 6870 does seem like a great card and a worthy successor to the HD5770. Every benchmark I have seen shows the 6870 performing with and in some cases outperforming the GTX 460. Although, I game with a single Gigabyte GTX 470 SOC and haven't noticed any of the issues with PhysX you mentioned. By the way, if you type "ATI Driver Problems" into Google you will get nearly just as many results (7.2 million when I checked). You say that after one year nVidia cards become obsolete but I was still using my old BFG 8800GT 512MB card I got back in the summer of 08 until I upgraded to the Gigabyte GTX 470. That's 2+ years of great use and 0 driver problems. Either way, both sets of cards, AMD and nVidia, are impressive. Anyone, looking to buy either the HD6870 or the HD6850 should also consider the GTX 460 1GB, and look at performance benchmarks, heat, and power usage before coming to an informed decision. BTW, I am really interested in the GTX 580 vs HD69XX cards.
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# RE: VisionTek 900338 Radeon HD 6870 Video CardNick 2010-11-18 20:29
What are the physical w/h/d dimensions of the 6870?
I am looking to put this into my case, and need specs.
Sorry, I can't find specs anywhere online.
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# Same as it ever was....BruceBruce 2010-11-18 20:36
...with apologies to David Byrne. This is a reference card, and will be the same size as many of the other cards released at the AMD launch.

Height: 115 mm
Length: 245 mm
Width: 35 mm (Dual-slot)
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# RE: RE: VisionTek 900338 Radeon HD 6870 Video CardOlin Coles 2010-11-18 21:19
They're right there in the middle of page two. I even included the Radeon HD 6850 dimensions. If you read the article, you can't miss it.
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