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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

VisionTek 900338 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 VisionTek 900338 Radeon HD 6870 competes at a level slightly better than the older and more expensive Radeon HD 5850 video card, but based on performance and price 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 VisionTek 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 first 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.

VisionTek_Radeon-HD-6870_Video_Card_Kit.jpg

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. This wasn't the case with VisionTek, and AMD's design was reused to deliver function ahead of any and all fashion. The reference design allows nearly all of the heated air to externally exhaust outside of the computer case, which could be critically important to overclockers wanting the best possible environment for their computer hardware. This also preserves the Barts GPU, since the transition to 32nm wasn't achieved with Northern Islands and the heat output with standard clock speeds is still considered moderately high.

I personally 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 6870 video card, which opens 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.

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, allowing VisionTek to offer hardware enthusiasts their Radeon HD 6870 for $239.99.

Using the manufacturer suggested pricing in conjunction with NewEgg's average product pricing (on 25 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:

Average-Lowest-Video-Card-Costs.png

In conclusion, the VisionTek 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. Overall I consider the VisionTek Radeon HD 6870 to be a good PC gaming product, stereoscopic 3D or otherwise, however overclockers could be disappointed with the lack of headroom. 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 VisionTek Radeon HD 6870 video card? Leave comments below, or ask questions in our Forum.

Pros:Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award

+ Excellent mainstream DX11 graphics performance
+ Barts GPU Introduces stereoscopic 3D functionality
+ Reduced heat output enables nearly silent cooling fan
+ Fan exhausts all heated air outside of case
+ UVD3 Adds multi-view CODEC for 3D Blu-ray playback
+ Improves DisplayPort to 1.2 with display chaining
+ Supports CrossFire functionality

Cons:

- Limited initial AMD HD3D product support
- Fails to fix anisotropic texture filtering
- Barts GPU yields minimal overclock

Ratings:

  • Performance: 9.50
  • Appearance: 8.75
  • Construction: 9.75
  • Functionality: 9.50
  • Value: 7.50

Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.

Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.


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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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