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Written by Bruce Normann   
Monday, 10 January 2011
Table of Contents: Page Index
PowerColor Radeon HD 6870 PCS+ Video Card
Closer Look: PowerColor PCS HD 6870
PowerColor PCS HD 6870 Detailed Features
Features and Specifications
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis
DX10: Just Cause 2
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo
DX11: H.A.W.X. 2
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX11: METRO 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
PowerColor PCS HD 6870 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Final Thoughts
PowerColor PCS HD 6870 Conclusion

PowerColor PCS+ HD6870 Video Card Review

AMD's new Radeon HD 6800 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 as the 5830. The first HD 6870 cards on the market were all based on the AMD reference design, which used the tried-and-true blower in a box design for cooling. Some of us prefer axial cooling fans, and have been anxiously awaiting some original designs to hit the marketplace. PowerColor saw the need for a different interpretation on the Barts theme and have launched their PCS+ version that has potentially better cooling, and certainly quieter cooling if nothing else. They've also applied the traditional overclock, which is a standard feature for this series.

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 manufacturing constraints. In the HD 5000 series, 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.

PowerColor_HD_6870_PCS_Video_Card_Bottom_PWR_34_01.jpg

In the wake of the HD 6900 series debut last month, the Barts GPU and its place in the product line finally makes perfect sense. 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 a completely new class of GPU (as defined by die size), to fill the product gap everyone complained about with the 5000 series, seems to have been overlooked by all. Something had to give, and it was the auspicious title of HD x870 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 PowerColor PCS+ HD6870 1GB GDDR5. Then we'll run it through Benchmark Review's full test suite. We're going to look at how this non-reference card performs with a factory 940 MHz overclock on the graphics core, and a memory clock of 1100 MHz. These are both safe, but significant overclocks that are within spitting distance of the 1.0 GHz wall that most 40nm graphics cores from TSMC seem to have.

Manufacturer: PowerColor (TUL Corporation)
Product Name: PowerColor PCS+ HD6870 1GB GDDR5
Model Number: AX6870 1GBD5-PP2DH
Price As Tested: $274.99

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by PowerColor.



 

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