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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

3DMark Vantage Performance Tests

3DMark Vantage is a computer benchmark by Futuremark (formerly named Mad Onion) to determine the DirectX 10 performance of 3D game performance with graphics cards. A 3DMark score is an overall measure of your system's 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests. By comparing your score with those submitted by millions of other gamers you can see how your gaming rig performs, making it easier to choose the most effective upgrades or finding other ways to optimize your system.

There are two graphics tests in 3DMark Vantage: Jane Nash (Graphics Test 1) and New Calico (Graphics Test 2). The Jane Nash test scene represents a large indoor game scene with complex character rigs, physical GPU simulations, multiple dynamic lights, and complex surface lighting models. It uses several hierarchical rendering steps, including for water reflection and refraction, and physics simulation collision map rendering. The New Calico test scene represents a vast space scene with lots of moving but rigid objects and special content like a huge planet and a dense asteroid belt.

At Benchmark Reviews, we believe that synthetic benchmark tools are just as valuable as video games, but only so long as you're comparing apples to apples. Since the same test is applied in the same controlled method with each test run, 3DMark is a reliable tool for comparing graphic cards against one-another.

1680x1050 is rapidly becoming the new 1280x1024. More and more widescreen are being sold with new systems or as upgrades to existing ones. Even in tough economic times, the tide cannot be turned back; screen resolution and size will continue to creep up. Using this resolution as a starting point, the maximum settings were applied to 3DMark Vantage include 8x Anti-Aliasing, 16x Anisotropic Filtering, all quality levels at Extreme, and Post Processing Scale at 1:2.

3DMark Vantage GPU Test: Jane Nash

PowerColor_HD_6870_PCS_Video_Card_3DMark_Vantage_Jane_Nash_1680.jpg

Our first test shows the single HD 6870 clearly besting the GTX460 and slotting in about 15% below the HD 5870 in this synthetic test. This "replacement" card does quite a bit more than fill the same slot occupied by the HD 5770, but its lack of shaders compared to the HD 5870 shows here. The GTX480 beats it by at least 10 FPS, as it should for the price difference.

All of the dual-GPU pairs beat the fastest single-GPU cards, by a big margin. The GTX 460 SLI combo really stands out here, a matched pair of MSI Cyclone cards, with the mild factory OC of 725MHz on the core. You can see the advantage the GF104 GPU has over the first Fermi chips, which has now been ported over to the GF110 GPU in the new 5xx series from NVIDIA. Even though CrossFireX frequently gets compared unfavorably to SLI, it does a good job scaling here, keeping the dual 6870 cards ahead of the GTX460 SLI pair.

PowerColor_HD_6870_PCS_Video_Card_3DMark_Vantage_Jane_Nash_1920.jpg

At 1920x1200 native resolution, things are much the same as the lower screen size; just the absolute values are lower, the ranking stays the same. Only the sub-$300 cards seemed choppy at times, as they didn't come close enough to the 30 FPS visual barrier. There is quite a price range represented here, from a low of $210 on the left to a high of $580 on the right. Oddly enough, if you take the e-tail prices and divide them by ten, you get a rough estimate of the frame rate in this benchmark.

Let's take a look at test #2 now, which has a lot more surfaces to render, with all those asteroids flying around the doomed planet New Calico.

3DMark Vantage GPU Test: New Calico

PowerColor_HD_6870_PCS_Video_Card_3DMark_Vantage_New_Calico_1680.jpg

In the medium resolution New Calico test, the MSI N460GTX Cyclone does so well that it basically ties with the PowerColor HD 6870 PCS+ in both single-GPU form and in SLI. The HD 6870 is also a few paces behind the HD 5870, with the reduced number of shaders the likely factor. The GTX460 seems to get a boost from this benchmark. It takes a $400 graphics solution to get over 30 FPS in this 1680x1050 benchmark, which shows how tough this medium resolution test really is. With two cards running in tandem though, you are well over the hump.

PowerColor_HD_6870_PCS_Video_Card_3DMark_Vantage_New_Calico_1920.jpg

At the higher screen resolution of 1920x1200, the HD 6870 ends up in a virtual tie with the 1GB GTX460 again. The GTX 460 SLI set also kicks butt one more time, and just barely edges out the HD 6870 CrossFireX pair. The HD 5870 continues to do well in this test, and the GTX 480 does, too. This benchmark suite may have recently been replaced with DX11-based tests, but in the fading days of DX10 it has been a very reliable and challenging benchmark for high-end video cards.

We need to look at some actual gaming performance to verify these results, so let's take a look in the next section, at how these cards stack up in the standard bearer for DX10 gaming benchmarks, Crysis.

Graphics Card

Cores

Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock

Memory

Interface

MSI GeForce GTX 460 (N460GTX Cyclone 1GD5/OC)

336

725

1450

900

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

PowerColor PCS+ HD 6870 (AX6870 1GBD5-PP2DH)

1120

940

N/A

1100

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

PowerColor Radeon HD 5870 (PCS+ AX5870 1GBD5-PPDHG2)

1600

875

N/A

1250

1.0 GB GDDR5

256-bit

Gigabyte GeForce GTX 480 (GV-N480SO-15I Super Over Clock)

480

820

1640

950

1536 MB GDDR5

384-bit



 

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