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Written by Bruce Normann   
Tuesday, 11 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

Crysis Performance Tests

Crysis uses a new graphics engine: the CryENGINE2, which is the successor to Far Cry's CryENGINE. CryENGINE2 is among the first engines to use the Direct3D 10 (DirectX 10) framework, but can also run using DirectX 9, on Vista, Windows XP and the new Windows 7. As we'll see, there are significant frame rate reductions when running Crysis in DX10. It's not an operating system issue, DX9 works fine in WIN7, but DX10 knocks the frame rates in half.

Roy Taylor, Vice President of Content Relations at NVIDIA, has spoken on the subject of the engine's complexity, stating that Crysis has over a million lines of code, 1GB of texture data, and 85,000 shaders. To get the most out of modern multicore processor architectures, CPU intensive subsystems of CryENGINE2 such as physics, networking and sound, have been re-written to support multi-threading.

Crysis offers an in-game benchmark tool, which is similar to World in Conflict. This short test does place some high amounts of stress on a graphics card, since there are so many landscape features rendered. For benchmarking purposes, Crysis can mean trouble as it places a high demand on both GPU and CPU resources. Benchmark Reviews uses the Crysis Benchmark Tool by Mad Boris to test frame rates in batches, which allows the results of many tests to be averaged.

Low-resolution testing allows the graphics processor to plateau its maximum output performance, and shifts demand onto the other system components. At the lower resolutions Crysis will reflect the GPU's top-end speed in the composite score, indicating full-throttle performance with little load. This makes for a less GPU-dependant test environment, but it is sometimes helpful in creating a baseline for measuring maximum output performance. At the 1280x1024 resolution used by 17" and 19" monitors, the CPU and memory have too much influence on the results to be used in a video card test. At the widescreen resolutions of 1680x1050 and 1900x1200, the performance differences between video cards under test are mostly down to the cards themselves, but there is still some influence by the rest of the system components.


With medium screen resolution and no MSAA dialed in, Crysis shows a completely different picture than 3DMark. Unlike many so-called TWIMTBP titles, Crysis has always run quite well on the ATI architecture, and the Radeon HD 6870 is able to put some distance between it and the GTX460. The GTX 460 SLI pair, with the little GF104 chip, comes out on top here, but it's not very competitive cost-wise. The HD 5870 and the GTX480 are roughly equal here, which should tell you a little bit about how well AMD does in a Crysis.

Crysis is one of those few games that stress the CPU almost as much as the GPU. As we increase the load on the graphics card, with higher resolution and AA processing, the situation may change. Remember all the test results in this article are with maximum allowable image quality settings, plus all the performance numbers in Crysis took a major hit when Benchmark Reviews switched over to the DirectX 10 API for all our testing. None of the cards are struggling at these low settings, though. You may have noticed that the CrossFireX combinations are missing from these results, and that is because I couldn't get meaningful results with that arrangement. Try as I might, the results were all over the place, and I just didn't trust them. All the single-GPU results were very consistent, like they normally are with this test.


At 1900 x 1200 resolution, the relative rankings stay the same; the raw numbers just go down. Even with the increased load on the GPU, every card from the HD 6870 on up still gets over the 30FPS hump convincingly. Any of these high-end GPUs can muster up the muscle to play Crysis at high resolution with all the bells and whistles turned on, much to everyone's relief. Can it play Crysis? Yes.


Now let's turn up the heat a bit on the ROP units, and add some Multi-Sample Anti-Aliasing. With 4x MSAA cranked in, the top cards lose about 5 FPS at 1680x1050 screen resolution but they manage to stay well above the 30 FPS line. The PowerColor PCS+ HD 6870 1GB GDDR5 keeps its lead over the GTX460 and stays within hailing distance of the HD 5870. The Gigabyte GTX 480 SOC has also managed to do quite well. It even keeps up with the GTX 460 SLI pair, which has the advantage of the second generation Fermi GPU, and 672 CUDA cores between the two of them.


This is one of our toughest tests, at 1900 x 1200, maximum quality levels, and 4x AA. Only one GPU drops below 30 FPS in this test, which is unbelievable when I think back to the first days of DirectX 10 testing with Crysis. In the middle ranges, the HD 6870 hangs close to the performance leaders, and pushes the GTX 460 out of the running. Even a massive overclock on the GTX 460 won't come up even with the HD 6870 on this test. I ran the MSI GTX460 HAWK at 950 MHz core clock last month, and it only got 26 FPS at these settings. On this, the toughest of the four benchmark configurations, the GTX 480 SOC finally edges out an overall win and shows its thoroughbred pedigree.

Our next test is a relatively new one for Benchmark Reviews. It's a DirectX 10 game with all the stops pulled out. Just Cause 2 uses a brand new game engine called Avalanche Engine 2.0, which enabled the developers to create games of epic scale and with great variation across genres and artistic styles, for the next generation of gaming experiences. Sounds like fun, let's take a look...

Graphics Card


Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock



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





1.0 GB GDDR5


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





1.0 GB GDDR5


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





1.0 GB GDDR5


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





1536 MB GDDR5



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