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Written by Bruce Normann   
Friday, 05 November 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
MSI R6870 Radeon HD 6870 Video Card
AMD Radeon HD 6870 GPU Features
Closer Look: MSI R6870
MSI R6870 Detailed Features
Video Card Testing Methodology
DX10: 3DMark Vantage
DX10: Crysis
DX11: Aliens vs. Predator
DX11: Battlefield: Bad Company 2
DX11: DiRT-2 Demo
DX11: H.A.W.X. 2
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
MSI R6870 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
AMD Radeon HD 6870 Final Thoughts
MSI R6870 Conclusion

Unigine Heaven 2.1 Benchmark

The Unigine "Heaven 2.1" benchmark is a free, publicly available, tool that grants the power to unleash the graphics capabilities in DirectX 11 for Windows 7 or updated Vista Operating Systems. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode, emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

The distinguishing feature in the Unigine Heaven benchmark is a hardware tessellation that is a scalable technology aimed for automatic subdivision of polygons into smaller and finer pieces, so that developers can gain a more detailed look of their games almost free of charge in terms of performance. Thanks to this procedure, the elaboration of the rendered image finally approaches the boundary of veridical visual perception. The "Heaven" benchmark excels at the following key features:

  • Native support of OpenGL, DirectX 9, DirectX-10 and DirectX-11
  • Comprehensive use of tessellation technology
  • Advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion)
  • Volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm
  • Dynamic simulation of changing environment with high physical fidelity
  • Interactive experience with fly/walk-through modes
  • ATI Eyefinity support


Starting off with a lighter load of 4x MSAA, we see a virtual tie between the GTX460 and the R6870 and a very slight lead by the Radeon HD 5870. Even in the "normal" tessellation mode, this is a graphics test that really shows off the full impact of this DirectX 11 technology. The Fermi architecture has so much more computing power designated and available for tessellation, that it's no small surprise to see the card doing so well here. The same goes for the HD 6870, its revamped tessellation engine puts it within striking distance of the HD 5870, even though it only has the same number of shaders as the 5830, which is well off the pace. There is still a small amount of jerkiness to the display with all of the cards at this resolution; now that I've seen the landscape go by for a couple hundred times, I can spot the small stutters more easily. This test was run with 4x anti-aliasing; let's see how the cards stack up when we increase MSAA to the maximum level of 8x.


Increasing the anti-aliasing just improved the already convincing performance of the MSI N460GTX Cyclone, relative to the Radeon HD series of cards. There's no denying that the Fermi chip, in its best interpretation yet: the GF104, is a killer when called upon for tessellation duty. The MSI R6870 hangs in there, relative to the HD 5870; it's just the GTX460 that gets the extra boost at these settings.

One more that's a little unusual, just to satisfy my curiosity. Heaven v2.0 was released at the same time as the first Fermi GPUs. Unigine added the "Extreme" selection for the tessellation setting, some say to show off the unique architecture of Fermi. Test results clearly showed a huge advantage for the NVIDIA GPUs when this setting was used. The general consensus was that the code was written specifically for the GF100 chip, and that it would be next to impossible for any ATI GPU to perform at comparable levels, unless they abandoned their current architecture and followed the NVIDIA design. It's time to test that theory; AMD has reworked the tessellation engine in the HD 6xxx GPUs, and is claiming a 2X improvement in performance. Let's see how that works out in what I will assume is a hostile benchmark environment.


The results show some improvement in tessellation from the HD5xxx cards to the HD6XXX series, but not close to 2X in this test. The Fermi GPU walks away with top place again, and I think it's still fair to say that this setting remains best suited for only testing one Fermi card against another. Other DX11 benchmarks which have heavy doses of tessellation, HAWX2 or Lost Planet 2, also give some measure of preference to the NVIDIA architecture, but not to this extent. Some DirectX 11 titles, like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. CoP and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 never behaved this way, since the application of tessellation in those titles was very minimal or absent.

In our next section, we investigate the thermal performance of the MSI R6870-2PM2D1GD5, and see how well the reference cooler works on the latest Radeon offering.

Graphics Card


Core Clock

Shader Clock

Memory Clock



ATI Radeon HD5770 (Engineering Sample)







XFX Radeon HD5830 (HD-583X-ZNFV)














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





1.0 GB GDDR5


MSI Radeon HD6870 (R6870-2PM2D1GD5)







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









# comentarioalcides juan 2010-11-04 21:13
ya adquiri una placa de video athis muy buena placa gracias por mantenerme informado me gustan mucho los productos que me muestran, gracias
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# You're welcome!Olin Coles 2010-11-04 21:42
Me alegro de que podría ayudarle a hacer una compra informada.
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# ThanksRealNeil 2010-11-05 06:30
Good review. My time for buying parts and building my next system is fast approaching and it will probably have to do me, for a long time. Reviews are what help us to make smarter decisions when we spend our money. While the cost of two GTX460's is not resoundingly expensive for most, it represents a lot for me. (I'm on a disabled Pension) I didn't want to buy the 1GB GTX460 pair of cards without knowing more about the latest ATI offerings. With your help I feel that I can make a final decision now and not blow it. I appreciate it too.
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# Impressive.Crazy 2010-11-29 22:31
Great Review! Thanks so much. I'v been doing some research for my next big build and I really needed to find a graphics card that fit my needs and this is wonderful especially considering the price. Although I do wish it had more for the voltage controls.
Now I just have to decide whether to go with this or wait until the Caymans come out. They just got pushed back again tho... from end of November to mid December. =/

Once again, Great review!!! Really in depth and exactly what I was looking for.

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