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AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video Card E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Table of Contents: Page Index
AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video Card
AMD Radeon 6970 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
DX11: Lost Planet 2
DX9 SSAO: Mafia II
DX11: Metro 2033
DX11: Unigine Heaven 2.1
Radeon HD 6970 Temperatures
VGA Power Consumption
AMD Radeon HD 6970 Conclusion

AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video Card Review

Featuring a 1536-Core Cayman GPU, AMD's Radeon HD 6970 competes against NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 470.

With the introduction of AMD's Cayman GPU, the Radeon HD 6870 video card becomes their flagship DirectX-11 desktop graphics product. Aside from the dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970, gamers can expect the new Radeon HD 6970 to quench their thirst for demanding graphics power. The Cayman GPU features dual graphics engines with an asynchronous dispatch and off-chip geometry buffering to 96 tessellation units using a new VLIW4 shader core architecture. Equipped with a 2GB GDDR5 256-bit video buffer, the Cayman GPU can offer up to 24 SIMD engines and 96 Texture Units. Additionally, the AMD Radeon HD 6970 introduces several new MSAA modes including Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA).

The AMD Radeon HD 6970 takes advantage of improved anti-aliasing features to enhance the DirectX 11 gaming experience. PC gamers are looking for their best value for the money, while producing top-end frame rates to help them build a killstreak. AMD didn't set out to build the fastest graphics card imaginable, likely producing a product so expensive that only the most affluent enthusiasts could afford. Instead, the AMD Radeon HD 6970 was designed for the large majority of consumers, who want top-shelf performance at a fair price. While accomplishing this, they managed to also add accelerated multimedia playback and transcoding, AMD HD3D stereoscopic technology, and the 3D Blu-ray multi-view CODEC (MVC).

Benchmark Reviews tests the Radeon HD 6970 graphical frame rate performance using the most demanding PC video game titles and benchmark software available. DirectX-10 favorites such as Crysis Warhead and PCMark Vantage are all included, in addition to DX11 titles such as Aliens vs Predator, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, BattleForge, Lost Planet 2, Mafia II, Metro 2033, and the Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark. Built to deliver improved performance to the value-hungry mainstream gaming market, the AMD Radeon HD 6970 video card delivers top-end performance at a value-added price point.


According to information presented at the AMD Editor's Day event back on 14 October 2010, approximately 33% of all AMD graphics solutions are sold for the desktop platform with over 25-million Radeon DirectX-11 compatible products shipped to date. In many ways this data reinforces my position in the recent Desktop Platform article series, but it could also mean that manufacturers are listening ever more intently to the changing needs of their remaining consumer base. This doesn't always leave room for innovation, but AMD manages to introduce emerging technologies nevertheless.

For those who have been patiently waiting for news on ATI Stream technology, it's been re-tasked as AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing, or APP technology. AMD Eye-Definition represents their commitment to PC gamers, PC game developers, and the PC gaming industry. Through Eye-Definition AMD delivers their "Gamers Manifesto", which they assert will enable the best experience possible regardless of hardware manufacturer.

Manufacturer: Advanced Micro Devices
Product Name: Radeon HD 6970
Suggested Tested: $369.99 MSRP

Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article was obtained from an outside source.



# RE: AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video CardHarry 2010-12-14 20:16
I think 6850 CF is a cheaper and a better choice since it beats GTX 580 price and performance wise.
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# RE: RE: AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video CardJapipapi 2011-06-14 10:51
Just run 2 of these for the same price as 1 gtx 580 lol besides this is not too far behind the 580
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# disappointingTrajan Long 2010-12-14 20:33
Wow! After all the hype the 6970 is pretty disappointing. That's why competition is great. Without AMD we wouldn't have the GTX 580. NOw AMD better get themselves in gear and come up with another champ or Nvidia will get lazy.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video CardBaz 2010-12-14 20:42
Ohhhhhh...... The disappointment. Can't wait to hear the AMD camps "It's all about price/performance" AND "But our cards are'nt as hot as a Fermi Nuclear Reactor in breach mode". Except that according to the review, the 6970 is about as hot under load as the old GTX480.... Looks like AMD camps are going to have the temperatures they were joking about on the original Fermi come back and bite them on the ass so they will have to revise their comments this time around.
Nevertheless, competition in this industry is great for everyone as it always results in aggressive pricing so a big welcome thanks goes out to both AMD and Nvidia in this round for giving all of us such powerful cards at more affordable prices...... In the end, isn't that what we all want?
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# Crysis!John 2010-12-14 20:44
"Moderate quality settings"

Put it on enthusiast and watch nvidia burn.
Cayman is faster with actual decent settings in games.
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# Wrong CatalystDavid 2010-12-14 20:45
They used Catalyst 10.11 for the HD 6970. They should have benched with 10.12 at least. Notice how HD 5870 stomps the HD 6970 in Battleforge? Certainly an obvious sign of an unoptimized driver for the HD 6970. A correct optimized driver can make all the difference.
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# RE: Wrong CatalystOlin Coles 2010-12-14 20:47
Thank you for your expert advice, David. The 10.11 Beta driver was actually the only one released by AMD to press that supports the 6970.
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# My badDavid 2010-12-14 21:10
I did some research, and it appears that you are right. Sorry about that, and thank you for the correction.

Catalyst 10.11 seems to be an unoptimized driver for HD 6970. Would you agree, or do you believe that it is working at "full capacity"? If it is working at "full capacity", then why does the HD 6970 lose so badly to HD 5870 in Battleforge? It doesn't seem to make sense. Perhaps when AMD releases Catalyst 10.13 (fully supporting HD 6900 series) we'll see an appreciable improvement? Let's hope!
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# RE: My badOlin Coles 2010-12-14 21:14
Here is AMD's response, received only an hour before launch, which I will post to the article in a moment:

"We are aware that there are some abnormal performance results in BattleForge with our new AMD Radeon HD 6900 Series graphics card. Keep in mind this is a new VLIW4 shader architecture and we are still fine tuning the shader compilation. We will be able to post a hotfix for Battleforge shortly that will provide a noticeable increase in performance."
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# RE: RE: My badOlin Coles 2010-12-14 21:15
I forgot to add that I pointed out BattleForge and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 performance issues two days ago to the entire AMD team, but didn't receive a response until an hour ago.
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# RE: RE: RE: My badDavid 2010-12-14 21:22
I appreciate the info. Thanks again!
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# Disappointing? Are you nuts?Greg 2010-12-14 20:46
Disappointing? It's marginally faster than the GTX570! The games where it looked 20-30% behind are obviously driver issues. Also, after all what hype? Which hype was that? Virtually everybody I read was saying they were waiting to see what kind of performance this would deliver, and it produces better performance than even the unexpected NVidia card released just days before, while consuming less power. How's that disappointing? NVidiot, are we?
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# RE: Disappointing? Are you nuts?Olin Coles 2010-12-14 21:10
Messages with personal attacks and insults will be moderated, Greg.

Besides, I think you're a little glossy-eyed to think the 6970 is "marginally faster" than the GTX 570 simply because of "driver issues". Even more so when you consider how Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and BattleForge are both AMD-sponsored game titles. Even 3dMark Vantage was co-developed with AMD/ATI.

Once drivers are more mature, you can expect to get some performance back. But will it be 20-30%? That might be asking a bit much.
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# RE: AMD Radeon HD 6970 Video CardKokin 2010-12-14 20:50
For the prices, the new cards are decent. Obviously the 580's temps will be with the throttled speed, so I don't think they will as low as the reported temp during normal use. But I gotta agree, had I needed to upgrade, now is really a great time to upgrade or build a new computer, since prices are very competitive.
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# Be Realistic !Baz 2010-12-14 21:02
I for one will not accept any form of argument around "it's a driver issue". If that were the case, AMD would never discount their card at launch at the levels we are seeing. They knew how it would perform with the new shader architecture and they priced it accordingly. The change to the new architecture doesn't automatically unilaterally guarantee that it will be better than the 5870 all the time.... The 5870 was and still is a great card.
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# It's fine.Juste 2010-12-14 21:20
The way I see this card
-Performs slightly better than the GTX570 (save for obvious beta driver-related performance problems, such as in Battleforge)
-Draws less power than its competitor, the GTX570
-Is as quiet as the GTX580 (according to TPU)
-Is priced slightly (~$20) higher than the GTX570 (Going by egg prices)

I'm not sure what there is to be disappointed about. The card does what it's supposed to.
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# It is still very early to argue.clive 2010-12-14 21:50
Guys I agree with both arguments and being an avid AMD fan because of price/performance Amd has to offer, but it may be still to early to tell what the true performance of this card can do. I agree a 20% to 30% increase based on drivers is a bit much however is possible. Some nvidia drivers in the past stated clearly so and so % performance in said game and so on. And maybe a better driver like the 10.12 will increase battleforge etc maybe 15% or slightly more matching the cards price/ performance over the 580/570. Dont get me wrong I am trying to be unpartial as possible, hell I had a GTX 280 and loved it. ever since the 5xxx series I have had only NV cards even back when NV and AMD were friends. Point in both the GTX 5xx and HD 6xxx series are sick cards and personal preference will be the determining factor.
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# power draw isn't right for the 570 and 580davekozy 2010-12-14 22:28
The 570 and 580 throttle in Furmark so the power draw isn't accurate. They would be close to the 470 and 480 without the regulation.
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# RE: power draw isn't right for the 570 and 580Olin Coles 2010-12-15 08:19
You should go back and re-read how we tested then, because it's accurate. It throttles when you use Furmark.exe, but if you rename the file power consumption rises.
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# Other reviews...clive 2010-12-14 22:37
Some other review sites also gave synthetic test result numbers which surprised and confused me a bit. The 6970 pumped out around 18k with the 570/580 shelling around 25-28k. Synthetic as it may be other sites indicate the 6970 tops out close to the 570 and comes close to the 580 in dx11 syths and games. It would seem that older dx10 apps appear to lag with this card and just maybe a newer driver may just provide a 15% or maybe more increase. IDC tho fps are still awesome with this card as is xfire scaling.
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# This may intrest someclive 2010-12-14 22:48
and the first test in my above post was in reference to vantage mark.. however read this

3dmk 11 results are close and for once look at that dam xfire scaling awesome
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# EPIC AMD FAIL!Mike 2010-12-15 01:15
Lmao @ AMD fanboys crying into their cornflakes!

I thought 6970 was gonna be only 5% behind GTX 580 - turns out to be 20% behind, with even GTX 570 beating it. No wonder AMD has been FORCED (by their own FAILURE) to slash prices at launch.

Add to that the fact 6970 is hotter than 5870, much hotter than GTX 580 and only slightly cooler than GTX 480; then add much higher power consumption and higher noise level than 5870 -

All of this adds up to one thing - if you own AMD shares, sell now as Nvidia is set stomp on AMD at least until we see 28nm. AMD's fortunes are headed south for the rest of 40nm, especially given that Nvidia has dual card GTX 595 waiting in the wings to hand 6990 its hat in January.
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# Obvious choice for meRagingShadow07 2010-12-15 04:14
Looks like there's gonna be a GTX 570 in my foreseeable future. I'm pretty disappointed in ATI after all the hype about this card, and the million and two people telling everyone to save their money and wait for it. I wonder whose prices will drop first, the 570 or the 6970.

Great review as always, but I think there's a typo on the Closer Look page, fourth paragraph: "This video card measures slightly shorter than the 11" long Radeon HD 5870, but longer than the 9.75" Radeon HD 6970."

Slightly shorter than itself, eh? Haha. I'm glad I'm not the only one typo'ing AMD's new model numbers every now and then.
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# Couldn't be better.Zen 2010-12-15 13:08
Given the results Radeon 6970 is targeting same market space as GTX 570. This will push price drop of the latter, which are very good news for everyone interesting to upgrade to CUDA supporting card (which are all 3D designers willing to speedup renderng time by use of iRay technology in 3DS Max or other 3D software).
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# LOL EPICKyle 2010-12-18 13:57
The 6970 was getting 30-50 FPS on ULTRA ALL HIGH with ALL AA etc etc with the cata 10.10 and/or 10.11 on my system. The minute I slapped 10.12a hotfix driver I am now getting 60-170 FPS!!!!! Nvidia has lost in my opinion!

1080p also
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# Radeons on the edge (of their mem bandwidth)?Laszlo 2011-01-06 11:28
I'm looking for a replacement card, so I'm doing some 'layman research'. One thing captured my mind: Ati's best still uses 256 bit wide memory bus, like it used it on the good ol' 9700 (if my memory serves well). This 256 bit wide bus limits the theoretical mem. bandwidth of any Ati card, because on this 6970 they already using the fastest(?) gddr5 chips (6GHz effective clock). Nvidia, on the other hand uses only 4 and 5 GHz chips, but their memory bus width is variable (like the GPU chip capabilities/performance), they use(d) anything between (64?) 128-512, and their 580 has more memory bandwidth with slower ram chips than Ati/AMD. Till now the faster speed of the new GPU's always depended on the evolution of ram chips (NV 6800 -> 8/9800 / 280/285 bandwidth doubled, perf. too). Future Ati chips will need more bus width or they will be bottlenecked even with the fastest ram, NV on the other hand if they do an '580' with the 285's 512 bit wide bus + Hynix's best (by the 400/500 specs an NV with 2 GB ram would use an 512 bus), the 6GHz eff. ram chip then they will have a whopping 375 GByte/s memory bw.
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# RE: Radeons on the edge (of their mem bandwidth)?BruceBruce 2011-01-06 11:59
I've noticed on several graphics cards lately, that it is not possible to crank up the memory speed to the stock rating on the GDDR5. The board crashes way before the rated speed for the memory chips. That tells me that the memory controller in the GPU is the weak link.

So, yes. A wider data path is sometimes a cheaper and more reliable way to get bandwidth. particularly when you are on the hairy edge...
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# Lowest FPS benchmarkmmstick 2011-01-07 09:52
I think the lowest, average, and highest FPS for each of the graphics cards should be benched as I have read that the 6000 series, although not exceeding in most FPS, does exceed in the least FPS, which is often times the most important in gaming.
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# I'd like to, but.....BruceBruce 2011-01-07 10:06
There is no consistency in the benchmark applications for reporting MIN-AVG-MAX FPS. What I really like is the graph that is provided by benchmarks like METRO 2033 and the old Far Cry 2 benchmarks. Sometimes there is a tiny stutter in the game that takes the MIN number down, and it's really not the fault of the video card, as the game does it on every card. It doesn't really matter if one card dips down to 8 FPS and another dips to 10 FPS, the user experience will be exactly the same.
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