AMD 6800 Series Reviewccokeman , RHKCommander959 - October 21, 2010
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Of the four cards in the 6800 series we are looking at today, the first one we are examining will come from Sapphire. Sapphire is AMD's largest board partner and carries that brand recognition. The packaging for the Sapphire card is traditional Sapphire with a new representation of 'Ruby' on the front panel. All across the front of the packaging you have the list of new technologies that include support for Stereoscopic 3D, Eyefinity, DirectX 11 support, HDMI 1.4a support and Display Port 1.2 support. A mention of the TRIXX overclocking utility is made as well so it seems Sapphire has a replacement for the Redline utility. Nowhere on the front or rear panels do you see the ATI moniker as ATI is no longer a viable entity. The rear panel expands on the feature set with mentions including Digital power management, Eyefinity Multi display technology, AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing technology and more.
Inside the package you get a box that contains the HD 6870 and the accessory bundle. Pop the lid and you get a glimpse of the HD 6870 in a cardboard tray. Lift this up and there is the box that contains the accessory bundle for this card.
The accessory bundle for this card is pretty much standard fare and what has come to be the expectated when you purchase a Sapphire branded video card. The bundle includes the driver disk, an invitation to join the Sapphire Select club, a quick Install guide, 4 pin Molex to 6 pin PCIe power adapters, a Crossfire Bridge connection, DVI to VGA adapter, Display Port to DVI adapter and an HDMI cable to connect to your high definition panel.
Now that we have looked at how the card arrived, it's time to see what's under the hood. The Sapphire HD 6870 is based on the Barts core GPU from AMD. This GPU is the latest release and the first in the 6000 series. This card is based on the reference design and measures roughly 10.5 inches in length making it an easy fit in most chassis. The front of the card mirrors the box packaging with the latest iteration of Ruby on the front. The rear of the card is pretty spartan without any memory modules or a back cover that was used on the HD 5870. The reference heat sink shroud is an improvement over the last design but still uses a blower style fan.
The connectivity options are much improved over the HD 5XXX series with the inclusion of two Display Port 1.2 ports that can support multiple monitors at different resolutions and refresh rates, a single HDMI 1.4a port and two DVI ports one of which is Dual link while the other is Single link. This opens up a whole new realm of connection possibilities. The back of the card traditionally has intake venting of some kind but this card (based on the reference design) does not. At least we can hopefully look forward to Sapphire bringing out their non-reference Toxic series.
The Sapphire HD 6870 does support Crossfire but only in a two card configuration based on the single bridge connection. Power requirements are two 6 pin PCIe power sources in addition to the power supplied through the PCIe slot. Load power for this card comes in at 181 watts when in use and a paltry 19watts is used when in an idle state. Both of these are improvements over last year's Cypress core products.
The reference heat sink is held in place with more than a few screws. The assembly is a 3 piece design that uses plastic for the shroud and fan, an aluminum chassis that serves as the heat sink for the mosfets and board components and a copper and aluminum heat sink that bolts to the PCB and is the main heat sink for the Barts GPU core. This heat sink uses 3 heat pipes that go from the copper base into the aluminum fin array.
The heart of the HD 6870 is the GPU core built on a 40nm process at TSMC. This improved architecture is more power efficient due to the use of fewer transistors 1.7 vs 2.15 billion. This card delivers 2.0 Tflops of Compute performance which is a significant drop from the 58XX series but then again this card is not the replacement for the 5870 but an architectural improvement to drive efficiency upwards. SO what you get are 1120 stream processors at 900Mhz,32ROPs, 56 texture units and 1 GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 1050Mhz (4200Mhz effective). The GDDR5 memory runs through a 256 bit bus to deliver 134.4GB/s worth of memory bandwidth. THe memory used on this card is made by Hynix and is rated for operation at 1250Mhz so there should be some headroom left for the overclocker or enthusiast.
That's one down and a few more to go. Let's see what the next cards have to offer.