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AMD HD 6970 and HD 6950 Review

ccokeman    -   December 14, 2010
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At launch time Sapphire usually does a little something special and this launch is no exception. They've created a bundle that looks pretty sweet from a marketing perspective with this "Sapphire HD 6970 - Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam Special Edition" card. I am told this is a limited run bundle that comes in an aluminum briefcase with Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam art work prominently displayed on the front and rear of the case. All the prominent players (Sapphire, EA and AMD) who participated in bringing this card to market are listed on the front panel in each corner. The rear panel shows the same artwork but contains much more information about the specifications and features of the HD 6970. On the left is the Sapphire logo with the features listed below including the AMD HD 6970 GPU, 2GB of GDDR5 memory, 3D stereoscopic support, CrossfireX support, Digital Power Management and more. Under the Features heading is a list of the accessories in the briefcase. The big seller here is the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam game and the large bundle of accessories. The feature list keeps going on the bottom right with mentions of AMD HD 3D, full 1080p HD support, 7.1 HD surround sound support and more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flipping open the latches brings you inside the briefcase for a look at this special edition card from Sapphire. The inside is covered in foam to protect the contents in the case with the cutout for the HD 6970 on the lower section. On top of the card you can see part of the bundle. Once removed, you get a look at this special edition offering from Sapphire.

 

 

The bundle of accessories with this card is really pretty substantial and contains everything you need to get this card up and working with your system regardless of the connectivity options you choose. You get the two power adapters to power the card (if your power supply does not have the required eight pin + six pin PCIe connections), a CrossfireX bridge connection for using two of these cards in a multi-GPU setup, a six foot HDMI cable, DVI to VGA adapter, Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adapter, the manual, driver disk and finally, an invitation to join Sapphire's Select Club that rewards you for joining through giveaways and contests and Automatic RMA service. One of those rewards comes in the form of Battlefield Bad Company 2 Vietnam for free. Not to mention it all comes in a great case.

 

 

Once you get past the case and bundle of accessories. you are left with the HD 6970 video card itself. The front of this card features the artwork used on the case and allows the message to transfer all the way from the packaging to the card. The HD 6970 from Sapphire is a reference design card that follows the design specs for this model. This card is a dual slot solution much like just about every high-end gaming card in the past few years. The HD 6970 measures 10.75 inches in length or just a 1/4 inch longer than the 10.5 inch cards we are used to. The back side of the card uses a backing plate similar to the HD 5870 and is used to keep the PCB from flexing due to the large heat sink used under the shroud. The HD 6970 GPU is still built using the 40nm process but the architecture has been redone and is just not a more efficient Cypress rehash. The new architecture is based on a VLIW4 design that includes improvements with an added tessellation unit and dual graphics engines (not cores) that are said to improve the performance of the Cayman core by 10% per mm2. The HD 6970 houses 24 SIMD , 1536 streaming multiprocessors, 96 texture units, 32 ROPs and a massive 2GB of GDDR5 frame buffer that drives compute performance to 2.75 TFlOPS

 

 

 

As a reference design you get the reference connectivity options that remain unchanged from the HD 6800 series with a pair of DVI ports, one Dual Link DVI and the other being Single Link only due to the amount of lanes needed for other connectivity options. The rest of the connectivity options are dual Mini DisplayPort 1.2 sockets that allow you to connect up to six monitors via these two ports. To do this you will need either a Multi Stream Transport hub or DisplayPort equipped monitors that support daisy chaining of the monitors together. Last in line is the HDMI 1.4a port to output your High Definition and Blu-ray content along with 7.1 surround sound. Just like with the HD 6800 series you can use the connectivity options to hook up a six monitor Eyefinity display with resolutions up to 5760 x 2160 using just a single card - the HD 6970. The exhaust vent is on the small size for the kind of airflow needed to get rid of the up to 250 watts of thermal energy this card is capable of producing. The back end of the card does not have much in the way of functionality with no intake vents or power connections such as found on the HD 5800 series.

 

 

This card is an enthusiast level card and as such it gets enhanced CrossfireX capabilities in the form of being able to support the use of more than two cards in a CrossfireX configuration. Of course to go beyond two you will need a motherboard that has that capability as well as the display hardware to make it work to your advantage. The power connections used on the Sapphire HD 6970 are an eight pin + six pin PCIe plug arrangement that supplies the up to 250 watt TDP of this card. AMD says most of the time users should expect to see around 190 watts during gaming use with AMD's PowerTune technology. On top of the PCB (located right next to bridge connections) is the Dual BIOS switch. With this switch you have two BIOS to choose from, a protected BIOS that allows you to run at the factory specified parameters and an unprotected one to provide the enthusiast with the ability to tweak the BIOS for their specific needs. A pretty nifty feature if you have a bad BIOS flash!

 

 

Under the shroud of the Battlefields Bad Company 2 Special Edition things that look like a Vapor Chamber heat sink dominate the landscape with the blower fan taking up half as much room. Under these items is a large aluminum heatsink that serves to cool off the rest of the motherboard components such as the MOSFETS used in the VRM circuit and the 2GB of GDDR5 frame buffer. On this cooling system the heat pipe assembly appears to be either glued or otherwise attached so removal without tearing up the cooler wa next to impossible. One thing I saw missing was a way to seal the junction between the heat sink and the plastic shroud body that would permit more airflow to go through the heat sink to promote cooler temperatures on the GPU core and memory.

 

 

 

Built on the 40nm Cayman XT core the Sapphire HD 6970 is 389mm2 in size, has 2.64 billion transistors, has 24 SIMD/1536 Stream processors, 96 texture units, 32 ROPs with clock speeds of 880MHz on the core and 1375MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Clock speeds for the HD 6970 come in at 880Mhz on the core and 1375Mhz on the GDDR5 memory. With these specifications you get 2.75 TFLOPS of compute performance and 176Gbps worth of memory bandwidth. The Hynix GDDR5 memory used on the HD 6970 is part number H5GQ2H24MFR-ROC. This memory is rated for operation at 1500 MHz and runs through a 256 bit bus.

 

 

Now that we have seen what Sapphire has to offer in terms of an outstanding bundle, let's take a look at what XFX has for us.




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