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AMD HD 6970 and HD 6950 Review

ccokeman    -   December 14, 2010
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Testing:

Testing of the Cayman equipped HD 6970 from Sapphire and XFX along with the HD 6950 from XFX will consist of running it and comparison cards through the OverclockersClub.com suite of games and synthetic benchmarks. This will test the performance against many popular competitors. Comparisons will be made to cards of equal and greater capabilities to show where it falls on the performance ladder. The games used are some of today's newest and most popular titles to give you an idea of how the cards perform relative to each other.

The system specifications will remain the same throughout the testing. No adjustment will be made to the respective control panels during the testing, with the exception of the 3DMark Vantage testing, where PhysX will be disabled in the NVIDIA control panel. I will test the card at stock speeds, then overclocked in order to see how much additional performance is available and to determine if it can run with the current fastest single-GPU cards on the market. The drivers used in this test will be the 260.99 Forceware drivers from NVIDIA for all cards save the GTX 580 and the 10.10 Catalyst drivers for AMD with the exception being the HD 6900 Series that will be tested with the release driver. Tests will be conducted at both stock and overclocked settings to gauge performance when an increase in clock speed is applied.

 

 

Comparison Video Cards:

 

Overclocking:

  • Sapphire HD 6970 941/1520MHz
  • XFX HD 6970 939/1538MHz
  • XFX HD 6950 906/1493MHz

Overclocking these new cards from AMD and their partners presented a few challenges to overcome. The biggest was the lack of voltage tweaking at this time so the overclocks are a little lower than I would have expected but offer nice increases in performance if you take the time to find the limits of the cards. Let's start with the HD 6970. The base clock speed on the core is 880Mhz and I was able to pull another 59MHz out of the XFX version and 61MHz out of the Sapphire version. Both pretty comparable for reference-based cards so far. This is an improvement in core clock speed of right around 7%. The memory on the HD 6970s offered up a much nicer bump in clock speed of 163MHz on the XFX and 145MHz on the Sapphire or on a percentage basis just under 12 and 11% respectively. The HD 6950 starts out at 800Mhz on the core and 1250Mhz on the GDDR5 memory so the overclocking headroom available seems to be greater and the card let it hang on out with a bump of 106MHz or just over 13% on the core and a massive 243Mhz increase on the memory to 1493Mhz. That is a 19+% increase for your troubles before any voltage tuning is done. In this regard the HD 6970 and HD 6950 share a similarity in how they overclock and the headroom available. It looks like the HD 6970 will overclock within a small envelope by comparison but with only two cards that is a guess and time will tell the tale when tools become available to adjust the voltage for some real fun. Now the one thing that really makes overclocking less than fun on these cards is the fan noise. At a 100% fan speed on the HD 6970 you are lucky to hear someone call you from the next room. This is an area that AMD has not addressed and is something that their competition was harangued mercilessly over with the introduction of the GTX 480. The HD 6950 was not much better but that is some small consolation when the noise becomes a limiting factor in increasing performance. The HD 6870 was loud but anything above 55 to 60 % is unbearable long-term. NVIDIA fixed their problem and now it's up to AMD!

 

 

Maximum Clock Speeds:

In the past I had used MSI's Kombuster utility to check for stability coupled with the ability to run through the entire test suite. I have found that some game tests would still fail with this utility, so I have moved to testing with several games at maximum settings through several resolutions to verify the clock speeds that are listed below. Why the change? I have found some cards will play fine at a 4xAA setting, but fail when using 8xAA due to the increased graphics load. If it fails, then the clock speeds and tests are re-run until they pass.

   

 

  • Gaming Tests:
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Metro 2033
  3. Crysis Warhead
  4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
  5. Just Cause 2
  6. Unigine Heaven Benchmark 2.1
  7. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  8. Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  9. 3DMark 11 Professional
  10. 3DMark Vantage
  • Usage:
  1. Temperature
  2. Power Consumption



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