Sapphire HD 6970 FleX Battlefield 3 Edition Reviewairman - November 23, 2011
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As with the other special edition Sapphire cards, there is generally no reference to the game/etc that the card represents on the card itself, possibly to protect the zeitgeist of the card and not leave it stuck at a potential date/landmark in time or make it appear gimmicky. As such, the Sapphire HD 6970 FleX Battlefield 3 edition does not have any Battlefield 3 logo or propaganda attached to it physically — it's the fact that it is packaged with the game itself. Anyways, on the top/front of the card we see the AMD logo to the left of the text "Radeon HD 6970" to identify the card. On the other side of the fan is the text "FleX edition", reminding the user of the card's capability to use a combination of three monitors using the two DVI ports and the HDMI port. On non-FleX cards, you cannot use the HDMI port and Single Link DVI port independently. The cooling shroud is composed of black plastic, and offers a neat, rugged look due to its shape, textures, and pattern. Taking a look at the back side of the card will expose the signature blue Sapphire PCB. Nothing particular stands out from the back side, other than the visibility of the PCI slot contacts and the two CrossFire notches at the top. Having two CrossFire notches means that the card is capable of running a triple-card setup.
On the mounting bracket side of the card you will find the two DVI ports (Dual Link and Single Link), one HDMI port, and the two DisplayPort jacks. In total, this card is capable of driving five monitors, more than most other cards can handle (at least those without a separate clock generator on the HDMI port). With the amount of ports taking up the majority of the space on the backplate, little room is left for the exhaust vents. Most cards are limited in this way, but do not have any issues with cooling. Peering at the opposite side of the card under the cooling shroud, you can see some of the capacitors on the board, the outside of the power ports (one 2x2-pin plug and one 2x3-pin plug is required), the fan header on the PCB, and some small heatsinks toward the edge of the PCB. You can also see some of the fins on the outside of the heatsink. Rotating to the front side of the card, a good look at the location of the power plugs can be made on the right side, along with the CrossFire plugs on the far left of the card. Similar to other Sapphire offerings in the HD 69x0 line, there is a dual-BIOS switch to the right of the CrossFire area that allows users to switch between different BIOS images, if they require. This is particularly handy because if a BIOS flash goes bad, a user can jump over to the redundant version to resolve the problem.
Getting under the hood of this card requires removal of nine screws from the back of the board. Taking a quick glance at the hole and component layout, I can tell that it is AMD's newer reference design, which has a slightly different hole pattern from the original, R1 reference version. All that can be seen on the underside of the cooler is the copper area surrounded by an aluminum mounting mechanism. The copper area is the technology deemed VaporX — a vapor chamber that resembles a 2D heatpipe, or for lack of a better word, a "heatplate". Spreading out of the vapor chamber are three generic, one-dimensional heatpipes that branch out to the aluminum fin array. Removing the cooling shroud exposes its general simplicity, just like the other VaporX units.
As you'll find on the next page in the Specifications table, the HD 6970 is based off of the 40nm Cayman architecture. It sports a 389mm2 die with 2.64 billion transistors, 1536 Stream processors, 96 texture units, and 32 ROPs, with clock speeds of 930MHz (versus 880MHz stock) on the core and 1375MHz on the GDDR5 memory. Seen on this unit is Hynix memory, a top pick among memory chips over many different manufacturers nowadays.
With the card now completely dissected, it's time to put it back together and move on to getting it mounted and tested!