PowerColor Radeon HD 6970 LCS Reviewccokeman - March 3, 2011
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The Cayman XT based PowerColor HD 6970 LCS comes from the factory equipped with a high-end water cooling block from EK Waterblocks. This liquid cooling solution has an Acetal cover with a nickel plated copper block giving you the best of both worlds. A cover that will not crack and leak (potentially killing or seriously damaging your gaming rig) and nickel plating that keeps the copper block looking new. Something the copper just does not do over time as it oxidizes. Besides the looks, the reasons for going with a liquid cooled solution comes down to the thermal capabilities that are presented in the form of much lower operating temperatures. This in turn brings stability to overclocked settings when tweaking the voltage by effectively cooling the card and VRM components. The third and really the most significant in my eyes is the removal of an incredibly loud blower fan assembly. When the full cover water block is installed, the card effectively shrinks into a single slot solution even though the mounting bracket is still the reference bracket. The HD 6970 core is built on the 40nm process and is based on a VLIW4 design with an added tessellation unit. Baseline specs for this card include 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 in stock trim. With the addition of the water cooling solution, PowerColor has kicked up the clock speeds a few pegs to 925MHz or 45MHz on the core and 50MHz on the GDDR5 memory.
Connectivity on the HD 6970 LCS is what you would see on a reference HD 6970 with its hideously loud air cooler. There are two DVI ports, one being single link only due to the amount of lanes needed for the balance of the connectivity while the other is dual link capable. Additionally you have two mini DisplayPort 1.2 ports that will allow you to connect to a total of up to six DisplayPort monitors using either an MST (Multi Stream Transport) hub or monitors that support daisy chaining. The last option is an HDMI 1.4a port that will allow you to send both High Definition or Blu-ray content and 7.1 surround sound out to the display and sound systems via a single cable. This configuration is capable of running resolutions up to 5760 x 2160 in an Eyefinity setup. This gives the end user options for either a 3x2 gaming setup or multiple configurations for a workstation setup to improve productivity. The plugs and covers are a way to keep unused ports clear of dust or contaminants.
Using a full cover waterblock precludes the use of the shroud over the card components and removes the fan from the power consumption totals. Even so, the HD 6970 is rated to run with a TDP of 250 watts with a minimum power supply requirement of 550 watts. The power supply to this card from PowerColor is the same as the reference card with a single 8 pin PCIe and single 6 Pin PCIe connections required from the PSU. On the spine of the card near the I/O bracket are the CrossfireX bridge connections. These two connections will allow up to four cards to be run in CrossfireX for increased gaming performance. At this point AMD has worked to get CrossfireX scaling up to where it belongs and have done an impressive job as of late. The small switch located to the rear of the Bridge connections is the BIOS switch that can be used for any number of reasons at this point but setting up different BIOS profiles that can be changed at the flick of a switch is the most common one. PowerColor even uses this feature to convert an HD 6950 to an HD 6970 via a BIOS mod that unlocks the additional cores on the die. This trick has been figured out and used extensively on just about every reference HD 6950. The key here is that PowerColor gives you a warranty.
Connecting this card into your water loop or building a water loop specifically for the graphics card are minimum requirements for using this card in a system. PowerColor supplies the barb fittings to use in the block but you can always use your own fittings of choice. The fittings screw into the copper part of the block on the back side and the Acetal on the front side. This pass through allows more than one of these cards to be used in the same water loop with an infinitely nicer looking implementation.
What we have is a card that looks just like it would if you installed the waterblock at home but with an added bonus...a warranty.