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Review: HIS Radeon HD 6970 2GB graphics card in two-way CrossFireX

by Tarinder Sandhu on 17 December 2010, 09:18 3.5

Tags: AMD (NYSE:AMD), HiS Graphics

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qa3my

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Take two, baby

AMD's brought the Cayman-based Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 GPUs to market just the other day. We encourage you to read the in-depth review to gain a clear understanding of what it brings to the enthusiast segment of the graphics-card industry.

The benchmark numbers show that £279 Radeon HD 6970 trades benchmark blows with the GeForce GTX 570 card, while the £225 Radeon HD 6950 sits in a unique position...until NVIDIA brings its GeForce GTX 560 GPU to bear in Q1 2011.

AMD has made quite the noise about how well Radeon 6000-series GPUs scale in two-card CrossFireX. There's merit in this noise, because our benchmarks of two Radeon HD 6850 cards show near-perfect scaling.

So what happens when two top-dog Radeon HD 6970s are tied together and run through seven games? HIS was kind enough to provide a second card for two-way CrossFireX, so we stoked up the benchmark engine and compared the Radeon HD 6970 CrossFireX performance against 17 other GPUs.

Most Intel X58-based motherboards' PCIe x16 slots are arranged such that two double-height cards need to be located adjacent to one another. Our test motherboard has a third mechanical x16 slot further down, though it's limited to x8 transfers.

The point here is that such proximity between high-end cards will affect thermal performance and noise, but we feel this is how they would be arranged by folk who want maximum performance from a CrossFireX setup.

We've tested a total of 18 GPU configurations. Being even-handed, the five multi-card setups are benchmarked with cards directly next to each other, as in the picture, above.

Did we say 18 configurations? Feast your eyes on these:

GPU comparisons

Graphics cards Current pricing GPU clock (MHz) Stream processors Shader clock (MHz) Memory clock (MHz) Memory bus (bits) Graphics driver
HIS Radeon HD 5970 2,048MB  £425 725 1,600 x 2 725 4,000 256  x 2 Catalyst 10.10P
HIS Radeon HD 6970 2,048MB XF £558 880 1,536 x 2 775 5,500 256 x 2 Catalyst 10.12P
HIS Radeon HD 6970 2,048MB £279 880 1,536 775 5,500 256 Catalyst 10.12P
AMD Radeon HD 6950 2,048MB £225 800 1,408 775 5,000 256 Catalyst 10.12P
Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 1,024MB XF £290 775 960 x 2 775 4,000 256  x 2 Catalyst 10.10P
Sapphire Radeon HD 6850 1,024MB £145 775 960 775 4,000 256 Catalyst 10.10P
Sapphire Radeon HD 5870 1,024MB £235 825 1,600 825 4,800 256 Catalyst 10.10P
HIS Radeon HD 6870 1,024MB £180 900 1,120 900 4,200 256 Catalyst 10.10P
HIS Radeon HD 5850 1,024MB XF £360 725 1,440 x 2 725 4,000 256 x2 Catalyst 10.10P
HIS Radeon HD 5850 1,024MB  £180 725 1,440  725 4,000 256  Catalyst 10.10P
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1,536MB SLI £778 772 512 x 2 1,544 4,008 384 x 2 ForceWare 262.99
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 1,536MB £389 772 512 1,544 4,008 384 ForceWare 262.99
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 1,280MB £259 732 480 1,464 3,800 320 ForceWare 263.09
ASUS GeForce GTX 480 1,536MB £320 700 480 1,401 3,698 384 ForceWare 262.99
ASUS GeForce GTX 470 1,280MB £189 607 448 1,215 3,348 320 ForceWare 260.89
KFA GeForce GTX 460 1,024MB SLI
£290 675 336 x 2 1,350 3,600 256 x 2 ForceWare 260.89
KFA GeForce GTX 460 1,024MB
£145 675 336  1,350 3,600 256  ForceWare 260.89
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 768MB £125 675 336  1,350 3,600 192  ForceWare 260.89

Test bench

CPU Intel Core i7 980X Extreme Edition (3.33GHz, 12MB L3 cache, hexa-core, LGA1366 - Turbo Boost enabled)
Motherboard ASUS P6X58D Premium
Motherboard BIOS 1002
Memory 6GB Corsair DDR3
Memory timings and speed 9-9-9-24-1T @ DDR3-1,600
PSU Corsair HX1000W
Monitor Dell 30in 3007WFP - 2,560x1,600px
Disk drive(s) Corsair Force F120 SSD
Operating system Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit

Benchmarks

Aliens vs. Predator DX11, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 2xAA, 16xAF, very high quality.
Just Cause 2 DX10, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 4xAA, 16xAF, Dark Tower benchmark
Mafia II DX9, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, AA on, 16x AF, built-in benchmark
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 DX11, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 4xAA, 16xAF, ultra quality, FRAPS-recorded benchmark.
Call of Duty: Black Ops DX9, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 4xAA, ultra quality, FRAPS-recorded benchmark.
Crysis Warhead DX10, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 4xAA, gamer quality, Frost map, FRAPS-recorded benchmark.
DiRT 2 DX11, 1,680x1,050, 1,920x1,080 and 2,560x1,600 resolutions, 4xAA, ultra quality, London map.
Temperature To emulate real-world usage scenarios, we record GPU core temperature both when idle and whilst playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Power consumption To emulate real-world usage scenarios, we record mains power draw both when idle and whilst playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Noise A PCE-318 noise level meter is placed at the front of a Corsair Obsidian 700D chassis. The card is screwed in and side panel attached.

Notes

Yup, it's a large table. NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 580 provides the yardstick by which all other single-GPU cards are judged against, so we've added another for the ultimate two-way SLI setup. We'll be adding twin GeForce GTX 570 results forthwith.

Let's examine if AMD's scaling boasts hold true for premium GPUs. Strap yourselves in and prepare to be wowed by some big numbers.