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Test Setup And Benchmarks

Radeon HD 6970 And 6950 Review: Is Cayman A Gator Or A Crock?
By
Test Hardware
Processors
Intel Core i7-980X (Gulftown) 3.33 GHz at 3.73 GHz (28 * 133 MHz), LGA 1366, 6.4 GT/s QPI, 12 MB Shared L3, Hyper-Threading enabled, Power-savings enabled
Motherboard
Gigabyte X58A-UD5 (LGA 1366) Intel X58/ICH10R, BIOS FB
Memory
Kingston 6 GB (3 x 2 GB) DDR3-2000, KHX2000C8D3T1K3/6GX @ 8-8-8-24 and 1.65 V
Hard Drive
Intel SSDSA2M160G2GC 160 GB SATA 3Gb/s
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB

AMD Radeon HD 6950 2 GB

Nvidia GeForce GTX 5701.25 GB

Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB

Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1.5 GB

Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1.25 GB

2 x Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1 GB SLI

2 x AMD Radeon HD 6850 1 GB CrossFire

AMD Radeon HD 5970 2 GB

AMD Radeon HD 5870 1 GB

AMD Radeon HD 6870 1 GB
Power Supply
Cooler Master UCP-1000 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating System
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectX
DirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD 8.79.6.2RC2_Dec7 (For Radeon HD 6970 and 6950)

AMD Catalyst 10.10d

AMD Catalyst 10.10e (For Radeon HD 6850 1 GB in CrossFire)

Nvidia GeForce Release 263.09 (For GTX 570)

Nvidia GeForce Release 260.99 (For GTX 480 and 470)

Nvidia GeForce Release 262.99 (For GTX 580)


Today's comparison includes one of the largest collections of graphics cards we've ever put into a single piece. Between the general benchmarks and the added CrossFire/SLI numbers, we've included two Radeon HD 6970s, two Radeon HD 6950s, two Radeon HD 6870s, two Radeon HD 6850s, a Radeon HD 5970, a Radeon HD 5870, two GeForce GTX 580s, a GeForce GTX 480, two GeForce GTX 570s, a GeForce GTX 470, and two GeForce GTX 460s. By my count, that's more than 47 billion transistors worth of graphics hardware on the test bench.

Much of this is the result of reader feedback, both in the comments sections of my stories, which I monitor as often as time permits, and on Twitter, which I'm able to check more regularly. Keep that feedback coming. Two notable take-aways from the last time around: I've added the GeForce GTX 460s for reference, and I've included more extensive CrossFire/SLI testing with scaling analysis.

That's more than 47 billion transistors worth of GPU.That's more than 47 billion transistors worth of GPU.

Games
Lost Planet 2
Highest Quality Settings, No AA, 8x MSAA / 16x AF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1900x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 11, Steam version
Just Cause 2
Highest Quality Settings, No AA / 16xAF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Bokeh filter and GPU water disabled (for Nvidia cards), Concrete Jungle Benchmark
Metro 2033
Medium Settings, AAA, 4x MSAA / 16x AF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Built-in Benchmark, Steam version
DiRT 2
Ultra High Settings, 4x AA / No AF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Steam version, Custom benchmark script, DX11 Rendering
Aliens Vs. Predator Benchmark
Highest Quality Settings, SSAO, No AA / 16xAF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Custom (Highest) Quality Settings, 8x MSAA / 16xAF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, opening cinematic, 145 second sequence, FRAPS
3DMark Vantage
Performance Default, PPU Disabled
HAWX 2
Highest Quality Settings, 8x AA, 1920x1200, Retail Version, Built-in Benchmark, Tessellation on/off
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Top Comments
  • 30 Hide
    terror112 , December 15, 2010 3:13 AM
    WOW not impressed.
  • 15 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , December 15, 2010 4:22 AM
    Dissappointed. well i guess anyone that bought a 5xxx series card that couldnt wait can now be content that they made an ok choice. The only thing i got from this review is that i want 2 x gtx460's or 2 x 6850's, not the new amd cards.
  • 14 Hide
    bluekoala , December 15, 2010 4:56 AM
    I also urge people to put more emphasis on MINIMUM FPS as that is when you require high FPS the most.
Other Comments
  • 30 Hide
    terror112 , December 15, 2010 3:13 AM
    WOW not impressed.
  • 11 Hide
    Annisman , December 15, 2010 3:15 AM
    Thanks for the review Angelini, these new naming schemes are hurting my head, sometimes the only way to tell (at a quick glance) which AMD card matches up to what Nvidia card, is by comparing the prices, which I think is bad for the average consumer.
  • 13 Hide
    rohitbaran , December 15, 2010 3:25 AM
    These cards are to GTX 500 series what 4000 series was to GTX 200. Not the fastest at their time but offer killer performance and feature set for the price. I too expected 6900 to be close to GTX 580, but it didn't turn out that way. Still, it is the card I have waited for to upgrade. Right in my budget.
  • 3 Hide
    tacoslave , December 15, 2010 3:25 AM
    imagine when this hits 32nm?
  • 7 Hide
    notty22 , December 15, 2010 3:27 AM
    AMD's top card is about a draw with the gtx 570.
    Pricing is in line.
    Gives AMD only hold outs buying options, Nvidia already offered
    Merry Christmas
  • 11 Hide
    microterf , December 15, 2010 3:27 AM
    Why drop the 580 when it comes to the multi-gpu scaling??
  • 4 Hide
    IzzyCraft , December 15, 2010 3:28 AM
    Sorry all i read was this
    "This helps catch AMD up to Nvidia. However, Intel has something waiting in the wings that’ll take both graphics companies by surprise. In a couple of weeks, we'll be able to tell you more." and now i'm fixated to weather or not intel's gpu's can actually commit to proper playback.
  • -3 Hide
    andrewcutter , December 15, 2010 3:28 AM
    but from what i read at hardocp, though it is priced alongside the 570, 6970 was benched against the 580 and they were trading blows... So toms has it at par with 570 but hard has it on par with 580.. now im confused because if it can give 580 perfomance or almost 580 performance at 570 price and power then this one is a winner. Sim a 6950 was trading blows with 570 there. So i am very confused
  • -1 Hide
    sgt bombulous , December 15, 2010 3:30 AM
    This is hilarious... How long ago was it that there were ATI fanboys blabbering "The 6970 is gonna be 80% faster than the GTX 580!!!". And then reality hit...
  • 2 Hide
    manitoublack , December 15, 2010 3:35 AM
    I'd have to say wait until the christmas new years dust settles
  • 8 Hide
    andrewcutter , December 15, 2010 3:36 AM
    sry i take back what i said earlier. most reviews agree with what toms says. So my apologies..:) 
  • 6 Hide
    tpi2007 , December 15, 2010 3:36 AM
    Not bad, but not very impressive either. It's hard to be impressed at 40nm by now.

    But it is quite ironic that AMD has had a tesselator in their cards way before anybody supported the feature (let alone Nvidia), and now Nvidia does better tessellation than AMD.. they should really address that problem.. well, now the only way is to redesign the chip... at 28nm.

    28nm it is then, the next big excitment.

    What I would really like, now that the HD6xxx lineup is here (dual GPU still missing, but that is a niche product), is that AMD now focuses on fixing bugs in their drivers.
  • 4 Hide
    namelessonez , December 15, 2010 3:39 AM
    It's always the same story! nVidia pulls out a new product and then the wait begins for AMD to release its products! Ultimately, the difference isn't worth the wait. We know that AMD's winning factor is its price, but nVidia's is the quality....imho!

    As rightly stated, 'reality hits'.
  • 0 Hide
    yyk71200 , December 15, 2010 3:50 AM
    AndrewCutterbut from what i read at hardocp, though it is priced alongside the 570, 6970 was benched against the 580 and they were trading blows... So toms has it at par with 570 but hard has it on par with 580.. now im confused because if it can give 580 perfomance or almost 580 performance at 570 price and power then this one is a winner. Sim a 6950 was trading blows with 570 there. So i am very confused

    Actually, in Hardocp review overall 580 has some edge over 6970 as well. Only in F1 6970 is ahead. 6970 is great value though.
  • 8 Hide
    joytech22 , December 15, 2010 3:52 AM
    IzzyCraftSorry all i read was this"This helps catch AMD up to Nvidia. However, Intel has something waiting in the wings that’ll take both graphics companies by surprise. In a couple of weeks, we'll be able to tell you more." and now i'm fixated to weather or not intel's gpu's can actually commit to proper playback.


    If intel entered the graphics market and provided a half-decent dedicated GPU, that would definitely make ANY GPU company shake in their boots.

    But in all honesty i hope Intel does enter the market for graphics, making AMD and Nvidia push harder and faster for better products.
  • 1 Hide
    Stardude82 , December 15, 2010 3:53 AM
    So the answer to the question posed in the title is that it is neither really a gator nor a crock. It works on so many levels! Well, maybe just one since caimans are more closely related to alligators than crocodiles.
  • 10 Hide
    Tamz_msc , December 15, 2010 3:54 AM
    I wonder if Nvidia will reduce the prices on the GTX 580 and 570.
  • 6 Hide
    Lamiel , December 15, 2010 4:02 AM
    About the only good news I can see in this for AMD is how much they've increased their multi-GPU scaling, making the 6850's in Crossfire a great bargain. That's great, sure, but the new 6900 cards leave me completely underwhelmed. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to follow up the 6800's in this way. I'm an Nvidia user, but I was still looking forward with curiosity to seeing how much stronger the 6970 would be than the GTX 580. Looks like the hype-machine broke down this time... My guess is that a lot of the AMD/ATI fanatics will be scrambling to salvage some dignity after all their talking up of Cayman and how it would eat Nvidia's lunch.
  • -3 Hide
    fstrthnu , December 15, 2010 4:16 AM
    This reminds me a lot about the recent release of the updated AMD processors - a temporary holdout while the company plans to release new ones ahead. Except these graphics cards don't even have value going for them. Nvidia was behind just a couple months ago, but now they're ready to crush AMD/Radeon. AMD better have something new coming, and FAST. Holding procedures will only do so much when your competitor is already developing their next-gen GPUs.
  • 15 Hide
    iam2thecrowe , December 15, 2010 4:22 AM
    Dissappointed. well i guess anyone that bought a 5xxx series card that couldnt wait can now be content that they made an ok choice. The only thing i got from this review is that i want 2 x gtx460's or 2 x 6850's, not the new amd cards.
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