Tom's Hardware's 2010 Gift Guide: Part 1, For System Builders

Graphics: Diamond Radeon HD 6870 (6870PE51GXOC)
By: William Van Winkle

In situations like this, it can look like we’re playing favorites, so let’s just be up front. There is very little difference between the Radeon HD 6870 cards out today. When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen most of ‘em. We picked Diamond’s XOC because it comes overclocked from the factory, giving us a little extra performance to make up for the shaders that AMD's Barts GPU sacrifices compared to last-generation's Radeon HD 5870. Believe it or not, there aren't as many factory-overclocked boards out there right now, and it looks like Diamond's is the fastest at 940 MHz (one other vendor has a 940 MHz board, too).

The 6870 GPU does what AMD does best: deliver a lot of features and horsepower at a compelling price point. But in recommending the Diamond card here, we’re really suggesting that Santa stuff stockings with the 6870, not necessarily this or that incarnation of it. Admittedly, we give the 6800-series an endorsement with a caveat. When you watch the model numbers and assume that bigger is better, the 6870 looks like AMD’s current flagship. Technically, it is the company's newest single-GPU offering. But the reality is that the 6870 underperforms the older 5870 and more closely resembles the 5850, both in performance and the $250-ish street price tag. Where the 6870 really seems to take off is in a CrossFire configuration, allowing it to beat the pants off of competing $500 boards like the Radeon HD 5970 and GeForce GTX 580.

The 6870 features fewer shader processors than AMD's Radeon HD 5850 (1120 vs. 1440), texture units (56 vs. 72), and transistors (1.7 vs. 2.15 billion). However, the 6870 boasts a slightly faster GDDR5 memory data rate (1050 MHz) and GPU core clock (900 MHz default vs. the 5850’s 725 MHz). With Diamond’s XOC, you get a respectable boost to 940 MHz and a memory clock hop to 1100 MHz. The end result of this give-and-take routine is that the 6870 XOC can squeeze past the 5850 in many tests.

If performance is a push, that leaves features as the real reason to love AMD's Radeon HD 6800-series. And that's ultimately the real reason we'd spring for a Barts board over a Cypress-based card. At last, AMD arrives with its own open 3D technology, dubbed HD3D. Now we just need compatible monitors to go with it. OK, so stereoscopic support is probably a bad example of what the 6800s can do well. The 6800-series also supports 3D Blu-ray movies when you hook up to a compatible HDMI 1.4a-based receiver. A new morphological AA mode provides another option for smoothing out jaggies without bogging down performance. Perhaps more importantly, the update to DisplayPort 1.2 compatibility means that Eyefinity can finally utilize video hubs to output multiple discrete video streams from a single port. On Diamond’s XOC card, you get five ports—two DisplayPort, one HDMI, one dual-link DVI, and one single-link DVI. Quad-monitor display output is now possible through the two DisplayPorts, along with two of the three remaining digital connectors.

In most other ways, the 6000 series echoes the 5000 series, including support for DirectX 11 and some exemplary HD video playback capabilities. Don’t look for any extras in Diamond’s box beyond a CrossFire bridge interconnect, and make sure your PSU has two six-pin auxiliary power connectors available. If you don’t want to break the bank on a graphics and video upgrade this holiday season, Diamond’s Radeon 6870PE51GXOC is your best play.

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    Top Comments
  • alexttlyrocks
    I'm only reading this article to look at the chicks
  • LuckyDucky7
    Alternative title:
    Gift Guide Part 1, for Deep Pockets :)
  • Other Comments
  • alexttlyrocks
    I'm only reading this article to look at the chicks
  • rohitbaran
    ^ Keep reading!
  • dogman_1234
    Wait until SB and BD.
  • Anonymous
    Radeon 6870 girl ... someone forgot to photoshop her ^^
  • LuckyDucky7
    Alternative title:
    Gift Guide Part 1, for Deep Pockets :)
  • squanto
  • cangelini
    LuckyDucky7Alternative title:Gift Guide Part 1, for Deep Pockets

    Phenom II for under $100? You must have those pockets that are sewn shut at the top, for decoration! =)
  • Bluescreendeath
    girls > computer parts that we already know about
  • Silmarunya
    Nice review, but I'd have liked to see advice for different budgets. For example, you could recommend a budget, mid range and high end product. For example, I'm currently in the market for a discrete sound card, but don't such an expensive one. On the other hand, I wouldn't be satisfied with a Phenom II X2. It's still a great article, mind you, but it'd have been nice to see some love for every end of the market.
  • Onus
    ntrRadeon 6870 girl ... someone forgot to photoshop her ^^

    No, it's the taint that a Diamond product radiates. They're #2 on my personal "Do not buy" list, right after Belkin.
  • garyshome
    The ps costs as much as the cpu and mb? So much for the budget.
  • sandmanwn
    Ed: You'll have to pardon this little gem missing out on the gift guide photo shoot.

    Off with his head!!!
  • nevertell
    The phenom II x2 555 is some of the BEST bang for the buck. I dropped it in my build, got a quad core running at 3,6 ghz for about 25 $ per core, and I didn't even have to disable any of the powersaving features or anything actually to get it working like this.
  • mi1ez
    Why the hell does the US site work fine and the UK site have it'ss CSS in a twist?
  • tony singh
    Some one gift me please....:)
  • cknobman
    I have no clue what products Toms is actually recommending here, too busy looking and the beautiful product modelers and not the actual products!!!
  • fausto
    Toms needs to spend more money on the holiday Models department. seen much better chicks at Quakecon 2008. No offense to the ladies but some of you are not booth babe material
  • ta152h
    Bluescreendeathgirls > computer parts that we already know about

    If you're that desperate to see pictures of girls, you're probably right; you must know computer parts better than girls.

    It's pretty sad when pictures of girls gets so much of a reaction. I swear if you get out of the house, you'll actually see them in real life. I'm not lying. You can even say "Hi" to them, and they'll probably even give you a response. I know it sounds far fetched, but I'm really confident about this, so just trust me.
  • ta152h
    faustoToms needs to spend more money on the holiday Models department. seen much better chicks at Quakecon 2008. No offense to the ladies but some of you are not booth babe material

    The pathetic part is, how it's still getting these desperate guys worked up.

    Some of the pictures are just bad too, like the one with the Radeon.
  • accolite
    TA152H, I'm not desperate... I'm married, but I enjoy a good looking woman more than looking at some hardware components after all we are guys! If you don't your probably a woman yourself or a homo!