Radeon HD 6970 And 6950 Review: Is Cayman A Gator Or A Crock?

Multi-Card Scaling In Metro 2033

Before we delve too deeply into analysis, let’s talk pricing. For every gap between individual boards, double that when you consider an SLI- or CrossFire-based configuration. That makes it particularly difficult to draw even comparisons. With that said, two GeForce GTX 570s are going to run you a staggering $700. A pair of Radeon HD 6870s go for $480. And if AMD's initial launch pricing plays out on the market, you’re looking at somewhere close to $600 for two 2 GB Radeon HD 6950s and roughly $740 for the 6970s.

At 1680x1050, the Radeon HD 6950s nearly match Nvidia’s more expensive GeForce GTX 570s. The 6970s are faster still, though decidedly not fast enough to justify the hefty price premium you’d pay in excess of the GeForce GTX 570s or Radeon HD 6950s. After all, they don't exactly allow you to step up to a higher resolution than either of the less expensive solutions.

Shifting over to 1920x1200, the 6950s manage to upset the GeForce GTX 570s, in part due to the cards’ larger frame buffers. The gap grows by a frame at 2560x1600, though by this point we’re decidedly no longer getting playable performance.

For the sake of gauging the scaling of this demanding title, we re-ran our benchmarks using a single card at Very High quality settings, 4x MSAA, and 16x AF:

Clearly the Radeon HD 6870’s 1 GB frame buffer prevents it from realizing more than a small bump in performance here. The other cards do wield enough memory to make Metro 2033 a somewhat smoother experience at 2560x1600 and Very High quality settings, though.

The real shocker is that both of the 6900-series cards realize better scaling that Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 570 in SLI.

We explicitly talked to AMD about CrossFire scaling after its press briefing. According to the company, it didn’t make any changes to the Radeon HD 6800 series that would have improved its CrossFire scaling versus the Radeon HD 5870, as many folks suggested in our 6800-series launch coverage. It did, however, incorporate driver-based enhancements that augment CrossFire performance in the 6900 series. This seems to be reflected in the results here.

Now AMD says that the 6800s will get the CrossFire-oriented improvements in a future driver update. For now, though, 5800-series and 6800-series cards should scale comparably, with the 6900s doing even better.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • terror112
    WOW not impressed.
  • Annisman
    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.
  • rohitbaran
    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.
  • tacoslave
    imagine when this hits 32nm?
  • notty22
    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
  • microterf
    Why drop the 580 when it comes to the multi-gpu scaling??
  • IzzyCraft
    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.
  • andrewcutter
    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
  • sgt bombulous
    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...
  • manitoublack
    I'd have to say wait until the christmas new years dust settles