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

Test Setup And Benchmarks

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Test Hardware
ProcessorsIntel 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
MotherboardGigabyte X58A-UD5 (LGA 1366) Intel X58/ICH10R, BIOS FB
MemoryKingston 6 GB (3 x 2 GB) DDR3-2000, KHX2000C8D3T1K3/6GX @ 8-8-8-24 and 1.65 V
Hard DriveIntel SSDSA2M160G2GC 160 GB SATA 3Gb/s
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 6970 2 GB
Row 5 - Cell 0 AMD Radeon HD 6950 2 GB
Row 6 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce GTX 5701.25 GB
Row 7 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 1.5 GB
Row 8 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 1.5 GB
Row 9 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 1.25 GB
Row 10 - Cell 0 2 x Zotac GeForce GTX 460 1 GB SLI
Row 11 - Cell 0 2 x AMD Radeon HD 6850 1 GB CrossFire
Row 12 - Cell 0 AMD Radeon HD 5970 2 GB
Row 13 - Cell 0 AMD Radeon HD 5870 1 GB
Row 14 - Cell 0 AMD Radeon HD 6870 1 GB
Power SupplyCooler Master UCP-1000 W
System Software And Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
DirectXDirectX 11
Graphics DriverAMD (For Radeon HD 6970 and 6950)
Row 20 - Cell 0 AMD Catalyst 10.10d
Row 21 - Cell 0 AMD Catalyst 10.10e (For Radeon HD 6850 1 GB in CrossFire)
Row 22 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce Release 263.09 (For GTX 570)
Row 23 - Cell 0 Nvidia GeForce Release 260.99 (For GTX 480 and 470)
Row 24 - Cell 0 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.
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Lost Planet 2Highest Quality Settings, No AA, 8x MSAA / 16x AF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1900x1200 / 2560x1600, DirectX 11, Steam version
Just Cause 2Highest Quality Settings, No AA / 16xAF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Bokeh filter and GPU water disabled (for Nvidia cards), Concrete Jungle Benchmark
Metro 2033Medium Settings, AAA, 4x MSAA / 16x AF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Built-in Benchmark, Steam version
DiRT 2Ultra High Settings, 4x AA / No AF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, Steam version, Custom benchmark script, DX11 Rendering
Aliens Vs. Predator BenchmarkHighest Quality Settings, SSAO, No AA / 16xAF, vsync off, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600
Battlefield: Bad Company 2Custom (Highest) Quality Settings, 8x MSAA / 16xAF, 1680x1050 / 1920x1200 / 2560x1600, opening cinematic, 145 second sequence, FRAPS
3DMark VantagePerformance Default, PPU Disabled
HAWX 2Highest Quality Settings, 8x AA, 1920x1200, Retail Version, Built-in Benchmark, Tessellation on/off
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