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Report: AMD Radeon HD 6970 & 6950, single and in CrossFire X
by Damien Triolet
Published on January 24, 2011

Conclusion
It’s difficult not to have a mixed opinion with respect to the new GPU that equips the Radeon HD 6900s, so much does performance vary from one game to another. At best we recorded a gain of 35% over the Radeon HD 5870 and the lowest gain showed a deficit of 6%.

Of course, there have been enough architectural changes to suppose that AMD has room for progress, especially by improving how the compiler works. We are nevertheless sceptical with respect to the new processing unit set-up, especially as it actually reduces the processing to texturing power ratio, in contrast to the trend we’ve seen from AMD for a few years now. We are even more sceptical as to the ability of the Radeon HD 6900s to fully benefit from all these texturing units as this takes the cards over the energy consumption limit fixed by AMD.

Paradoxically, this is one of the major advances made by AMD: a unit able to control a GPU’s energy consumption and prevent it from going over a given limit by reducing clocks, just as CPUs have been doing for some time now. Energy consumption can no longer explode and get out of control. Although we still need to look at the impact of this technology more closely, in the long run it can only be beneficial by opening the way for a Turbo mode for GPUs and providing graphics solutions for the mobile market with tailor made thermal envelopes.


When it comes down to making your decision, once again AMD has decided to let pricing do the talking. At €330, the Radeon HD 6970 is thus slightly cheaper than the GeForce GTX 570 and gives a similar level of performance. Both solutions have their advantages: Eyefinity and 2 GB on the Radeon side, against PhysX and a more developed stereo 3D ecosystem for the GeForce. As far as we’re concerned, although there’s no doubt the Radeon HD 6970 is a solid alternative, we retain a small preference for the GeForce GTX 570 with its lower noise levels.

With identical performance across the board, 2 GB of memory ensuring longevity and aggressive pricing (€270), the Radeon HD 6950 is replacing the Radeon HD 5870 with something better. Although there’s a total absence of direct competition from NVIDIA (before the release of the GeForce GTX 560 Ti), we can only think that a 1 GB version, which would have been that little bit cheaper, would have been an even better buy, taking the Radeon HD 6870 out of the picture almost entirely.

Moreover, these new Radeons do very well in CrossFire X and with a default of 2 GB of memory, they’re probably very good candidates for a multi-GPU upgrade, when the right time arrives. As things stand, such a system will allow you to set yourself up with surround gaming, which is very demanding in terms of memory resources. Note however, that such a high-end multi-GPU solution will suffer from very high noise levels.

Lastly, we maintain our red card for AMD for the reduction in default graphics quality (with too aggressive optimisations of texture filtering) on the arrival of the Radeon HD 6800s and across the whole range. In 2010, this is no longer acceptable!

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