AMD Radeon 6970 Review

By on January 3, 2013, 10:31 PM
Roughly this time last month we were testing a variety of graphics cards in the new Call of Duty: Black Ops video game. I remember picking up a Radeon HD 4870 and thinking to myself “wow I've had this thing forever,” and in a sense I have considering this series was launched over two years ago. The follow up to this card was the Radeon HD 5870, a solid successful product for AMD as it remained their flagship single-GPU card for roughly 15 months, and it is only being replaced today. After a short delay, AMD brings us their new flagship GPU in the form of the Radeon HD 6970. Code-named Cayman XT this new graphics processor features 2640 million transistors, 23% more than that of the Radeon HD 5870.
Like the new Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570 graphics cards which are more refined versions of the GTX 480 and GTX 470 graphics cards, the Radeon HD 6970 is essentially a more refined version of the 5870. To find out exactly what this means, read on... Read the complete review.




User Comments: 80

Got something to say? Post a comment
Superpeter Superpeter said:

Crap.. I waited for the single most powerful gpu hoping AMD would bring it. Guess not, I'll just spend my holiday dollars on a GTX 580

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Thanks for an excellent review Steve. Glad to see so many relevant benchmarks included. It makes the job a lot easier if I can point the customer to a review with an array of games they likely have stacked up ready for the new card(s).

I presume the HD 6950 review isn't too far off?

Both these cards seem very good value for money (in relative terms), doubly so in the case of Crossfire as they seem to scale just as well as the HD 6870/6850. I was hoping that the 6970 might take a few benchmark "wins" and pressure nvidia to drop pricing-performance/$ is still with AMD so I'm cautiously hopeful of some pricing realignment.

Guest said:

So much for the GTX 580 killer that all the ATI/AMD fanboys were raving. What you guys ended up with, is a card that's about the same as the 570. However, not to say that's a bad thing, it's a good thing of course.

Before you bash me, note that I have an Phenom X4 965BE and love this CPU to death. But I was hoping this 6970 was going to be $300. Instead it's priced $20 above a GTX570. It's going to be a pretty hard sell IMO.

Oh well, there's still the 6990 to look forward to, maybe then it will beat the 5970 or GTX580.

Guest said:

This is horrible. ATI blew it this time.

Guest said:

I cannot believe it. Nvidia is outperforming ATI ****.....

Guest said:

Disgusting. What a waste of time waiting for it.

I just can't believe that the next generation de-evolved.

SilverCider said:

"this is horrible

ati blew it this time .

i cannot belive it

nvidia is outperforming ati ****.....

Disgusting.

What a waste of time waiting for it.

I just can't believe that the next generation de-evolved."

Somebody dislikes AMD a little lol!

vangrat said:

SilverCider said:

"this is horrible

ati blew it this time .

i cannot belive it

nvidia is outperforming ati ****.....

Disgusting.

What a waste of time waiting for it.

I just can't believe that the next generation de-evolved."

Somebody dislikes AMD a little lol!

No, these people actually like AMD, what they dislike is the fact that this particular product is underwhelming in the extreme. Everyone was expecting AMD to come out with a whopper of a card, the F-16 of the current generation. Instead what they got was a Mig, yes it goes fast...but there is better.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

mmmm...seems some peoples expectations were a little high.

A few things to ponder....

1. The cards have been out for four hours. Is it reasonable to expect that they might improve performance with a few driver revisions?

2. Everyone (AMD-philes that is) seemed to think Cayman was a slam-dunk. Bear in mind that a new architecture- and this is ATI/AMD's first major architectural change since R600- is not always an unqualified success.

3. Cayman can be seen as a "proof of concept" for Southern Islands on 28nm next year. Cayman is hardly a failure- it just doesn't stack up fantastically against Barts (389mm˛ v 255mm˛) in the performance/mm˛ and perf/$ metrics. If Barts hadn't been released I doubt all the fanboys would be tripping over their collective lips quite so much.

and...

4. Next time a launch is imminent and the speculation/rumour machine is running with a wide open throttle, it might just pay to take a step back and see who is providing the momentum, and what their motivation is regarding page views, advance sales and building their own little cults of personality.

When all is said and done, if you're looking for performance gaming and driver/microstutter issues or motherboard limitation make Crossfire/SLI a non-starter then you could do worse than look at the HD 6970/6950 for your next card.

Personally I'd still recommend a Crossfire HD 6850 or SLI'ed GTX 460 as best-bang-for-the-buck, but can appreciate that many would prefer the simplicity of a single GPU solution.

Relic Relic, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Great review Steve as always, just curious though are you guys going to be reviewing the 6950/6850 eventually? Both offer great value, especially the 6950 which seems to be in a class of its own at $300 dollars.

Also a lot of people here and elsewhere seem to be missing the point of how the 6970 is priced. At first glace the 6970 seems to be underwhelming, but you should realize the card is also about $140 dollars cheaper and likely more in other markets. It was clearly unrealistic to think that the 6970 would just come out and dominate the GTX 580 a card that surprised everyone and it seems AMD too. What AMD delivered is by no means a failure and looks to be a great value with solid improvements, especially in tessellation heavy games and to say otherwise is a bit disingenuous.

mosu said:

6970 is a transition model and should last until 32 or28 nm process should came available.In my opinion AMD is just testing this new architecture and the real deal should come with the new iteration.

Leeky Leeky said:

I have to admit I was hoping for a little more performance from these, but since the GTX570 was pretty much the benchmark I need for next years triple HD LCD setup, it gives me something to ponder.

Its just a shame the HD6870's can't be triple CF'd, because even with these results I'd almost prefer one of them per LCD instead of two of the above mentioned GPUs.

Maybe the HD6990 will have more to offer me, and a better single slot solution in my case. Excellent review as always though!

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Thanks for an excellent review Steve. Glad to see so many relevant benchmarks included. It makes the job a lot easier if I can point the customer to a review with an array of games they likely have stacked up ready for the new card(s).

I presume the HD 6950 review isn't too far off?

Thanks for the great feedback I appreciate it and yes we will work on delivering a HD 6950 review, samples have been tight. We had just over a day to work on our HD 6970 review which was a little stressful

So much for the GTX 580 killer that all the ATI/AMD fanboys were raving. What you guys ended up with, is a card that's about the same as the 570. However, not to say that's a bad thing, it's a good thing of course.

Since when does anyone listen to "fanboys" but you are right the HD 6970 is not a bad thing, far from it.

This is horrible. ATI blew it this time.

I cannot believe it. Nvidia is outperforming ATI ****.....

Disgusting. What a waste of time waiting for it.

I just can't believe that the next generation de-evolved.

These ****** are actually all the same *****, they were all posted from the same IP. Unfortunately trolls can also use the guest account.

Great review Steve as always, just curious though are you guys going to be reviewing the 6950/6850 eventually? Both offer great value, especially the 6950 which seems to be in a class of its own at $300 dollars.

We will cover these graphics cards, samples have been hard to get. We were waiting for a custom built version of the 6850 but nothing has come up as yet. We will do our best to cover these products for you guys. Also you are spot on with your comments regarding pricing of the HD 6970.

princeton princeton said:

Guest said:

I cannot believe it. Nvidia is outperforming ATI ****.....

Oh you mean like nvidia's 8000,9000 and GTX 200 cards? It isn't exactly an anomaly.

princeton princeton said:

Steve said:

This is horrible. ATI blew it this time.

I cannot believe it. Nvidia is outperforming ATI ****.....

Disgusting. What a waste of time waiting for it.

I just can't believe that the next generation de-evolved.

These ****** are actually all the same *****, they were all posted from the same IP. Unfortunately trolls can also use the guest account.

I think it was obvious he was a samefag :P.

By the way, why is the forum version of comments removed? Now we can't merge multiple comments or add something in.

Guest said:

benchmarks are done with catalyst 10.11. with 10.12 it may be 5-10% faster.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

benchmarks are done with catalyst 10.11. with 10.12 it may be 5-10% faster.

How do Guests know these kind of things!?

Guest said:

How does a regular user know?

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Guest said:

How does a regular user know?

They don't?

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

An easy way to avoid ****** like the above one, would be to make guest accounts able to only post a single time per day (Limited by IP) on a single topic (So if they want to comment other ones they could, but only once per day on each topic). This way you would encourage them to make accounts and not post nonsense covering by guest account.

Back to the topic...

It was on a single time where ATI surpassed NVidia's performance for a pretty long period, why is it so surprising that NVidia got to the top once again?

I will still be buying ATI or Nvidia cards, according to my budget and the performances each might offer in the budget range I have access to. Probably most do this... in the budget/performance area ATI still wins I'm pretty sure.

Guest said:

Furty117 you know no more than anyone else, either way. Having an account on Techspot doesn't somehow bestow one with any more knowledge about something that no one has reliable information about or that has yet to be seen in the first place. If anything it seems to be the opposite judging by some of the 'regulars'.

Guest said:

nVidia white-knighting is the worst kind of internet faggotry.

Problem?

fpsgamerJR62 said:

The 6900 series didn't quite live up to AMD's pre-launch hype but the quoted suggested retail prices are quite reasonable for top-end cards if they are actually available in quantity at this time or maybe by next month. I know for a fact the Nvidia 500 series is already available because I've already ordered a GTX 580 and the dealer just recently listed the GTX 570 as being in stock. I'm now looking forward to 2011's battle of the multi-GPU cards. My personal forecast for the multi-GPU battle - Nvidia will win this round.

Xero07 said:

I'm not surprised it isn't faster then the 580. ATI has been real focused on performance per watt and with that mindset they likely won't get the performance crown in the single gpu department for awhile which to me is alright. I think ATI wants to have efficient single gpus which lead to high performance multi-gpu cards at the head of their lineup.

SilverCider said:

Xero07 said:

I'm not surprised it isn't faster then the 580. ATI has been real focused on performance per watt and with that mindset they likely won't get the performance crown

I understand what you mean, last generation was a great example, however nvidia have regained ground in that sense. The 6970 and GTX 570/580 are about the same in performance/watt.

LNCPapa LNCPapa said:

I'll admit that I was disappointed by the pricing a bit. At this price I'd get a pair of 570s well before getting a pair of 6970s. One thing I've really missed for a while now is PhysX - I actually appreciated the different atmosphere it gave to some games.

I heard ATI was jumping into the 3D world with these 69xx cards - any chance of a review on that aspect? I was really curious about this after seeing the very positive review Anand and his folks gave on it recently.

TECHwizard said:

6970!! geez man and i thought mine was good xD

Guest said:

I have a GTX 260 SLI Setup im updatin with CF 5850 as i got one for like 190 on ebay to go with the xfx i had on another rig so i do believe in bang for your buck and i agree that at the price these are supposed to go for they are not bad cards at all!!!Either way i truly dont think you could go wrong with either ATI or nvidia..Though for the mainstream crowd the 6870 and 6850 are tough acts to follow and will probably be the ones i go to if i ever update further along the way!!

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Given the fact that nVidia does a lot better job with their drivers (especially timely releases) along with the $20 price difference (I mean that's four beers, man!), seems pretty clear that the 570 is the way to go and ATI is again playing catch-up.

Zecias said:

TomSEA said:

Given the fact that nVidia does a lot better job with their drivers (especially timely releases) along with the $20 price difference (I mean that's four beers, man!), seems pretty clear that the 570 is the way to go and ATI is again playing catch-up.

exactly my thoughts

g4mer said:

I thought their goal was to beat GTX580 but they barely beat the GTX480.

Guest said:

Techspot used old drivers for the review, the new 10.12 drivers should give a 10% increase in performance.

Have you read the reviews? the hd6970 lags behind the gtx 480,470, 570 and 580 in most reviews. that tells me some thing is wrong. i've done research and read all of the reviews and a great majority of the reviews where using the supplied 10.11 drivers. I think tech spot and other sites need to update there reviews with better optimized drivers.

someone used the 10.12 drivers, increased performance by 15fps stock.

check this to see what i mean http://forums.overclockers.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18217817

Guest said:

I agree. Rage 3d has it pegged 15% faster than the Geforce 570 with lower temperatures and lower power draw.

"Given the fact that nVidia does a lot better job with their drivers (especially timely releases) along with the $20 price difference (I mean that's four beers, man!), seems pretty clear that the 570 is the way to go and ATI is again playing catch-up.:

This is a myth...a nasty rumor. Read this - http://www.rage3d.com/articles/catalyst_2011_image_quality_i
vestigation/index.php?p=3

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

LOL...yeah, like I'm going to read something from rage3d - an over-the-top ATI fanboi site - and take that as gospel truth. That's like me going to the nVidia web site and using their propaganda to prove a point.

Find me something from a reputable, non-associated tech site like Tom's Hardware, MaximumPC, hardopc, or here at TechSpot and I'll listen to what you have to say.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

I thought their goal was to beat GTX580 but they barely beat the GTX480.

Cayman as a design was probably conceptualised 2-3 years ago, the final products' recipe was ready for baking (TSMC wafer production) around the time that Fermi (GTX 480/470) launched. It's probably fair to assume that AMD had these cards in mind as their "beat by 10+%" benchmark. I also now firmly believe that AMD did not think a fully functional (512 shader) Fermi card was possible (possibly lapping up Charlie D's Kool-Aid in large quantities!)...so

1. Cayman as designed on the 40nm process is at the limits of the architectures performance. Overclocking percentages for review cards might back this up.

2. AMD were incredibly shortsighted in thinking that nvidia couldn't refine the Fermi GPU once they saw the obvious voltage leakage/heat production of the original design.

2A. Nvidia exceeded all expectation in being able to refine the GF110 out of the GF100 in the nine month timeframe between releases.

3. AMD better have some tricks left to play in the performance sector, or the GF114 (GTX 560) next month is going to take the HD 6870, 6950 and whats left of the HD 5870 market out to the woodshed.

4. The HD 6990 can't come soon enough for the AMD fanboys at this stage.

Guest said:

Rage 3d is more reputable that this site imo. This site has become biased toward Nvidia as of late.

If you took time to read the article you'd see that it isn't the least bit ati biased.

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Techspot used old drivers for the review, the new 10.12 drivers should give a 10% increase in performance.

Have you read the reviews? the hd6970 lags behind the gtx 480,470, 570 and 580 in most reviews. that tells me some thing is wrong. i've done research...blah, blah

Hardware Canucks used 10.12 drivers

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...which is 998 more than I usually reserve for trolls (hint: the second word is "off"

Sorry for the messy layout...It's 8am here and Excel doesn't get dusted off too much.

As you can see...if you remove the ruby tinted glasses...using 10.12 doesn't appreciably change the order or magnitude of the testing. The HD 6970 and 6950 figures fall into line with just about every review out in the wild. Basically the AMD cards need max resolution/max AA/max IQ (to the point of unplayability in a lot of cases) for the figures to look better - and that is just proving that 2Gb vRAM is better to have than 1.5/1.3Gb...Wow, who woudda thought that. The other side of the coin is that any nvidia biased review could also bench Metro 2033 at 2560x1600, Tessellation on, 4xMSAA and DoF ON and watch the 6970 get low single digit framerates.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

"This site has become biased toward Nvidia as of late."

Might as well say that about every other tech site that's done ATI card reviews, then. Simple fact of the matter is if you take ATI's current generation of cards as a whole, they're in second place right now (not by much, but they are). And that's what ALL the reviews are showing.

princeton princeton said:

Xero07 said:

I'm not surprised it isn't faster then the 580. ATI has been real focused on performance per watt and with that mindset they likely won't get the performance crown in the single gpu department for awhile which to me is alright. I think ATI wants to have efficient single gpus which lead to high performance multi-gpu cards at the head of their lineup.

HOORAY FOR NOT READING THE ARTICLE!

Nvidia's 500 cards are just as good as ati's in terms of performance per watt. So because nvidia has the faster single gpu that is still VERY efficient, ATi has very little chance of winning the multi gpu market. Did you just skip to the summary at the end of the article?

princeton princeton said:

TomSEA said:

"This site has become biased toward Nvidia as of late."

Might as well say that about every other tech site that's done ATI card reviews, then. Simple fact of the matter is if you take ATI's current generation of cards as a whole, they're in second place right now (not by much, but they are). And that's what ALL the reviews are showing.

+1. BTW you shouldn't even bother with guest posts. This article alone shows that they are usually idiotic fanboys.

EXCellR8 EXCellR8, The Conservative, said:

Not a horrible price, but only ~20% faster than my overclocked 5870. Meh.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

Not a horrible price, but only ~20% faster than my overclocked 5870. Meh.

It does really depend on the game. For example the Radeon HD 6970 was much faster than the HD 5870 in quite a few games...

World in Conflict = 29% faster.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 = 30% faster.

Aliens vs. Predator = 33% faster.

Metro 2033 = 73% faster.

STALKER = 77% faster.

That said even a 20% performance boost is still quite significant.

Xero07 said:

princeton said:

Xero07 said:

I'm not surprised it isn't faster then the 580. ATI has been real focused on performance per watt and with that mindset they likely won't get the performance crown in the single gpu department for awhile which to me is alright. I think ATI wants to have efficient single gpus which lead to high performance multi-gpu cards at the head of their lineup.

HOORAY FOR NOT READING THE ARTICLE!

Nvidia's 500 cards are just as good as ati's in terms of performance per watt. So because nvidia has the faster single gpu that is still VERY efficient, ATi has very little chance of winning the multi gpu market. Did you just skip to the summary at the end of the article?

Read article. I was talking about ATI's plan as a whole. they probably plan on going after the 580 with their dual gpu card. The 570 matching the 6970 is plus points for nvidia but not the worst news in the world for ati since they can remain competetive with a simple price drop.

Hooray for looking stupid and not thinking about what i was saying before you post.

Guest said:

keep in mind the gtx 570 and 580 are pretty much maxed for overclocking, they dont like being nudged up even slightly. nvidia is capitalizing on every bit of performance that chipset can handle.

amds 6970 overclocks to 950 and shows no sign of not being able to go higher. at this clock level it approaches gtx580 performance, for quite a bit cheaper.

i wouldnt call this round from amd a total loss.

enya64 said:

Isn't it funny how....

1) the one's defending the underwhelming comparison to Nvidia's best keep mentioning that new drivers will help improve the 6970's performance like Nvidia doesn't make drivers to improve their new cards ( that also have drivers less than a month old)

2) the defenders keep mentioning " the dual gpu 6990 will save us" like the dual gpu Nvidia 595 hasn't already been announced for Early 2011 release (with pics online a week after the 580 was released).

I replaced my awesome Asus 5870 which I overclocked to a fully stable 960MHz core. Earlier I replaced it with an MSI Geforce 580, which I overclocked to a fully stable 900MHz core. Both of those cards are incredible, but if this card can only be stably overclocked a mere 20-30MHz, that is very poor in comparison and doesn't sound like it will offer a noticable increase in gameplay performance.

That's it. I would like to see how does a overclocked 5870 compare with the 6970.

Guest said:

Quote:TomSEA said:

"This site has become biased toward Nvidia as of late."

Might as well say that about every other tech site that's done ATI card reviews, then. Simple fact of the matter is if you take ATI's current generation of cards as a whole, they're in second place right now (not by much, but they are). And that's what ALL the reviews are showing.

+1. BTW you shouldn't even bother with guest posts. This article alone shows that they are usually idiotic fanboys.

-1 Tommy forgets that the Radeon 5970 is still the fastest card available.(like Techspot which consistantly rubs the Geforce 580 in everyones face with no mention of it's superior). Also take into though the 6850 and 6870...both of those cards are well beyond their Nvidia counterparts...which are sub Geforce 460 cards.. you know that they both beatout the 460 too. How do you figure the 6970 is in 2nd place? It's just as fast and arguable faster than than it's intended counterpart the Geforce 470. The dual GPU 6990 is going to be king in Feburary or whenever it gets out and it's clearly set against the Geforce 580. So in reality, AMD is actually in 1st place as they have been for a while now.

enya64 said:

See above regarding Nvidia's Geforce 595 dual gpu card being released early next year. In fact, type it in google and you'll see the pics that have been online for about a month already. Seems like comparing the single gpus to dual gpu cards won't be a valid argument a month from now...

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

Every HD 6970/6950 is hand finished !!!

If this is even remotely true, it constitutes one of the biggest tech Quality Control fails in recent history.

[link]

While I'm here I may as well do some troll bashing...

keep in mind the gtx 570 and 580 are pretty much maxed for overclocking, they dont like being nudged up even slightly. nvidia is capitalizing on every bit of performance that chipset can handle.

Like this GTX 570 at 850/4200 (16%/10.5% OC) ?, or this GTX 570 at 822/4740 (12%/24.7%), or this GTX 570 at 825/4352 (12.7%/14,5%) or maybe this GTX 570 at 860/4500 (17.5%/18.4%)

amds 6970 overclocks to 950.

...and that seems to be the hard limit in Overdrive ( Guru3D, TS, and HC etc)...which is a fabulous 8%!

Can the card go higher? who knows?

Can the max OC be lower...you bet!

Hexus (948MHz -7.7%), TPU (915MHz- 4%) and HT4U (910MHz-3.4%...note their GTX 570 sample oc'ed by more than twice that percentage) sure are proof of that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Staff
Steve Steve said:

If this is even remotely true, it constitutes one of the biggest tech Quality Control fails in recent history.

[link]

Our AMD sample had the back of the 8-pin connector shaved back. Will be interesting to see how many production cards have been modified.

"This site has become biased toward Nvidia as of late."

If I had a dollar for every time someone said we are biased toward Nvidia, AMD, ATI or Intel I'd be a rich man!

Guest said:

But can it play System Shock 2?

Load all comments...

Add New Comment

TechSpot Members
Login or sign up for free,
it takes about 30 seconds.
You may also...
Get complete access to the TechSpot community. Join thousands of technology enthusiasts that contribute and share knowledge in our forum. Get a private inbox, upload your own photo gallery and more.