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AMD Radeon HD 6970 Review

By Julio Franco · 80 replies
Dec 15, 2010
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  1. But can it play System Shock 2?
  2. Sarcasm

    Sarcasm TS Guru Posts: 354   +40

    Isn't that a big load of bull.

    The FACT is that the GTX580 is a single GPU pushing almost the same performance or better than the 5970.

    It's not an apples to apples comparison.

    However, it does bring a big question, why don't Nvidia come out with a dual-GPU of their own. Why? Because of pricing. They'd have to overprice the thing just like the 5970 was. But if for some reason they decide to do something like a dual 560, then you'd bet your *** it will destroy the 5970.

    But really, dual gpu or not, it does come down to overall performance and support. And overall support from Nvidia is excellent. You simply get more for your money whether it's features like CUDA, Physx, or driver updates. Say what you want about Physx support on games, the fact is that you get it anyway with an Nvidia card.

    But enough of this banter with the silly GPU wars, the people who win are the consumers. Now we have more options, the market is moving forward in which we can buy GPUs for the same price as the older generation but yet it outperforms it.
  3. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    I agree that is the only sensible way to look at it.
  4. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,159   +829

    Its amazing how fanboys call things biased when its not favoring their brands...

    Its amazing fanboys call anything biased in any case...

    Its amazing how people can be that dumb even when there are figures and everything to back the information...

    Rant over
  5. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    I have read all of the reviews around, and do not understand the use of non current drivers for the benches, actually i do, im just being a smart ***. Toms may be of the worst using a 10.10d set of drivers that make the 69xx look like a low end card. here is a bench from a site that has a stellar reputation.
    they get a slightly different result.
  6. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    Kyle and the crew at [H] I think are the exception that proves the rule for most reviews.
    1.They mostly test to the "ragged edge" of playability- in fact with some of their framerates that are produced in their tests I don't think would actually be representative of actual gameplay. Most gamers I suspect would quite happily forego 8xMSAA (for example), drop down to 4xMSAA and get a smoother and more responsive experience.
    2. Their game selection is very narrow. Five games (cherry-)picked for their graphical intensity will always compress the results across the same-segment cards reviewed ( driver bugs excepted). For the most part nvidia's shader horsepower is being equalled by AMD's 2Gb of faster VRAM.
    3.Kyle is still using Cat 10.11, so the driver isn't the differentiator here. Sites using Cat 10.12P have still reported similar figures to reviews with earlier driver releases:

    GTX 580.........HD 6970...... GTX 570......HD6950
    100%...............85.5%.........85.4%..........77.0%.....Hardware Canucks (@ 1920 res)
    100%...............86.8%.........84.8%..........77.4%.....Hardware Canucks (@ 2560 res)
    100%...............89.4%.........93.2%..........81.4%.....Hardware Heaven (@ 1920 res)*
    100%...............84.8%........ 88.2%..........77.1%.....Hexus (@ 1920 res)
    100%...............89.1%.........85.5%..........80.3%.....Hexus (@ 2560 res)
    100%...............82.5%.........91.6%..........73.8%.....Neoseeker (@1920 res)**
    100%...............80.8%.........88.0%..........72.6%.....Neoseeker (@2560 res)**
    and for the record...
    100%...............95.7%.........84.6%..........85.3%....[H]OCP (@2560)

    * Excludes the HAWX2 benchmark
    ** Includes the horrendous Street Fighter IV framerates which skew the percentages

    The principle difference between [H] and these (and other sites) is that Kyle's methodology is producing 29-47fps with an average in the mid thirties, while the other sites have set 40-50 fps as their median- which to me seems more realistic (having a first-person-shooter preference).
    The second difference is that a wider range of games were used in the other reviews (HC 7 games over 2 resolutions and 2/3 IQ settings, HH 8 games, Hexus 7 games o/ 2 resolutions, Neoseeker 9 games o/ 2 resolutions)
    Third difference is of course the inclusion of games that show a greater seperation between nvidia and AMD's offerings (Lost Planet 2, Dirt 2, Call of Duty:MW2/Black Ops, MoH, Batman) to AMD's detriment- this is more a product of the relative driver teams. When AMD tanks on a benchmark it can be radical, nvidia's "losses" are usually on a much smaller scale. A case of relative benchmark consistancy providing a superior overall effect.
    3. I'm personally not convinced that testing exclusively at 2560x1600 makes that much sense. There are no cheap 25x16 screens. If you're popping for one then likely you're also going Crossfire/SLI. The vast majority of gamers who will end up with these cards are likely to be going with 1920x1080/1200 or Eyefinity/Surround for a select few and those that opt for two or more cards.

    I'm not knocking Kyle's testing, just placing it into context with the other reviews out there. I tend to flag inconsistancies in reviews (i.e. HAWX2 bench) in order to get a feel for what the "average" gamer is likely to experience with the product. Kyle's numbers at 30 fps for a FPS are to me a little too low, just as benching UT3 (with these cards) at 1024x768 with 0xAA/0xAF makes no sense at the other (very) extreme.

    One last thing....
    [H] reviewed the GTX 580 last month (November 9)...they used Forceware 262.99 beta drivers to achieve framerates of 32 (min), 43 (max), 39.4 (ave.) with 8xMSAA + TRMS AA and 16 x AF with F1 2010.
    In the 6970 review, the GTX 580 running 263.09 beta drivers posted exactly the same framerates but with 8xMSAA 16xAF (i.e. no transparency AA)Possibly a co-incidence ?
    Compare the in game framerate graphs from the two reviews. They look similar for the GTX 580...well, because they are identical. I printed off both and overlaid one over the other (should have used Photoshop I guess) on a light table and the runs are identical. I'm thinking that this might be stretching co-incidence just a tad too far....
    So...either the GTX 580 is remarkably consistant in gameplay_AND_transparency antialiasing carried absolutely no penalty, or the performance gain from the 262.99 to 263.09 driver was remarkable, or...............
  7. Sarcasm

    Sarcasm TS Guru Posts: 354   +40

    I really don't like how "Kyle" does his testing. Not only are most of the tests horribly unrealistic, but he cherry picked games that favor the Radeon platform.

    But oh well, reviewers can be fanboys too.
  8. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    Nice detective work there Chef. :) I don't know which it is either. I have grown disgusted with benchmarking on the internet. Everyone is beholden to one company or the the other. They cant possibly get results that vary this much. Kyle stated that AMD sent him a set of drivers to test the 69xx cards with. The implication being I suppose that they will become the 1.11 drivers. is he the only one they sent them to?...I think probably not. You have sites using 10.10, 10.10e,10.10e, and 10.11 drivers, everything but the current set. BTW Toms Hardware has developed into the biggest Nvidia ***** to date. I was reading a revoiew of the 6850& 6870 release where apparently they were performing a little to well. so they added to the game benches a specific 'map' in Civ V, and and tessellation scene in just cause and the like, and gave them equal weight o the overall game suite. The thing that pisses me off is that they rarely get the same result I get when I test bench the cards (both Nvidia and AMD) coincidence? I think not. I have a 6970 speeding to me via Newegg, so I will find out myself. Unfortunately few people have this luxury afforded them. I just want to know how these things perform, i guess I am not going to get that answer unless I do it myself.
  9. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    Everyone was supplied with a driver for testing the Radeon HD 6900 cards. I have no idea why you guys keep talking about drivers? What do you know that we don’t? The current drivers that you can download from the AMD website do not even support the Radeon HD 6900 cards so what are these latest drivers that we are not testing with?

    As for you saying that you never get the same results as certain websites when you get the same graphics card, well where do I start? There is so much that can influence the results and for a lot of our tests for example we use FRAPs to measure the performance of certain scenes. Still having said that is not even the frame rates themselves that are of vital importance.

    For example if we get 34fps when testing with Crysis and you only get 29fps for whatever reason that’s not such a big deal. What is important are the performance trends where we compare a range of graphics cards. So if we say the GTX 580 is much faster than the HD 6970 when playing Crysis then you should also see that, especially when playing the section of the game that we tested.

    As for the HardOCP review I would say they just took the set of results from the previous review so transparency anti-aliasing was still being used. So the graph is just incorrectly labeled. As for the driver issue I am sure the drivers brought about no performance changes, we see this all the time.
  10. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    Agreed. I would tend to support the view that you bench withthe release driver (as most sites did). If you can bench with a newer release then well and good. The onus in this situation falls squarely on AMD. In recent weeks they have released a whole slew of 10.10 hotfix and 10.11 (and now 10.12) drivers- this I think has led to the confusion/consternation of readers- almost entirely from AMD-philes who seem to be looking for a "magic bullet driver"...."10.12preview was released 6 hours ago why aren't you guys releasing a full review of benchmarks using it!!!!!!"
    I have yet to see an AMD-centric commenter anywhere ask why (with the relaxed release date of these cards) 1. performance in games such as BFBC2 and Battleforge seems to have regressed, and 2. What performance 10.12 was supposed to bestow? -isn't it more a CCC2/ Eyefinity update? Maybe Terry Makedon had to put the driver writing on the back bench when he got the job shaving the corners off PCIe power connectors.

    This is new release series, and more importantly, a new release architecture...yet AMD's own website isn't even promoting them on it's front page...it's all about the HD 68xx !
    Maximum Secret Squirrel mode for the last few months (including bs performance slide decks) ...build the hype and pre-orders, and at launch day turn Secret Squirrel into Maxwell Smart
    True enough. System build, in-game settings and FRAPS v benchmark are all going to make an apples-to-apples direct comparison between reviews a non-starter. Personally I use weighted averages from as many relevant reviews as possible, using one card as baseline and its competitors as a percentage +/- which tends to offer a more precise indicator than wildly fluctuating framerates. A simple spreadsheet -which I email to customers who indicate they want to upgrade etc. takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation:
    The beauty of collating the reviews as I usually do thankfully flags such anomolies. BTW Tech Report benches the game both early in the piece and when the game map fills up.
    How would you know this from the review unless you have an uber-keen interest in hardware and an eidetic memory (both of which relate to me), or had the forethought to check bench results from previous reviews?
    Granted. Brent & Kyle also state that the HD 6970 is offering the best gameplay based on the fact that both cards use 8xMSAA. If the GTX 580 (in this instance) is actually offering 8xMSAA + TRMSAA then the statement is erroneous since 1. TRMS is essentially antialiasing samples from all polygons ( a dumbed down supersampling) not just the edges as in multisampling and 2...
    -emphasis added.

    As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not pointing the finger at [H]. Sh*t happens, errors creep in- especially if the manufacturer artificially constrains review time/deadlines as seems to be the case with the HD 6970/6950 release judging by some of the various reviewers comments...and yes, I'd agree with red that some reviewers load the dice (re benchmark choice) in favour of one camp or the other- which led me to thank you and the TS staff for supplying such a wide range of gaming benchmarks in my first post. Putting so much effort and diligence into the reviews, especially with the time constraints here, keeps me (and no doubt many other enthusiasts) returning to read each one for the quality and expansiveness they convey.
    Ooooooooo...For yourself? or customer/review? Colour me jealous!
    Only the Sapphire card available in New Zealand at present and pricing wise it doesn't stack up well against the GTX 570-especially the EVGA Superclocked/Black Ops (797MHz) which are still cheaper and have a much better warranty. Once availability is more widespread no doubt I'll have the opportunity to check it out.
  11. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    Dont take it personally Steve, That was not aimed at you. In general , and making my living by putting together high end gamers, I am just disgusted that the VGA test/bench is such a polarized game of politics. I honestly cannot rely on it to give me accurate purchasing information. (see my above blurb on Toms...AKA Nvidia *****) When my 6970 gets here, I will bench it. I will bet the farm its much different then Toms review. Of course I am not going to include hand picked maps of civilization and Just cause anti aliasing to even things up. My point is that while I have the fortunate luxury of being able to bench pretty much any card I want...most people sitting there with $400 to spend on a VGA do not. I wish these sites would stop playing games and grow a set...but they wont.
    @ Chef, the 6970 is for me. If I like it, i might get two or three more:)
  12. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    Which Toms Hardware review are you talking about? I just checked their Radeon HD 6900 series coverage and couldn't find any CiV5 testing. Their review did not seem pro Nvidia at all to me after reading it, they say that the Radeon HD 6970 is worth $20 more than the GeForce GTX 570.

    Anyway if its a Civ5 performance guide that you want then did you read ours?


    As we said when reviewing the Radeon HD 6970 you cannot go wrong with this level of performance for the price.
  13. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    no it was a review of the 6850 & 6870
  14. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    For me the Tom's review was definitely not a good ad for AMD, but that could be said for any review that included Lost Planet 2's demo (AMD nowhere close) and Dirt2 (ironic). Benching Metro 2033 at medium quality settings didn't help AMD's cause either- You don't see a Metro bench with 70+ fps averages very often. Having said that Tom's were one of the few sites to have Crossfire results up on launch day -getting four cards + two 6870's for review must say something about their relationship with AMD. AvP and BFBC2 scores were obviously a product of AMD's dodgy drivers, while moving antialiasing from analytical to 4xMSAA never favours AMD architecture. The way I see it if you're going CF with these cards then you should be playing with the big boys settings. It could have been worse (see Fud's near-max quality + DoF + 4xMSAA!) or including video transcode/GPGPU apps - likewise Beyond3D's forum review was basically prepared by the AMD PR department and a lot of wishful thinking.

    The reviewing process itself is largely going to be a thankless task. You're going to get called out by at least one side of the combined fanbases (nvidia/AMD or Intel/AMD) and possibly both. Even benching every popular title at every major game IQ setting with dual clean-install systems (Intel and AMD) still leaves issues on the table such as driver optimization, relative image/filtering/AA quality and control panel options. Very much a case of prospective buyer beware.

    Isn't that the review that had the uber-clocked GTX 460 FTW as it's competition rather than a reference version?
    I seem to recall that zooming around the map causes major framerate drops in AMD cards (don't play the game myself so not sure if this a prerequisite for gameplay) but was unaware of any "special treatment" of Civ V to favour nvidia cards...apart from the fact that nvidia helped develop it of course.
    Tweaktowns HD 6970/6950 has similar overtones. The GTX 570 is probably pivotal to analysing the relative merits of the AMD cards. Tweaktown very kindly substituted a (very aggressively clocked) Gainward GLH version for the refernce clocked item. Tweaktown did note in their system setup notes that the GTX 480 numbers could suffice for a stock GTX 570. How much that would have stayed in some peoples minds as they perused the charts is anyones guess.
  15. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    ah, I forgot about that one. I'm not bitching about the 6970 review in particular. I have just noticed that since I started benching these cards myself (and logging the results) that its at the least inconsistent, at the worst intentional as to not get on the wrong side of green or red. I guess if you want to get test product expeditiously, there is a game to be played. As far as your comments about Kyle, He does test on the "ragged edge" of playability as you say, so for me they are the best benches out there. Most of the machines I build are for people who want to play 'all the way up' with 8 x AA (or higher) weather they know what they are looking at or not. Im going to bench the 6970 when it arrives next week, and hopefully will have a pair of GTX 580's in hand the following week if this guy I'm talking to pulls the trigger on an x980 build. So I get to see first hand what the results are.
    .....hmmmm I wonder why Tom's forewent the supplied drivers and used a 10.10 hotfix? < sarcasm

    anyway and again, not a shot at you Steve, just the state of benchmarking in general.
  16. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    The thing is the AMD Catalyst 10.10e Hotfix driver does not even support the Radeon HD 6970. I didn't take it as though you were having a go at me personally, though some fools did post under the guest account complaining about drivers with no real knowledge on the subject.

    Anyway my point is there is only one driver that detects and installs with the Radeon HD 6900 series cards. At least there was at the time of release anyway.

    Back on the subject of results. All the major sites agree on the Radeon HD 6970 vs. GeForce GTX 580 performance. We received similar margins to sites such as Anand and Guru for example. So if you find different numbers then chances are something is up with your results and not all the major tech sites on the net ;)
  17. red1776

    red1776 Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe Posts: 5,223   +163

    As I said, its the state of benching in general. I don't know about the results for the 6970/6950, I have not benched them yet. I have found many of them (benches across the net) to be askew in the past, and often its obvious that they are reverse engineering a desired conclusion. Someone linked an article about the state/methodology of benchmarking a while back, if anyone knows where it came from, please post it again. By the way, the results I get usually are in line with your benches at TS/LH. Its part of the reason I hang out, and look here first for all that techy type stuff you guys do.:wave:
  18. Steve

    Steve TechSpot Editor Posts: 2,357   +1,516

    Not a problem, I thought you might have been hinting at our results or other respected sites. Anyway I had better get back to work on our HD 6950 review ;)
  19. Yeah but the point is a Guest is hiding under an anonymous ID which means they could quite easily fake a whole conversation with themselves. It goes to credibility and sincerety.
  20. Sarcasm

    Sarcasm TS Guru Posts: 354   +40

    Okay don't be a hypocrite, just sign up and take the 45 seconds in your life to have your own handle. :)
  21. dividebyzero

    dividebyzero trainee n00b Posts: 4,891   +1,262

    For high end builds I usually lean more towards Euro based review sites in general (not every mainstream site benches on a wide variety of games like TS. More than a few rely on a limited number of titles and bulk out the review with 0xAA/0xAF, 0xAA/16xAF benches...or to suit)- pretty much any OGL and DX9 game is going to run into software/game limitation before you see real max/ave/min fps. DX10 is not exactly an up-and-comer, so filtering for DX11 and high AA with these cards is a must. Sites like Xbit and computerbase.de usually summerize gaming by API. computerbase, hardware.fr/Be.Hardware and a few other sites also show results based on control panel configs - noteably the addition of supersampling and transparency multisampling (nv cards) in conjuction with the standard MSAA and 16 and 32x antialiasing (Xbit, PureOC et al.)- which is probably more relevant to upper tier gaming.
    The fact that these benches are done on an apples-to-apples basis gives a better overview of how the architecture handles the game engines and what trends emerge as new games/game engines come on stream.
  22. ok first off, im not teh anoying guest, names kain from montana!

    to my knowledge, CUDA, physix, is a load of bull ****. CUDA is the core design (i THINK) and ATi.AMD can do physix, http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=5634

    its a OLD link, but i remember somethign about it on the AMD website and think i say some **** in catylist control center about it, and i know for a FACT that you cna do it with "modded" drivers. but with $200 6 cores, who needs physix, especally SENCE IT DIED. it never really took off

    and hey, i hope how you like how your 9800gt (like mine) is a 8800gt with a different sticker, or your 3xx and 2xx cards are rebrands of the 9800GTX/GTX+

    thats why i buy AMD now, i got screwed out of some of my money, considering when i bought this 9800gt i was like 12, and it took all my summer party money, i was quite pissed.

    but i love this 9800gt (with aftermarket cool after it reached 120C) and i love my moms 5770.

    and i cant stress enough THE 6XXX CARDS ARE A TWEEK TO TEH 5xxx SERIES. this was never ment to rape anything (initally, then i got over hyped be retard fanboys) it was ment to improve effenicenty and a LITTLE performance.

    call me a fan boy, i have owned both, and i perfeer wahts ever is cheaper and faster (AKA AMD right now) as i still have higher prioritys then my computer, as in high school "parties", my 77' chevy truck, and 44 ounce pops from holiday. so i cant blow even the 350 on this card. hopefully in the sumemr i can get a raise and aford some things for my ageing 2 core system.

    i see the 6xxx performing the thigns that AMD siad it would do. and it did it better then i expected
  23. Jurassic4096

    Jurassic4096 Banned Posts: 155

    What AMD charges for its CPU's and GPU's is the same reason no name brands are cheaper than name brands.

    They have NO choice. Would you pay more for the lesser brand at your grocery store? In no way does AMD want to sell their cards for cheaper than the other guys. They do it because they have to.
  24. Jurassic4096

    Jurassic4096 Banned Posts: 155

    When AMD released the 5000 series before nVIDIA's 400 series, they were priced much higher than they are today, and stayed high for 9 months. So technically, price/performance isn't always the case with AMD that many people think AMD is about, which is wrong per say. At that point, AMD fans were commenting not about price/performance, but that the other guys were MIA. When AMD gets their **** together, i'll be glad that I won't have to listen to this, "well AMD has better price/performance", hoopla. People that buy AMD are not generally the same people that want the best of the best. They buy them (CPU's and GPU's), because that is all they can afford.

    People with Intel CPU's are more likely to buy nVIDIA GPU's and people with AMD CPU's are more likely to buy AMD GPU's, because of money, not price/performance. That's just an excuse to say, "i can't afford the good ****."

    Same reason my last two GPU's have been AMD. I couldn't afford what i really wanted, so i will buy another Vapor X 5770 for crossfire, instead of the EVGA GTX 570 i really want. No one wants the cheaper stuff if they can help it. Sometimes you just have to settle.
  25. Jurassic4096

    Jurassic4096 Banned Posts: 155

    ...and the 400 and 500 series.

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