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Putting the new Radeon naming scheme aside, we'd like to focus more on the Radeon HD 6870's price and performance. The GeForce GTX 460 clearly got under AMD's skin, as the company created a product specifically to compete with it. At $239, the Radeon HD 6870 will go head to head with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 460 (1GB), a card we crowned king of the $200-$300 price bracket.
In terms of value, AMD has nailed the sweet spot of performance vs. price with the Radeon HD 6870. The Radeon HD 5870 currently retails for roughly $380, making the Radeon HD 6870 almost 40% cheaper and only 4% slower in the games we tested. Although the 6870 may not be a successor to the 5870, it has unquestionably eliminated last year's contender.
Speaking of soon-to-be-extinct graphics cards, the Radeon HD 5850 costs 20% more than the 6870, while the latter is 11% faster on average. The GeForce GTX 470's future also looks bleak. If the GeForce GTX 460 (1GB) wasn't enough of a deterrent, then the Radeon HD 6870 surely will be.
Likely knowing what to expect from the newer Radeons, Nvidia announced price cuts for both GTX 460 models and for the GTX 470 yesterday (see all the details here). However, even if the GTX 470 is now only slightly more expensive than the Radeon HD 6870, the AMD product still offers 3% more performance.
Meanwhile, the GeForce GTX 460 1GB now costs $199, but there's no comparing the performance. In the dozen games tested, the HD 6870 outmuscled the GTX 460 1GB in all but one -- and that was a draw. The Radeon HD 6870 was 19% faster than the GeForce GTX 460 1GB on average, marking a decisive win for AMD this time around.
Outstanding product: AMD Radeon HD 6870
With a suggested price of $239 the Radeon HD 6870 delivers the best value graphics card in the sub-$300 range. The Radeon HD 6850 is also an attractive prospect at $179, but AMD was strapped for samples and couldn't send us a card in time to meet today's deadline. We plan to test-drive the Radeon HD 6850 very soon though, so keep your eyes peeled.
To be fair, the GTX 460 remains a valid alternative to everyone thanks to its recent price cut, not to mention killer SLI performance, so all in all, consumers get all the advantage of this head to head battle.
With the Radeon HD 6870 putting on an impressive show, we're dying to see how the Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 perform. Thankfully, we only have to wait until next month to see if they are worthy successors to the Radeon HD 5870 and 5850. Further down the line, AMD plans to release the dual-GPU Radeon HD 6990 Eyefinity (codenamed Antilles) in January.