We knew coming into this review that AMD’s Radeon HD 6970 video card wouldn’t be able to beat out the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 and we know that will upset many of the AMD fans that have been waiting for this card. AMD told us that NVIDIA would have them beat when it comes to single card performance, but that they would have a much better price point. At $369 the AMD Radeon HD 6970 is priced to compete with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 and we have to say the two cards traded blows. In the 11 benchmarks that we ran the GeForce GTX 570 won six and the Radeon HD 6970 won five of them. As you can see, these two cards are very close in terms of gaming performance and even the price tag is pretty close. What we have here again is a battle between the feature sets that both companies offer and brand loyalty. The AMD Radeon HD 6950 has a suggested price of $299 and AMD told us that we can expect to see board partners coming out with 1GB versions of the Radeon HD 6950. It will be interesting to see what that the price drops down to. For those that don’t game on large monitors it might be the ideal card to have. AMD is all about cost versus performance and that might help their cause a bit. With 2GB of memory the AMD Radeon HD 6900 series has 512MB more memory than the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580!
The easy call here is that both the AMD Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 are clearly faster than the Radeon HD 5870 graphics card. The AMD Radeon HD 5800 series is over a year old and, as you can see, in the testing they needed a refresh and the Radeon HD 6900 series is exactly what the doctor ordered. AMD made healthy performance gains and when you look at the CrossFire performance numbers you can only wonder what the AMD Radeon HD 6990 will bring to the table. In fact, we should mention that CrossFire scaling has improved on the Radeon HD 6900 series compared to what we are used to seeing with the Radeon HD 5800 series.
We were able to overclock the Radeon HD 6900 series cards for an extra 5-7% performance boost, but we wish AMD would give a wider overclocking range with their Catalyst Control Center. We were able to max out the overclocks on all of our cards and they were all rock solid. We’d like to push the cards to the point that they are unstable, though, so we know we are reaching their best potential.
The only significant gripe that we have with the new Cayman GPU used on the Radeon HD 6900 series is that is looks to be a bit power hungry and the card does run a bit warm. We were hitting 95C in games on the open test bench and that is something we weren’t expecting. The Radeon HD 6900 series cards were also a bit loud in some of the games and when run in CrossFire mode.
Legit Bottom Line: The AMD Radeon HD 6970 and 6950 video cards bring new features and better performance to the table with a price point and level of performance that is competitive with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 500 series of cards.