AMD Radeon HD 6870 & 6850 Graphics Cards Debut

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Test Setup & Unigine Heaven v2.1

How We Configured Our Test Systems: We tested the graphics cards in this article on a Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD5 motherboard powered by a Core i7 965 quad-core processor and 6GB of OCZ DDR3-1333 RAM. The first thing we did when configuring the test system was enter the system BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "high performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows 7 Ultimate x64 was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS and installed the latest hotfixes, along with the necessary drivers and applications.

HotHardware's Test Systems
Core i7 Powered

Hardware Used:
Core i7 965 (3.2GHz)
Gigabyte EX58-UD5 (X58 Express)

Radeon HD 5830
Radeon HD 5850 (2)
Radeon HD 5870 (2)
Radeon HD 6850 (2)
Radeon HD 6870 (2)
GeForce GTX 460
GeForce GTX 470
GeForce GTX 460 OC (EVGA)
GeForce GTX 470 OC (Galaxy)

6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Integrated Audio
Integrated Network

Relevant Software:
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
DirectX June 2010 Redist
ATI Catalyst v10.10b
NVIDIA GeForce Drivers 260.89

Benchmarks Used:

Unigine Heaven v2.1
3DMark Vantage v1.0.1
FarCry 2
Just Cause 2
Alien vs. Predator
Left 4 Dead 2*
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars v1.5*

* - Custom benchmark

Unigine Heaven v2.1 Benchmark
Synthetic DirectX 11 Gaming

Unigine Heaven

The Unigine Heaven Benchmark v2.0 is built around the Unigine game engine. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, with support for DirectX 9, DirectX 10, DirectX 11 and OpenGL. The Heaven benchmark--when run in DX11 mode--also makes comprehensive use of tessellation technology and advanced SSAO (screen-space ambient occlusion), and it also features volumetric cumulonimbus clouds generated by a physically accurate algorithm and a dynamic sky with light scattering.

There is little question that tessellation is a key feature of DirectX 11 and forward-looking DX11-based game titles.  Though like any other relatively new rendering technique, due largely to the fact that game developers need to support a broad legacy install base of older hardware, it is currently utilized sparingly in a only a few of the most leading-edge game titles.  That said, tessellation performance of a GPU will no doubt become more and more significant as next gen game engines increasingly make use of more advanced DX11 features. As a benchmarking tool, Unigine is a tessellation yard stick of sorts, with the ability to force tessellation workloads on the GPU that aren't really typical, in even the few titles currently on the market that make use of the feature.

Here we see the new Radeon HD 6870 beefed-up tessellation engine offers up to a 27% boost in performance, according to Unigine, versus the previous generation of Radeon 5000 series products.  The Radeon HD 6870 actually just edges out NVIDIA's strong tessellation engine in the GeForce GTX 460 but falls behind the more expensive GeForce GTX 470 by about 23% or so.  The Radeon HD 6850 offers roughly a 7% performance increase over the Radeon HD 5850 but can't keep pace with the GeForce GTX 460 and trails it by about 16% or so.

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