AMD Radeon HD 6970 & 6950 Debut: Enter Cayman

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Our Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary:  AMD's new Radeon HD 6900 series cards performed very well throughout our entire battery of benchmarks, but clearly pin-pointing their positions in the current 3D lanscape is somewhat difficult. We ran eight different games and applications to test the Radeon HD 6900 series cards. In four of those eight apps (3DMark11, AvP, F1 2010, and Metro 2033), the Radeon HD 6970 was faster than the somewhat similarly priced GeForce GTX 570.  In three apps it was slower (Unigine, Just Cause 2, and Lost Planet 2), and in the remaining one (FarCry 2) they performed at roughly the same level. We guess technically it would be fair to say the Radeon HD 6970 has a slight edge in overall performance, but in all fairness the trend could easily swing in the GeForce's favor with a different mix of apps that rely more heavily on tesselation effects. So, for all intents and purposes we'd have to call the battle between the Radeon HD 5970 and GeForce GTX 570 a draw, strictly in terms of performance. The Radeon HD 6950, however, has a clear edge over the Radeon HD 5870.  It's also going to debut at roughly the same price, and it offers 2x the frame buffer memory. If you were contemplating a Radeon HD 5870 purchase, scrap that idea and go for the 6950.

The Radeon HD 6970 and 6950, Side By Side

By now the reasoning for NVIDIA’s quick-fire, somewhat stealthy releases of the GeForce GTX 570 and GTX 580 should be clear. If AMD was able to get Cayman and the Radeon HD 6900 series cards out the door while the GeForce GTX 480 was still NVIDIA’s flagship GPU, AMD could have staked a claim for the fastest single-GPU and dual-GPU solutions on the market. As it stands today though, The GeForce GTX 570 definitely steals some of the Radeon HD 6900 series’ thunder and the GeForce GTX 580 remains the highest performing, single-GPU around.

Both the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 should be hitting your favorite e-tailers immediately with MSRPs of $369 and $299, respectively. In light of our benchmark results, the Radeon HD 6970 may be priced just a tad high, but the more flexible output configuration with Eyefinity support and the large 2GB frame buffer warrant a small premium.

Now that we’ve seen what the Cayman GPU can do, we’re excited to see what AMD has in store with Antilles and the 6990. Looking at our power consumption numbers, it’s probably a safe to say that the Radeon HD 6990 won’t simply be two 6970’s bolted onto a single card, but more likely something along the lines of a hybrid mix of the 6970 and 6950, like the 5970 was in comparison to the 5870 and 5850. Regardless, looking at the dual-card Radeon HD 6950 CrossFire scores versus the single GeForce GTX 580 and the generally very good CrossFire scaling we saw throughout testing, we’re excited at the prospect of dual-Cayman powered graphics card. It may not be here in time for the holidays, but on the single-GPU front AMD is certainly competitive with NVIDIA again heading into the final days of the holiday buying season.

  • Strong Performance
  • Eyefinity Support
  • 2GB Frame Buffers
  • Relatively Quiet In Single Card Configurations
  • New AA Modes
  • Priced Competitively


  • 6970 Doesn't Clearly Beat The GTX 570
  • Can Be Somewhat Loud In Two-Card Config


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