VisionTek Radeon HD 6870 Review

Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, November 4th, 2010
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/visiontek_hd_6870/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

It has only been two short weeks since AMD launched their new mid-range HD6800 series, and in that time we here at Neoseeker have been able to examine products from Diamond, Sapphire as well the reference cards directly from AMD. Our previous reviews have shown both the HD 6870 and HD 6850 to perform equal to the retiring Cypress core, yet come priced substantially lower. In this review we continue our look at the 6800 series with the VisionTek HD 6870. This graphics card uses the reference specifications and cooling, which gives the VisionTek HD 6870 a GPU clock of 900MHz and 1GB of GDDR5 memory set at 1050MHz (4200MHz effective). This should allow the card to have all the great performance of the reference 6870, but it does come with VisionTek’s own accessories, packaging and best of all a lifetime warranty.

The mid-range graphics market is more competitive now than it has been in years, and it seems as if AMD and NVIDIA are releasing a new product almost every other week. However, AMD did have a six months head start when it came to getting DX11 products to the market, and as such have recently taken a large slice of the discrete graphics market. NVIDIA is hot on their heels though, and if recent rumors are true they should have an amazing product coming out in time to counter the upcoming Cayman release. That could shake up the high-end market, and lead to price cuts, which in turn give the consumers additional performance for a lower premium.

In this review we are going to run the VisionTek HD 6870 through our test-bed of games and benchmarks to see how it fits into the market. With reference specifications, the stock performance should be on par with other HD 6870’s we have looked at in previous reviews, but we will also be overclocking the card to see how well it performs with increased frequencies. The average HD 6870 has limited overclocking head room and most have capped out around the 970MHz mark, with a few limited exceptions being able to reach 1000MHz. It will be interesting to see how the VisionTek model overclocks and if it can reach that often elusive 1000MHz achievement.

Specifications

Detailed Specs

  • AMD Radeon 6870 GPU
  • 1GB GDDR5 memory
  • Offload data parallel compute tasks from the CPU to GPU, for improved performance and video playback.4
  • GDDR5 memory provides twice the bandwidth per pin of GDDR3 memory
  • Multi-GPU support offers superior performance and scalability5
  • Massive arrays of on-chip compute units offer the latest in graphics functionality and performance
  • Highly efficient process technology puts more transistors in less space
  • Comprehensive OS support including Windows® XP, Windows Vista®, the very latest Windows® 7 functionality and driver support
  • Native support for common transcoding instructions in each shader for motion estimation that is designed to accelerate video encoding3
  • Enjoy a full range of display options natively on the board, including dual-link DVI-I, DisplayPort and HDMI
  • HDMI 1.4 support with Deep Color, 7.1 High Bitrate
  • Audio, and 3D Stereoscopic support
  • Support of content protected, high bandwidth, 7.1 channels of surround sound over HDMI
  • AMD PowerPlay™ capabilities vary power characteristics based on usage load.
  • Watch the hottest Blu-ray movies or other HD content at full 1080p display resolution and beyond and enjoy a highly feature rich experience with enhanced Unified Video Decoder (UVD) 3.3
  • Enhanced productivity with accelerated GPU processing for Microsoft® Office applications.
Supported configurations
  • (1) Dual link DVI-I
  • (1) single link DVI-D
  • (1) HDMI video and audio connector
  • (1) Single VGA (adapter required – included)
  • (2) mini Display Port

What’s in the Box

  • AMD Radeon™ HD 6870 graphics card
  • Set-up CD
  • Quick Install Guide
  • Adapter(s) may be included for additional output configurations

 

 

 

AMD Radeon™ HD 6870 System Requirements

  • PCI Express® based PC is required with one X16 lane graphics slot available on the motherboard Note: Card will occupy (2) chassis expansion slots
  • 500 Watt or greater power supply with two 75W 6-pin PCI Express® power connectors recommended (600 Watt and four 6-pin connectors for AMD CrossFireX™ technology in dual mode)
  • Certified power supplies are recommended. Refer to http://ati.amd.com/certifiedPSU for a list of Certified products
  • Minimum 1GB of system memory
  • Installation software requires CD-ROM drive, a keyboard, a mouse, and a display
  • DVD playback requires DVD drive and a DVD
  • Blu-ray™ playback requires Blu-ray drive and a Blu-ray disc
  • For an AMD CrossFireX™ system, a second AMD Radeon™ HD 6800 Series Graphics card, an AMD CrossFireX™ Ready motherboard and one AMD CrossFireX™ Bridge Interconnect cable is required

The VisionTek HD 6870 comes packaged in a glossy black box that lists the graphics card model on the front as well as some of the features of the product.

The inner packaging of the HD 6870 is a plain brown box that has multiple layers and compartments inside housing the graphics card and accessories.

The included accessories from VisionTek consist of a CrossFire bridge, Molex to 6-pin power adapter, DVI to VGA adapter, drivers disc and installation guide.

The VisionTek HD 6870 uses the reference cooling solution featuring a large heatsink shroud to cover the internal cooling solution. The shroud uses a red and black color scheme that distinctly makes it part of the AMD family. The only real difference between the VisionTek model and other cards from difference manufacturers is the lack of a company logo sticker on the cover. Since the cooler is the same as the reference cards, this model measures 9.6 inches.

The HD 6870 has a single CrossFire interconnect, which limits the CrossFire support to only two graphics cards. The performance of dual HD 6870's has proven to be very good though, and ultimately demand isn't high enough for 3 and 4-way CrossFire support in the mainstream market.

The video options on the VisionTek HD 6870 consist of two Mini-DisplayPorts, an HDMI 1.4a port and and two digital DVI ports. The Mini-DP ports port use the new 1.2 standard which allows them to support up to three monitors per connection, and also includes support for AMD's HD3D technology. The HDMI port is also capable of supporting the HD3D technology as well as 7.1 audio. There are two DVI ports on the HD 6870, and each port uses a different connection standard. One is a DL-DVI port which supports 30" monitors with resolutions up to 2560x1600. The other DVI port uses the single-link connection type which can support resolutions up to 1920x1200.

The HD 6870 uses PCIe 2.1, which is fully backward compatible with any PCIe x16 slot.

The VisoinTek HD 6870 uses dual 6-pin power connectors to guarantee an adequate amount of power is supplied to the graphics card. The max TDP of of the HD 6870 151W, but for the most part the power use will remain well under that level. When idle, the graphics card only uses 19W.

The back of the card has a red and black layered design that extends along the side of the graphics card.

The VisionTek HD 6870 cooling solution uses a large heatsink with a copper base to cool the GPU core. A large interconnected heatspreader that uses thermal pads to transfer heat meanwhile handles the memory cooling.

The internal heatsink has three copper heatpipes that move the heat way from the GPU into the aluminum finned array. Once the heat is in the array it is then exhaust out the back of the card via the fan that sits behind the heatsink. This is the same cooling that is used on all reference HD 6870 graphics cards, and should yield results similar to the other models we have looked at thus far.

The VisionTek HD 6870 is built on the new 40nm Barts graphics processor and as such has 1120 stream processors, 56 texture units and 32 ROPs all packaged into a 255mm² die. The die size for the Barts core is actually 25% smaller than the previous Cypress die, which accounts for the new rectangular shape of the GPU. The 6870 also has 1GB GDDR5 memory that is clocked at 1050MHz (4200MHz effective).

 

Overclocking:

The VisionTek HD 6870 came short of overclocking to 1000MHz, but did manage to reach a GPU clock speed of 990MHz.This is quite good considering the lower overclocking head room of the Barts GPU, and with the additional 90MHz the VisionTek card should yield some nice performance gains. The memory was also able to overclock higher than the AMD reference model, reaching a final speed of 1180MHz.

Hardware Configuration:

Software:

All the ATI cards released prior to the 6800 series will be tested AMD's Catalyst 10.8 drivers, while the NVIDIA graphics cards will be tested using their 260.89 drivers. Both the HD 6870 and HD 6870, however, will be tested with AMD's latest 10.10 drivers release.

Benchmarks DX11:

Benchmarks DX10:

All benchmarks were performed at resolutions of 1280x1024, 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600. Vsync is disabled in the control panel and AA is set to x4 with AF set to x16. The only benchmark performed with lower AA and AF is Street Fighter IV, which showed better scaling when AA and AF were set to 0.

Usage:

MSI's Kombuster will be used to gauge the power requirement and temperature of the graphics cards. The program applies a very heavy load to the GPU and as such will push the card beyond that of a game or benchmark. For the minimum temperature and power consumption the system will be left in an idle state for 15 minutes and for load Kombuster will be left on for 15 minutes.

Comparison Specifications:

 
AMD Radeon HD 6870
AMD Radeon HD 6850
ATI  Radeon
HD 5750
ATI Radeon HD 5770
ATI Radeon HD 5830
ATI Radeon HD 5870
NVIDIA GTX 480
EVGA GTX 460 FTW
Processing Cores
1120
960
720
800
1120
1600
480
336
Core Clock
900MHz
775MHz
700MHz
850MHz
800MHz
850MHz
700MHz
850MHz
Memory Clock
1050MHz
1000MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
1150MHz
1200MHz
924MHz
1000MHz
Memory Interface
256-bit
256-bit
128-bit
128-bit
256-bit
256-bit
384-bit
256-bit
Memory Type
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
1.5GB GDDR5
1GB GDDR5
Fabrication Process
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm
40nm

3DMark Vantage is the stunning sequel to 3DMark 06. Futuremark's benchmarking programs have always been at the center of every bragging match. The best way to show that you've got the greatest gaming rig, is to show that you've got the highest 3DMark score. Vantage does just that. It puts your system through a series of strenuous tests, and provides you with a score to brag about!

The VisionTek HD 6870 performs very well in 3DMark Vantage at both stock and overclocked settings.

Unigine Heaven became very popular very fast, because it was one of the first major DirectX 11 benchmarks. It makes great use of tesselation to create a visually stunning...heaven.

The VisionTek HD 6870 is a powerhouse in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, and once overclocked performs better than the HD 5870.

Aliens vs Predators is a DX11 Benchmark that runs though a scene straight out of the classic 80’s movie, Aliens. Since it uses DX11, it can often be more than a graphics card can handle.

The VisionTek HD 6870 performs extremely well in Aliens Vs. Predator and once overclocked even manages to outperform the GTX480.

Metro 2033 puts you right in the middle of post apocalyptic Moscow, battling Mutants, rivals and ratio-active fallout. The game is very graphics intensive and utilizes DX11 technology, making it a good measure of how the latest generation of graphics cards performs under the new standard.

The VisionTek HD 6870 performs decently in Metro 2033, yet still falls shy of the performance from the Fermi based graphics cards. Still, The mid-range 6870 handles the game very well and yields playable frame rates up to the 1920x1200 resolution.

Street Fighter 4 doesn’t necessarily push a graphics card to the limits, but it is a good benchmark to gauge the overall performance. This test is run at default settings to show the best scaling possible.

The HD 6870 achieves a high frame rate in Street Fighter IV regardless of the resolution, however it is not enough to suprass the GTX 470.

Batman: Arkham Aslyum mixes extraordinary visuals with great gameplay, in order to make an excellent benchmark. It's not a stressful as Crysis, but it can still push cards to their limits.

Batman in most cases performs better with Nvidia based products and the results here show that. It isn't often that the GTX 460 outperforms the HD 5870. Still, the HD 6870's lowest frame rate was 60 FPS, which is more than enough for a smooth gaming experience.

Crysis Warhead is one of the most graphically intensive games on the mainstream market. It's graphically breathtaking, and can bring any system crashing to it's knees.

Crysis was once the ultimate benchmark as even the most expensive cards struggled with the in game graphics. Those days are over now though, and the mid-raged HD 6870 reached nearly 70 FPS even at the highest resolution of 2560x1600.

Call of Duty is one of the most successful game franchises of all time and Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration in the series. The games combine modern-day settings and locations with jaw-dropping graphics and explosions.

Once again the HD 6870 is able to achieve a high frame rate regardless of the resolution. In this benchmark the HD 6870 is very close to the HD 5870 in overal performance.

Darkest of Days puts the player in historic battles to ensure the survival of key figures from the past. It is a very interesting concept and the use of real life conflicts keeps the title engaging. The in-game options does not allow PhysX to be disabled, so it can often favor NVIDIA graphics cards over those from ATI.

In Darkest of Days the HD 6870 is outperformed only by the GTX 480 and HD 5870. That is excluding the HD 5970, which is essentially a HD 5870 in this benchmark because Darkest of Days does not support CrossFire.

Resident Evil V is the newest installment of the Resident Evil series. The game comes with a built in benchmark that features a bunch of zombies walking around the center of a village. Believe it or not this seemingly simple benchmark can push video cards way out of their comfort zone!

The HD 6870 performs very well in Resident Evil 5 and leaves the GTX 470 and GTX 460 in its dust.

Just Cause 2 places you in Panau, Southeast Asia as Agent Rico Rodriguez. The game is a third-person shooter that pits you against countless enemies with the opportunity for plenty of environment destruction. With explosions and gun fire galore, this game is perfect for testing out the latest hardware.

The VisionTek HD 6870 has exceptional performance in Just Cause 2, especially after overclocking the GPU clock and memory.

Temperature:

To measure core GPU temperature, MSI's Kombustor was used. The idle temperature was taken after leaving nothing running for up to 15 minutes. The load temperature was taken 15 minutes after starting Kombuster for Multi-Core graphics cards.

No surprises when it comes the the temperatures. The card idles in the low 50°C area and under load reaches the mid to high 80°C mark. These are consistent with the other HD 6870's we have tested

Power Usage:

To measure power usage, a Kill A Watt P4400 power meter was used. Note that the above numbers represent the power drain for the entire benchmarking system, not just the video cards themselves. For the 'idle' readings we measured the power drain from the desktop, with no applications running; for the 'load' situation, we took the sustained peak power drain readings at the end of a 30 minute Kombustor run.

Like the temperatures, the VisionTek HD 6870 is very consistent when it comes to the power usage. This is not a bad thing though, because the HD 6870 uses less power than the HD 5830 and certainly less than all the Nvidia cards in the review.

 

Conclusion:

The VisionTek HD 6870 is yet another fine release based on the new Northern Islands GPU architecture. In all the tests, regardless of how the HD 6870 stacked up against the more high-end series graphics cards, it performed extremely well and achieves great frame rates at any resolution. This makes it an ideal graphics card for anyone playing games on monitors that exceed the average 1080p resolution. The best performance overall was at resolutions of 1920x1200 and below, but keep in mind that our internal testing maxes out the AF at x16 and sets the AA to x4. With reduced settings it would be easy to achieve an average frame rate of 60FPS, even with the most demanding games that utilize the new DX11 standard.

There is no question that for $239 dollars, this graphics card offers an amazing price-to-performance ratio. Seeing how in some cases it rivals the HD5870 and GTX480, it makes a great choice for gamers looking to upgrade their older mid-range graphics cards. That is not to say anyone with an HD 5850 or GTX 460 should run out and upgrade, but if you are looking for an affordable option to upgrade from an HD 5770 or GTX260, this is a great solution that yields decent gains in performance.

When it came to overclocking the VisionTek card was able to achieve the a decent 990MHz GPU clock speed and the memory nearly reached 1200MHz. This places the VisionTek HD 6870 in second place out of the four cards tested. Like all Barts based graphics cards though, the overall overclock was relatively small, but this is due to AMD maxing out the architecture with a 900MHz clock speed rather than an all out limitation.

In all the VisionTek HD 6870 has all the performance and features we have come to expect from the new AMD line, but it is one of the plainer looking graphics cards in the series. This is due to the heatsink cover lacking any kind of visual flair. Then again, the bottom portion of a graphics card is seldom seen once installed into a rig, and a graphics card should be judged on performance, and not the logo sticker, or lack there of. Additionally, VisionTek is one of the few companies to offer a lifetime warranty, so if you buy this card it will come with a far nicer guarantee, that exceeds the average two to three year coverage period.

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