Value and Conclusion
|9.3||When we first heard about AMD's new Radeon HD 6800 Series and the renaming bonanza that came with it we were quite sceptical whether the HD 5700 successor GPU had it in it to fill the big shoes of the HD 5800 Series. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised by the product AMD has delivered to us. The new AMD Radeon HD 6870 offers substantially increased performance compared to the HD 5770: up by 56%. This alone almost justifies the different naming scheme.|
AMD's architectural improvements have not been to the core architecture but adress weak spots like the tesselation engine. Another field of advancement is the display output logic which has been expanded on again, giving AMD even more margin against NVIDIA here. Support for DisplayPort 1.2 allows up to six displays connected to a single card and enables daisy chaining and hub functionality for easier monitor hook up. HDMI 1.4 includes support for Blu-ray 3D titles which seems to be more of a features list bullet point than a real need-to-have feature at this time.
AMD also managed to reduce power consumption even further, boosting performance per Watt some more. Unfortunately Blu-ray power consumption has been missed in these optimizations which results in a power consumption increase vs. the HD 5000 Series in that scenario. Another step child of this generation seems to be fan noise. Despite lower power consumption, fan noise has remained the same or is even higher compared to the last generation products. On the other hand, this does open up new possibilites for AIBs to release optimized non-reference designs.
Last but not least, AMD has positioned their new cards at such reasonable price levels that make full HD DirectX 11 gaming available to the masses. Personally I see some additional potential in the HD 6870 pricing - $229 or $219 doesn't seem to be out of reach.
Another important point to mention is the excellent overclocking potential we have seen on our HD 6870. Without any change in voltage or fan speed the card gets very close to the Gigahertz barrier - breaking it with only a bit more voltage. This also results in additional headroom vs. NVIDIA's products if someone is willing to invest a bit of time to do overclocking.
Overall, this is the card to get if you have around $240 to spend, and are looking at a product that is a long-term investment. If you are looking for the best bang for the buck then the HD 6850 should be on your shopping list.