AMD Radeon HD 6970 2GB Video Card in Crossfire

We've seen what one new HD 6970 can bring to the table so far thanks to Sapphire. Now we do the next logical step and add a second into the mix.

14 minutes & 34 seconds read time

Introduction, Card and Specifications


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Our second HD 6970 arrived and it was from no one other than AMD themselves. We knew that there was only one thing to do, though, and that was to Crossfire this bad boy. In October we saw the HD 6800s launch and when we tested them in Crossfire we were amazed at the awesome scaling the series was offering.

While we probably should've done the HD 6950 first, the bottom line was that I was just too excited to see what the HD 6970 could do, so I threw that to the top of the pile. I had my fingers crossed that the scaling we saw in the HD 6800 series was also going to show with the HD 6900s series. There was only one way to find out, though, and that was to test them.

Before we get into the performance side of things, we need to have a closer look at what exactly we've got on our hands today. Since this is a reference card from AMD, there's no package so we'll just be looking at the card itself. Once that's done we'll take a closer look at the specifications and make sure that Crossfire is up and running. Once we've done all the boring stuff, it's time to get into the good stuff.

The Card

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AMD Radeon HD 6970 2GB Video Card in Crossfire 04

AMD Radeon HD 6970 2GB Video Card in Crossfire 05

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Looking at the card, you're not really seeing anything you didn't see on the Sapphire one we looked at in our full review here. Technically you're seeing a little less since AMD don't put a sticker on the card.

There are no surprises when you spin around the card. The back holds two power connectors; one a 6-Pin and the other an 8-Pin. Still across the top, but closer to the front, we've got our Crossfire connectors which we'll be making use of today. Here we've also got our little switch that lets us change the BIOS. Finally, we've got connectivity to look at and that's two mini-DP 1.2 ports, HDMI 1.4 and two DVI ports (one Single-link and the other Dual-link).


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You can't get more reference than a reference card from AMD, which means the default clocks are present. That means we've got an 880MHz core and the 2GB of GDDR5 carries that very nice sounding 5.5GHz QDR Clock.

Of course, the thing we want to make sure of the most is that Crossfire is enabled and as you can see down the bottom, we've got a two card Crossfire setup ready for action.

Test System Setup and 3DMark 11

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASRock, Kingston, Mittoni, Noctua and Corsair.

We'll be looking at a load of cards today and the main thing you might find yourself looking at is the scaling difference from one card to two. Of course, if that's not enough, we've got NVIDIAs single GPU beast, the GTX 580, along with the HD 6850 and HD 6870 in Crossfire.

We've also got a few other single card solutions which ultimately should give you a good idea of just what AMD are offering us here with this setup today.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0
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3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Straight away we can see the great scaling performance under 3DMark 11. We see some massive gains at both presets and the HD 6970 CF setup has no trouble taking the other setups on.

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
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3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.

3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.

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Vantage is very much the same with some fantastic gains. While not quite the same ones at the performance preset, you can see at X we're got an increase of almost 100% which is very impressive.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
Developer Homepage:
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New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

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Heaven continues to show the fantastic scaling and here we again almost see gains of 100%. The best gains are no doubt seen at the higher resolution, though, when we begin to really push the cards.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Resident Evil 5 is a survival horror video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the seventh installment in the Resident Evil survival horror series, and was released on September 18. Resident Evil 5 revolves around Chris Redfield and Sheva Alomar as they investigate a terrorist threat in Kijuju, a fictional town in Africa.

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Getting into some games and we continue to see those massive performance gains. Again as well, we see gains of almost 100% at the highest resolution which just goes to show how much work AMD has put into improving this series.

Benchmarks - Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2 is an arcade-style flight action game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft. The game is the sequel to Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., released in 2009.

The game begins with Colonel David Crenshaw participating in a routine patrol mission in the Middle East. After halting an insurgent attack, a volley of missiles is fired at the Air Force base that Crenshaw was stationed at, with one of the missiles disabling Crenshaw's aircraft, resulting Crenshaw being in enemy captivity. A joint strike force composed of the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and a Ghost Recon squad executes an operation to rescue Crenshaw. In Scotland, Royal Navy Pilot Colin Munro encounters an unidentified passenger aircraft that explodes from an on-board bomb when undergoing training exercise. In Russia, an air force squadron led by Colonel Denisov and Captain Dmitri Sokov engages separatist aircraft but is ordered to retreat from the region after numerous Russian military installations have been attacked.

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AMD do struggle to keep up with NVIDIA offerings when it comes to H.A.W.X. 2 and while the single card setup does give us averages of over 60 FPS, the Crossfire setup massive gains are highly appreciated.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
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Mafia II is a third-person action-adventure video game, the sequel to Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven. It is developed by 2K Czech, previously known as Illusion Softworks, and is published by 2K Games. The game is set from 1943 to 1951 in Empire Bay (the name is a reference to New York's state nickname "The Empire State"), a fictional city based on San Francisco and New York City, with influences from Chicago and Detroit. The game features a completely open-ended game map of 10 square miles. No restrictions are included from the start of the game. There are around 50 vehicles in the game, as well as licensed music from the era.

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Mafia II doesn't scale the best with Crossfire and this isn't the first time we've seen this. We do see some really good gains and you can see at the highest resolution we jump a good distance away from that 60 FPS average that the single card just manages to scrape in and get; but the gains aren't as large as they have been in some of the previous tests.

Benchmarks - Lost Planet 2

Lost Planet 2

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Test A Scene 1
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Lost Planet 2 is a third-person shooter video game developed and published by Capcom. The game is the sequel to Lost Planet: Extreme Condition which is also made by Capcom, taking place ten years after the events of the first game, on the same fictional planet. The story takes place back on E.D.N. III 10 years after the events of the first game. The snow has melted to reveal jungles and more tropical areas that have taken the place of more frozen regions. The plot begins with Mercenaries fighting against Jungle Pirates. After destroying a mine, the Mercenaries continue on to evacuate the area, in which a Category-G Akrid appears and attacks them. After being rescued, they find out their evacuation point (Where the Category-G appeared) was a set-up and no pick up team awaited them. The last words imply possible DLC additions to the game, "There's nothing to be gained by wiping out snow pirates... unless you had some kind of grudge."

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Lost Planet 2 follows the trend of the other games with some massive performance gains. You can see the setup here is the only one able to break the 60 FPS barrier at all resolutions. Again, at the highest we see that the gains equate too almost 100% which is fantastic.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
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Aliens vs. Predator is a science fiction first-person shooter video game, developed by Rebellion Developments, the team behind the 1999 original PC game, and published by Sega for Microsoft Windows, the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360. The game is based on the Alien vs. Predator franchise, a combination of the characters and creatures of the Alien franchise and the Predator franchise. There are three campaigns in the game, one for each race/faction (the Predators, the Aliens and the Colonial Marines), that, while separate in terms of individual plot and gameplay, form one overarching storyline.

Following the storyline of the campaign modes comes the multiplayer aspect of the game. In this Multiplayer section of the game, players face off in various different gametypes in various different ways.

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Massive performance increases; but more importantly an average of over 60 FPS at every resolution. Single monitor users are going to find more than enough power out of this setup it seems; especially those with massive 30" screens.

Benchmarks - Street Fighter IV

Street Fighter IV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
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While Street Fighter IV features models and backgrounds rendered in 3D, the gameplay remains on a traditional 2D plane, with the camera having freedom to move in 3D at certain times during fights, for dramatic effect. Producer Yoshinori Ono has stated that he wanted to keep the game closer to Street Fighter II. A new system called "Focus Attacks" ("Saving Attack" for the Japanese version) has been introduced, as well as Ultra moves. The traditional six-button control scheme returns, with new features and special moves integrated into the input system, mixing classic gameplay with additional innovations.

All the characters and environments in Street Fighter IV are rendered as 3D models with polygons, similar to the Street Fighter EX sub-series Capcom produced with Arika. However, there are a couple of key differences. Art director and character designer Daigo Ikeno, who previously worked on Street Fighter III 3rd Strike, opted for non-photorealistic rendering to give them a hand-drawn look, with visual effects accented in calligraphic strokes, ink smudges and ink sprays during the fights.

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Street Fighter IV just puts out some ridiculous numbers and it's awesome to see the FPS counter hit 600 at times.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
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The Dunia Engine was built specifically for Far Cry 2 by the award-winning Ubisoft Montreal development team. It delivers the most realistic destructible environments, amazing special effects such as dynamic fire propagation and storm effects, real-time night-and-day cycle, dynamic music system, non-scripted enemy A.I. and so much more.

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Far Cry 2 performance across all resolutions is quite similar; the numbers are absolutely fantastic, though, and the performance increase continues to be amazing.

Benchmarks - Batman Arkham Asylum

Batman Arkham Asylum

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Batman: Arkham Asylum exposes players to a unique, dark and atmospheric adventure that takes them to the depths of Arkham Asylum - Gotham's psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane. Gamers will move in the shadows, instigate fear amongst their enemies and confront The Joker and Gotham City's most notorious villains who have taken over the asylum.

Using a wide range of Batman's gadgets and abilities, players will become the invisible predator and attempt to foil The Joker's demented scheme.
Batman: Arkham Asylum features an original story penned exclusively for the game by famous Batman author and five-time Emmy award winner Paul Dini, whose credits include Lost season one and Batman: The Animated Series.

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Very much the same here as we saw with Far Cry 2. We get good numbers any way in the single card setup, but you open the flood gates with this dual GPU setup and you end up with some serious power.

Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF

High Quality AA and AF

Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.

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Just some unreal gains can be seen here and you can see at 1920 x 1200, crank up the AA and you're not going to run into any problems at all with the setup in any game you play, including those super intensive ones like Aliens vs. Predator.

Temperature Test

Temperature Tests

The temperature of the core is pulled from MSI Afterburner with the max reading used after a completed run off 3DMark Vantage and the Performance preset.

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It comes as no surprise once we go down the two card path that we're going to run a bit warmer, but the numbers aren't anything too serious or anything you would really be worrying about. It's worth remembering as well that unlike my American cousins, we're in summer over here down under.

Sound Test

Sound Tests

Pulling out the TES 1350A Sound Level Meter we find ourselves quickly yelling into the top of it to see how loud we can be.

After five minutes of that we get a bit more serious and place the device two CM away from the fan on the card to find the maximum noise level of the card when idle (2D mode) and in load (3D mode).

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Noise levels jump a little, but again it's nothing serious. It's hardly the loudest setup and continues to come in under 65dB which is a nice number to be at.

Power Consumption Tests

Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).

There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.

The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a SSD hard drive is used with a single CD ROM and minimal cooling fans.

So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.

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Power draw jumps to the top of the pile, but that isn't a surprise since this is the fastest setup we've tested on our latest benchmark line-up to date.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

The TPR graph is a combination of all our benchmarks in which NVIDIA and AMD are on an even playing field.

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark 11, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X.2, Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV, Far Cry 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum (PhysX Off) and our four High Quality tests which include Mafia 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Street Fighter IV and Far Cry 2.

All of the benchmark results achieved are then combined into a single number. As this graph will grow over time and cards won't be re-tested, next to each model you'll find the driver version that was used when the card was benchmarked.

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There's some serious speed behind the HD 6970 CF setup and you can see that here. The only setups that are close to it are other dual card setups. It'll be interesting to see how GTX 580 SLI sits in our graph which is something we'll be looking at soon as we have two GTX 580s in the hiz-ouse.

Total Value Rating (TVR)

Total Value Rating

The TVR graph is the TPR score divided by the price of the video card. The price of the video card is based on the list price of the model on In the event the card isn't listed, it will be based on the U.S. $ MSRP given to us by the manufacturer.

In the event we can't source a price from either, the product will not receive a TVR rating. As with our TPR graph, the amount of video cards on the list will grow over time and the price of the model won't change from what it was when first reviewed. For this reason the U.S. $ price that the card is based off will be included next to the name of the model.

In the event you want to find the TVR rating yourself based on the current price, all you have to do is simply divide the TPR number by the list price.

TVR numbers are rounded to the nearest whole number; 100.3 will be 100; 100.8 will be 101 and 100.5 will be rounded down to 100.

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The higher you go up in price, the less value you have overall. Throw in Crossfire and value does indeed drop. If you have the need for speed, this is just a fantastic setup at a bit over $700.

Final Thoughts

The HD 6970 is a good card and in single form it's a good setup already. In Crossfire you've got two good cards that create a great setup, and that's because AMD has done such a fantastic job when it comes to Crossfire.

Sure, the HD 6870 in Crossfire is better value and the HD 6850 in Crossfire is even better value, but out of the three setups this is the fastest. If you want the fastest setup this is the one to get when it comes to AMD cards.

You can see no matter what setup you throw at it, there's just unreal performance across the board. Crank up the resolution, it's not a problem for this setup. Crank up the AA detail, again not a problem. There's really just some great performance from this setup and the bottom line is if you want performance, this is a setup you should be looking at.

We were a little tough on the HD 6900 series. Like I said in my initial review, they're good cards with moments of greatness. This is a prime example of that here, except there are not just a few moments of greatness; the performance across the board is just great.

AMD has just done a fantastic job when it comes to Crossfire and there's clearly not going to be any room for improvement for the most part as we really do see gains of almost 100% at the highest resolution. With that said, there are of course some applications where we don't quite see those gains and Mafia II is one that stands out. It's clear, though, there's a lot less work that has to be done with Crossfire today than there was 12 months ago.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

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