AMD Radeon HD 6870 1GB Video Card

We check out the big brother to the new HD 6850 that's also been launched today; the HD 6870. Where's it sit and how's it go?

Manufacturer: AMD
16 minutes & 56 seconds read time


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Already we've taken the time to look at the entry level HD 6850. With that out the way it's time to look at the HD 6870, a model that is again not designed to replace the HD 5870. It's important that we continue to push this as I'm still reading on a lot of forums that people are under the impression the HD 6800 series is a flat out replacement for the HD 5800 series.

I don't agree with what AMD has done with the name change, but really, this is the most confusing part. The HD 6900s that we should start to see next month aren't going to be as confusing; they will be AMDs top of the line cards. What I would probably suggest if you're interested in knowing a bit more about the lineup is head on over to our preview article posted in the middle of the week; AMD Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870 - What We Can Tell You.

Of course, we're not going to force you to do that and if you haven't seen it you'll no doubt want to check out the actual card we're looking at today on the next page. What wasn't in that original quick look were the clocks of the cards, so even if you have seen what the HD 6870 looks like, you might still want to check out the specifications to get a clearer picture.

Unlike the HD 6850 we just looked at, the HD 6870 isn't a retail version, so we haven't got a bundle to look at yet. Don't worry, though, we've got retail versions in the lab and you'll see what companies like Sapphire and HIS are offering when we start to look at CF and OC performance.

For now, though, let's just check out that's going on with this HD 6870 in reference form.

Card and Specifications

The Card

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Looking at the card, there's nothing too out of the ordinary for the most part when it comes to the HD 6870. We've got that fan at the rear of the card which is designed to push air over the top of the GPU and straight out the front.

Power requirements on the HD 6870 is double that of the HD 6850, meaning we need two 6-Pin PCI-E connectors. There's no requirement for an 8-pin one. These connectors have also been moved to the top of the card. Closer to the front we've got a single CF connector allowing us to put two of these cards together, again something we'll be doing very soon.

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Connectivity is a little different when compared to the HD 6850 we looked at from Sapphire. The reference setup opts for a Dual-Link and Single-Link DVI connector, HDMI 1.4 port and two mini 1.2 DisplayPorts. If you're interested in knowing a bit more about the connectivity, I would again mention that it's probably worth checking out our AMD Radeon HD 6850 and HD 6870 - What We Can Tell You article.


Comparing there HD 6850 and HD 6870, there's some subtle changes. At the same time, there are a lot of things that the two cards share. As far as similarities go, they're both on a 40nm processor with 1.7B transistors. At default both carry 1GB of GDDR5 memory on a 256-bit memory bus. ROPs on both cards are the same at 32 as well.

There's a fair few changes, though. What I'll do is list the HD 6870 numbers normally and the HD 6850 numbers in brackets.

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The HD 6870 carries 1120 (960) Stream Processors, a stock clock of 900MHz (775MHz) on the core and 4200MHz QDR (4000MHz QDR) on the 1GB of GDDR5 memory and texture units come in at 56 (48). Most of this information can be seen in GPU-Z.

Test System Setup and 3DMark Vantage

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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.

The lineup of cards we test the HD 6870 against will be almost identical to that of what was seen in the Sapphire HD 6850 review with the only difference being the HD 5770 has been dropped in this instance.

What that means is we'll have the HD 6850, HD 5850, HD 5870 and GTX 460 OC in our tests here. The main things we want to answer are how much faster is the HD 6870 over the HD 6850? How does the HD 6870 go against the GTX 460? And how does the HD 6870 sit against the HD 5850 and HD 5870?

Let's get started!

3DMark Vantage

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage:
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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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Under Vantage we can see that the HD 6870 offers a nice little boost over the HD 6850. It manages to also outperform the HD 5850 and even the GTX 460 which is making use of its PhysX abilities here.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2
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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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While the HD 5870 was faster than the HD 6870 in 3DMark Vantage, under Heaven we can see that the HD 6870 is faster. That's because Tessellation performance is something that AMD has concentrated on with this new card. We can see while the HD 6850 continued to fall a little behind the GTX 460, the HD 6870 does the same, but only by a very small margin.

Benchmarks - Resident Evil 5

Resident Evil 5

Version and / or Patch Used: Demo Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
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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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We again see at all resolutions a nice bump in performance that puts the model between the two HD 5800 series cards here. Compared to the GTX 460 OC it doesn't have any problem out pacing it, especially at the highest resolution.

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

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

Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage:
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Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X is an arcade-style flight simulator video game developed by Ubisoft Romania and published by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and iPhone OS.

The fundamental gameplay mechanics are similar to those of other console-based flight series. Players take on enemies with over 50 aircraft available. Each mission is at real world locations in environments created with commercial satellite data. A cockpit, first person, and third person view are selectable. The third person view gives the player an external view of both their plane and the target.

Set above the skies of a near-future world, increasingly dependent on private military companies with elite mercenaries who have a relaxed view on the law. As these non-governmental organizations gain power, global conflict erupts with one powerful PMC attacking the United States.

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Under H.A.W.X. we see strong performance across the board again. The card has no problems dealing with the GTX 460 OC, especially as we climb the resolution table. Compared to the HD 5800 series, we can see its performance is in line with the HD 5870 with it even performing a single FPS faster at the highest resolution.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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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We continue to see the HD 6850 has no problems dealing with an overclocked 1GB GTX 460. Again it also out performs the HD 5850 and manages to sit between the two HD 5800 series cards.

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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Under Lost Planet 2 we see the HD 6870 performs very strong and while it falls under the 60 FPS average we need, it manages to perform better than the HD 5870 because of the improved tessellation performance.

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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We again see the HD 6870 is a little faster than the HD 6850 and almost in line with the HD 5850. Across the board we're below that 60 FPS average we want to see, though. With that said, we're only a single FPS away at 1680 x 1050.

Benchmarks - Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark
Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark - Elezen (Male)
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:

Final Fantasy XIV, also known as Final Fantasy XIV Online, is the fourteenth installment in the Final Fantasy series. The game is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game and is developed and published by Square Enix. The game takes place in a land called Hydaelyn, mainly in a region named Eorzea, which will have a contemporaneously aesthetic blend of science fiction and classic fantasy elements.

The battle and job systems will be different from the one previously used in Final Fantasy XI, which utilized experience points and level-based progression. Final Fantasy XIV is being designed to utilize a skill-based progression[15] system similar to that of Final Fantasy II. Character races will resemble and allow players to create avatars similar to ones in Final Fantasy XI. Group play has been de-emphasized, and now solo and group play have been balanced. Weapon use will alter "character development".

Note: Final Fantasy XIV gives us a score and not a normal FPS rating, our understanding is that anything around 2000 points or above is considered playable.

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Under FF XIV we see performance is again improved. We see the AMD cards perform a lot stronger than the NVIDIA one here and we see the performance is again between the two HD 5800 series cards we're testing today.

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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SF IV performance across the board is very strong; we do see again the card continues to sit between the two HD 5800 series. At all resolutions we see the model has no problems handling the overclocked 1GB GTX 460 from ECS.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long
Developer Homepage:
Product Homepage:
Buy It Here

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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A minimum above 30 FPS at all resolutions is the main thing here and we can see the HD 6870 doesn't run into any problems. Compared against the GTX 460 1GB OC performance is close at 1680 x 1050. As we move up the resolution table the HD 6870 has no problems getting a lead on the model.

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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Good numbers again across the board and a similar picture to what we've seen all along; strong performance against the 1GB OC GTX 460 and performance that sits between the HD 5850 and HD 5870.

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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We see improved performance again compared to the HD 6850 and HD 5850. In Mafia II and AVP we're still below the numbers we need for the game to be playable, though.

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The FC2 AA numbers are interesting; both HD 6800s offered the same minimum. I double checked this and it was consistent. The average has increased, though, and on a whole the AA performance is better than the HD 5870. We would almost be at a playable level, but we just need another few FPS on the minimum.

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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As far as heat goes, the HD 6870 runs a bit faster than the HD 6850, but the reference cooler offers us the same 67c we saw on the younger brother.

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 were slightly up, but not at a level we would be worried about.

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 again was also slightly up, as you would expect. It's still lower than the GTX 460, though, and some GTS 450s for that matter.

Total Performance Rating (TPR)

Total Performance Rating

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

The TPR number is a combination of:

3DMark Vantage, Heaven Benchmark V2, Resident Evil 5, Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X., Mafia 2 (PhysX Off), Lost Planet 2, Aliens vs. Predator, Final Fantasy XIV, 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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Our TPR graph shows us exactly where the model sits compared to some other cards we've tested and we see it manages to sit between a HD 5850 and HD 5870 as our tests have shown us. At its price bracket it's not being beaten by anything else unless it's heavily overclocked with Voltage adjustment like the ECS Black GTX 460 1GB at over 900MHz.

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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Priced at $239 the overall value of the product isn't as strong as the HD 6850. It's really only beat by the GTS 450 which is $100 cheaper and again a GTX 460 that is overclocked by us. It will be interesting to see what happens with these numbers when we start to overclock ourselves.

Final Thoughts

Overall it's got to be said, at stock clocks the value of the HD 6870 isn't as strong as the HD 6850. With that said, it's also got to be mentioned that the only cards that offer better value when it comes to out of the box performance are the HD 6850 and GTS 450, with the latter really being in a different price bracket.

No doubt you're going to ask yourself the question, which model should you buy? - Like the GTX 460 and GTX 465, with the latter being one of the shortest lived models ever, the HD 6850 is going to be the better value product. But for out of the box performance, if you're happy to spend more, the HD 6870 is no doubt going to be the better option.

While AMD say that these models don't really replace anything, it's probably safe to say that after looking at both cards the HD 6850 would replace the failed model that was the HD 5830, and the HD 6870 replaces the HD 5850. For the most part the HD 5870 is still a faster card; you wouldn't move from a HD 5870 to HD 6870 as it would just be a downgrade; not much of a downgrade, but a downgrade none the less. This brings us back around to the fact that the HD 5800s aren't being replaced by the HD 6800s, even though it seems that two models could easily be replaced here in the HD 5830 and HD 5850.

What this ultimately does, though, is get us all excited about what the HD 6900s will bring; a series that is designed to replace the HD 5800s. If we're seeing this performance already, hopefully we'll see something extra special come November when the new top of the line single GPU models begin to poke their head around the corner.

AMD said they wanted to offer us more performance with less power; that's fine, but more performance and less power than what? - If they wanted to get more performance than the GTX 460 with less power, they've achieved that. If they wanted to do the same, but with the HD 5850, they've achieved that as well. I don't think that there's any way that AMD have really failed to accomplish their goals here, it's just that this last minute name change and lack of a real standing on where the models go in the market does make it a little more difficult to dissect then previous releases.

In the end we let the price do the talking and it seems the GTX 460 768MB is getting wiped out by the HD 6850 and the 1GB version is in trouble because of the aggressive pricing AMD have opted for on the HD 6870. An overclocked GTX 460 1GB with the help of a voltage increase doesn't warrant the price you'll pay for the model anymore it seems.

While there's really no way you would move from a GTX 460 1GB to a HD 6870, we have to wonder if you would bother buying a GTX 460 1GB now over a HD 6870. AMD hope the answer to that question is no.

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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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