Sapphire HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan Video Card Overclocked Review

Sapphire releases a dual fan HD 6970 and we check it out and overclock it to see how it goes on our new X79 testbed.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Sun, Nov 27 2011 7:06 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 7:01 PM CST
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: Sapphire

Introduction and The Package

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We recently checked out a new HD 6970 from PowerColor under the DEVIL 13 name. It was a really nice HD 6970 and while it's only a limited edition model, if you're interested I highly recommend you check out our review on the DEVIL 13 card.

Today we're looking at another HD 6970; a model that's been really quiet for the past few months. Recently we've seen a few pop up and the latest comes in the form of a new Dual Fan model from Sapphire.

Like we did with the PowerColor DEVIL 13 review, we'll be testing the new Sapphire HD 6970 on our brand new X79 testbed. Before we do that, we've got to check out what's going on with the card itself. The first thing we need to do is look at the package to see what Sapphire is offering. Once that's done we'll take a closer look at the card itself.

Because the card isn't overclocked, we'd figure instead of just testing it at stock, we'd overclock it to see how the new cooler handles a bit of overclocking; so once we've taken a look at the card we'll check out our overclocking results before we get into the testbed and then of course get into the benchmarking side of things to see just what kind of performance we're able to get out of the new Dual Fan HD 6970 from Sapphire.

That pretty much covers everything for now; let's take a closer look at the package to see what exactly is going on in the bundle here.

The Package

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Looking at the box, we don't see anything out of the ordinary at all when it comes to the overall package. We've got a fair bit of information on both sides and we can clearly see the model and the amount of memory that comes on the card.

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Moving inside, we've got the normal paperwork and driver CD. Along with that we've got a Molex to 6-Pin PCIe, dual Molex to 8-Pin PCIe, DVI to VGA connector, Mini DP to DisplayPort connector and a HDMI cable. It's not a bad bundle in terms of cables, but you can see we haven't got the Dirt 3 coupon or any other game bundle. Probably not a big deal to most, but something worth noting none the less.

The Card & Specifications

The Card

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Moving over to the card, you can see straight away the dual fan cooler and the shroud on it looks great with the aggressive lines that we saw on the Sapphire HD 6870 Dirt 3 Edition card in September. Outside of the actual look, though, the cooler should perform well with its dual fan setup and copper heat pipes which you can see running out the bottom of the card. Hopefully it does a good job of keeping our card run cool today while being quiet at the same time.

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Moving around the card, we can see in the power department nothing is out of the ordinary with the single 8-Pin and 6-Pin PCIe power connector present. Closer to the front we've got our two CrossFire headers which are again nothing new. Just to the left of that, though, we've got a switch for the dual BIOS on the card.

At first you think that the ability to switch BIOS' on the HD 6970 is a little pointless as the biggest benefit to doing so on the HD 6950 is that you can flash it so a HD 6970 BIOS knowing that you can revert back if something goes wrong. The Sapphire website, though, explains perfectly the advantage to the second BIOS, though.

With the Dual BIOs set to the standard position, the Dual fans keep this model quiet and up to 25% cooler than the standard model even under load conditions. With the BIOS switched to the performance setting, the core voltage of the GPU is raised to 1.2V, the fan speed is set to a high performance profile and the powertune adjustment for overclocking is raised to 50% allowing the user to maximise performance of the card by increasing clock speeds either with AMD Overdrive or with SAPPHIRE TriXX up to a ceiling of 1500MHz core, 2000MHz memory

Mind you, don't expect to hit 1500MHz on the core with the stock cooler.

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On the I/O side of things we can see that Sapphire have got two mini DP connectors on the left, full size HDMI, a single Dual-Link DVI connector along with a Single-Link DVI connector.

Specifications

Out of the box the Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan carries with it a stock clock; that means the core comes in at 880MHz while the 2GB of GDDR5 comes in at 5500MHz QDR. We figured we wouldn't worry about testing it at that speed today, though, since we've already tested stock HD 6970s. Instead we'd just do a bit of overclocking to see the performance we could get out of the card.

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Without any effort at all the card came in at 950MHz on the core and 2GB of GDDR5 came in at 5800MHz QDR. This is a nice overclock and should yield with it some nice performance. Before we get into that, though, let's check out the testbed.

Test System Setup

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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, ASUS and Corsair.

Looking at the testbed, you can see we're using the same setup that we used in our PowerColor DEVIL 13 review which is the new X79 platform clocked in at 4.7GHz. One of our main goals when it comes to testing video cards is that we don't want to be CPU limited by our platform. While not so much of an issue for any single card setup, to help with consistency in higher end setups, the decision to move to X79 is going to be handy.

On the comparison side of things we've got our reference Sapphire HD 6970 card along with our MSI GTX 570. We'll be comparing them against our new Dual Fan HD 6970 from Sapphire which will be running at 950 / 5800 QDR as indicated in the graphs here today.

Let's get started!

The FPS Numbers Explained

When we benchmark our video cards and look at the graphs, we aim to get to a certain level of FPS which we consider playable. While many may argue that the human eye can't see over 24 FPS or 30 FPS, any true gamer will tell you that as we climb higher in Frames Per Seconds (FPS), the overall gameplay feels smoother. There are three numbers we're looking out for when it comes to our benchmarks.

30 FPS - It's the minimum number we aim for when it comes to games. If you're not dropping below 30 FPS during games, you're going to have a nice and smooth gaming experience. The ideal situation is that even in a heavy fire fight, the minimum stays above 30 FPS making sure that you can continue to aim easily or turn the corner with no dramas.

60 FPS - It's the average we look for when we don't have a minimum coming at us. If we're getting an average of 60 FPS, we should have a minimum of 30 FPS or better and as mentioned above, it means we've got some smooth game play happening.

120 FPS - The new number that we've been hunting down over recent months. If you're the owner of a 120 Hz monitor, to get the most out of it you want to get around the 120 FPS mark. Moving from 60 FPS / 60 Hz to 120 FPS / 120 Hz brings with it a certain fluidity that can't really be explained, but instead has to be experienced. Of course, if you're buying a 120 Hz monitor to take advantage of 3D, an average of 120 FPS in our benchmark means that in 3D you will have an average of 60 FPS, which again means you should expect some smooth gameplay.

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

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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Looking at 3DMark 11 we can see that we get a really nice boost in performance that helps put our Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan ahead of the GTX 570.

Unigine Heaven Benchmark

Version and / or Patch Used: 2.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.unigine.com

Product Homepage: http://unigine.com/press-releases/091022-heaven_benchmark//

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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We can see that under Heaven the overclock helps close the gap between the HD 6970 and GTX 570. This heavy tessellation benchmark has always favored NVIDIA cards, but we can see the AMD offerings perform very strong with the difference at the highest resolution being almost nothing.

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: http://www.ubi.com/UK/default.aspx

Product Homepage: http://www.hawxgame.com/

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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H.A.W.X. 2 has always favored NVIDIA and here is no different. Compared to the stock performance of the card, though, we do see a nice boost in performance with the 2560 x 1600 one being the most appreciated.

Benchmarks - Mafia II

Mafia II

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.2kczech.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.mafia2game.com/

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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Mafia II performance on overclocked cards has always been a little funny and you can see we take a little bit of a hit in performance at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050. At 2560 x 1600, though, we see a 5% performance increase which is nice considering we're so close to that 60 FPS average we aim for.

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: http://www.capcom.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.lostplanet2game.com/

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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Looking at Lost Planet 2 you can see thanks to the overclock we've got on the card we're able to get a 10% boost in performance at 1920 x 1200 which brings us to that 60 FPS average we like to see. At 1680 x 1050, we also see that the overclock helps just push us a little further from that 60 FPS edge that we aim for.

Benchmarks - Aliens vs. Predator

Aliens vs. Predator

Version and / or Patch Used: Standalone Benchmark

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.rebellion.co.uk/

Product Homepage: http://www.sega.com/games/aliens-vs-predator/

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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Looking at Aliens vs. Predator, we can see we've got good numbers at 1920 x 1200 and 1680 x 1050 compared to the stock HD 6970 and the GTX 570. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, we see all cards struggle to give us playable FPS with just a single FPS separating all three.

Benchmarks - Just Cause 2

Just Cause 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0.2

Timedemo or Level Used: Dark Tower

Developer Homepage: http://www.eidos.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.justcause.com/

Just Cause 2 employs the Avalanche Engine 2.0, an updated version of the engine used in Just Cause. The game is set on the other side of the world from the original Just Cause, on the fictional island of Panau in Southeast Asia. Panau has varied terrain, from desert to alpine to rainforest. Rico Rodriguez returns as the protagonist, aiming to overthrow the evil dictator Pandak "Baby" Panay and confront his former mentor, Tom Sheldon.

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Like Lost Planet 2 and Aliens vs. Predator, we've got some great performance coming out of the card at 1680 x 1050 and 1920 x 1200. You can see when we move to 2560 x 1600, though, our performance drops below that 60 FPS mark.

Benchmarks - Metro 2033

Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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Like we've seen in our last few games, we get a nice boost in performance from our overclocked Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan here and we manage to move away from that 60 FPS average that we're near to at 1920 x 1200 with the stock HD 6970. Moving to 2560 x 1600, though, while we see the card come out ahead, the FPS is below a level we would consider playable.

Benchmarks - Dirt 3

Dirt 3

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.codemasters.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.dirt3game.com/

DiRT 3 boasts more cars, more locations, more routes and more events than any other game in the series, including over 50 rally cars representing the very best from five decades of the sport. With more than double the track content of 2009's hit, DiRT 3 will see players start at the top as a professional driver, with a top-flight career in competitive off-road racing complimented by the opportunity to express themselves in Gymkhana-style showpiece driving events.

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We continue to see very strong performance from the overclocked Sapphire HD 6970 Dual Fan at 1920 x 1200 with it not having any trouble offering a good boost over the stock card. At 2560 x 1600, though, we can see the card indeed struggles at the high resolution like the reference HD 6970 and reference GTX 570.

Benchmarks - Far Cry 2

Far Cry 2

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01

Timedemo or Level Used: Ranch Long

Developer Homepage: http://www.ubi.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.farcry2.com/

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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Moving to something a bit older like Far Cry 2, we can see that across the board we've got very strong performance with a minimum of 59 FPS at 2560 x 1600. Compared to our other two cards here as well, we can see that performance is very strong.

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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Turning on AA and AF, we can see performance is border line under Mafia II with a small hit being taken when overclocked. Of course, that's nothing unusual for overclocked cards. Looking at Far Cry 2, we can see that performance is strong and looking at Aliens vs. Predator, it comes as no surprise that all our setups here struggle.

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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On the temperature side of things we can see the card comes in just a little cooler than the reference one; nothing too major, though. Of course, it's important to remember that the card is overclocked.

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 are also down compared to the reference card. Again it's worth remembering that we're overclocked here while the reference card of course carries with it the stock clocks.

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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Looking at Power Draw, we can see the new Dual Fan HD 6970 sits a little lower than the other cards here which is a bit of a surprise. Of course, it's not something we're going to complain about.

Final Thoughts

It's really getting a bit tough for video cards at the moment. We've had this massive lull of models from both AMD and NVIDIA for what feels like forever. Considering it wasn't that long ago, it felt like we saw a new model every month from one of the companies.

Over the last few months, though, we've seen companies offer us some really strong versions of cards that we love and the new Dual Fan HD 6970 from Sapphire here with its Dual BIOS option to help offer us some more tweaking abilities is really nice.

Priced at $349 US, the price lines up with a lot of other HD 6970s, but at the moment you can get a rebate over at Newegg which brings the card down to $319 US. Considering the current crop of games, getting a new video card could well be a priority for you.

Even under the most intensive games we see that the single HD 6970 continues to offer us exceptional performance at 1920 x 1200 and below. Moving to older games also sees some strong numbers at the higher 2560 x 1600 resolution. Newer games at 2560 x 1600, though, continue to be a struggle not just for the HD 6970, but a struggle for single GPU options period.

With no new high end models coming from AMD and NVIDIA this side of Christmas, if you've got some time off over the holidays you're going to be really wondering if you should pick yourself up a new video card or not.

It's all good and well to say that new models could be coming in January, but if you're only going to have spare time in December, what good is a new card when you're busy working again?

Either way, if you're on the hunt for a new high end card, the new Dual Fan Sapphire HD 6970 is one you should be looking at, especially if you want to have a bit of fun with overclocking.

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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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