AMD Radeon HD 6970 & HD 6950 - Cayman Arrives!


AMD's Single GPU King Arrives

AMD's Single GPU King Arrives

AMD’s new generation Northern Islands class GPUs were officially launched in October with the two "Barts"-powered Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850. And although Northern Islands was not a major step forwards for AMD - seeing that they only made small changes to the Evergreen architecture - the two mainstream parts were still very well received for their excellent combination of performance, efficiency, features and price. To get up to speed on what Northern Islands bring to the table, check out our earlier review here.

Northern Islands also marked a significant change in the way the cards are marketed. For one, the ATI brand has been killed off and replaced by AMD. And secondly, the nomenclature of the Northern Islands line-up differs substantially from past editions. Previously in Evergreen, the 5800 series represented the company’s premium single GPU cards, while the 5900 series represented the company’s single dual-GPU card, which also happens to be their most powerful offering. In Northern Islands, that has been tweaked a little as the 6800 series now refers only to the company’s higher-end mainstream offerings. While the most powerful single GPU Northern Islands cards will instead be bumped up into the Radeon HD 6900 series. Perhaps a sign of the "X2" nomenclature coming back for future dual-GPU editions?

Speaking of the Radeon HD 6900 series, it is finally here. Initially expected to launch in mid-November, AMD decided to delay the launch of the new high-end Northern Islands parts by a month citing continuing strong demand for the Radeon HD 5800 and HD 5900 series. However, many believed that the Radeon HD 6900 series was really delayed by yield issues. And in the past month, NVIDIA has stepped up their efforts and introduced two super-quick cards, the GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570. The two new SKUs are spanking fast and it'll be interesting to see how AMD's latest will match up against them.

Codenamed Cayman, the new Radeon HD 6900 series is launched with two cards, the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950, both of which are expected to replace the old Radeon HD 5870 flagship single GPU card and features more improvements and optimizations compared to Barts. In a nutshell, these two new cards will be new premium, fastest single GPU offerings from AMD.

But before we delve further into AMD’s latest, here’s a quick look at how the new Radeons stack up against the competition.  

AMD Radeon HD 6900 series and competitive SKUs compared
Model AMD Radeon HD 6970 AMD Radeon HD 6950 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 ATI Radeon HD 5970

AMD Radeon HD 6870

ATI Radeon HD 5870
Core Code Cayman XT Cayman PRO GF110  GF110 GF100 Hemlock  Barts XT Cypress XT
Transistor Count  2640 million 2640 million 3000 million  3000 million 3200 million 4300 million  1700 million 2150 million
Manufacturing Process 40nm 40nm 40nm  40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm 40nm
Core Clock 880MHz 800MHz 732MHz  772MHz 701MHz 725MHz 900MHz 850MHz
Stream Processors 1536 Stream processing units 1408 Stream Processing units 480 Stream Processors 512 Stream Processors 480 Stream Processors 3200 Stream processing units  1120 Stream processing units 1600 Stream processing units
Stream Processor Clock 880MHz 800MHz 1464MHz  1544MHz 1401MHz 725MHz  900MHz 850MHz
Texture Mapping Units (TMU) or Texture Filtering (TF) units 96 88 60 64 60 160  56 80
Raster Operator units (ROP) 32 32 40 48 48 64  32 32
Memory Clock 5500MHz GDDR5 5000MHz GDDR5 3800MHz GDDR5  4008MHz GDDR5 3696MHz GDDR5 4000MHz GDDR5  4200MHz GDDR5 4800MHz GDDR5
DDR Memory Bus 256-bit 256-bit 320-bit  384-bit 384-bit 256-bit  256-bit 256-bit
Memory Bandwidth  176.0GB/s 160.0GB/s 152GB/s  192.4GB/s 177.4GB/s 256GB/s  134.4GB/s 153.6GB/s
PCI Express Interface PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x 16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16  PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16  PCIe ver 2.0 x16 PCIe ver 2.0 x16
Molex Power Connectors 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin  1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin 1 x 6-pin, 1 x 8-pin  2 x 6-pin 2 x 6-pin
Multi GPU Technology CrossFireX CrossFireX SLI  SLI SLI CrossFireX  CrossFireX CrossFireX
DVI Output Support 1 x Dual-Link, 1 x Single-Link 1 x Dual-Link, 1 x Single-Link 2 x Dual-Link  2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link 2 x Dual-Link  1 x Dual-Link, 1 x Single-Link 2 x Dual-Link
HDMI 1 1 1 (mini-HDMI) 1 (mini-HDMI) 1 (mini-HDMI) 1 1 1
DisplayPort 2 (DisplayPort 1.2) 2 (DisplayPort 1.2) None None None 1 2 (DisplayPort 1.2) 1
HDCP Output Support Yes Yes Yes  Yes Yes Yes  Yes Yes
Street Price Launch price: US$369  Launch Price: US$299 ~US$349 ~US$529 ~US$429  ~US$500 US$239 ~US$360