Feature Articles

AMD Radeon HD 6970 & HD 6950 - Cayman Arrives!

By Kenny Yeo - 15 Dec 2010


Signs of Slowing Down

In terms of performance, we were a bit let down by AMD’s latest Cayman cards. Granted, Northern Islands represents only an evolutionary change for AMD, but we expected more. The Radeon HD 6950 was only about as quick as the old Radeon HD 5870, while the flagship Radeon HD 6970 was only around 10% to 15% quicker.

Compared to NVIDIA’s fearsome combination of the GeForce GTX 580 and GTX 570, the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 look a bit out of their depth - especially the Radeon HD 6950. The Radeon HD 6970 could match the GeForce GTX 570 on certain benchmarks, but more often that not, the GeForce GTX 570 was the quicker of the two and by a good margin too. Looks like AMD will be banking on a dual-GPU solution to challenge NVIDIA for the title of fastest single graphics card in the near future.

Elsewhere, the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 displayed good thermal characteristics, running moderately cool for cards for their calibre. However, we are a bit worried by the power draw figures we recorded with the Radeon HD 6970. Bearing in mind the Radeon HD 6970 was only about 10% quicker than the HD 6950, we were a bit surprised to see that its power draw figure at load was substantially higher.

The Radeon HD 6950 refreshes the old Radeon HD 5870, but the Radeon HD 6970 falls short of challenging NVIDIA's fearsome GeForce GTX 570 and GTX 580 duo.

Looking at price, the Radeon HD 6970 is set to launch at US$369 while the less powerful Radeon HD 6950 will command a more affordable US$299 price tag. Examining the Radeon HD 6970 first, we think its price makes it tough to recommend in face of the cheaper and faster GeForce GTX 570, which is now going for around US$349. Unless the Radeon HD 6970 with support for massive multi-monitor setups is useful to you, we think the slightly cheaper and faster GeForce GTX 570 is a better option since it is about as power hungry and hot to run as the Radeon HD 6970.

The Radeon HD 6950 at US$299, on the other hand, occupies a price bracket that faces no direct competition from NVIDIA, seeing that the GeForce GTX 470 is markedly cheaper at US$259 and also quite some ways slower. Really, one can think of the Radeon HD 6950 as a HD 5870 refreshed (which often retails a lot higher than US$300) and all things considered, this makes the Radeon HD 6950 a great card for under US$300.

Overall, however, the new Cayman parts are not as exciting as we’ve hoped. While the Radeon HD 6950 can be treated as a refreshed version of the Radeon HD 5870, the Radeon HD 6970 should really have been faster than the GeForce GTX 570. While ATI/AMD has had the upper-hand for the past year or so, the new Cayman cards haven’t been as scintillating as we’ve hoped and it seems that they are losing their momentum, and NVIDIA is slowly, but surely catching up. The next few months should be worth looking forward to as we expect even more refreshes to come about.

Final Ratings

The AMD Radeon HD 6970 SKU

The AMD Radeon HD 6950 SKU


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