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First Looks: PowerColor HD6870x2 2GB GDDR5 – Supersized Graphics

By Lionell Go Macahilig - 22 Jul 2011

First Looks: PowerColor HD6870x2 2GB GDDR5 – Supersized Graphics

It Takes Two Barts To Tango

Sometime last month, PowerColor officially launched one of its latest high-end graphics card. Making its first appearance at Computex Taipei 2011, the PowerColor HD6870x2, as what its moniker suggests, is packed with a pair of AMD Radeon HD 6870 GPUs combined through CrossFire configuration. This is the first dual GPU solution from PowerColor that is based on Barts XT GPUs.

Certainly, the PowerColor HD6870x2 is a behemoth of a graphics card. It looks and feels like a pair of mainstream Radeon HD graphics card combined in a single body. For those who are planning to employ this card in their rig, make sure that your chassis has enough room to contain this beast.

In our Computex coverage, we clearly saw the two Barts XT GPUs that are embedded in the printed circuit board (PCB) of the PowerColor HD6870x2 graphics card. It is one of the largest graphics cards that we caught sight in PowerColor’s booth, aside from the higher-end HD 6970x2.

A Closer Look At The Card

Given the presence of two GPUs in one board, the HD6870x2 requires a better cooling solution for more effective heat dissipation. Leveraging on what PowerColor dubbed as Heat Pipe Direct Touch (HDT) technology, the HD6870x2 incorporates six pieces of flattened heatpipes that directly make contact with GPUs. This order of things allows up to 50 times heat dissipation than a typical copper base making the first point of contact with the GPU.

It is no longer a surprise that the HD6870x2 is a dual-slot solution. Like its single-GPU sibling, the PowerColor PCS+ 6870, the HD6870x2 hosts two mini DisplayPort, an HDMI, and a pair of DVI out connectors.

The presence of a CrossFireX connector and two 8-pin power terminals suggests that you can go all out with the HD6870x2. Just think of a CrossFireX setup in a quad GPU configuration. That means you will need two HD6870x2 cards at your disposal.

We can see in this photo the relative intricacy of the HD6870x2's cooling system. The copper heatpipes, totalling six, are connected straight to the graphics processors. These heatpipes pass through the aluminium fins of the massive heatsink. In general, the cooling assembly of the HD6870x2 looks like the muscled up version of the cooler found on the PCS+ 6870.

The rear side of the card shows the embedded Elpida memory chips that make up the 2GB memory size.

Another term that you should remember about the HD6870x2 is Platinum Power Kit. This basically is a summation of different onboard components present on the card, such as 13-phase PWM, ferrite core choke, and DrMos. These parts contribute to the overall stability and power efficiency of the HD6870x2.

Benchmark And Performance

On paper, the HD6870x2 touts 2,240 stream processing units and delivers 4.03 teraFLOP’s of computing power. While the card’s core operates at 900MHz speed, its memory speed is rated at 1050MHz (or equivalent to 4200MHz in GDDR5 terms). These are however stock clock speeds equivalent to those of a standalone Radeon HD 6870.

While each of the card’s GPU runs at stock speeds, it is logical that combining the raw graphics processing power of the two GPUs will result in significant performance boost.

3DMark11: PowerColor HD6870x2, ASUS EAH6970 DirectCU And Inno3D GTX580
Graphics Card PowerColor HD6870x2 ASUS EAH6970 DirectCU Inno3D GTX580
3DMark P7354 P5204 P4990
Graphics 7566 4878 5438
CPU 7614 7749 4164

A simulated test like Futuremark’s 3DMark 11 shows that PowerColor’s HD6870x2 card can outdo an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 card and a factory-overclocked Radeon HD 6970 card in terms of performance.

Metro 2033: PowerColor HD6870x2, ASUS EAH6970 DirectCU And Inno3D GTX580
Graphics Card PowerColor HD6870x2 ASUS EAH6970 DirectCU Inno3D GTX580
Average Framerate 44 44 34
Maximum Framerate 359.07 164.91 96.62
Minimum Framerate 8.11 9.62 3.75

The HD6870x’s graphics prowess is consistently reflected on its performance while running Metro 2033’s graphics test. The maximum framerate that it can handle is twice as what a Radeon HD 6970 can tolerate. Nevertheless, the average framerate recorded is the same on both cards.

The cards were tested on a testbed composed of an Intel Core i5 750 2.67GHz processor, ASUS P7P55D-E Pro motherboard, 2x 1GB Kingston DDR3-1066 memory modules, 600GB WD VelociRaptor hard disk drive, and AcBel 1000 Watts PSU, with Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit as operating system. Not the most powerful, but reasonable for a quick hands-on which is the purpose of this article. We'll see if we can run a more comprehensive test in the near future.

Capped with a lofty price tag, you'll get the PowerColor HD6870x2 graphics card with a DVI dongle, CrossFire cable (optional), mini DP to DP cable (optional), and two 6-pin to 8-pin power cable as accessories.

Closing Thoughts

PowerColor’s HD6870x2 intimidating aura is not limited to its massive profile alone. Its monstrosity extends to actual performance and our test results in both 3DMark 11 and Metro 2033 can attest to that. Newegg shows that the HD6870x2 retails for the price of USD 509.99, more than the price of two PowerColor HD6870 cards (each costs USD 188.99). That said, it appears that purchasing two HD6870 cards is the more sensible route to take if you are after a dual-GPU CrossFireX setup that is based on AMD's Barts GPUs. A pair of HD6870x2 is recommendable for deep-pocketed power users who would want to build a rig based on a quad-GPU CrossFireX configuration by making use of two graphics cards instead of having four physical graphics cards. However, one has to also consider the possibilities of getting an even more powerful GPU like a Radeon HD 6990.

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