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AMD Radeon HD 6870 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £176
inc VAT

This is a fantastic graphics card, but 5000-series owners won’t be too excited, and true enthusiasts should wait for upcoming releases before deciding.

Our initial reaction to the launch of the new 6000-series Radeon graphics cards was one of mild disappointment. Probably not the reaction AMD was looking for, especially having finally retired the ATI name in favour of using its own three letter moniker.

Radeon 5000-series cards have dominated our awards in recent years, and we were hoping for a big leap forward in performance, matched undoubtedly by a serious price hike. Instead, with the new HD 6870 and HD 6850, AMD has chosen to refine its current architecture, and release a pair of good value, power efficient cards.

This HD 6870, confusingly, lines up against the HD 5850 in terms of pricing. The new card is a good example of getting more out of less. The die size of the GPU has been reduced by around a quarter, with a similar drop in the total number of transistors. There are less stream processors too, 1,120 rather than 1,440. Some clever architectural tweaks have improved performance, particularly a redesign of the front end, which handles sending tasks to the stream processors. The memory bus remains at 256-bit, so there’s no bottleneck there, and the 1GB of GDDR5 memory runs at a respectable 1050MHz.

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The real gains have been made by an increase clock speed. It has shot up from 725MHz on the HD 5850 to 900MHz on the HD 6870. This is largely possible thanks to the smaller GPU, which stays cooler. The performance gains are obvious. With it scoring 7fps more in our Crysis test than the HD 5850. At 1,920×1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing it managed a smooth 46.6fps – finally an affordable card that’s untroubled by this resource-hog of a game.

The card is optimised for DX11, with its range of fancy new graphical effects. A new tessellation engine, which automatically scales the amount of detail required in any 3D object depending how far it is from the camera, is the key element here. It works too, with the HD 6870 scoring 10fps more than its predecessor in our Stalker test.

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Basic Specifications

Price £176
Rating *****
Award Best Buy
Interface PCI Express x16 2.1
Crossfire/SLI CrossFireX
Slots taken up 2
Brand ATI
Graphics Processor ATI Radeon HD 6870
Memory 1GB GDDR5
Memory interface 256-bit
GPU clock speed 900MHz
Memory speed 1.05GHz
Card length 245mm


Architecture 1120 stream processors
Anti aliasing 24x
Anisotropic filtering 16x


DVI outputs 2
VGA outputs 0
S-video output no
S-Video input no
Composite outputs no
Composite inputs no
Component outputs no
HDMI outputs 1
Power leads required 2x 6-pin PCI Express


Accessories none
Software included N/A

Benchmark Results

3DMark Vantage 1680 9,556
Call of Duty 4 1680 4xAA 86.4fps
Call of Duty 4 1440 4xAA 88.9fps
Crysis 1680 High 4xAA 55.7fps
Crysis 1440 High 4xAA 60.4fps

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £176

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