Review AMD Radeon HD 6950 – The Feature-rich, High-end Performer

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December 17, 2010

Nearly two months have passed since AMD introduced the first lineups of their 2nd generation, DirectX 11 cards, the Radeon HD 6800 series. The Radeon HD 6870 and HD 6850 are both aimed at the mainstream market. Radeon HD 6870 currently sells for around US$ 239 and is intended primarily to compete against NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 460 1 GB. Priced at US$ 178, its “little brother”, the Radeon HD 6850, is a rival of the GeForce GTX 460 768 MB.

Having released Radeon HD 6000 series’ mainstream lineups, it’s time for AMD to fill the high-end segment. Meet the Radeon HD 6950 a.k.a Cayman Pro! As one of AMD’s top-of the-line offerings, the Radeon HD 6900 series has everything the HD 6800 series has, plus some additional features not found on the HD 6800s. Let’s begin our discussion by looking at the technical distinctions between AMD’s latest Radeons.

Specification

AMD Radeon HD 6970AMD Radeon HD 6950AMD Radeon HD 6870AMD Radeon HD 6850
CodenameCayman XTCayman ProBarts XTBarts Pro
Fabrication Process40 nm40 nm40 nm40 nm
Transistors2.64 Billion2.64 Billion1.7 Billion1.7 Billion
Die Size389 mm²389 mm²255 mm²255 mm²
Core Clock880 MHz800 MHz900 MHz775 MHz
Stream Processors153614081120960
Texture Units96885648
ROPs32323232
Memory TypeGDDR5GDDR5GDDR5GDDR5
Memory Size2048 MB2048 MB1024 MB1024 MB
Memory Clock (effective)5500 MHz5000 MHz4200 MHz4000 MHz
Memory Interface256-bit256-bit256-bit256-bit
DirectX Version11111111
Shader Model5555
Power Connectors8-pin + 6-pin2x 6-pin2x 6-pin6-pin
Min Recommended Power Supply500 W500 W
Bus SupportPCIe 2.1 x16PCIe 2.1 x16PCIe 2.1 x16PCIe 2.1 x16

The Radeon HD 6900 series (Cayman) chips are fabricated with the same 40nm process used to manufacture HD 6800 graphics chips (Barts) and the previous HD 5000 series. The transistor count, however, is a different story. As much as 2,64 billion transistors are embedded in each Cayman wafer, increasing the physical size of the chip to 389 mm2.

Additionally, the HD 6900 series comes equipped with larger on-board memory of 2 GB, which should give the corresponding graphics card some degree of advantage over the Radeon 6800 series with its 1 GB memory. The extra amount of frame buffer could come in handy in demanding scenarios, such as Eyefinity gaming where the resolution may go to 5760×1080 or even higher.

AMD Radeon HD 6900: Positioning

As shown by a slide from AMD’s press release above, the Radeon HD 6950 goes head on against the GeForce GTX 570. There’s a good chance that the HD 6970 will perform better than its rival, but that remains to be seen. Oddly enough, the Radeon HD 6950 is described as having “a class of its own”, positioned directly a step below the Radeon HD 6970 and GeForce GTX 570. One can therefore assume that the Radeon HD 6950 should be slower (and cheaper) than the GTX 570 which currently retails for around US$ 349.

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