It has been a long wait, but the Radeon HD 6900 series GPUs from AMD have finally arrived, and right in time for the holiday season. AMD today officially announced the release of its Radeon HD 6970 and AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics cards.
Based on the Cayman platform, these first two models of the 6900 series from AMD include the company’s fastest GPU till date in the form of the Radeon HD 6970. The 6970 is also positioned to become the new flagship graphics card for AMD. It comes with 2.7 TFLOPs (IEEE754-SP) / 675 GFLOPs (IEEE754-DP) of computing power, generated by a core that is clocked to run at 880MHz.
The 6970 boasts of 1536 ALU Stream Processors and 96 texture units in addition to 32 ROPs and 128 Z-Stencils. For memory, it carries 2GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit interface. Despite such loaded specifications, the HD 6970’s board power requirement is under 300W.
The second card of the day – the Radeon HD 6950 is a slightly lower powered card at 2.25 TFLOPS (IEEE754-SP) / 563 GFLOPS (IEEE754-DP) of computing power. The GPU core has been clocked at 800MHz and it comes with 1408 ALU stream processors. The HD 6950 has 88 texture units and matches the HD 6970 in ROPs/ Z-Stencil figures. Memory too is the same for both cards, though the HD 6850’s memory delivers at 5 Gbps against the 5.5 Gbps found on the higher card. Then again, the 6850 consumes just 225W of power against its more powerful sibling’s 300W.
An important change in the 6900 series cards is the upgrade to VLIW4 processors against the VLIW5 ones found in earlier cards. The new processors not only make for better utilization by giving up to 10 per cent improvement in performance/square mm, but also place all stream units at equal capabilities.
For connectivity, both cards come with 2 DVI and 2 mDP + HDMI ports. There is also a TDP-limiting utility built into the cards; dubbed AMD PowerTune, this utility uses an integrated power control processor to monitor power draw on every clock cycle and dynamically adjust the different clocks to keep the GPU TDP within a pre-determined level. The main purpose of this limiting utility is to protect the fragile components of the card from unexpected and sudden power fluctuations and tweaking.
NVIDIA too has introduced a similar solution in its latest GPUs, but AMD’s utility goes a step ahead in that it provides direct control over GPU draw power and can be controlled by users via the AMD OverDrive Utility.
If we go by plain technical specifications, the AMD Radeon HD 6970 is nearly 15 per cent faster than NVIDIA's GTX 580, while the HD 6950 beats the GTX 470 by as much as 20 per cent. Whether AMD has taken an actual lead in the race for the fastest card or not will only become evident once the cards are compared against each other in live benchmarking tests.
At the moment though, OEM partners including Gigabyte, PowerColor, ASUS, XFX, and ASUS are rushing to get their own HD 6900 series cards out. And considering the specifications, these GPUs can be expected to generate more than the casual interest. For pricing, the HD 6970 is tagged at $370, while the HD 6950 should retail around $299.
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