The HD6970 series from AMD is a pretty good performer. It's rendered the HD6870 obsolete and, as we showed the other day, in Crossfire it rocks so hard it's unbelievable.
Today we're back looking at another single reference card, although this time from ASUS. We all know what that means, Voltage Tweak BIOS.
We're very hopeful that this will enable us to finally see what the top end of these cards is in terms of clock speed and hope much performance is available.
So without further ado, especially as you should all be familiar with these by now, let's crack on.
|Graphics Engine||AMD Radeon HD 6970|
|Bus Standard||PCI Express 2.1|
|Video Memory||GDDR5 2GB|
|Engine Clock||890 MHz|
|Memory Clock||5500 MHz ( 1375 MHz GDDR5 )|
|Interface||DVI Output : Yes x 1 (DVI-I),Yes x 1 (DVI-D)|
HDMI Output : Yes x 1
Display Port : Yes x 2 (Mini DP)
HDCP Support : Yes
|Accessories||1 x CrossFire cable |
1 x Power cable
|Software||ASUS Utilities & Driver|
|Dimensions||11 " x 5 " Inch|
As you can see the only difference is the extra 10MHz clockspeed on the GPU which should help the stock results, but otherwise it's the same as all the other reference cards.
The packaging is everything we've come to expect from ASUS, being very high quality with clear and concise panels highlighting the major features.
Internally the box is the standard ASUS black box of goodies with the gold-leaf logo. The card itself is well packed in high density foam which, when coupled to the sturdy nature of the box, should ensure the card reaches you in mint condition.
The accessories are sparse to say the least. A single power adaptor and the default Crossfire bridge/driver/manual combo. Considering this isn't a value card it's quite disappointing. A mini-DisplayPort adaptor would have been nice. as would a bundled game of some description.
Apart from the ASUS logo in the bottom left hand corner of the card it's otherwise identical to the rest of the HD6970s we've seen with the full-cover shroud and a small fan up one end.
In keeping with the reference nature we have a 6 and 8pin PCIe power input along with twin DVI-D, mini DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. The HD6970 doesn't lack for connectivity options.
Otherwise it's all what we're used to, but looks very nice indeed. Black with red stripes is eternally tasteful and matches the rest of the ASUS product range nicely.
Slightly different to our 1366 setup with the i7-950 we wanted to see how well the HD6970 performed elsewhere and so have put it in our LGA1156 rig. Not only does this give us a chance to get a wider range of results, but also could be the swansong for our i7-870 with the forthcoming P67 boards.
Intel i7-870 @ 4GHz
4GB G.Skill Trident @ 2000MHz
Gigabyte P55 UD4
Cougar CM1000 1KW PSU
Windows 7 64-Bit
When we tested the HD6970 recently we found their was a block at 950MHz when you hit the top of the slider and so couldn't go any further.
We waited with anticipation for the Voltage Tweak BIOS included with ASUS graphics cards to see if this would improve the situation and allow us to break through the 1GHz barrier. However the rather odd thing is that even with the ASUS SmartDoctor the limit was still set at 950MHz. So the superb BIOS had nothing to do but twiddle its thumbs.
3D Mark Vantage
In all three of the 3D Mark tests the HD6970EAH is right on a level with the other 6970s we've tested. If nothing else it shows the consistency of the AMD manufacturing process in managing to pump out chip after chip that perform at the same level, and none of the 'selective GPU boards to the biggest partner' thing that can be oh so tempting.
3D Mark 11
Similar to the Vantage 3D Mark testing, the ASUS 6970 is spot on with the reference model. The variances are so tiny that we really can't call them as anything other than within tolerance. Especially impressive considering the total difference in bench systems.
Wow. Here is a turn-up for the books. We're using the same Catalyst 10.12 drivers here as we did on our most recent testing, but there is something about this combination that eats Unigine for breakfast. To gain 5FPS in a benchmark that takes huge amounts of extra grunt to gain a single FPS is stunning. Does the ultra-high settings of 8xAA keep it up.
Normally increasing image quality narrows the gap between results. Especially on systems that should theoretically perform identically. However here the gap widens yet further to a frankly unbelievable 8 frames per second. With both the reference card and this ASUS model at the same clock speeds, the same drivers and with identical speed, but not specification, processors we're really at a loss to explain such a monumental improvement.
So astounded are we, here is the result from Unigine itself.
With 3D Mark showing no difference, and Unigine showing mind-melting differences, it's with some interest that we fired up Metro 2033. Although there are some improvements in stock over the reference card, it all balances out fairly evenly in the end at around the level we'd expect.
Crysis just about gains a frame with the ASUS EAH over the reference HD6970, but otherwise it's much of a muchness.
We could go on testing endless reams of games, but as we've already tested three HD6970s and there isn't a noticeable difference between any of them then we're sure that at this festive time of year your time is too precious to see multiple graphs that all lead to the same conclusion.
So what conclusion are we to draw?
Firstly that AMD have absolutely nailed their production run of the HD6970 GPUs. From the basic reference model we've tested through to this Voltage Tweak BIOS model from ASUS, all of them perform almost identically.
Secondly, and disappointingly, the normally outstanding Voltage Tweak BIOS that ASUS supply their cards with is unnecessary here. Usually it manages to give us much higher clock speeds than are otherwise obtainable, or stabilise ones that other cards are slightly flaky at.
Yet here on the HD6970, even with the ASUS SmartDoctor software in place, the limit of the GPU Core slider remains at 950MHz. A level achievable easily on the stock cards.
The long and short of it is that if you're in the market for a HD6970 then the ASUS model is as good as any other. The defining factor in your choice will probably be either brand loyalty, or the available bundle. It hasn't got a bundle of any sorts to tempt you, which could count against it.
Alternatively though it is an ASUS card, which means the quality of the packaging and after-sales service are up there with the best, and for many that can be enough to get you to loosen your wallet.
Thanks to ASUS for providing the HD6970 EAH for review. Discuss in our forums.