ASUS HD6870 Crossfire EXCLUSIVE Review Page: 1

ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

Introduction

As mentioned in todays other review of the HD6870 it is intended as a replacement for the HD5830, although with increased performance using less silicon.

With an expected retail price of around £200 we just couldn't resist taking the ASUS version for a test drive. A 15MHz overclock on the core doesn't sound a lot, but it might just be enough to tip it over the edge.

For those of you who've followed us for a while you'll know how much we love getting the maximum performance possible for the lowest relative outlay. With the 5 series of ATI Radeon cards the deal was very similar as the one we saw with the 4 series, namely that two mid-range cards in Crossfire can outperform a similarly priced high-end card. With the 5 and 4 series that both consisted of the 5770 and 4770 respectively in Crossfire.

Thanks to the bizarre decision to keep the saming numbers but adjust where they fit in the scheme of things, it means that the closest we can get to it with the 6 series is two HD6870s in Crossfire. Naturally we couldn't wait to see if the trend has continued.

Technical Specifications

The ASUS version of the HD6870 is almost identical to the reference one except for a small 15MHz boost on the core speed.

Process40nm
Transistors1.7 Billion
Core Clock915 MHz
Stream Processors1120
Performance2.0 TFLOPs
Texture Units56
Texture Fillrate50.4 GTexel/s
ROPs32
Memory TypeGDDR5
Memory Clock1050 MHz
Memory Bandwidth134.4 Gbps
Idle Power Draw19w
Release Data22 October 2010


Let's have a look at the pictures.



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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

The ASUS HD6870

The front of the box reminds us a lot of other ASUS boxes we've seen and that's definitely a good thing. ASUS have always had packaging sorted, especially for the mid to high-end items and the 6870 is no exception.

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Inside we find the usual ASUS quality black box with the gold logo we've come to know and love. The accessories package is exactly what we'd expect to find at this price.

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The card itself is an exercise in understated minimalism. Pure black except for four red 'racing' stripes and the ever-present ASUS logo in the corner.

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It's a nice touch to see the fan is decorated to match and all in all it's a very nice black and red card that will fit discreetly alongside the rest of your rig.

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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

Double Vision

Similar to the insides we've seen in the HIS review, the underside of the ASUS is very familiar to anyone with a ATI Radeon 5 series card.

However as we've got two of them, who wouldn't want to see them side by side in all their glory.

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The red striping on the side takes a little getting used to. It does look more like a licorice allsort here against the stark white backdrop than it does in the flesh. Certainly once it's in the rig and cabled up it's very unobtrusive.

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Two 6pin PCIe power connectors supply all the juice you could need, whilst twin mini-HDMI, twin DVI and a HDMI 1.4 port give you a wealth of connectivity options.

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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

Test Setup

ASUS EAH6870 single and Crossfire
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Intel i7 950 @ 4GHz
6GB Mushkin Redline RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Noctua NH-D14
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Overclocking and Temperatures

The ASUS 6870 easily hit the bump stops on the GPU Clock, 1000MHz. This is without taking advantage of the voltage tweak software but is still the maximum frequency the software will let you set it to, yep thats right its maxed out at stock volts!

One area where we did achieve an improvement was in the overclocking of the memory, managing to squeeze an extra 127MHz out of it. This should definitely help the card attain its potential.

ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review  

Despite the extra overclock of the memory the temperatures remained roughly the same and only an increase in the idle temperature hinted at the clock speed gains. 81°C maximum even after a thorough thrashing with Furmark is fine with us.

ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review



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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

3D Mark Vantage

Despite remaining just behind the HD5870, the 6870 really benefits from the extra speed we obtained out of the memory, gaining almost 1000 3D Marks in the Performance suite and still being 600 points ahead of the stock version in the Extreme test.

No prizes for guessing who the star of the show is though, 28000 Performance marks and 14000+ even under the very stressful Extreme test shows that the scaling on these is simply incredible. We definitely could be looking at another high performance/good value choice.

 

Unigine Heaven

Unigine with all its high polygon eye-candy is definitely a stern test of any system. Although the 5870 keeps ahead it's not by as big a margin as we saw in 3D Mark.

It's tough to not be dazzled by the Crossfire performance though. 47FPS for one card and 90 for two. How's that for scaling!

0xAA

 

Performance of the stock single card definitely drops with such high image quality settings, but the Crossfire just keeps on rocking. 53.3FPS average in as difficult a test as any card will face. You wont close to this performance for the money.

8xAA



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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

Crysis Warhead

It doesn't seem five minutes ago that we needed the 2001 Monolith just to get to the menu of Crysis Warhead, yet here with are with two mid-range cards Crossfired and pumping out 72FPS. If the Nanosuit is your weapon of choice then certainly the 6870 setup wont let you down.

Again at stock it's not up there with the 5870, but overclocked it really enjoys Crysis Warhead, giving over 60FPS for a single card. Impressive.

 

Dirt 2

The Codemasters Dirt 2 engine is so well optimised that it can provide playability, even at these settings, on very modest hardware. All of our tests gave us over 60FPS average around the demanding Battersea track. Once again the star of the show is the Crossfire setup happily keeping the game in three figures under everything but the most demanding situation.

 

Metro 2033

Well blow me. Playable framerates in Metro. I think we need to check the world hasn't ended overnight. Nope it's still there. Simply astounding. The harsh, or unoptimised, nature of the game stands out with the near identical results from the single cards, but in Crossfire we once again see outstanding scaling taking place.



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ASUS HD6870 Crossfire Review

Conclusion

We postulated at the start of the review whether the HD6870 really could be the new King of the rarely mentioned and quite wordy "two cards for the price-of-one but with buckets of performance" sector of the market previously held with a fist of iron by the 4770xf and then 5770xf.

So does it?

Unquestionably.

Whilst the performance of the single card is still not bad, alright, pretty good, and other slightly disappointed adjectives, when paired with another it's breathtaking.

In 3D Mark Vantage it leaves all of the single cards of the last generation for dead, including the HD5970. In many tests it is up there with a HD5870 Crossfire setup, such has been the improvement in the quality of Crossfire scaling.

The extra memory overclock we managed to obtain really gave us a benefit too. With a pure Core overclock there is very little to be gained, but once the memory is pushed upwards too there definitely is a bit of performance to be had. Just not mind-blowing levels.

Crossfire is really where it's at if you're looking to upgrade from a 5 Series card, or even switching across to ATI from nVidia. If you don't plan on going Crossfire then we'd wait for the full-fat 69xx cards to appear.

Results are definitely good enough that the ASUS 6870 deserves a Bronze award, and we're also going to award our Performance award for it in Crossfire as there is no denying the potential there.

       and for Crossfire 

Thanks to ASUS for supplying the 6870 for todays testing. Discuss in our Forums