PowerColor HD6870X2 Review Page: 1

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Introduction

The X2 suffix has quite a lot of history with AMD cards. Anyone who remembers how amazing the HD4870X2 was will be eagerly anticipating the latest in the lineage, the HD6870X2.

PowerColor are one of those companies that are well known amongst enthusiasts and their PCS+ and PCS++ line of cards have always produced outstanding performance.

Now we have all the power of a HD6870 Crossfire setup, but on a single card. Billed as a GTX580 killer, we can't wait to see how it performs.

So let's crack on.

Technical Specifications

Normally a dual-GPU card has to make concessions in the architecture for either heat or power draw reasons. However the HD6870X2 is just two HD6870 chips on a single board. Hopefully this could really give the card a kick in the pants and lead it to great things.

Graphics Engine RADEON HD6870
Video Memory 2GB GDDR5
Engine Clock 900MHz
Memory Clock 1050MHz (4.2Gbps)
Memory Interface 2 X 256bit (256bit)
DirectX® Support 11
Bus Standard PCIE 2.1
  • Stream Processors
1120
Texture Units56
Z/Stencil ROP Units128
Color ROP Units32
Standard Display Connecors DL-DVI-I/SL-DVI-D/HDMI/2* mini DisplayPort
OpenGL Support
CrossFireX™ Technology Support
ATI Stream Technology Support
ATI Eyefinity Technology Support
DVI Output DL-DVI-I/ SL-DVI-D
DisplayPort On Board x2
HDMI On Board
HDCP Support Support
VGA 2048x1536
DVI 2560x1600
DisplayPort 2560x1600
HDMI 1920x1200
Board Dimensions 292.1mm x 111.2mm x 38mm
Minimum System Power Rq (W) 600W
Extention Power Connector Two 8-pin PCI Express Power connectors

 

But before we find out if that's the case it's time to see what the card looks like.



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Up Close

There is no denying that the X2 part of the HD6870X2 is the key element and the box art reflects this. It's a nice change from the standard fantasy artwork most packaging has. The reverse highlights both the potential power of the PowerColor HD6870X2 and how much more efficient the cooler is. Considering how hot and loud the others in the HD6 series from AMD have been we're definitely interested in this. As you can see from the sticker on the box this also comes bundled with a free copy of Codemasters Dirt 3. Epic Bro, post that to Youtube (which will make sense to those who've played it).

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review  

Packaging is nothing short of excellent with a seriously robust box keeping everything well protected. The accessories are the standard manual and driver disk, along with some display converters and 6pin to 8pin PCIe cables.

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review  

Finally here the card is. Compared to the default "tiny fan up one end" cooler it's great to see PowerColor supply the HD6870X2 with a cooler that looks like it'll do the job, with plenty of heatpipes and fins to hopefully keep everything cool.

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review



PowerColor HD6870X2 Review Page: 3

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Up Close Pt 2

Outputs are well covered with two DVIs, a HDMI and two DisplayPorts for the Eyefinity. Power is, naturally for a twin-GPU card, supplied by two 8pin PCIe connectors. 

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review  

Should you wish to go Quadfire there is a Crossfire connector in the usual place and the shroud has been designed to help the top card in a twin setup to still manage to gulp in cool air.

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review  

Speaking of cooling, look at the size of those heat-pipes!! They're huge. It's a bit disappointing they aren't polished to a gleaming shine, but on girth alone they are impressive.

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review     PowerColor HD6870X2 Review



PowerColor HD6870X2 Review Page: 4

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Test Setup

PowerColor HD6870X2
Catalyst 11.6 Drivers
Intel Core i7-950 @ 4GHz
12GB Mushkin Blackline 1600MHz
BeQuiet Dark Power Pro
Noctua NH-D14
Windows 7 x64

Overclocking

It's always harder to get more speed out of a dual-GPU card as not only is the power draw and heat expended exponentially increased when compared to a single GPU, but you've got two chances at the silicon lottery, both winning and/or losing.

The PowerColor HD6870X2 has a little bit of performance able to be squeezed out, 60MHz on the two GPUs and a further 50MHz out of the GDDR5. Neither of these are earth-shattering, but if we push much harder we start to head towards 90°C which is way too hot for comfort.

PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Temperatures

The HD6870X2 is right on the line when it comes to heat dispersal. The original HD6870 was quite a heat producer and it hasn't changed here in twin guise. With the fans on auto they quickly became audible under load as they tried to keep things under control, and whilst they are nowhere near as loud as the reference cooler it's still a little distracting as they spin up with little provocation.

They do however do their job. Although under extreme loading we saw temperatures climb to 86°C, more often than not the card hovered around the 70° mark. Hovering being the right word judging from the amount the fans are spinning to keep it there.



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

3D Mark 11

Marketed as a GTX580 killer that has to be our first port of call and it definitely does that. Perhaps more surprisingly is that it beats two single HD6870s. A good start for the PowerColor.

 

3D Mark Vantage

Even in the PhysX-preferring 3D Mark Vantage the HD6870X2 still has the edge of the GTX580 and once again just shades two single HD6870s.



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Unigine Heaven

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K. The HD6 line of cards from AMD has been nothing short of spectacular in the Unigine Heaven benchmark, yet today, with these drivers, we couldn't get it to perform anything like as well as we've seen from previous cards based upon this architecture. It couldn't even get close to the HD6870 CF setup.

0x Anti-Aliasing

8x Anti-Aliasing



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Alien vs Predator

Things return to normal with AvP as the HD6870X2 completely stuffs the GTX580 it's targeted at and just shades the GTX590!

 

Crysis Warhead

With Enthusiast settings Crysis Warhead should provide a good test of the raw power of the HD6870X2 and so it proves. Managing to place itself nicely between the HD6870CF and HD6970CF setups. Although the pure average frame-rate shows that it once again keeps pace with the GTX590 it's worth noting the enormous difference in minimum frame-rate. We had a few near stops during testing which just didn't occur with the 'bigger' cards.



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Far Cry 2

The Dunia-Engined Far Cry 2 places the HD6870X2 right between the 6870CF and 6970CF setups again, and once again if the deciding aim was to spank the GTX580 then it's regularly doing that.

 

Metro 2033

We've long known that Metro 2033 loves the twin GPUs and once again it proves the case here with the HD6870X2 right up there.



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PowerColor HD6870X2 Review

Conclusion

The PowerColor HD6870X2 is quite a complex thing to sum up in a snappy few lines.

All of the press blurb relentlessly hammered home the fact that the HD6870X2 was designed to best the nVidia GTX580 and if that is the sole measure of the PowerColor HD6870X2 then clearly it's attained its goal.

Throughout testing the HD6870X2 outshone the GTX580, sometimes was up with the GTX590, and also regularly out-performed two HD6870s in Crossfire. This last bit is especially impressive as normally when two GPUs are placed on a single card there are reductions in performance due to power draw issues, or the need to keep the whole thing cool.

Speaking of keeping things cool, this has been far and away the biggest drawback of the current range of cards. Compared to the Radeons of old the 6 series have, almost to a man, been hot and loud. The PowerColor HD6870X2 isn't really either of these things when we consider how that we've got two GPUs to try and tame. It's not cool, our overclock was thermally limited more than anything. It's not exactly quiet when compared to any of the nVidia offerings. However if you are expecting two GPUs to be twice as hot and loud as a single HD6870, then by that measure it's actually doing quite well, even if it ends up being just as loud and warm. This is largely a product of the twin-GPU design more than a problem with the cooler, which is very good indeed. As you can see, it's not as simple as it might seem.

Performance is indeed excellent, and a single card will always be more energy efficient than a pair. You don't need a ton of cables off your PSU and even an ITX board can handle the card happily. However a couple of the results we obtained, Unigine in particular, weren't quite as stellar as one would hope, especially the minimum frame-rate of some games caused noticable stutters. Although we're not sure if this is related to the drivers which follow the normal Radeon problem of being just not as stable as their nVidia challengers. During testing the whole system froze on more than one occasion.

Finally pricing which, at the time of going to press, isn't officially available. We've heard word that HD6870X2 should be available for around $450 which should mean (with the normal conversion methodology of just replacing the dollar with a pound) a UK price of between £300 and £350. We'd hope it would be on the bottom end of that and if it comes in around the £300 price mark it's a steal. If it ended up being more towards the £350 mark then we'd definitely question it as a valid purchase despite its GTX580 beating. After all you can pick up a couple of HD6870s for about £260, so once you take into account the better cooler then £300 would be about right. So we'll score based on a retail of £300 and you can adjust once the price becomes available.

All in all the PowerColor HD6870X2 is a great performing card that gives high frame-rates across a raft of games. The huge heat-pipes on the cooler keep everything cooler than we expected and in normal use it's not distractingly noisy although under extreme loading it becomes both hot and loud.

However it's much easier to live with than many of the other Radeon cards around and for that it's deserving of OC3D Silver Award.

   

Thanks to PowerColor for providing the HD6870X2 for review. Discuss in our forums.