Powercolor HD6970 Crossfire Review

Conclusion

Powercolor HD6970 Crossfire Review

Conclusion

This job is an odd one sometimes.

Those who dream of it think it's all about playing with big boys toys and having a blast. When you explain to them that we don't get time to play at all because every review has to be done precisely enough to ensure all the results are valid and there is only so many times you can watch 3D Mark loop or run through the same bit of Crysis Warhead before you'd kill to play Freecell.

Everyone else wonders how we manage to stay motivated when you're looking at the next in an endless line of identical reference cards and trying to find something new to say.

To answer them both together, it's reviews like the PowerColor HD6970 Crossfire that do both. We'd spent so long waiting for the big-guns of the AMD line-up to appear that when it did and was 'alright' it was tough to eradicate the general ennui we felt. So you can forgive us if we approached the Crossfire review with a sense of trepidation.

However, to finalise the above thoughts, when something performs so well it's exactly the battery recharge that keeps up coming back for more day after day and the PowerColor HD6970XF is exactly that.

The performance is nothing short of stunning for a setup that's only just north of £550. It wouldn't have been long ago that £1200 worth of GPU hardware would just about have been enough to get these kind of frame-rates, especially out of Crysis Warhead, yet here we are with two cards that are taking on, and keeping up with, the very best in the world.

The few tests that the considerably pricier GTX580SLI setup comes out on top are ones where the HD6970XF is already pushing out huge numbers and the difference is pretty meaningless.

Over 70FPS in Metro 2033, over 60 in Crysis Warhead when everything is utterly maxed out, the best scores we've ever seen in Unigine and great scaling performance as we saw in 3D Mark 11, there really isn't much this setup doesn't do well.

It's especially impressive when you realise that it's a Core i7-950 cheaper than the nVidia setup with very little 'real world' difference. Certainly nothing that you'd notice with vSync on.

One thing has become clear this week and that is that we should all pretend the HD6870 never happened and rejoice in the great performance of the latest sub-£300 card from AMD.

Raw polygon munching performance coupled to reasonable heat and noise is enough to see the PowerColor HD6970 Crossfire get the OC3D Silver Award for the cards and our Performance award for being exceptionally fast on a sensible dual-GPU budget.

          

Thanks to PowerColor for providing the cards for today's review. Discuss in our forums.

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Most Recent Comments

16-12-2010, 20:18:46

tinytomlogan
Following the recent review of the new HD69 cards from AMD, it's time to see how a pair of them from Powercolor fair.

Continue Reading

16-12-2010, 21:59:35

killablade
Well.. I imagine this is a bit of a kick in the nuts for nvidia xD

17-12-2010, 02:34:55

Taurus
Great if you have a 30 inch monitor and the money to buy them!

17-12-2010, 05:14:45

PCTwin
I'm currently benching 2 x HD4890's in x-fire. this review shows just how much I need to upgrade my system.

These scores humble my poor old system.

Excellent effort as always.

17-12-2010, 06:27:36

F-alienware
Quote:
Originally Posted by killablade View Post

Well.. I imagine this is a bit of a kick in the nuts for nvidia xD
I'm not so sure tbh. I mean yes, it's an incredibly fast setup. And yes, when compared to Nvidia's SLI offering it seems to come out on top for a lot less money.

However, there is still the issue of Crossfire and scaling not happening all the time

And it doesn't and that's the problem. I confirmed this last night by running a rather excellent game called Split Second Velocity. Now when I ran this on Xfire 5770 my cards should have easily gotten it to the 30FPS cap it has (blame Disney !). However when running it on my 470 last night and seeing how butter smooth it is I realised then that Crossfire simply was not working. I guess with Crossfired 6970 it would be less, how do you say it? 'apparent' because one card has a lot more muscle than the lower end cards. But, when you absolutely rely on Crossfire (like you do with Crossfired budget cards to give you bleeding edge performance and the ability to run things on max?) you often end up dissapointed.

See, Crossfire will always make an attempt at scaling no matter what. You can enable a logo to come up in the top right corner of the screen to tell you it's working. However, there are a good few scaling methods for Crossfire and the wrong one will hurt performance a lot. I often found that installing the newer profiles didn't work and continually had to remove my drivers and profiles using DS and start all over again.

I'm not bashing on AMD. Far from it. Those numbers at that price point is absolutely immaculate. But, I do feel that again the only value in the AMD cards is in Crossfire, and I still don't think Crossfire can be relied on completely (having used it myself).

I'd still rather have a single 580 tbh. Tom raised a point (and a very good one !) about once you hit a certain level of performance anything more is just a bit of a waste. Dead right, gimme a 580

Again, wonderful review guys. And again, thanks for getting it to us in a true, honest and timely fashion

I doff my cap

17-12-2010, 06:39:58

Rastalovich
Like plenty of the reviewers admit, they don't get to spend weeks playing with these multi gpu setups.

Benching - you can't overlook the fact that if games ran like benching utils, we'd all be drooling all over the place, trying to cram as many cards in a pc case as possible.

Simple thing is, both the camps drivers have hang ups. AMD has the lower quality setting as standard, microstuttering (that I've never seen myself), nVidia has the "return to desktop" feature - which is admirable except when it happens whilst you're playing, and other things others could list. And aslong as the pairings from both of them don't touch single-card single-gpu performance and relative stability for the long run - I'd not touch any of them myself or advise anyone who asks.

Great figures, that, to be fair will get better (AMD & nVidia) each time a driver revision comes out that's been tuned for the game you play. (often without the driver's recognition of the game, your setup will be crap for it)

Meh, dual card/dual gpus don't mean nothing to me outside of benching, but the figures and the graphs always look nice.

17-12-2010, 07:13:59

F-alienware
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rastalovich View Post

nVidia has the "return to desktop" feature - which is admirable except when it happens whilst you're playing
Heh that made me LOL.
Reply
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