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After being AnandTech’s senior GPU editor for nearly a year and a half and through more late-night GPU launches than I care to count, there’s a very specific pattern I’ve picked up on: the GPU market may be competitive, but it’s the $200-$300 that really brings out the insanity. I’m not sure if it’s the volume, the profit margins, or just the desire to be seen as affordable, but AMD and NVIDIA seem to take out all the stops to one-up each other whenever either side plans on launching a new video card in this price range.

Today was originally supposed to be about the newly released GeForce GTX 560 Ti – NVIDIA’s new GF114-based $250 video card. Much as was the case with the launch of AMD’s Radeon HD 6800 series however, AMD is itching to spoil NVIDIA’s launch with their own push. Furthermore they intend to do so on two fronts: directly above the GTX 560 Ti at $259 is the Radeon HD 6950 1GB, and somewhere below it one of many factory overclocked Radeon HD 6870 cards, in our case an XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition. The Radeon HD 6950 1GB is effectively the GTX 560 Ti’s direct competition, while the overclocked 6870 serves to be the price spoiler.

It wasn’t always meant to be this way, and indeed 5 days ago things were quite different. But before we get too far, let’s quickly discuss today’s cards.

  AMD Radeon HD 6970 AMD Radeon HD 6950 2GB AMD Radeon HD 6950 1GB XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black AMD Radeon HD 6870
Stream Processors 1536 1408 1408 1120 1120
Texture Units 96 88 88 56 56
ROPs 32 32 32 32 32
Core Clock 880MHz 800MHz 800MHz 940MHz 900MHz
Memory Clock 1.375GHz (5.5GHz effective) GDDR5 1.25GHz (5.0GHz effective) GDDR5 1.25GHz (5.0GHz effective) GDDR5 1.15GHz (4.6GHz effective) GDDR5 1.05GHz (4.2GHz effective) GDDR5
Memory Bus Width 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit 256-bit
Frame Buffer 2GB 2GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
FP64 1/4 1/4 1/4 N/A N/A
Transistor Count 2.64B 2.64B 2.64B 1.7B 1.7B
Manufacturing Process TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm TSMC 40nm
Price Point $369 ~$279 $259 $229 ~$219

Back when the Radeon HD 6950 launched, AMD told us to expect 1GB cards sometime in the near future as a value option. Because the 6900 series is using fairly new 2Gb GDDR5, such chips are still in short supply and cost more versus the very common and very available 1Gb variety. It’s not a massive difference once you all up the bill of materials on a video card, but for the card manufactures if they can save $10 on RAM then that’s $10 they can mark down a card and snag that many more sales. Furthermore we’re not quite to the point where 2GB is essential in the sub-$300 market - where 2560x1600 monitors are rare – so the performance penalty isn’t a major concern. As a result it was only a matter of time until 1GB 6900 series cards hit the market, to fill in the gap until 2Gb GDDR5 came down in price.

The day has finally come for the Radeon HD 6950 1GB, and today is that day. Truth be told it’s actually a bit anticlimactic – the reference 6950 1GB is virtually identical to the reference 6950 2GB. It’s the same PCB attached to the same vapor chamber cooler with the same power and heat characteristics. There is one and only one difference: the 1GB card uses 8 1Gb GDDR5 chips, and the 2GB card uses 8 2Gb GDDR5 chips. Everything else is equal, and indeed when the 6950 is not RAM limited even the performance is equal.

The second card we’re taking a quick look at is the XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition, the obligatory factory overclocked Radeon HD 6870. Utilizing XFX’s open-air custom HSF, it’s clocked at 940MHz core and 1150MHz (4.6Gbps data rate) memory, representing a 40Mhz (4%) core overclock and a 100MHz (9%) memory overclock. Truth be told it’s not much of an overclock, and if it wasn’t for the cooler it wouldn’t be a very remarkable card as far as factory overclocking goes, and for that reason it’s almost a footnote today. But it wasn’t meant to be, and that’s where our story begins.

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  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    There is no bias at Anandtech, only well documented arguments and conclusions that you're free to disagree with. If you want to abandon one of the best tech review sites on the planet in favor of one that panders to your personal delusions about the fuzziness of a multinational corporation, knock yourself out. Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I do not want to invalidate the arguments and facts in the article. No problem there. Just that they didn't include the OCed GTX560, which is going to be a major player. Reply
  • sinPiEqualsZero - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Find me a factory-overclocked GTX 560 that is currently available in the market. Then we can have that discussion. Anandtech is testing what is currently available - something I'm not sure you understand. All of these reviews are snapshots of a moment in time.

    My searching shows one as "OC" on newegg, but no details about the core clock. That isn't a sign that the site is biased, it's called reality.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    There are two already available (in Europe anyway): one from Asus and one from Gigabyte. Reply
  • omelet - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    They're working on a review for the overclocked card. I don't think they've ever released benchmarks for factory overclocks the same day that the card comes out, at least not in recent history, so it's not unexpected for them not to have included overclocked GTX 560 data yet. Wait for the 560 overclocked article in a few days. Reply
  • Melted Rabbit - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The 850MHz GTX460 rarely ever in stock at online retailers during its lifespan, at times, the 810MHz GTX460 was even hard to find. The overclocked GTX460s that had even lower clocks were generally available. With these previous supply constraints in mind, why should any review site review another highly overclocked card like the 900MHz GTX560 Ti, when its predecessor was a low volume card created specifically to deceptively improve the perceived benchmarks and perceived value of the rest of the cards in its series?

    I have no issue with anandtech or other websites reviewing or including in reviews a 900MHz GTX560 if the variant is still readily available in four to six weeks. It would mean the card existed in reasonable quantities and was not just another Geforce 8800 Ultra card that showed up for the reviews and then was never actually in retail.

    On the other hand, the 6870 Black is a modest overclock of the 6870 from AMD, who has not had and has no supply problems with the 6870 cards.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    My personal experience is that EVGA's ~850MHz 460s have never impossible to find, although it has occasionally been difficult to find ones that weren't the less desirable external exhaust model. I've never had any difficulty finding ~810MHz cards.

    I didn't do much shopping around Christmas/New Years, though, so my experiences might not be representative of the average.
    Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    GTX 560 cards are going to be a major player? Really? You know this how? Because your talking points memo from Nvidia marketing told you so?

    If you honestly care about 560 OC results, here's what you can say - "Hey Ryan, will you be getting a chance to test any overclocked 560's soon? How do you think they will perform?"

    Instead, here's what you went with - "OMG!! They didn't include every freaking card on the planet! BIAS! Sweet baby Jesus, I weep for the Anandtech that was!"

    The only thing really missing from this article was the inclusion of an overclocked 460, which from previous benchmarks should be very competitive for $50 less. Unfortunately the ridiculous shitstorm from the last time it was included means we can't have nice things anymore.
    Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The Gigabyte and Asus OCed cards were available even before stock clocked cards. How is that in any way "temporary" or "uninterresting"? You are trying to downplay it really hard, but for apples-to-apples comparison, there should be the overclocked competition as well. Reply
  • GeorgeH - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Quotation marks - they do not mean what you think they mean. Nowhere on this page has anyone used either the words "temporary" or "uninteresting", nor any synonyms that I can see.

    No one is downplaying anything other than your ridiculous claim that AT and Ryan are biased because in two weeks they didn't manage to benchmark and write up every single card in the universe that might be relevant to your interests.
    Reply

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