NVIDIA’s 6870 Competitor & the Test

As we mentioned on the front page of this article, AMD and NVIDIA don’t officially have competing products at the same price points. The 6870 and 6850 are more expensive than the GTX 460 1GB and 768MB respectively, and above the 6870 is the GTX 470. However NVIDIA is particularly keen to have a competitor to the 6870 that isn’t a GTX 470, and so they’re pushing a 2nd option: a factory overclocked GTX 460 1GB.

As a matter of editorial policy we do not include overclocked cards on general reviews. As a product, reference cards will continue to be produced for quite a while, with good products continuing on for years. Overclocked cards on the other hand come and go depending on market conditions, and even worse no two overclocked cards are alike. If we did normally include overclocked cards, our charts would be full of cards that are only different by 5MHz.

However with the 6800 launch NVIDIA is pushing the overclocked GTX 460 option far harder than we’ve seen them push overclocked cards in the past –we had an EVGA GTX 460 1GB FTW on our doorstep before we were even back from Los Angeles. Given how well the GTX 460 overclocks and how many heavily overclocked cards there are on the market, we believe there is at least some merit to NVIDIA’s arguments, so in this case we went ahead and included the EVGA card in our review. As a reference point it's clocked at 850Mhz and 4GHz memory versus 675MHz core and 3.6MHz memory for a stock GTX 460, giving it a massive 26% core overclock and a much more moderate 11% memory overclock.

However with that we’ll attach the biggest disclaimer we can that while we’re including the card, we don’t believe NVIDIA is taking the right action here. If they were serious about having a higher clocked GTX 460 on the market, then they need to make a new product, such as a GTX 461. Without NVIDIA establishing guidelines, these overclocked GTX 460 cards can vary in clockspeed, cooling, and ultimately performance by a very wide margin. In primary reviews such as these we’re interested in looking at cards that will be around for a while, and without an official product from NVIDIA there’s no guarantee any of these factory overclocked cards will still be around.

If nothing else, pushing overclocked cards makes for a messy situation for buyer. An official product provides a baseline of performance that buyers can see in reviews like ours and expect in any cards they buy. With overclocked cards, this is absent. Pushing factory overclocked cards may give NVIDIA a competitive product, but it’s being done in a way we can’t approve of.

Moving on, for today’s launch we’re using AMD’s latest beta launch drivers, version 8.782RC2, which is analogous to Catalyst 10.10. For the NVIDIA cards we’re using the WHQL version of 260.89.

Keeping with our desire to periodically refresh our benchmark suite, we’ve gone ahead and shuffled around a few benchmarks. We’ve dropped Left 4 Dead (our highest performing benchmark) and the DX11 rendition of BattleForge for Civilization 5 and Metro 2033 respectively, both running in DX11 mode.

With the refresh in mind, we’ve had to cut short our usual selection of cards, as we’ve had under a week to (re)benchmark everything and to write this article, shorter than what we usually have for an article of this magnitude. We’ll be adding these new cards and the rest of our normal lineup to the GPU Bench early next week when we finish benchmarking them.

CPU: Intel Core i7-920 @ 3.33GHz
Motherboard: Asus Rampage II Extreme
Chipset Drivers: Intel 9.1.1.1015 (Intel)
Hard Disk: OCZ Summit (120GB)
Memory: Patriot Viper DDR3-1333 3 x 2GB (7-7-7-20)
Video Cards: AMD Radeon HD 6870
AMD Radeon HD 6850
AMD Radeon HD 5870
AMD Radeon HD 5850
AMD Radeon HD 5770
AMD Radeon HD 4870
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 470
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 1GB
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460 768MB
NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260 Core 216
EVGA GeForce GTX 460 1GB FTW
Video Drivers: NVIDIA ForceWare 260.89
AMD Catalyst 10.10
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
What’s In a Name? Crysis: Warhead
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  • GullLars - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    One sollution would be to to move away from pure number based naming, and do something like:
    AMD/nVidia AG#S# ([Maker]_[Architecture][Generation][# generation of architecture][Market Segment][# of relative performance within segment 1-9]
    Or possibly AMD/Nvidia Architecture Gen# S#
    Example:
    AMD EG1E9 or Evergreen Gen1 E9 = 5970 (Enthusiast)
    nVidia FG1E9 = 480
    AMD Evergreen Gen2 G5(?) = 6850 (Gamer)
    AMD Evergreen Gen1 V7 = 5770 (Value)
    AMD Evergreen Gen1 M5 = 5350 (Media)

    These are just early floating thoughts, which could be refined by marketing monkeys.
    Reply
  • Exelius - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    Marketing monkeys have no intent on making it simple to understand; if you don't know exactly what you're buying, it's easier to sell it to you for more than they would be able to otherwise.

    It's not an accident that the numbering is confusing; if you don't know what you're looking at then a 6870 at a lower price than a 5870 looks like a great deal.
    Reply
  • MonkeyPaw - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Big deal, I say. The card is a few % slower, but is more efficient and is cheaper. People who will actually notice the drop off will probably read reviews first. Besides, if the x900 series is for dual GPU designs, then the naming might not be far off.

    Also, if I had to pick between the 5800 or the 6800, I'd probably get a 6800.
    Reply
  • therealnickdanger - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Don't forget improved image quality!

    It's only disappointing because with a new moniker, I expect new tech, but then again, how long did NVIDIA push G92? 3 generations as different products? LOL
    Reply
  • Rafterman - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    What exactly have NVidia got to do with this, no fanboyism please. Reply
  • morphologia - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    They are a comparable company with comparably ridiculous naming conventions. How do you go from 9000 to 200?

    Talk about fanboyism...claiming irrelevancy when it's totally relevant reveals your fanboy decoder ring quite clearly.
    Reply
  • Alilsneaky - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I hated nvidia for doing it, why should amd now be forgiven for resorting to doing the same bullshit just because nvidia did it before them?

    I had someone tell me earlier 'that's business'.

    WHAT? No it's bloody not, a scam is a scam, when people start equalling questionable practices like these to business then something is really wrong with today's society.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    What Nvidia did was simply rename the 8800 cards to 9800 card. Same exact chip, same exact clocks, same exact board(at least initially). There where owners of 8800GTs who simply edited the name in the BIOS of their card and had a 9800GT!

    The reason AMD is getting a pass from most people is because this isn't a purely renamed card. It's a redesigned chip on a new PCB with a poor name. If, on the other hand, AMD renames the 5750 and 5770 to the 6750 and 6770 you can expect them to get nailed to the wall right next to Nvidia.
    Reply
  • pcfxer - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    It was very clear why he mentioned NVIDIA. You should read his post... Reply
  • snarfbot - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    at least all the iterations of g92 improved performance over their predecessor.

    compare this launch to the x1xxx series of ati products, the x1800 was replaced by the x1900 which was replaced by the x1950. all of which improved performance over their predecessor. all the while on the same process 90nm.(save for the 1950pro and gt, which were mainstream parts.)

    imagine if they named the x1900 the x2900, and somehow it actually performed worse than the x1800.

    thats what they did here, and thats why it fails imo.

    if they just called it hd5790 and kept it at the same price people wouldve gobbled it up anyway, without sacrificing their integrity.

    just a bunch of numbers, but what it means in mindshare is important, and all most people will remember about this generation, is that it was worse than the 5 series and worse than nvidias.

    all aboard the fail boat. honk honk.
    Reply

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