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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  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    In case it isn't obvious from the slipshod organization of the article, we didn't quite get it done on time. We had less than a week to put this article together when normally for an article of this size it takes 2 weeks. Check back in the morning, everything on Eyefinity, DP1.2, etc will be up by then. Reply
  • counter03 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    i am quite interested in that 'mst hub'.is there any available product now?well,i just find nothing with google. Reply
  • wolrah - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    The card still has two TMDS clock generators. This means only two DVI/HDMI displays can be driven off the card at one time, no matter what connection. With that in mind, I wouldn't be surprised if the card doesn't even support passive adapters as there is literally no good reason to ever use them. You already have two native ports, so with a maximum of two DVI displays that's that.

    Regardless of if passive adapters are supported, you'll still need active adapters or native DisplayPort on your display to run three or four monitors off this card.

    Supposedly it also supports DisplayPort daisy chaining, so possibly when monitors arrive that have an out port it may handle more than four displays, but again only a maximum of two can be DVI/HDMI without active adapters.
    Reply
  • ninjaquick - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    DP support shouldn't be a problem since I've seen quite a few monitors coming out with DP in and some with I/O. Reply
  • Abot13 - Saturday, October 23, 2010 - link

    With the 6800 series the cards can support up to 6 monitors in Eyefinity. The DP ports can use a DP hub or the monitors can be chained with DP. Either way the max is 6 monitors per card. Reply
  • ol1bit - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The naming stinks, but I can see how these cards will be a big Christmas season for AMD.

    So people that don't the new naming scheme will rush out an buy the bigger names. Smooth Marketing Move.

    Well, if the 6900's launch next month, that will be fun to see.
    Reply
  • Zokudu - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    You removed Left 4 Dead from your benchmarks. Does this mean you won't be replacing it with another Source game (ie L4D2 or maybe Portal 2 when that releases)?

    I know its not 100% perfect but 3 of the top 10 selling games on steam right now are run on the Source engine and the only other ones that share and engine are BF:BC2 and MoH both using Frostbite. I would think that having some form of a Source game in there would be a good idea considering the vast amount of popular games that run on it. I always used the L4D benchmark to compare performance for TF2 and CS:S. in the past.

    Otherwise good review and I'm excited for the HD6900 launch next month.
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    By the time Portal 2 comes out, it'll be about the time we refresh our suite anyhow. For the time being the existing Source games run on anything (even the GT 430 got L4D playable at 1680 with 4xAA) so it's not a useful benchmark, especially since there's no guarantee Portal will run that well. Reply
  • AmdInside - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    In the 3DTV Play article, you mentioned AMD's 6000 series would challenge NVIDIA in 3D with the 6000 series but I didn't read any info on it in this article. What gives? Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Also didn't see any mention of the improved crossfire performance either... Reply

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