Power, Temperature, & Noise

As was the case with gaming performance, we’ll keep our running commentary thin here. The Radeon HD 6950 1GB is virtually identical to the 2GB card, so other than a few watts power difference (which can easily be explained by being an engineering sample) the two are equals. It’s the XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition that has caught our attention.

Radeon HD 6800/6900 Series Load Voltage
Ref 6870 XFX 6870 Ref 6950 2GB Ref 6950 1GB
1.172v 1.172v 1.1v 1.1v

While the XFX 6870 has the same load voltage as the reference 6870, between the change in the cooler and the higher core and memory frequencies power usage still goes up. Under Crysis this is 11W, and under FurMark this expands to 16W. Unfortunately this factory overclock has wiped out much of the 6870’s low power edge versus the 6950, and as a result the two end up being very close. In practice power consumption under load is nearly identical to the GTX 460 1GB, albeit with much better gaming performance.

Meanwhile this is one of the few times we’ll see a difference between the 1GB and 2GB 6950. At idle and under Crysis the two are nearly identical, but under FurMark the 1GB reduces power consumption by some 12W even with PowerTune in effect. We believe that this is due to the higher operating voltage of the 2Gb GDDR5 modules AMD is using on the 2GB card.

As far as temperatures go both cards are in the middle of the pack. The vapor chamber cooler on the 6900 series already gives it a notable leg up over most cards, including the XFX 6870. At 41C the XFX card is a bit warm at idle, meanwhile 78C under load is normal for most cards of this class. Meanwhile the 6950 1GB and 2GB both perform identically, even with the power consumption difference between the two.

Last but certainly not least we have our noise testing, and this is the point where the XFX 6870 caught our eye. The reference 6870 was an unremarkable card when it came to noise – it didn’t use a particularly advanced cooling design, and coupled with the use of a blower it ended up being louder than a number of cards, including the vapor chamber equipped Radeon HD 6970. The XFX 6870 reverses this fortune and then some due to XFX’s well-designed open-air cooler. At idle it edges out our other cards by a mere 0.1dB, but the real story is at load. And no, that’s not a typo in the load noise chart, the XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition really is that quiet.

In fact at 41.4dB under load, the XFX 6870 is for all intents and purposes a silent card in our GPU testbed. Under load the fans do rev up, but even when doing so the card stays below the noise floor of our testbed. Compared to the reference 6870 we’re looking at just shy of a 14dB difference between said reference card and the XFX 6870, a feat that is beyond remarkable. With the same warning as we attach to the GTX 460 and GTX 560 – you need adequate case cooling to make an open-air card work – the XFX Radeon HD 6870 Black Edition may very well be the fastest actively cooled quiet card on the market.

Meanwhile for the Radeon HD 6950 1GB and 2GB, we’re once again left with results that are nearly indistinguishable. Under load our 1GB card ended up being .6dB quieter, an imperceptible difference.

The Test & Gaming Performance Final Words
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  • JPForums - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    It looks to me like the 560 Ti only has the edge over the 6950 1GB tessellation with high factors. Even the 6870 bests the 560 Ti in the DirectX 11 Tessellation Sample test at the medium setting. See anandtech's 560 Ti launch article.

    What I find even more interesting is that when you consider only the higher resolutions, the 6950 seems to be superior to the 560 Ti. I realize most people still use lower resolutions, but it doesn't make sense to judge between the potential of two cards at any resolutions that both can produce more than playable frame rates at the settings in question. This creates a misleading conclusion in situations where the winner reverses at higher resolutions. Hawx, for instance, shows that the 560 Ti has clearly superior frames rates at lower resolutions where the 6950 scales much better and edges it out at 2560x1600. Neither dip below 80 fps, so you can't really say the gameplay differs, however, it appears the 6950 is the one that has the muscle when it counts. Battlefield BC2 shows a similar reversal (reference anandtech's 560 Ti launch article). Of course, there are situations where nVidia turns tables at higher resolutions as well, they just aren't present in anandtech's launch article (unless I missed it).
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    I believe that Ryan replied in the comments for the 560 Ti card to a commentor who inquired about the repeatability of FPS results with the 6950 1GB while playing Crisis at high resolutions, and it may pertain to your argument.
    He said that the results are "highly variable."
    If you are going by the avarage frame rate, and only at high res., the 6950 looks better than the 560 Ti but...
    Perhaps the 560 Ti produces more consistant results than the 6950?
    Reply
  • JPForums - Thursday, January 27, 2011 - link

    Ryan does a really good job with articles, so I don't want to come off as bashing him. However, if that was a major concern, I really wish he would have mentioned it in the article. Taking it a step further, he could post charts with min, max, and average. Alternately, if he felt particularly generous, he could post a graph of the frame rates over the course of the benchmark for the cases where one companies cards are less consistent than the others. Of course, that would be a lot of work to do for every benchmark and would incur unnecessary delays in getting the articles out. I would only include such charts/graphs to back myself up when I felt it changed the outcome. That said, even if these never show up, I'll still enjoy reading Ryan's articles.

    On a personal note, the idea that the GTX560 Ti may be more consistent than the HD6950 makes me feel better about my decisions to purchase a GTX460 and GTX470 given the similarities in architecture. That said, I haven't noticed abnormal inconsistencies in frame rate with the HD6870 I bought as a Home Theater/Gaming card for the living room. I hope any inconsistencies in the frame rate of the HD6950 are driver related and not architectural, or we may loose some of the wonderful competition that has characterized the graphics market as of late.
    Reply
  • britjh22 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I see the 6950 pricing as sort of strange. Currently you pay $10 after MIR's to move up to 2 GB. A small price for a sometimes useful boost. But if you take unlocking into consideration, the ability to unlock with the 2Gb version, and not with the 1Gb, I'd say that's quite a massive difference.

    Of course, I don't have a good feel about the success rate of the 6950 to 6970 unlock, or what % of cards it's possible with, but the pricing seems quite strange in that light.

    Oh, and let's see dropping prices on a 6870 please!
    Reply
  • MeanBruce - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dude, 6870s are as low as $199- right now over at Newegg at least for the Sapphire, yup! Reply
  • buildingblock - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    My local hardware dealer has several GTX 560s in stock today, including 900Mhz factory overclocked models. The Gigabyte Super OC 1Gb is listed and promised soon.... But the 1Gb AMD 6950 - no sign whatever. I see elsewhere references to the fact that this card is likely to be a short run special by AMD as a GTX 560 launch spoiler, and that certainly seems to be the case. I look forward to the Anandtech review of factory overclocked GTX 560s at some point. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    At this point the only place you're going to find them is at Newegg and other e-tailers. With the launch pulled in by this much this soon, they won't be on B&M store shelves yet. This isn't all that rare, in fact I would say it's much more rare to find newly launched cards available in B&M stores. Reply
  • TonyB - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Competition is a wonderful thing ain't it? Reply
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Hello Ryan,
    after such a nice review of the GTX560 Ti, I am quite disappointed that you included the overclocked HD6870 in this test. First, after you reviewed the GTX460 and included an OCed model, you get bashed by AMD fans crying foul. So you ask readers to say if it's ok to include an OCed model and from the count of posts you draw a conclusion not to include OCed models. I was suprised then, because measuring such a thing by mere post count is quite inadequate, considering that unhappy people usually shout the loudest and the happy ones don't need to. So of course you'd have more posts against it, no surprise there. But then I kinda let it go. However, seeing now that you did include an OCed model again, but this time something that is not so common, unlike OCed GTX460, I was very upset. Why didn't you review the OCed Gigabyte or Asus GTX560 cards? And considering reviews from other sides and the great results the OCed cards have, will you prepare a new review article dedicated to the OCed GTX560 to fix this bias?

    Here is where I remember how I though saying things like "I am not going to visit this site anymore" is quite silly after the OCed GTX460 case. But seeing how you turn 180 for reasons unknown to me, I must say the very same thing.

    Best regards,
    Prdola
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I really don't get the persistent whining from some of you over this topic. You're so "hurt" over Ryan spending *his* time on benchmarking a card that was *originally billed as the 560 Ti's competitor*... it's completely inane.

    If you don't think it should be considered, then simply ignore the card in the charts, and you'll get what you consider to be a pure "OC free" comparison.

    As for my stance on it, if something is purchased off the shelf **with the configuration that was tested**, then it's fine to put it on there in a normal (i.e. not overclocking specific) article and/or section.
    Reply

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