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.

When One Counter Isn’t Enough


View All Comments

  • sinPiEqualsZero - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The market speaks louder than needlessly outraged readers. Like it not, overclocked cards will continue to be produced. In order to be responsible journalists, they have to include them in order to evaluate their value to the consumer.

    He also made clear that AMD was bumping up the launch at little notice. I think you are making much ado about nothing and will see plenty of factory-OC'd cards in the near future.
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    It's not about not liking benchmarks of overclocked cards. As I stated, I didn't agree with the whining about GTX460 OC as well. I think it's legitimate to include OCed models. But if you do it, then do it for both sides. Especially after such a drama and a strict decision by the writer not to do it. That is the point. Reply
  • britjh22 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    In the original 68xx review, the site got flack for including a highly overclocked GTX 460, at NVIDIA's asking.

    This time, they review the GTX 560 Ti against stock clocked rivals. In a separate article they present ATI's competitive reaction to the GTX 560 launch. I think Anandtech and Ryan handled this correctly. They analyze and present the GTX 560 as a reflection of what NVIDIA has done, and produce a separate article where they focus on the GPU ecosystem as a whole.

    In this way I think it looks a lot less like they kowtowed to a vendor's requests, and in fact show how targeted and thought out AMD/ATI's launch is. In a market this closely matched for performance and price, and with vendors offering customized versions of AMD/NVIDIA products, it's hugely complicated.

    Well done Anandtech for today's articles, they definitely made my lunch hour more enjoyable.
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    "They analyze and present the GTX 560 as a reflection of what NVIDIA has done, and produce a separate article where they focus on the GPU ecosystem as a whole."

    Well if they did that, why didn't they include the OCed GTX560 Ti as well? Consider the fact that there are likely going to be a lot of oveclocked GTX560s as with the GTX460 card. That isn't part of the GPU ecosystem?
  • britjh22 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    The card just launched, it's very possible they don't have one, or didn't have the time to put that through the test suite with all the other things coming off NDA today. As a news source it's more sound for them to be able to have timely coverage, even if they have to revisit something they didn't have time for in the original article.

    It sounds like most tech blogs were up very late compiling, testing, and writing for these launch articles. Most people are content with waiting a week for the entire picture to become clear, and if not, well that is the price for early adoptership.

    80/20 rule.
  • prdola0 - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    You may be right that they didn't have any OCed GTX560s. However while there are many more review sites that did receive them, I kinda doubt that a site with such a big name as AnandTech wouldn't receive any. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    We do in fact have one: an MSI Twin Frozr II (880MHz core). You'll see it later this week, as we didn't have time to pull it in to our review on top of everything else that was going on today. Reply
  • SlyNine - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Just tell him to quite his whinning .. jk But for the love of god it's not a big deal. I'm just glad we get the objective tests that we do, As opposed to taking a shot in the dark when buying cards. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    agree 100%

    this was totally about an AMD market reaction, and both cards reviewed are varients of other cards previously released by AMD.
    absolutely no foul.
  • 3DVagabond - Sunday, January 30, 2011 - link

    Completely different scenario. This is a review of 2 AMD cards. This is not the review of the GTX-560 with the inclusion of a highly overclocked card that was put in at AMD's request/insistence, as was the case with the GTX460 FTW. Add to that there was also input from nVidia what cards of theirs to NOT include for comparison in the 6870 review and even benchmarks they wanted AMD cards tested with (HAWX2). Again, not even close to the same scenario. Reply

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