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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  • silverblue - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    No. They already got roasted for doing it last time. Also, the 6870 Black Edition is an official AMD product that hasn't been shoved down Ryan's throat. So, whereas before all things may not have been exactly equal, they are now.

    The presence of the 6950 1GB in the 560 Ti review is quite natural as the 6950 2GB was already there, and besides which, until you overload that memory, the 6950 1GB performs pretty much the same as its 2GB brother, albeit a tiny bit faster in places - it's not cheating to include it as it's not an overclocked card. There's no other way you can handle it except to have the two AMD cards in separate articles to each other and not mention the 6950 1GB in the 560 Ti review (hardly sensible - we already knew it'd be almost identical to the 2GB variant), or not review the 6870 Black Edition at all. Also, think of the time it must've taken Ryan to handle these reviews - certainly doesn't take a day or so to do.

    With overclocked cards, the situation is that the standard product is reviewed and, usually, the 3rd party offerings are reviewed together in a separate article in short order. I fully expect this to happen as it's normal for a site like Anandtech to do so.

    If your beef is with the 6870 Black Edition, please remember that, as stated in the review, AMD fully intended it to be the 560 Ti's true competition, and that the 6950 1GB was due out in February. When it became apparent that the 6870 wasn't the answer, they released the 6950 1GB early. There's no sense in scrapping all those 6870 Black Editions, of which there has to be thousands, so AMD have not only brought out two cards at the same time, but offered two viable alternatives to nVidia's one. The only thing that AMD will suffer is lack of availability for those 6950s for the time being which is only natural for an accelerated launch, plus nVidia will undoubtedly lose some sales so well done on that.
  • ritalinkid18 - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Well said, GeorgeH...well said....

    "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."
  • medi01 - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Yeah, I won't talk about cherry picked oced 460, but "forgetting iPhone in the pocket" on comparison pics where it would look very pale (much lower contrast) is quite remarkable. Reply
  • sebanab - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dude give it a rest!
    Plus it's only fair that both makers got the same treatment...
  • Menetlaus - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dude, this isn't the GTX560 Ti launch article. This is a picture of the market as you or I can go out and buy cards.

    I agree that the whole OC'd GTX460 "issue" was total bovine excrement from fanboys complaining that their poor nVidia was being compared to existing, non-reference cards that were wildly available at the time of the 460's launch.

    That being said, the launch article for the GTX560Ti is one article down and contains nothing but reference cards in an effort to keep the whiners quiet.
  • SandmanWN - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    Dudes, whatever. (You guys started it)
    The 460 article wasn't even about the 460. It was brought into the fray during an AMD release article. The only bovine excrement came from the drool of Nvidia fanboys that had the ridiculous notion that a cherry picked overclocked card delivered by Nvidia was allowed into a reference card release article for AMD. Which clearly drew red flags from those readers with common sense.

    And not only that but the the writer couldn't even finish the friggin article the way he wanted to because he was spending his time doodling around with the Nvidia card. That was complete BS.

    We tried to give some pointers on how it should have been handled.
    1) Reference vs reference on product release articles.
    2) Follow up articles with overclocked cards vs overclocked cards.

    It was a real simple freaking concept.
  • Parhel - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Exactly. Nobody said that Anandtech shouldn't review OC'ed cards. The point was that OC'ed cards hand selected by AMD or Nvidia shouldn't be included in the launch article for their competitors new architecture. Had this card been included in the GTX 560 article, their would have been the same uproar as before. Reply
  • silverblue - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Yes, but there's a big difference between a majorly overclocked 3rd party card promoted by nVidia and a slightly overclocked original AMD card. I can see your point, though. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, January 25, 2011 - link

    I haven't read this article yet (just finished the GTX 560Ti but wanted to say thank you for putting this article up. As many of us had asked for you properly kept the launch article about the card being launched and comparisons to stock cards, but in this article you are comparing other offerings including OC'd cards.

    That's the way it's meant to be done and I thank you.
  • Parhel - Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - link

    Seconded. Reply

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