Sapphire HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan Graphic Card

Posted by on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 1:30am

Sapphire Radeon HD 6970 Dual FanIf you were to take a look over at Sapphire’s website you will see several Radeon HD 6970 listed, 7 to be exact. Which, besides a possible bundled game, you may want to know what exactly the real differences between the models are. To put it briefly, all have a standard 880MHz core and 2GB of GDDR5 memory; some have a game bundle, some don't; but primarily it is a difference in the equipped cooler. That last one is where today's review sample comes in. It has dual fans to help with sound reduction, as well as better cooling in conjunction with the 8mm & 6mm heat pipes. There is also the dual BIOS switch, something normally available on many Radeon HD 6950 and HD 6990 models. We will get more into this during the review process, but felt we should break down what makes this model stand out.

 

Introduction to the Sapphire HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan Graphic Card

With the "Cayman" GPU architecture from AMD came two very good video card models: the Radeon HD 6950 and the 6970. These have both been excellent sellers for AMD and product partners. We recently took a look at one model of Radeon HD 6950 and we determined it offered solid performance for the money. Yet, when Sapphire asked if we'd review the faster Radeon HD 6970, we would be foolish to turn it down.

If you were to take a look over at Sapphire’s website you will see several Radeon HD 6970 listed, 7 to be exact. Which, besides a possible bundled game, you may want to know what exactly the real differences between the models are. To put it briefly, all have a standard 880MHz core and 2GB of GDDR5 memory; some have a game bundle, some don't; but primarily it is a difference in the equipped cooler. That last one is where today's review sample comes in. It has dual fans to help with sound reduction, as well as better cooling in conjunction with the 8mm & 6mm heat pipes. There is also the dual BIOS switch, something normally available on many Radeon HD 6950 and HD 6990 models. We will get more into this during the review process, but felt we should break down what makes this model stand out.

Sapphire’s take on the Radeon HD 6970 Dual Fan

The new SAPPHIRE HD 6970 has the same internal architecture as the standard model, with 1536 stream processors and 96 texture processing units, and clock speeds are 880MHz for the core and 1375 MHz (5.5Gb/sec effective) for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This new design has two 90mm fans with thin impellers that can move the same amount of air at 10% lower rotation speeds than conventional fans, keeping noise low, and their special dust repelling bearings contribute to high reliability.

With the Dual BIOs set to the standard position, the Dual fans keep this model quiet and up to 25% cooler than the standard model even under load conditions. With the BIOS switched to the performance setting, the core voltage of the GPU is raised to 1.2V, the fan speed is set to a high performance profile and the power tune adjustment for overclocking is raised to 50% allowing the user to maximize performance of the card by increasing clock speeds either with AMD Overdrive or with SAPPHIRE TriXX up to a ceiling of 1500MHz core, 2000MHz memory.


Specifications

Output

1 x Dual-Link DVI
1 x HDMI 1.4a
2 x Mini-DisplayPort
1 x Single-Link DVI-D
DisplayPort 1.2

GPU

880 MHz Core Clock
40 nm Chip
1536 x Stream Processors

Memory

2048 MB Size
256 -bit GDDR5
5500 MHz Effective

Dimension

249(L)x123(W)x48(H) mm Size.

Software

Driver CD

Accessory

CrossFire™ Bridge Interconnect Cable
8 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable
DVI to VGA Adapter
Mini-DP to DP Cable
6 PIN to 4 PIN Power Cable

AMD Feature list for the Radeon HD 6970

  • Up to 880MHz Engine Clock
  • 2GB GDDR5 Memory
  • 1375MHz Memory Clock (5.5 Gb/s GDDR5)
  • 176 GB/s memory bandwidth (maximum)
  • 2.7 TFLOPs Single Precision compute power
  • 683 GFLOPs Double Precision compute power
  • TeraScale 3 Unified Processing Architecture
    • 1536 Stream Processors
    • 96 Texture Units
    • 128 Z/Stencil ROP Units
    • 32 Color ROP Units
    • Dual geometry and dual rendering engines
  • High Speed 256-bit GDDR5 memory interface
  • PCI Express 2.1 x16 bus interface
  • “Eye-Definition” graphics
    • New and advanced architecture
      • Full DirectX® 11 support
      • Scalable geometry processing technology
      • Shader Model 5.0
      • DirectCompute 11
      • Dual advanced programmable hardware tessellation units
      • Accelerated multi-threading
      • HDR texture compression
      • Order-independent transparency
    • OpenGL 4.1 support
    • Image quality enhancement technology
      • Up to 24x multi-sample and super-sample anti-aliasing modes
      • Adaptive anti-aliasing
      • Enhanced Quality Anti-Aliasing (EQAA)
      • Morphological Anti-Aliasing (MLAA)
      • 16x angle independent anisotropic texture filtering
      • 128-bit floating point HDR rendering
  • AMD Eyefinity multi-display technology1
    • Native support for up to 4 simultaneous displays
      • Up to 6 displays supported with DisplayPort 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport
    • Independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls, and video overlays
    • Display grouping
      • Combine multiple displays to behave like a single large display
  • AMD App Acceleration2
    • AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology3,4
      • OpenCL 1.1 Support
      • DirectCompute 11
      • Double Precision Floating Point
      • Accelerated video encoding, transcoding, and upscaling
    • UVD 3 dedicated video playback accelerator
      • MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
      • VC-1
      • MPEG-2 (SD & HD)
      • Multi-View Codec (MVC)
      • MPEG-4 part 2 (DivX, Xvid)
      • Adobe Flash
    • Enhanced Video Quality features
      • Advanced post-processing and scaling
      • Dynamic contrast enhancement and color correction
      • Brighter whites processing (Blue Stretch)
      • Independent video gamma control
      • Dynamic video range control
    • Dual-stream HD (1080p) playback support
    • DXVA 1.0 & 2.0 support
  • AMD HD3D technology5
    • Stereoscopic 3D display/glasses support
    • Blu-ray 3D support
    • Stereoscopic 3D gaming
    • 3rd party Stereoscopic 3D middleware software support
  • AMD CrossFireX™ multi-GPU technology6
    • Dual, triple or quad-GPU scaling
  • Cutting-edge integrated display support
    • DisplayPort 1.2
      • Max resolution: 2560x1600 per display
      • Multi-Stream Transport
      • 21.6 Gbps bandwidth
      • High bit-rate audio
    • HDMI 1.4a with Stereoscopic 3D Frame Packing Format, Deep Color, xvYCC wide gamut support, and high bit-rate audio
      • Max resolution: 1920x1200
    • Dual-link DVI with HDCP
      • Max resolution: 2560x1600
    • VGA
      • Max resolution: 2048x1536
  • Integrated HD audio controller
    • Output protected high bit rate 7.1 channel surround sound over HDMI with no additional cables required
    • Supports AC-3, AAC, Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master Audio formats
  • AMD PowerPlay™ power management technology3
    • AMD PowerTune technology
      • Intelligent power management hardware
    • Dynamic power management with low power idle state
    • Ultra-low power state support for multi-GPU configurations
  • AMD Catalyst™ graphics and HD video configuration software
    • Software support for Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP
    • AMD Catalyst™ Control Center - AMD Catalyst™ software application and user interface for setup, configuration, and accessing features of AMD Radeon products.
    • Unified Graphics display driver - AMD Catalyst™ software enabling other PC programs and devices to use advanced graphics, video, and features of AMD Radeon™ products.

Closer look

The Radeon HD 6970 is based entirely on the AMD Cayman architecture, just like the it's HD 6950 sibling. To begin our review, the HD 6970 operates with the PCIe 2.1 bus. The core clock is set at 880MHz, up 80MHz vs the HD 6950. The GDDR5 memory clock is set at a speedy 1375MHZ, which is 125MHz above that of the HD 6950. 

As you can see from the overview of the Radeon HD 6970, this is far from one of the reference cards you see on the market. Sapphire took the Cayman GPU and added their touch to it. The major difference begins with the cooling system. To cut back on the fan noise produced during load due to a single fan running at a high RPM, Sapphire have added an additional 90mm thin-blade fan, allowing for more air movement at lower RPMs. The rest of the fan shroud resembles that of which Sapphire have used on it's other products.

The size of the shroud and the I/O shield makes the card a dual slot solution. In some circumstances, the motherboard may have very little territory between two expansion slots, making for poor air circulation when using dual graphics cards, sound card, or even a PCIe based SSD. This reveals another great benefit of this card's dual fan setup, as more air can be drawn in the small gap to keep all the essential components cooled.

Manufactured with dual CrossFireX connectors means the card has support for Tri and Quad CrossFireX buils. After testing the card we felt that it was plenty fast enough even solo, but the idea of having the freedom to add up to three additional cards is a great feeling.

To power the card you will need at minimum a 550 watt power supply, as is recommended by AMD. On top of that, your PSU will also need one of each of the 6pin and 8pin PCIe power connectors. The connectors are mounted to the side of the card, versus the end, eliminating any issues with space and clearance from case structures like HDD cages.

Underneath the shroud there is a (very) small switch that will allow you to interact with the BIOS. On the default position the card is set at the reference speeds and voltages, and cannot be changed beyond the limits AMD has deemed safe. However, if you are daring and in the ever long pursuit of more performance, then a slight adjustment to the switch will allow you the freedom to play outside of those reference limits.

While we have the cooler off of the card, lets talk about it shall we? The cooler is comprised of five heat pipes which come in two different sizes of 8mm and 6mm. The outside mounted pipes make up the two 8mm, with the three inner make up the 6mm pipes. These then travel from above the copper base and up into two separate aluminum fin arrays, with each having one fan dedicated to it for cooling.

The back of the card is occupied by two DVI (I & D) ports, two Mini-DisplayPorts v1.2 and a single HDMI v1.4a. As you may have guessed, this HD 6970 does support Eyefinity through three monitors. At least one monitor will have to be DisplayPort capable or connected via an adapter dongle. If you are not a fan of this solution, or just have three relatively new monitors you'd like to use, then Sapphire does offer the Radeon HD 6970 FleX Edition which will eliminate the need of the dongle or special monitor.


Test Hardware:

Motherboard: ASUS P67 Deluxe B3
Processor: Intel Core i5 2500K @ 4.5GHz w/ 1.3 volts
Ram: Crucial 2133 4GB Dual Channel (9-10-9-28)
Video Card: Sapphire HD 6970 2GB Dual Fan
HDD: Hitachi 1TB
Power: Thermaltake Tough Power XT 850 (Sponsored by Thermaltake)
Case: Open Air
Cooling: Prolimatech Panther

Testing Software:

Futuremark 3DMark11: Performance and Extreme
STALKER: Call of Pripyat: Ultra, 1920x1200, 4xAA, Max FPS Recorded
Heaven 2.5: DirectX 11, 1920x1200, 2xAA, 4xAF, Tessellation Normal, Max FPS Recorded
Alien vs. Predator: 1920x1200, 2xAA, 16xAF, Tessellation On, Average FPS Recoded
Devil May Cry: DirectX10, 1920x1200, 4xAA, Texture Super High
ARMA 2: 1920x1080, High
Final Fantasy 14: Hyur, 1920x1080
Dirt 2: 1920x1200, 4xAA, Preset High, Average FPS Recorded
Hard Rest: 1920x1200, 8AF

Drivers:

Windows Seven Ultimate 7 64-bit
ATI Cat 11.11

Futuremark 3DMark 11
Your PC’s performance is determined by the interactions between different hardware components, the operating system and the type and amount of software running. A benchmark provides a set of performance tests that can be repeated with a high degree of accuracy on a wide range of computer hardware.
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the graphics performance of gaming PCs.
Designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

GSC Game World S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat
We are glad to present you a special version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat Having your PC tested with benchmark you will be able to get detailed information about its performance on various graphical modes and find out how well your system is balanced for gaming and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in particular.
This benchmark is based on one of the ingame locations – Pripyat . The testing process includes four stages, those utilizing various weather and time of the day settings (day, night, rain, bright sun). In order to test your system thoroughly the benchmark is provided with a number of presets and options including different versions of DirectX (9.0, 10.0, 11), screen resolutions, antialiasing etc, all at your disposal.

Capcom Devil May Cry 4
Long ago the Dark Knight Sparda rebelled against the dark emperor and waged a one-man war to save humanity. Thousands of years later, a religious organization worships this renowned savior and has taken it upon themselves to rid the world of all evil. Residing in Fortuna, this organization is known as the "Order of the Sword," and is made up of an elite group of "Holy Knights." One day, a young knight named Nero witnesses Sparda's legendary son Dante slaughter his fellow warriors. Has the renowned devil hunter turned his back on mankind? What does the encounter mean for these two individuals?


Unigine Heaven 2.5
New benchmark grants the power to unleash the DirectX 11 potential in the gift wrapping of impressively towering graphics capabilities. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. With the interactive mode emerging experience of exploring the intricate world is ensured within reach. Through its advanced renderer, Unigine is one of the first to set precedence in showcasing the art assets with tessellation, bringing compelling visual finesse, utilizing the technology to the full extend and exhibiting the possibilities of enriching 3D gaming.

Codemasters Dirt 2
DiRT 2 will feature a roster of contemporary off-road events, taking players to the most diverse and challenging real-world environments. This World Tour will have players competing in aggressive multi-car and intense solo races at extraordinary new locations, from canyon racing and jungle trails to city stadium-based events.
To be powered by the third generation of the EGO™ Engine’s award-winning racing game technology, DiRT 2 will benefit from tuned-up car-handling physics system and new damage engine effects. It will also showcase a spectacular new level of visual fidelity, with cars and tracks twice as detailed as those seen in GRID.
DiRT 2’s garage  houses a best-in-class collection of officially licensed rally cars and off-road vehicles, specifically selected to deliver aggressive and fast paced racing. Covering seven vehicle classes, players will be given the keys to powerful vehicles right from the off. In DiRT 2 the opening drive is the Group N Subaru; essentially making the ultimate car from the original game the starting point in the sequel and the rides just get even more impressive.
In addition to the World Tour, DiRT 2 will come complete with full online functionality that will be core to the overall experience, with head-to-head competitive online play and new social features to engage the racing community. Prepare for mud, gravel, dust and dirt too in DiRT 2, coming 2009.

Square Enix Final Fantasy XiV
FINAL FANTASY XIV takes the first intrepid steps into an unknown realm, and in doing soa new place for adventurers of all creeds to call home is born — Eorzea.
In the world of Hydaelyn, the term Eorzea denotes the geographical region comprised of the continent of ldenard and its surrounding islands, as well as the civilization which spawned there. Calling the area home are several independent city-states,the most notable being Limsa Lominsa, bustling port and pirate hub;Ul’dah, a desert city rich in mineral wealth; Gridania, nested deep within an ageless wood; and Ishgard, bastion atop the mountains.


Sega Alien versus Predator
Aliens vs. Predator is an entirely new title for PC and high-definition consoles from acclaimed British developer Rebellion, the team behind the 1999 original PC gaming classic. Bringing the legendary war between two of science-fiction’s most popular characters to FPS fans, AvP delivers three outstanding single player campaigns and provides untold hours of unique 3-way multiplayer gaming. Experience distinctly new and thrilling first person gameplay as you survive, hunt and prey in the deadly jungles and swamps surrounding the damned colony of Freya’s Prospect.

Bohemia ARMA 2
Reinforcements brings two independent factions – British Armed Forces and Private Military Company – onto one DVD. Play it separately in a non-linear campaign or join friends in multiplayer battles with up to 50 players and hundreds of AI units. Find out the sequential dramatic events of Takistan, originally described in Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead.
Deploy a mechanized division of British Armed Forces to reinforce coalition troops battling a large-scale outbreak of guerilla insurgency, or join Private Military Company, recently contracted, to protect a UN weapons inspection team in Takistan.

Flying Wild Hogs
Thee world as we know it ceased to exist. Humanity is at the verge of extinction, living in the last closed city of Bezoar. Mankind wages war against the machines controlling vast areas of what became the 'Barrens'. Machines want to control and assimilate 'The Sanctuary' a network that holds billions of digitalized human minds. Our hero, Maj. Fletcher, is a soldier of CLN - a corporation combat unit, established to protect the city. Machines are constantly assaulting the walls of Bezoar. Fletcher moves in when Bezoar's protective barrier is breached.


Overclocking

There are many different programs on the net that will allow you to clock a video cards to greater limits, but we choose to always use the one created by the manufacturer of the graphics card being tested. In this case it was Sapphire's TriXX, which is a very easy to use application. We manage to get an incredible 991MHz from the Core and 1475MHz (5900MHz, effective) on the memory. 

Power Consumption

Power consumption tests were carried out with the graphics cards running at their default speeds and settings.


Conclusion

First of all, I would like to thank Sapphire for sending over the fastest GPU we have ever tested. The Radeon HD 6970 Dual Fan GPU was a delight to bench. One of the reason we had so much fun with it was due to the overclock we were able to obtain. We managed 991MHz on the core, without having to increase voltages or even play with the fan speeds. We were able to game all day at this overclock, without so much as a blue screens or driver crash.

Sapphire does offer a couple of different HD 6970 card buts this is the only model that comes with dual cooling fans. Why is this such a big deal? Well, if you happen to like loud, single fan video cards then there really it isn't. However, by using two cooling fans Sapphire were able to cut down the fan noise by a lot, and we think you'll be pleased with that. Was it completely quiet? No, but the system doesn't sound like a jet engine when the system is under load.

The also benefit from all the other features that comes directly from AMD like Eyefinity, DirectX 11,, OpenGL 4.2 increased Tessellation performance, HDMI v1.4a and Shader Model 5.0 just to name a few. With that being said, the card will set you back about $380. Not that bad of a price when you are talking about AMD's fastest single-GPU video card.

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