Some may find the AMD Radeon HD 6970 to be a bit of a disappointment as it was touted to be the ‘GeForce GTX 480 killer’. Comparing the Radeon HD 6970 single GPU flagship to the previous Radeon HD 5870, the new card shows up to 50% performance improvement in tessellation heavy titles.
No doubt the Radeon HD 6970 is slightly faster than its direct competitor, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 (and of course the GeForce GTX 480) in games such as Resident Evil 5 and Mafia II, it gets dumped in tessellation heavy benchmarks. And no, it did not get close to the GeForce GTX 580. The not-so-refined fan algorithm together with similar power consumption figures as the GeForce GTX 570 makes the AMD Radeon HD 6970 a less viable choice for those who wish to build a quiet gaming rig.
The AMD Radeon HD 6970 is priced from US$369, but US$369 can get you a decent factory-overclocked NVIDIA GeForce GTX 570 which will match the Radeon HD 6970 in the games which it previously conceded defeat. Probably another US$20 will get you a decent factory-overclocked Radeon HD 6970, but don’t expect astronomical operating frequencies as the GPU has probably already been milked pretty well in the labs. If you happen to be not a fan of pre-overclocked products, the slightly cheaper US$349 GeForce GTX 570 offers better overall performance than the Radeon HD 6970.
On the other hand, the Radeon HD 6950 is priced from US$299 and NVIDIA currently has no product at that price point to counter AMD’s offering. While not quite matching up to NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 480, the Radeon HD 6950 is faster than the Radeon HD 5870, especially in newer DirectX 11 games where heavy tessellation is involved.
Apart from that, the Radeon HD 6950 also draws less power than the Radeon HD 5870. As we have seen in our performance comparison of overclocked cards, the Radeon HD 6950 does have enough firepower to reach Radeon HD 6970 levels after overclocking. That said, we should be seeing many factory-overclocked Radeon HD 6950 cards hitting store shelves in the coming week that can offer near Radeon HD 6970 performance for much lesser – say US$319 or so.
If we have to recommend a graphics card today, they would be the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580, GeForce GTX 570 and the AMD Radeon HD 6950.