It’s taken AMD a long time to refresh the top end of its graphics hardware, but today’s culmination to that wait has to be described as somewhat bittersweet. Sweet, because we’re finally getting a successor to the venerable HD 5870, one that offers improved power management and tessellation performance at a lower $369 price point, but also bitter because in terms of sheer firepower, the Radeon series doesn’t seem to have made quite the leap many of us had hoped for. The new top of AMD’s single-GPU pile, the HD 6970, offers 1,536 stream processors, an 880MHz core clock speed, and 2GB of GDDR5 RAM running at 5.5GHz for a total of 176GBps of memory bandwidth. Its partner in crime, the HD 6950, is expected to list at $299, for which saving you’ll have to sacrifice some clock speed (down to 800MHz) and processing units (1,408 in total). There’s a neat little addition to both new boards: a Dual-BIOS switch that will act like Google’s hardware jailbreak toggle on the Cr-48, allowing tweakers to unlock the extra (unprotected by warranty!) performance headroom in their cards.
Early reviews all seem to agree that both the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 have struck a very fine price-to-performance ratio. The 6970 manages to spar with the much pricier GTX 580, but given that it’s priced similarly to NVIDIA’s GTX 570, it scores plaudits for being a more than viable alternative. The HD 6950 is seen as the real value item here, however, particularly since it occupies a relatively unique spot in the price range, and most reviewers tipped it as their new bang-for-the-buck leader.